Investors in collapsed Australian derivatives trader Halifax are set to have a long wait to get their money back after the administrator found "accounting irregularities" and said they will have to go to court to get a direction on how to disperse the money.
Voluntary administrators Ferrier Hodgson, who were appointed in November, released an update on Halifax yesterday and said they had now undertaken a wide-scale investigation of Halifax's financial position.
They found a deficiency in the company's assets of around A$19.7 million or 9 per cent of investor funds before costs and said the primary reason for the deficiency appeared to be the use of client money to fund operating losses at the company since at least January 2017.
"The management accounts, audited accounts and lodgements with ASIC all appear to present with accounting irregularities; and there appears to be contraventions of client money rules and the Corporations Act 2001 in connection with dealing with client monies, including payment of operating expenses directly from client funds."
On November 23, Halifax's investor account balances totalled approximately A$211m.
The administrators said they were working closely with Australian regulator ASIC in relation to the issues and other lines of investigation.
Ferrier Hodgson said that based on its review of 10,000 transactions there appeared to be extensive co-mingling of client money with funds invested by MT4 and MT5 investors used to 'top up' the accounts of IB investors and vice versa.
The co-mingling would affect the claims of all investors on all three platforms in both the Australian and New Zealand businesses, they said.
"Due to this deficiency in client funds it will be necessary to seek court directions in respect of the relative entitlement of investors as well as a number of other matters."
The administrators said they had explored the options for a potential deed of company arrangement where investors share the deficiency proportionally to speed up the distribution but said this was not achievable.
"Given a DOCA is not achievable, the only outcome available is for investors and creditors to resolve at the second meeting that Halifax be placed into liquidation."
Within 60 days of that meeting the administrators said they would apply to the court to seek orders and directions on; client entitlements to trust funds, payment of themselves and any liquidator, how the money in various client accounts and different product lines should be treated and the ultimate distribution of funds.
The administrations said they anticipated it would take six to 12 months to get a determination from the court and a further six months to make the distribution while it realised stocks and adjudicated on 12,600 investor claims.
"We appreciate that investors would like to have access to funds held in accounts as soon as possible.
"However, due to the many complex issues and matters that will require directions from the court it is difficult at this time to provide an estimate as to when investors can expect to receive a distribution.
"We do not anticipate the application will be determined any earlier than 6-12 months after being commenced."
Over the past six years local investors poured tens of millions of dollars through online broker Halifax New Zealand, before it followed its Australian parent abruptly into administration.
The Australian company also promoted itself using celebrity "ambassador" former Australian test cricket captain Mark Taylor who had previously endorsed the business in promotional videos on the Halifax website and on YouTube.
A watershed meeting for Halifax must be convened by March 29 and held on or before April 5 2019.