Dame gives evidence: ‘Call me Jenny’
Former prime minister Dame Jenny Shipley has given evidence in the High Court at Auckland, defending allegations she and other former directors of collapsed construction company Mainzeal traded recklessly.
The liquidators of Mainzeal Property and Construction (MPC) allege the firm continued trading while it was insolvent and are suing some of its former directors, including Shipley, for $75 million to repay creditors.
In opening her evidence Shipley was asked whether she would like to be called Dame Jenny. ‘‘I’m happy to be called Jenny,’’ she said.
Shipley, who was prime minister from 1997 to 1999 and an MPC director from 2004 to December 2012, said the board of Mainzeal was diligent and careful, in the circumstances faced at the time.
‘‘We kept the interests of Mainzeal’s creditors, employees and customers firmly in mind at all times and endeavoured to protect their interests and avoid loss’’ Shipley said.
Shipley runs her own consulting and advisory business and has a number of international board roles.
When MPC went into liquidation in 2013 it was one of the largest construction companies in New Zealand.
Mark O’Brien, QC, representing MPC liquidators Andrew Bethell and Brian Mayo-Smith of BDO, said during his opening of the trial last month that the company’s collapse left unsecured creditors with debts well in excess of $117m.
The plaintiffs who brought the civil proceedings are funded by LPF Group. In return, LPF Group receives a percentage of the outcome if the case is successful.
It is alleged that MPC creditors would have been $40m better off if the construction company had been put into receivership in early 2011 – two years before it eventually was.
Defendants include Shipley, China-based shareholder Richard Yan, former MPC chief executive Peter Gomm, Clive Tilby, Sir Paul Collins, Siew Kwan, Richina Global Real Estate and Isola Vineyards.
Jack Hodder, the lawyer defending Shipley, Gomm, Tilby and Collins, said, in an opening statement supplied to Stuff by the plaintiffs, that if MPC been liquidated in early 2011 rather than the actual January 2013, liquidation losses would have been far greater for creditors.
The trial, which started on September 17, is set down for eight weeks.
Dame Jenny Shipley appeared in the public gallery during the early days of the Mainzeal trial. Yesterday, she took the witness stand.