PPBA steams as preference hold out opts for VA

Preference fight brewing

Jamieson Louttit: preparing to butt heads with PPBA’s Mark Robinson.

SiN opens by apologising for the crime of coincidence which sees us writing about Jamieson Louttit for the second time this week.

The coincidence can be explained by pointing to the small size of the Australian insolvency profession. Practitioners can’t help but cross paths on rival appointments and today’s tale doesn’t deal solely with the Pitt Street principal of Louttit & Associates.

PPB Advisory’s (PPBA) Mark Robinson stars too, and lawyer and litigation funder Patrick Moloney has a cameo.

The three were set on a potential collision course this week after Louttit consented to act as voluntary administrator (VA) of ACN 142 347 297 Pty Ltd, which until last month was known as Mainland Civil NSW Pty Ltd.

A well known name in the engineering and construction space and no stranger to government tenders, Mainland Civil’s NSW incarnation has for some time also been well known in Robinson’s Chifley Square offices, due to it being one of the few sub-contractors that’ve refused to settle preference claims Robinson’s pursued in his capacity as liquidator of Reed Constructions.

Reed’s problems surfaced when it installed Ferrier Hodgson’s John Melluish and Ryan Eagle as VAs back in June 2012.

A creditor then commenced winding up proceedings in the NSW Supreme Court which saw PPBA’s Robinson appointed liquidator the following month.

Since then Robinson and his team have been chasing unfair preferences and claims against directors and officers (D&O) policies, assisted with funding from Moloney’s Litigation Capital Management (LCM).

SiN understands Robinson is seeking about $1.2 million from Mainland Civil NSW and has refused a previous settlement on the basis he considered it uncommercial.

That may be why the directors decided to rebadge the company under an ACN and then appoint Louttit VA. Robinson would’ve been thrilled when he heard.

In his DIRRI Louttit reveals that he was referred the job by the Small Business Association and that he’s already received $30,000 for his fees and expenses, which he last night told SiN had come from the company’s account and not a director’s pocket.

SiN understands Mainland Civil NSW has spent more than $500,000 defending the preference claim, which is being prosecuted on Robinson’s behalf by Corrs Chambers Westgarth.

All this should make for an interesting first meeting of creditors on December 12. Will Robinson intervene? Will creditors hear from the directors or get further detail about that $30,000? Or that $1.2 million preference?

Louttit at least won’t have to worry about a letter from ARITA seeking assurances that his acceptance of the $30,000 for his fees aligns with the ARITA Code of Professional Conduct (COPP) on The risk of indemnities from related parties. He’s not a member.

Finally SiN solemnly undertakes to not write about him again this year. Unless we do. In which case it’s just a coincidence.

Further reading:

First Time Referrers And Mystery Mandarin Speakers

About the Author

Peter Gosnell
Insolvency News Online illuminates the practice of insolvency Australia-wide, highlighting the triumphs and travails of the nation’s registered practitioners and the accounting and legal professionals who work with them. INO is produced by Peter Gosnell, former business editor and senior business reporter at The Daily Telegraph newspaper. During a decade-long career, your correspondent reported on such notable corporate collapses as HIH, One.Tel, Westpoint and Fincorp as well as some of the nation's highest profile bankruptcies and the investigations and prosecutions arising from Australia's most notorious instances of white-collar crime.

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