Hanover Finance shareholders Mark Hotchin and Eric Watson were the major business notables to fall from grace.

Hotchin's complete lack of insight into just how angry he had made former investors with his wanton displays of wealth, unimpeded by any sense of proportion, astounded many punters. So it was hardly surprising that some of them - through the comments section of online websites - resorted to some obvious schadenfreude at his expense.

Particularly when High Court Judge Helen Winkelmann froze his New Zealand assets this month so there might still be a bit around to reimburse former investors if they succeed in a planned action against him.

We won't know until next month whether the Securities Commission will lay criminal charges against Hotchin and other former Hanover Finance directors. Or, indeed, what the watchdog plans to throw at Watson. There have been hints his assets might also be frozen.

Hopefully, 2011 will see the pair finally dropped from the vacuities of the social pages while deserved focus goes on just how much Hotchin and Watson benefited from what the investors consider other people's money.

This new openness in Securities Commission inquiries can be laid at the door of investigations and litigation chief Sue Brown. She has been a breath of fresh air with her "telling it like it is" approach to media relations.

Not one to sit back while the commission got bucketed for not telling people what is going on (particularly with its investigations into failed finance companies), she simply said the asset freezing order was slapped on Hotchin because no receiver or liquidator had been appointed to supervise the disposal of assets when Hanover stopped paying out investors when it went into moratorium in July 2008.

Pity the commission did not make that abundantly clear to investors in 2008.

As far as the taxpayer is concerned there were plenty of zeroes also with the $1.75 billion payout of South Canterbury Finance's gold-plated depositors. The Government turned down all attempts - including one orchestrated by former SCF chairman Allan Hubbard - to bail the actual firm out.

But there were too many zeroes attached to the contingent liabilities as far as Bill English was concerned. Receivership seemed a better option to the Finance Minister. But all those taxpayer zeroes come at a big cost when the Government's accounts are under pressure and its overseas borrowing is exploding.

May Wang's ill-destined bid for the Crafar farms on behalf of Chinese investors deservedly came a cropper. Wang hardly had the business smarts to front the bid by Hong Kong listed Natural Dairy in the first place. It is unfathomable that the Government did not finally announce it had turned the bid down until just before Christmas - nearly nine months after Wang first hit the headlines. Plenty of zeroes also for the company's PR man Bill Ralston, who no doubt was paid well for trying to sell an obvious pup.

The wretched march of yet more former finance company directors towards the courts continued with some high-profile players - including former Cabinet ministers - now facing charges.

Peter Huljich's naivety in dipping into his own pocket to flossy up returns for his KiwiSaver funds resulted in him facing criminal charges for allegedly misleading investors. It also resulted in a stiff lesson for former Reserve Bank Governor Don Brash - who was persuaded by a National Party notable to chair Huljich wealth funds - that he needs to be more careful about whom he gets into bed with. Brash spent months tidying up the business before retreating to the relative safety of the ANZ local board.

While they don't quite deserve hero status, it would be remiss not to award some well-deserved bouquets. Commerce Minister Simon Power gave his officials a much-needed kick in the pants after the Huljich affair focused our attention on the laxity of KiwiSaver monitoring. Power can also chalk up the Financial Markets Authority - but the jury is still out on whether the usual suspects will again succeed in watering down the FMA legislation.

Gerry Brownlee deserves a bouquet for fronting the move to open more conservation land for mining. English gets a tick for organising the tax switch through raising GST, lowering income taxes and removing some property breaks. But it's come at a cost - the forgone tax revenues are now added to the Government's borrowing bills.

Bouquets also to Fletcher Building supremos Ralph Waters and Jonathan Ling. NZ's biggest listed company is on an upswing with the confidence to get into the transtasman takeover market.

Air NZ's Rob Fyfe resorted to body painting commercials to show he had the body to go with the business brains.

Henry van der Heyden cleverly spun the foreign investment bogey to fuel his campaign for re-election as Fonterra chairman while CEO Andrew Ferrier drove values up.

But the biggest bouquet goes to John Palmer. Adored by his chief executives at Solid Energy and Air NZ, Palmer continues to push the boundaries out as far as shareholder relations are concerned. We need more like him.