Liquidators take new tack in Hastie lawsuit
Liquidators of collapsed services company Hastie Group have launched a $70 million lawsuit against 18 developers and builders, including Multiplex, in a bid to reshape the way the industry deals with failed players.
In a Federal Court lawsuit filed just before Christmas, the liquidators, PPB partners Craig Crosbie, Ian Carson and David McEvoy, claim each of the 18 respondents owes money for work Hastie did on construction projects.
Several of the respondents also failed to return bank guarantees that Hastie put up to back its work on projects.
Hastie collapsed in 2012 following an accounting fraud owing $530m to a syndicate of banks that included Australia’s big four: ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, NAB and Westpac.
PPB’s lawsuit follows a significant precedent set last year when the WA Supreme Court found there were strict limits to the amount debtors to insolvent companies could claim as a setoff to what they are owed.
In a concise statement of claim filed with the Federal Court, the liquidators said each respondent “has refused to make payment and asserted an entitlement to set-off against the amount sought, an alleged indebtedness”.
Several of the respondents also “called upon or failed to return bank guarantees issued in favour of those respondents by various banks at the request of members of the Hastie Group of companies”, the liquidators allege.
This increased the liabilities of Hastie Group by “at least $69,279,263.43”, say the liquidators.
They claim that under the Personal Property Securities Act, which in 2012 replaced the old system of charges registered against companies, no such setoff, or “mutuality”, is allowed.
“Further or alternatively, the liquidators contend that the bank guarantee creditors are not, and were not, entitled to call upon the bank guarantees until such time as their claims have been admitted in the liquidations, alternatively at all,” they allege.
PPB has asked Multiplex to act as “contradictor” in the case to determine the “no mutuality proposition” it advances against all the respondents.
“Once the no mutuality proposition has been determined, the liquidators will seek orders that this proceeding be referred to mediation,” PPB told the court.
Multiplex did not respond to a request for comment.
In addition to Multiplex, PPB claims millions of dollars from ABI Group (now Lendlease), Badge, Baulderstone, Contexx, CPB Contractors (formerly Lendlease), Frasers, Grocon, Hansen Yuncken, John Holland, Laing O’Rourke, Lendlease, Probuild, PS Structures, Scentre, Shape Group (formerly Isis), Theiss and Watpac.