Liquidator Damien Grant answers the critics who claim his industry needs better regulation.

"Something Clerical"

was the most aspirational the Careers Centre at my Christian Brother's school could be for me.

A quarter of a century wandering through various activities, some wholesome, most not, I stumbled into the insolvency profession. A decade later I'm the industries most outspoken - if not exactly respected member.

Thankfully the respect of my peers isn't something I need for my own sense of self-worth. The insolvency industry is dominated by timid accountants and it is this collective lack of drive that has allowed me to build a successful practice.

Advertisement

A one eyed fool can be king in the land of the blind.

I am not alone. The insolvency industry has a few characters and none more so that Geoff Martin Smith. Smith has a colourful past that, whilst perhaps not as outlandish as my own comes pretty close.

Read more:
Liquidators need to be regulated - law firm

He decided to pursue a career as a liquidator and it may surprise some readers but he faced no regulatory barrier. Any idiot can become a liquidator and Glenn Martin Smith was that idiot.

It didn't go well. According to a court decision out last week Smith fabricated documents. The court ordered him to repay over half a million dollars.

This is unfortunate but not unexpected. In 2015 there were 160 firms who undertook over two thousand insolvencies. There are going to be rogues in any gallery but Smith's activities has renewed calls for regulation.

Some of those calling loudest are lawyers. This is ironic as few industries are more regulated than theirs. Let's see how this has worked out.

Dishonesty is enough of an issue in the legal profession that parliament has mandated they have their own fidelity fund. Last year $767,000 was paid out and the Law Society has a provision for another $608,000 set aside for unresolved claims. Close to $1.5m last year alone.

There are just over 12,000 lawyers holding practicing certificates. In 2015 there were 3,800 calls made to the Lawyers Complaints Service and a massive 1,611 complaints made. On average, that is one complaint for every eight lawyers.

Most of these complaints were dismissed and many of them came from their peers. The willingness of lawyers to complain about each other isn't edifying.

However, 145 of these complaints were upheld. Over one percent of lawyers had a complaint upheld against them by their own society last year.

Of course, I am being disingenuous. Lawyers are not dishonest as a group but regulation has not prevented dishonest people entering their profession and those who get past they gate keeper are given legitimacy by the regulatory process.

The biggest problem facing the insolvency industry isn't unaccredited and unregulated professionals it is passive liquidators who don't even know where the High Court is much less what to do when they get there.

Despite over two thousand liquidations last year only thirteen directors had judgments entered against them by their liquidators and only two firms, my own and Deloitte, were responsible for this litigation.

It seems whenever there is a problem, no matter how trivial, our first reaction is to demand that the government fix it.