Cullen Australia liquidator won’t be run out of town

Cullen Group Australia Liquidator Michael Caspaney.

Menzies Advisory’s Michael Caspaney must have days when he wonders if providing that consent to act as replacement liquidator on Cullen Group Australia Pty Ltd (CGA) almost four years go was a good idea, and iNO suspects that another such day approaches. 

Caspaney has been at odds with members of CGA’s Committee of Inspection (COI) and the general pool of creditors since at least the middle of 2019.

Among other things, the COI and creditors resent how funding obtained from the Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC) has been utilised to identify the recipients of preference payments.

In their minds there are debtors owing $12 million identified and they cannot understand why Caspaney hasn’t pursued them.

iNO understands that the major debtors have lawyered up and as such represent the tougher of the various nuts Caspaney plans to crack.

The enmity generated has led to an emerging trend of Caspaney having his resolutions for fee approval defeated and next week he will ask the CGA Committee of Inspection (COI) to approve his latest remuneration claim. 

Based on the COI’s attitude as recorded in the Minutes recent meetings of CGA creditors to such approaches Caspaney may well find himself proposing the resolution to CGA’s general pool when they meet the following Tuesday, on August 18.  

And based on the general pool’s attitude to such claims Caspaney has almost certainly also briefed his lawyers to prepare another application for fee approval via the courts.

Since replacing Pearce & Heers partners Mark Pearce and Michael Dullaway in January 2017 Caspaney has had to spend $39,000 on applications for fee approvals.

As he notes in the latest Notice of Meeting of creditors of CGA: “If the committee and creditors generally elect to not approve this, my latest remuneration, the only other way I can have it approved is to go to Court. 

“I estimate that this will cost up to $12,000 in legal fees to have the Court consider this approval. These costs will come out of the general pool of creditor’s funds,” Caspaney said.

“I note that so far in my external administration of the company approximately $39,000 has been spent on court approval. If this latest remuneration is not approved, the costs will then be over $51,000.”

Vexing for appointee and creditor alike no doubt and resistance to fee claims isn’t the only CGA-spawned tick burrowing into this liquidator’s hide.

At a restive creditors meeting on May 5, 2020 a member of the Committee of Inspection – incensed with a funding deal that’s seen FEG bankrolling Caspaney’s pursuit of preferences – articulated his opinion of the Queensland-born practitioner.

“Here is my opinion, you can **** off. Right off out of the state,” the COI member declared, incensed that Caspaney was accepting funding from FEG to recover preferences that would go towards repaying the Commonwealth the $600,000-odd it paid out in CGA employee entitlements. 

Declining to emigrate Caspaney said, “Sorry, I’m not going to do that.

“No you won’t you greedy prick,” came the retort.

And you thought Octaviar’s COI was giving Bill Fletcher and Kate Barnet a torrid time? Support INO’s continued chronicling of the insolvency sector.

Further reading:

Creditor Revolt On Cullen Group

Another Director’s Pick Flicked By Subbies

Cullen Group: FEG On Collision Course With Creditors

15 Comments on "Cullen Australia liquidator won’t be run out of town"

  1. John Goddard | 7 August 2020 at 10:35 am | Reply

    The way we see it is that the time and expense of going to the court for fee approval is no loss to creditors. The upside is it means less money for the liquidator. Heading on towards 4 years, 2.5 million and not a kid washed so to speak, not a cent for unsecured creditors. It’s being milked for every drop.

    The real money is with the developers but the liquidator has gone for the low hanging fruit as he calls it, the subbies who put him there and they resent it to the point of outrage.

  2. The ironic thing about this is the incensed COI member recommended the current liquidator replace the previous liquidator:

  3. John Goddard | 7 August 2020 at 1:14 pm | Reply

    That is not correct. All COI members are incensed, furthermore, none of us recommended the current liquidator, that was a 3rd party who recommended him in good faith but we all make mistakes don’t we.

    Personally I never met the current liquidator until the day of the first creditors meeting.

  4. John Goddard | 7 August 2020 at 2:13 pm | Reply

    It\’s a gross failure and totally inadequate cost benefit to creditors, even the secured ones, to spend 2.9 for a return of 2.9 million with a ZERO balance.

    In fact the company owes FEG and the QBCC collectively approx 350k so after almost 4 years its in the RED. Under the liquidator, Cullen is like it was 4 years ago, its trading insolvent and it should be put out of its misery.

    Almost 1.250 million in fees to the liquidator, 1 million in legal fees, 135k to the previous liquidator, its a fee feast.

    The promise in January 2017 was to investigate, find where the 45 million went, pursue the director and the developers and after 3 years and 7 months and receipts of 2.9 million which could have been used to fund various aspects of it, that hasn\’t happened and it\’s extremely unlikely it will happen.

    Most of the receipts to date are largely from small businesses who were already hurt enough in the initial liquidation.

