Thursday 18 July 2013

Brown and Albarran parted by conflict concerns

Etienne Lawyers' chairman Steven Brown
Etienne Lawyers chairman Steven Brown has ceded representation of regular clients Richard Albarran and Blair Pleash to a rival firm. 

A change of solicitor notice filed in the NSW Supreme Court shows that the Hall Chadwick insolvency duo are now relying on Hicksons Lawyers to defend them in a stoush with a disgruntled creditor.

In a statement of claim filed in October 2012, Albarran and Pleash are accused of managing the affairs of a company subject to a Deed of Company Arrangement (DoCA) in a manner prejudicial to creditors.

Among other things, the plaintiffs claim Albarran and Pleash breached their fiduciary duty by allowing Etienne - the deed administrators' legal advisers - to amass $790,000 in legal fees.

Albarran and Pleash - and Etienne for that matter - reject the allegations, arguing the more than $1.4 million in combined legal, administrator and other fees incurred over a three year period result from the failure of the company's warring creditors to agree to a solution.

The matter is set down for directions in August and when the time comes, Albarran and Pleash will have to get used to having a newcomer in their corner.

Brown has had Albarran’s back in some tight spots in the past. In 2009 he saved the Hall Chadwick high-flyer from bankruptcy, convincing a judge to allow Albarran to pay a $1.6 million judgement debt in instalments.

The final payment – owed to Hellier Capital’s Graham Hellier - was reportedly due in February this year.

But with Etienne’s fees at the heart of this latest row, Brown has chosen to eliminate the possibility of a conflict or perception of conflict by relinquishing the gig.

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Wednesday 17 July 2013

Levi exposed - judge says criminal prosecution "likely"

MARK Darrren Levi has been exposed as the Sydney liquidator alleged to have taken more than $90,000 from a company in receivership to pay his tax.

Levi, who denies the allegations, had until yesterday been protected by a Supreme Court non-publication order.

That order was imposed while he appealed an earlier judgement which had dismissed his application for a stay of a disciplinary hearing before the Companies Auditors and Liquidators Disciplinary Board (CALDB).

The appeal proceedings, held before Justice John Basten, were dismissed on May 2, 2013 and in the NSW Supreme Court yesterday, Justice Stephen Rothman agreed with ASIC's application to have his order of April 3, 2013, suppressing the Titan Advisory managing director's identity, set aside.

“The court orders the non-publication order issued on April 3, 2013 be vacated,” Justice Rothman said, adding: “the suppression orders are sought in order to ensure the plaintiff has a fair criminal trial, if and when one commences.

“The fact that the criminal trial has not commenced is a factor to be taken into account in this exercise. Nevertheless, as stated in the first judgement, I consider a criminal prosecution likely”, Justice Rothman concluded. (Read today's judgement)

Monday 15 July 2013

Mark Levi wins new AAT review

MARK Darren Levi has forced the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) to review his appeal of a decision of the Companies Auditors and Liquidators Disciplinary Board (CALDB) declaring he was unfit to be a liquidator.

In the Federal Court last Friday, Justice Lucy Farrell ruled the Titan Advisory managing director had been denied natural justice when his application for a review of a CALDB decision was considered by AAT deputy president Robin Handley on July 4, 2013. (Read Justice Farrell's judgement here)

The judge issued a writ of certiorari quashing the AAT's July 5 finding and a writ of mandamus requiring the AAT to reconsider Levi's application for a review of the CALDB decision, which was handed down on June 14, 2013 but has not been published.

Justice Farrell ruled CALDB could not publish its original decision before the AAT reheard Levi's appeal. Similarly, the judge restrained ASIC from making any announcement. 

Monday 8 July 2013

Uninvited crash Octaviar’s ex-parte

Bentleys' Kate Barnet
Photo: SiN Images
SUPREME Court Acting Justice Peter Young has spiked the punch at the Octaviar liquidators’ ex-parte party.

In a recent judgement the judge criticised liquidators Kate Barnet and Bill Fletcher for a lack of candour, branded Barnet’s performance during cross examination as “so vague as to be of little value” and rejected the Bentley pair’s attempts to repel interlocutories filed by former Octaviar Administration Pty Ltd (OA) and Octaviar Limited (OL) directors David Anderson and Craig White.

Barnet was singled out perhaps because the judge had heard her unfortunate cross-examination earlier in the year.

“She did not acquit herself very satisfactorily and her evidence would suggest that she had really very little day to day contact with this matter,” the judge wrote, before offering up some more conciliatory speculations.

“That may be unfair to her because it would seem that she did not realise that she was going to be called to give evidence before me and was involved in some other court case or conference immediately before she stepped into the witness box in my court at 10:38am.”