Mike Pero Mortgages has been given the green light to pursue its founder and namesake for $2.2 million that he overpaid himself at their jointly-owned real estate business.
The move is the latest in a long-running legal dispute between Mike Pero and the mortgage broking firm that still bears his name.
While the Christchurch-based entrepreneur no longer has a stake in that business, both are shareholders of Mike Pero Real Estate.
Pero is the chief executive of that nationwide real estate network and last year was found by a High Court judge to have given himself a pay rise without his co-owner's approval.
The real estate boss, according to the judge, increased his salary from $200,000 to $340,000 a year and also authorised an additional "brand ambassador" payment to himself of $125,000 per annum.
Pero and another company he controls was ordered to pay back all money they received in excess of $200,000 a year.
That was later calculated as being $2.179m. As of last month, none of it has been paid back.
Mike Pero Mortgages recently applied to the High Court to bring legal action on behalf of the real estate business to recover the funds.
Pero's view was that the debt should be sorted through Mike Pero Real Estate declaring a divided to shareholders.
Mike Pero Mortgages, on the other hand, believed that enforcement proceedings were the best way forward.
Pero's lawyer told Justice Sarah Katz, at a hearing last month, that the mortgages business was likely contemplating bankruptcy moves against his client and liquidation proceedings against his company.
Mike Pero Mortgages' lawyer, however, said that enforcement action could also include charging orders and sales orders against Pero's assets.
Liquidation or bankruptcy proceedings were only two of many available options, he said.
Pero's lawyer said that any bankruptcy action that the real estate business took against his client would bring considerable negative publicity and damage to its brand.
Mike Pero Mortgages director Sherman Ma said in an affidavit to the court that he believed the real estate business could still thrive without its namesake.
"In Mr Ma's view MPRE has reached a level of development such that it could continue to be successful, and could transcend its connection with Mr Pero, should that become necessary," Justice Katz said.
The judge said the costs of enforcement action would be low - relative to the amount at stake - and that the real estate business was not in a position to pursue proceedings itself because Pero was a director and opposed such a course.
Granting Mike Pero Mortgages' application would restore the usual creditor/debtor dynamic that would exist if Pero was not on the real estate firm's board.
"Any discussions regarding recovery of the judgment sum can take place against the background that if a reasonable resolution cannot be reached, MPRE is in a position to take or continue with enforcement action. It is in MPRE's interests that the full range of recovery options are available to it, including enforcement action against Mr Pero and [his company]," Justice Katz said.
She gave Mike Pero Mortgages leave to take enforcement action on behalf of the real estate business against Pero and his firm.
Pero in a statement to the Herald said:
"This is an issue between the two shareholders of Mike Pero Real Estate Limited - Sherman Ma and me, and relates primarily to historical issues.
"It has nothing to do with the company's (MPRE) trading, which remains strong nor the company's day-to-day activities, which continue to go from strength to strength.
"We currently have our own Shareholder's Dispute Resolution process in play to prevent future litigation and I remain hopeful that this issue will be resolved to the satisfaction of both parties," he said.
A spokesperson for Mike Pero Mortgages said: "The Mike Pero Group looks forward to quickly resolving this matter and to continue providing exceptional service to its valued customers."