Receivers might try fast-track method

21:20, Nov 23 2012

Ross Asset Management investors could face "rough justice" in a bid by receivers to bring a relatively speedy return of funds.

PricewaterhouseCoopers partner John Fisk faces a massive task establishing a formula to use to return the up to $11 million in assets which have been found, which after the costs of the process could be 1 to 2 cents in the dollar invested.

Ross' offices were raided by the Financial Markets Authority in late October, after some of the 900 investors, who collectively believed they had about $450m being managed, were unable to withdraw money.

Fisk said the situation was complex, with some investors having had more than their original deposits returned in the form of income, while others had received no income or repayments.

"It appears some of the money has genuinely been used to buy shares, but other amounts have been used to repay other investors," said Fisk, who has previously said Ross has the "characteristics" of a Ponzi scheme.

"There's a real mixture of circumstances, and it's going to be quite a difficult process to establish the base that you would use to do any distribution."

Fisk said the process could take years to resolve if it was undertaken exhaustively, so receivers may attempt to find a quicker solution.

"We've got to bear in mind the costs of doing this compared to the benefits, so from our point of view it may well be that at some stage we have to either seek some court direction or come to conclusions that might use a little bit of rough justice, but enables a distribution to be made," Fisk said.

"Because the last thing we want is to spend years sorting through a tangled web and then to only have a mere fraction of what might have been distributable if we'd used a different approach."

Fisk, along with FMA staff, met Ross' founder and sole director David Ross on Thursday for about an hour.

The result of the meeting was that PWC now believes that little more than the $11m already established would be uncovered.

Ross had been co-operative at the meeting, Fisk said, but there had been no probing on whether the company he ran was a Ponzi scheme, with questions relating only to whether PWC had overlooked any of the company's assets.

"Really the purpose of our meeting was to establish whether there were further assets that we needed to get under our control."

"I didn't really ask him that and a lot of questions that investors have are the sort of questions that the FMA and the SFO will want to ask through their inquiries." Monday PWC will give an update on the process to the High Court at Wellington, where it will push for at least some of the Ross entities to be liquidated.

Contact Hamish Rutherford
Business reporter
Twitter: @oneforthedr


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