Relief and anger from Credit Sails investors

TIM HUNTER
Last updated 13:10 18/12/2012

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There was relief mixed with anger from Credit Sails investors this morning as they learned one of New Zealand's largest sharebrokers and a giant French bank had agreed to pay $60 million in compensation for their losses.

"I'm obviously very pleased," said Dunedin investor Andrew Cunningham. "I'll take the money and I'll never deal with those people again."

Retired businessman Grant Waterhouse, who stands to recover more than $100,000 of a $150,000 investment, said news of the payout was reward for the heartache.

"It's just good," he said. "Despite the fact these pricks don't admit liability, the fact they've coughed up $60m has got to say something.

"And it's good they've been held to account. They would have just squirmed their way out of it if the Commerce Commission hadn't got the bit between their teeth."

Credit Sails was a complex derivative product put together in 2006 by French investment bank Calyon, a subsidiary of Credit Agricole, and lead managed in New Zealand by broker Forsyth Barr.

Its key selling points were AA-rated capital protection and a high interest rate of 8.5 per cent, but two years later the securities were worthless after a series of defaults decimated the structure.

Estimated losses for investors were about $70m.

After a two-year investigation, the Commerce Commission said it believed the marketing of Credit Sails was likely to breach the Fair Trading Act, and representations that it was capital protected were "misleading and deceptive".

Credit Agricole and Forsyth Barr have agreed to pay $60m into a compensation fund but do not accept liability or accept they broke the law.

The commission's investigation and settlement followed a vociferous campaign on investors' behalf by Wanaka-based fund manager Greg Marshall, principal of Logic Funds.

"I feel quite good - a little bit proud," he said. "It was a long road I can tell you."

He had talked to about 100 clients about the settlement so far, he said, including a Southland couple in their 80s who had put the proceeds of a farm sale into Credit Sails.

"They were dancing on the table," said Marshall. For many investors, news of the payout was "a life-changing event".

It was nevertheless disappointing that the institutions behind Credit Sails had not accepted responsibility.

"The most powerful words are 'that's my fault, I'm sorry", and they still don't appear in this. 'We pay $60m but we disagree'? Please."

Cunningham said the only other thing he'd like to see would be resignations at Forsyth Barr, "but I suppose they'll manage to crawl under a few stones until the dust settles."

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Waterhouse said the firm had fed him "bullshit" about Chinese walls between the advisory and investment banking sides of the business. "You can quote me on this - the Chinese walls were about as thick as the condoms they used to shove it up the shareholders' arses."

- BusinessDay.co.nz

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