Business Editor for the NZ Herald

Business Insider: FMA case on market manoeuvre 'confusing'

Mark Warminger. Photo / Supplied
Mark Warminger. Photo / Supplied

Milford Asset Management's Mark Warminger wants more details of the Financial Markets Authority's "confusing" case against him for alleged market manipulation.

"What is the case he needs to meet?" Warminger's lawyer Mike Heron, QC, asked during yesterday's hearing in the High Court at Auckland.

The FMA opposed Warminger's application for further particulars, with its Queen's Counsel Justin Smith saying the case was clear.

"It's not realistic that he truly cannot understand what is being alleged against him," Smith told Justice Raynor Asher.

The FMA lawyer said expanding on the pleadings in the way requested could be subject to "misuse" during the trial, which is due to begin in September.

Warminger, a portfolio manager at Milford Asset Management who has been on extended leave since last year, has denied the allegations against him.

Smith, during his submissions yesterday morning, traversed one of the 10 causes of action in the FMA's case.

It involved trades in Fisher & Paykel Healthcare shares on May 27, 2014.

Warminger, according to Smith, had use of a direct market access facility through Macquarie Bank that let him buy shares.

On that particular morning in May, Warminger allegedly learned from contacts at Forsyth Barr and Goldman Sachs that they wanted to buy large parcels of F&P shares in off-market trades, Smith said.

The shares were trading publicly at $4.31 each, Smith said, and Warminger allegedly indicated to a trader who contacted him that he may sell for $4.35 apiece.

In the meantime, he used his direct market access for a series of smaller trades that increased the price of the technology company's shares.

Warminger then allegedly sold shares in off-market trades for $4.35 each.

Warminger's conduct was "unquestionably" market manipulation, Smith alleged.

Smith later said there could be no need for further particulars from the FMA on the question of Warminger's knowledge.

Justice Asher reserved his decision on the application.

The case against Warminger followed Milford paying $1.5 million as part of a settlement with the FMA after a market manipulation probe.

Vexed RBS investors

Ross McEwan of the RBS. Illustration / Rod Emmerson
Ross McEwan of the RBS. Illustration / Rod Emmerson

The charity of high-flying (and earning) Kiwi bank boss Ross McEwan hasn't been enough to soothe the tempers of Royal Bank of Scotland shareholders over their executives' pay.

The bank held its annual meeting in Edinburgh this month, where "disgruntled" investors voiced their grievances about management salaries, the Financial Times reported.

"The pay and bonuses awarded to the board are no longer acceptable and therefore I'm calling for the resignation of the remuneration committee," shareholder Ken Cramond reportedly told those gathered.

The disquiet follows RBS reporting its eighth consecutive annual loss in February and comes despite McEwan giving away part of his pay packet for the third year in a row.

The Kiwi expat was awarded 3.8 million ($8.25 million) in 2015, according to RBS' annual report. Of that, he is believed to be giving 500,000 to charity.

Judge Raynor Asher. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Judge Raynor Asher. Photo / Steven McNicholl

Liquidators reappointed

Liquidators ousted from a company linked to a convicted briber were reappointed as its receivers the following day.

The pair, Damien Grant and Steven Khov of Waterstone Insolvency, have opposed a High Court injunction aimed at stopping them from acting for the company.

Hi-Tech Commercial Interiors Auckland, a construction company, was put into voluntary liquidation last month.

According to accounts seen by Business Insider, the company did renovations at the FMA's office, a refurbishment for Qantas and a fitout for Ngati Whatua. The Companies Office lists one of the firm's shareholders as Gregory Alexander Hutt, a property developer who in 2012 admitted a bribery charge.

Hutt, according to the Serious Fraud Office, made a corrupt $160,000 payment to an Accident Compensation Corporation property manager to ensure he gained the opportunity to profit from the construction and leasing of an ACC office in Whangarei. He was sentenced to 11 months' home detention.

Hutt and a trustee company, according to Hi-Tech's new liquidator David Petterson, loaned money to the company between April 2014 and February of this year.

After a creditor threatened to issue demand for payment, Hi-Tech, Hutt and the trustee company executed security agreements over the advances, Petterson said this month.

Last month, Hi-Tech's shareholders called in Grant and Khov as liquidators but creditors refused to confirm the pair's appointment. They appointed Petterson as liquidator instead.

A day later, Hutt and the trustee company - relying on their security agreements - appointed Grant and Khov as receivers.

The injunction hearing over whether or not the pair should be able to act as receivers was heard in Auckland on Thursday.

Justice Kit Toogood has reserved his decision.

- NZ Herald

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