OPINION: If the phrases "minimise the risk" and "it makes good sense" don't have you gagging, then you're not a Bridgecorp investor.
Under reassuring slogans like that, this hideous outfit grew rapidly in the early 2000s to become one of New Zealand's largest finance companies.
Behind the reassurances, the judiciary has found something worse than, for instance, the culpable ineptitude of Nathans directors.
Avaricious Bridgecorp director Rod Petricevic is more from the Montgomery Burns school of business studies.
He was knowingly deceitful and the prosecution description of him as an inveterate liar stands proven inside, and outside, a court of law.
Petricevic has been jailed for six and a half years, though most people know to knock off half, or more, of such sentences to get a fair idea of how long he is likely to languish behind bars.
Perhaps, on balance, given the sentencing parameters laid down by lawmakers, this was an adequate penalty for a 62-year-old rogue. Nobody would call it ideal, though.
His own lawyer, Charles Cato, said Petricevic had shown regret for investor losses. If the collapse of a company with $459 million owing to 14,500 investors was just regrettable, the Christchurch earthquake was, on balance, unfortunate.
Petricevic may have proven not the least bit interested in minimising risk to others, but he remains stoic when it comes to minimising responsibility for all the hurt he's caused.
Justice Geoffrey Venning stonily noted the lack of genuine remorse. But perhaps it's for the best that Petricevic didn't adopt any belatedly penitent postures.
Seriously, who could at this stage believe him?
Given the shameless nature of his defence, parts of which were a variation of a preschooler's somebody-poohed-in-my-pants line, any change of character at the brink of sentencing would arguably have been adding insult to profound and widespread injury.
With what seems tedious inevitability, the Bridgecorp case involved what is over-politely called inter-company lending.
What it really is is setting up another company, coming up with a seriously risky project that will make you many millions of dollars if it works.
The Petricevic sentence won't, in itself, send a strong enough message to dissuade grasping directors from such unscrupulous, illegal, self-interested activities.
It will happen again.
Anyway there's still a lineup of court cases ahead as we wade through the carnage of the damage done by the latest bunch of unscrupulous conmen.
The wheels do turn slowly, so here's hoping that the passage of time does not ease or dim the sense of anger that the wider public feels, not only in empathy for the thousands of investors who have been hammered, but also for the disincentives that such repellent cases are to people considering investment.
- The Southland Times
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