Investors to sue blue gum advisers

INVESTORS caught out by the failure of failed forestry group Timbercorp are planning to sue financial advisers who steered them towards the managed investment scheme.

The move comes as Timbercorp liquidator KordaMentha ramps up the pressure to recover loans taken out to finance their investments.

Financial planners reaped $92 million in commissions after advising their clients to invest in the company, which was one of the main companies behind blue gum plantations in the south-west.

The investors received substantial tax breaks to invest in the scheme.

Mike Smith, chief executive of Timbercorp’s financier the ANZ Bank, told The Standard investors were offered a 15 per cent discount to settle their loans.

“Many accepted that offer but some have held out,” Mr Smith said.

“We’re now trying to recover the loans that are still outstanding.”

ANZ lent the money to Timbercorp’s finance arm, Timbercorp Finance, which in turn lent it to investors, many of whom were attracted by a generous tax deduction.

KordaMentha has launched a flurry of legal action in the Victorian Supreme Court to recover loans.

Since April, when the High Court upheld the validity of the loans after a failed class action, KordaMentha has lodged at least 49 lawsuits against investors, five of which were settled before reaching court.

In just three days at the end of last month the receiver lodged 11 lawsuits against investors, claiming a total of almost $4.8 million.

Fairfax Media has seen loan application forms filled in by clients who used financial planners that have blank spaces where the investor’s assets and liabilities are supposed to be disclosed.

Slater & Gordon lawyer Mark Walter said his firm was “starting to be retained by growers who are being sued”.

KordaMentha partner Mark Korda defended the lawsuits and said any benefits would flow through to Timbercorp’s unsecured creditors, not ANZ.

“After four or five years of legal issues these loans are due and payable,” Mr Korda said.

“We’re taking a selective group and we’re putting them through the court process.

“We expect some of them will settle.”

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