The Government should bail out investors in failed construction insurer CBL Corporation and commission a full inquiry into its collapse, says its former chief executive Peter Harris.
Harris' call comes a week after an independent report on the Reserve Bank found the regulator was too lenient on CBL and should have acted more decisively about its solvency concerns.
The Reserve Bank has accepted it should have acted more forcefully and at an earlier stage but says ultimately the failure wasn't the Reserve Bank's fault, it was CBL's failure.
CBL was put into administration in 2018 after its subsidiary CBL Insurance was placed into interim liquidation on the order of the Reserve Bank. Both have since gone into liquidation.
CBL Corporation listed on the New Zealand sharemarket in October 2015 at $1.73. It rose to more than $3 two years later and at its peak the listed company was worth $750 million.
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But shareholders are expected to get nothing back from the company which is still under investigation by the Financial Markets Authority and the Serious Fraud Office.
Harris refuses to shoulder the blame for CBL's failure.
"We say it wasn't a failed business ... the failure here was the decision to liquidate CBL Insurance.
"We can't say the RBNZ was responsible for CBL's operations. That was always our responsibility."
"But the decision to apply for liquidation [of CBL Insurance] was not our decision so we can't be held responsible for it."
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The Reserve Bank has statutory immunity which means it can't be sued.
Harris says it is considering legal action against other parties, although he won't say who or when it will decide to take any action.
But what he really would like is for the Government to step in.
"I would like to see the Government actually look at this and decide whether it was fair and recompense the shareholders - even put some money in that could be distributed to shareholders."
He says if that were to happen he and Alistair Hutchinson - the two largest shareholders in CBL - would consider forfeiting their share of it.
Asked why taxpayers should cough up for the failed business, Harris admits it is not fair to expect taxpayers to pay up either.
"None of this is fair. But the shareholders of CBL, I think, have been done a gross injustice."
That is also his reasoning for continuing to speak out - albeit he says he is a reluctant fighter - for his company and to get what he says is the "other side of the story" told.
Since the RBNZ CBL review was released, Harris and Hutchinson have taken full-page advertisements in daily newspapers calling for a fuller investigation into the business' collapse.
Harris has been critical of the review, saying the investigators did not talk to him or the other CBL directors, its actuary or auditors.
"I'm not saying our side of the story is the only side at all - I'm just saying there is another side and it should be heard and then people can make up their own mind."
Harris believes it should be the Government which undertakes that review.
"I think it is appropriate somebody from the Government or Minister of Finance needs to take this into a much wider commission of inquiry. Or at least just ask us about some of these questions."
More than 150 responses have been received to his call for a wider investigation, he says.
"We have had a fantastic response and support - people saying good on you for somebody standing up.
"But we have also had letters from people who have got $38k invested and this investor is now in a rest home and that is their money. How do you think that looks? It is awful."
There are about 1600 investors in CBL - most of them are institutions but there were also some retail shareholders.
Harris says he does feel for those people.
"I don't think I am to blame. But we were entrusted with their money."
Harris is firmly of the belief that if CBL Insurance hadn't been placed into liquidation CBL would still be around now but in a much smaller form.
"We just would have shrunk to smaller company and sharemarket would have had to cope with that."
CBL Corp had signalled that it was going to make its first loss in 13 years and had already lined up investment bankers to undertake a capital raising when the Reserve Bank stepped in.
It was also planning to divest the French construction insurance business which had caused its liabilities to blow out to cover a 10- to 12-year reinsurance periods and move back to its core business of short term cover up to two years.
Harris says if it had been allowed to divest the business, CBL Corp's employees would have shrunk from 540 down to about 100, with most staff moving with the French business and revenue falling to about $300 million with a net profit of $75m.
Instead, he says its French subsidiaries were no longer able to write new insurance business after the interim liquidator of CBL Insurance put a hold on paying out claims.
"Those businesses would have carried on out into the future but those businesses got burned by the interim liquidator saying we are not paying any claims. Not honouring any obligations. If you say that in the insurance industry - that's it, dead."
Most of CBL Corp's subsidiaries have been sold off by Korda Mentha, which handled the administration of the parent company and is now liquidator, although CBL Insurance Europe remains under a different liquidator - KPMG.
On a personal level, Harris says he is trying to get back to business.
"I don't want to be a troublemaker and I don't want to be a crusader. There is a lot of much better and respected organisations who are putting input into how this should go.
"I just feel like somebody should stand up against it. It doesn't take up all my time - I'm trying to re establish in a business sense with a few relationships I have had for some time."
He isn't aiming to get back into insurance but says he is looking at the credit risk business.
And he isn't losing sleep over the FMA/SFO investigations.
"Not in the slightest. I am not waiting to hear back on this investigation. I don't even think about it because I don't think there are any issues.
"I know nothing about where they are at and if I did I would not be allowed to say.
"My view on them is they are professional, they are discreet but I have no idea where they are at."
He says his fear is that they take a long time to come to conclusions.
"That is not in anyone's interests either."