Hamish Fletcher

Hamish Fletcher is a business reporter for the NZ Herald

Receivers of failed firms get fat cut

PricewaterhouseCoopers' Colin McCloy, the receiver of Bridgecorp, Nathans Finance and Lombard Finance and Investments. Photo / APN
PricewaterhouseCoopers' Colin McCloy, the receiver of Bridgecorp, Nathans Finance and Lombard Finance and Investments. Photo / APN

Receivers and law firms have collected tens of millions of dollars in fees during the clean-up of New Zealand's collapsed finance company sector.

More than 50 finance firms have failed since 2005, leaving billions of dollars owed to retail investors, lengthy legal tussles and jail sentences for some former company directors.

About half of these companies have had receivers appointed who are tasked with recovering funds and returning as much as they can to out-of-pocket investors and creditors.

This process can be expensive, with the fees charged by insolvency practitioners adding up to millions of dollars.

Receiverships can also be lengthy - Equiticorp's statutory managers were still realising assets two decades after its 1989 collapse.

But for a number of the finance companies that failed in the past five years, the finish line is in sight.

Last week the Crown announced it had acquired South Canterbury Finance's non-cash assets from receivers McGrathNicol, in a move which will reportedly see the failed finance company wound up.

McGrathNicol charged $10.1 million in receivers' fees between August 2010 and February this year, according to its latest report.

PricewaterhouseCoopers' Colin McCloy, the receiver of Bridgecorp, Nathans Finance and Lombard Finance and Investments, said last Friday they were "nearing completion".

During the course of its receiverships PwC has collected more than $12 million in fees from these and other failed finance firms since 2007.

It has also spent millions of dollars on legal fees.

McCloy said the fees charged were proportionate to the time spent on a receivership.

"These are complex assignments. You look at Bridgecorp, there's loans that might be worth $500 million, there's a lot [for us] to investigate ... there's time spent on assisting the Crown with its legal action, there's our own legal action," he said.

The amount PwC has clawed back for investors so far varies but is as low as 3.5c in the dollar in the case of Bridgecorp, according to latest reports.

The situation is worse for Capital + Merchant Finance investors.

According to a report filed with the Companies Office in March by receiver Tim Downes, "after accrued interest and receivership costs" debenture holders are likely to recover nothing from the assets of the company.

These costs included payment of more than $45 million to secured creditors.

Receivers' fees amounted to $2.16 million..

Deloitte recovery partner Rod Pardington said that while investors or the market might perceive receivers' fees as being large, the money was being spent to try to recover as much as possible for creditors.

"When you inherit a number of very complex legal positions and disputes, and I'd say that's not uncommon in a lot of finance company receiverships ... then you are faced with the cost of resolving them." he said.

"It's not only the cases that get to court, it is the disputes that are resolved before court and both involve legal fees."

Pardington, who is the receiver of Dominion Finance Group, said he was conscious investors were losing money and because of this, fees would be discounted at times.

- NZ Herald

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