Tim­ber­corp ac­tion dis­missed

High Court re­fuses leave to ap­peal, but ‘not the end of the road’

Isis Town and Country - - NEWS - By MELINDA BRAD­FORD

IN­VESTORS who bor­rowed money from Tim­ber­corp Fi­nance may still be able to re­cover some of their losses, de­spite the High Court dis­miss­ing a class ac­tion against Tim­ber­corp.

The High Court, sit­ting in Mel­bourne last Fri­day, re­fused to grant in­vestors leave to ap­peal an ear­lier Vic­to­rian Court of Ap­peal de­ci­sion, ef­fec­tively end­ing the class ac­tion.

Tim­ber­corp had owned 1179ha of av­o­cado, mango and cit­rus farm­ing op­er­a­tions in the Bund­aberg re­gion – pre­dom­i­nantly in Childers.

About 14,500 in­vestors na­tion­wide had bor­rowed a to­tal of $477.8 mil­lion from Tim­ber­corp Fi­nance to in­vest into Tim­ber­corp be­fore the man­aged in­vest­ment scheme col­lapsed and was placed in li­qua­tion in 2009.

Slater & Gor­don pro­fes­sional lit­i­ga­tion lawyer James Naughton said the High Court’s de­ci­sion was not the end of the road for Tim­ber­corp Fi­nance in­vestors, but warned their op­tions were in­creas­ingly limited.

He ad­vised bor­row­ers to care­fully con­sider their op­tions af­ter the de­ci­sion and seek le­gal ad­vice.

“One op­tion may be for in­vestors to con­sider whether they can re­cover losses against their fi­nan­cial plan­ner or ac­coun­tant in cir­cum­stances where the ad­vice pro­vided to them to in­vest in an agribusi­ness scheme was in­ap­pro­pri­ate, es­pe­cially in cir­cum­stances where the risks of in­vest­ing their scheme was not ad­e­quately dis­closed,” Mr Naughton said.

“The strength of these claims de­pends on the ad­vice pro­vided. It is im­por­tant to get an ob­jec­tive view on those mat­ters be­fore con­sid­er­ing lit­i­ga­tion.

“For people who bor­rowed to in­vest in Tim­ber­corp, the debts re­main out­stand­ing and in­ter­est continues to ac­crue on the loans. Tim­ber­corp was ag­gres­sively mar­keted, es­pe­cially to people who may have had a tax li­a­bil­ity prob­lem in any par­tic­u­lar tax year.

“While the scheme was sold as a so­lu­tion, it has cre­ated sub­stan­tial bur­dens ... for many people.”

Mr Naughton – who was not in­volved in the class ac­tion – also ad­vised bor­row­ers to seek ad­vice on the time lim­its that may ap­ply to any claim.

The Town & Coun­try tried to con­tact Childers farm­ers who had sold their prop­er­ties to Tim­ber­corp, but none were avail­able for com­ment.

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