Two finance firms operated by a former 1980s high-flyer turned loan shark who was jailed for fraud after the Black Monday crash have appealed a $720,000 fine for "cynical and deliberate" repossession tactics which stripped homes almost bare.
Budget Loans Ltd and Evolution Finance Ltd (Budget Loans) were slapped with the heavy fine by Judge David Sharp when sentenced on more than 100 charges under the Fair Trading Act earlier this year in the Auckland District Court.
From 2009 to 2014, Budget Loans misrepresented its right to repossess goods and recover interest and costs from borrowers. It also misrepresented amounts borrowers were required to pay under attachment orders and made misrepresentations about the benefits of refinancing existing loans.
Budget Loans further purchased the distressed loan books of Western Bay Finance and National Finance in 2004.
During the six-year period of offending the companies' directors were Allan Robert Hawkins and his son Wayne Robert Hawkins.
Allan Hawkins, the former head of Equiticorp, was jailed in the 1992 for his role in the H-fee scheme after the 1987 stockmarket crash.
He took control of Cynotech in 2010 but pulled his financial support in 2013, leading to the company's liquidation and delisting.
Judge Sharp also ordered Budget Loans to pay $53,000 of emotional harm reparations to nine victims, and about $38,000 in refunds and credits to borrowers.
He said it was "cynical and deliberate" offending, calling the repossessions "reprehensible" which were "used as a direct means of coercion".
Over a two-day appeal hearing in the High Court at Auckland this week, Budget Loans made arguments against the hefty fine.
Hawkins' previous convictions were not mentioned in Judge Sharp's sentencing decision, the court heard today.
Justice Simon Moore reserved his decision on the appeal.
Commerce Commission general counsel Mary-Anne Borrowdale said earlier in a statement Budget Loans had obtained court judgments against some borrowers but demanded more from borrowers than the courts had awarded.
When loans were not secured, Budget Loans also sought to convince some borrowers to sign new, secured loans by falsely telling them they would get a discount on their loan balance.
"Budget Loans' conduct and misrepresentations kept vulnerable borrowers in a cycle of debt and repossession," Borrowdale said.
"It knowingly engaged in illegal repossessions of essential items from people that it knew were already living in hardship. The financial and emotional distress caused by this conduct to borrowers and their families should not be underestimated."
In some cases Budget Loans stripped houses almost bare, the Commerce Commission said. In other cases, it repossessed items that it should have known were of low value, and dumped them.
"One borrower declared herself bankrupt when told her loan had ballooned from about $9,000 to $57,000. In fact she had less than $2,500 to pay at that time," Borrowdale said.
Budget Loans was earlier convicted on 34 charges under the Fair Trading Act in 2010 and fined $30,750. It undertook to return $500,000 in overcharged interest and fees to borrowers.
In 2016, the companies were convicted on 106 charges more charges. Nineteen charges were dismissed but the Commerce Commission successfully appealed the decision.