Liq­uida­tors take new tack in Hastie law­suit

The Weekend Australian - - BUSINESS - BEN BUT­LER

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.

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