    No unsecured creditor has seen a cent and I will be surprised if they ever do.

  5. It sounds like the liquidator is doing is job, which involves not favouring any class of creditor and pursuing recoverable claims for the benefit of all creditors.

  6. John Goddard | 7 August 2020 at 4:33 pm | Reply

    How do you work that out Equal Footing and use your own name like I do.

    It would appear he is favouring the larger class of creditors ie; developers. He has failed to strike a blow there after almost 4 years. Instead, to use his own words, he is targeting the “low hanging fruit”.

  7. Pretty big mistake! The mistake is thinking any liquidator will not be impartial and do things for their own benefit. Simply, they can’t. It’s probably the only job where you are scrutinised by all and everyone – creditors, ASIC, ARITA, the government, media, etc. If they do the wrong thing they will be disciplined either by penalty, suspension or expulsion.

  8. Its beyond any doubt that as er the statement ” if Trac can do it..why cant I?” and this continues onto the liquidation and recovery process… as in this instance… The devlopers have a right to put in “purportd claims” against the insolvency in a single recoupe costs ..however with such they are ruported costs atthe time of the insolvency ..and yes do consit of items like “paper liquidated damages”/ As with Trac we (the committee) made the liquidator reconise the claims however not quantify the amounts – as with Trace there was an opportunity for certain persons to decrease or fset the current amount owing to the insolvency ..and simply wipe it of the slate… there was also the MAJOR issue in Trac where the build price was substantially reduced (compared to other builders) and the due diligence of the developer and thier assessment of the build price was brought into play.

    The flaw in the the WHOLE system is it is not fair and the differences between actually owed funds and “purported funds” is a discrase in one singular example why should a subbie not be allowed to claim intrest on the outstanding amount.. but a developer can charge thru there damages claim…..

    one has to question the idealogigy behind this … as it is basically an income stream ..for everyone else bar the persons whom have done the ACTUAL work….. and does not value add to the base services provided…now does it..?

    if developers wish to claim further coasts from the insolvency ..they shoud be required to show assesments of the project which where there base was derived from.. and also seperate the amount owing at the time or the time of the previous progress claim.. and also funds held also for security… imho

  9. John Goddard | 8 August 2020 at 1:53 pm | Reply

    Pari you live in la la land. Yes, under scrutiny by everyone and they still do exactly as they like. There are many articles on here where some have been caught, fined, sacked, jailed, imagine the vast number who have not been exposed.

    • Mate, the liquidation process is a rort. Look at the Bulkbuild creditor meeting farce! Subbies United needs to take back the power and get liquidators who do the right thing. Complaining to ASIC gets you nowhere. We need a royal commision!

  10. Creditors should not sit on a COI if they themselves have a potential conflict, which, in the main would be having received preference payments as they can attempt to blackmail a liquidator or, as we have seen in this case, stop him getting paid until he goes to Court. I do not think anyone with a potential conflict should sit on a COI. ASIC should perhaps look at this.

  11. Your kidding..? the practical side is that the subbies know what is also happpening.. might be a different senerio if you a creditor or supplying toilet rolls. Who do you think actual builds buildings and does the work..the builder ? and as for your example of preferential payments …which defense do you want the account, rolling balance of the good ole received monies in good faith or ive passed the money on defense… that you are trying to claw back ONLY to pay your fee’s.. the recovery od preferential payments does NOT go to the person whom preformed the work.. and it would be quite rare for that to happen.. Good CoI’s stand btw and stand tall and proud

  12. John Goddard | 12 August 2020 at 3:18 pm | Reply


    Probably one of the dumbest comments I have seen on here, you must be a liquidator.
    You don’t think ASIC should look at the archaic preference laws first?

    Almost 1.3 million in liquidators fees and costs, a similar amount to lawyers, barely a dollar in the account and you are worried about the poor liquidator potentially being blackmailed. laughable.

  13. John.. be nice… you can get robbed with a fountain pen easier than with being threatened with a gun.. kind words of encouragement are required here…imho

  14. I have said it before, I will say it again, the Cullen Liquidator has done some good things with his investigation but we are for subbies as our name suggests, so the chasing of preferences goes against our principles. Subbies chasing money is an everyday occurrence, to a subbie it doesn’t mean the builder is broke.

    As with all Qld builders, Cullen Group had a bright and shiny current QBCC licence which means the QBCC had accessed their books and records and gave them their stamp of approval.
    Subbies and suppliers don’t have that same luxury, I think if they did the building industry would collapse almost immediately as most builders are probably not solvent and are operating on the cash flow of retentions and overdue accounts to creditors.

    One alarming aspect is that if a creditor submits a QBCC monies owed complaint, then some liquidators will see that as an indication that they knew or suspected that the builder was trading insolvent and to me that is a broken system because it means that other than by phone or in person (no paper trail) there is no way for us to chase overdue payments without giving the appearance that we knew a builder was insolvent.

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