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Of train sets and stuffed companies

Written By: - Date published: 8:52 am, April 6th, 2011 - 29 comments
Categories: accountability, bill english, business, john key - Tags: , ,

Before the last election the usual right wing spinsters tried to paint Labour as financially incompetent for buying back KiwiRail. Never mind that we had to rescue this vital piece of infrastructure from oblivion. Never mind that spending on KiwiRail became part of the stimulus package which the Nats proudly claimed as their own response to the recession. Never mind that any sane government would be making rail (and light rail in Auckland and Christchurch) a centrepiece of their planning for a post-oil economy. Never mind all that, the purchase was to be mocked at all costs, and KiwiRail saddled with the image of a child’s plaything, a mere “train set”.

All those right wing knockers are strangely silent now that their own National government has thrown away almost twice the cost of KiwiRail on a stuffed company. The saga of South Canterbury Finance just keeps getting worse and worse:

SCF insider loans push bill up by $300m

Insider loans? Sounds a bit like insider trading doesn’t it. Say – isn’t insider trading illegal?

The taxpayers’ bill for the South Canterbury Finance failure rose by a further $300 million to $1.2 billion yesterday as a result of loans to company insiders going sour – and Prime Minister John Key is unable to rule out a further blowout.

Unable to rule out a further blowout? Well that’s what you get for writing a blank cheque to a failing organisation. You’d have thought an ex money trader might have been able to work that one out.

“Overall, we now expect a net loss from the Retail Deposit Guarantee Scheme of around $1.2 billion, compared with earlier estimates of around $900 million,” said Mr English. Mr Key emphasised the shortfall in recoveries related to South Canterbury’s loans to “related party” borrowers. That includes the company’s management as well as friends and associates of Mr Hubbard.

Why? Why did the Nats ignore repeated warnings and sign SCF up for the Guarantee Scheme? Why did they write a blank cheque from we the taxpayers to bail out SCF “insiders”? In this time of so many financial challenges and needs, why has New Zealand spent $1.2 Billion (and climbing) on a stuffed company?

29 comments on “Of train sets and stuffed companies ”

  1. rd 1

    Lost soul blog has had a lot to say in detail about SCF
    Here is his latest comment

    Back in March Chris Lee had this to say about the SCF

    Whatever the cause of SCF’s cancer, it is now obvious to everyone that the company disguised the idiotic lending to some of New Zealand’s most notorious serial defaulters, it disguised its related party loans, even using the brother-in-law of a director as a nominee, and it blundered terribly when it put its recovery into the hands of sharebrokers Forsyth Barr and Samford (Sandy) Maier Junior.

    Here is a link to the fuller comment


    There was a lot known about SCF in the last two years.
    Both Chris Lee and Lost Soul have written much more about SCF in the last two years.

  2. freedom 2

    for an answer cue Tom Jones
    Why? Why? Why?  They’re liars

  3. RedLogix 3

    Calling burt… come in burt.
    I’ve got a train set that gets me to work most days… what have you got for your bailout?
    Tell me again burt how surely the only way out of this mess is bigger tax cuts… for the wealthy. After all we’ve just given a whole fistful of public monies to them, so it makes no sense to tax it back off them… that would be theft after all!!!

  4. Oleolebiscuitbarrell 4

    Insider loans? Sounds a bit like insider trading doesn’t it. Say – isn’t insider trading illegal?

    Intersection.  Sounds a bit like “sex”.  Sounds a bit like “sex crime”.  Say – aren’t sex crimes illegal?

    • RedLogix 4.1

      Oh good… so that makes it alright then?
      Just come out and say it… that you fully support and approve of this govt bailing out insider loans and transactions to save the arses of a bunch of related insider parties. Or not.

      • higherstandard 4.1.1

        The SFO, which I believe is a government department, is currently investigating SCF

        “SFO has announced that it has commenced an investigation in relation to related party transactions which we consider may have been a fraud on the investors in SCF and/or the Crown as the guarantor of investor funds. Given the scale of the SCF collapse, the investigation will not attempt to carry out an investigation into all aspects of the failure.”

        This will be very interesting to keep a watching brief on.

      • Oleolebiscuitbarrell 4.1.2


        I was against it when Labour brought in the scheme.  I was against it when the first claims were paid to institutions under the scheme as instituted by Labour.  I don’t remember any bleating then that Labour had set the scheme up to look after its rich mates.

        I was simply pointing out that it is just ridiculous to suggest that something is automatically illegal because it sounds a bit like something else that is illegal.  Using this logic Joanna Lumley would be a really good rugby union football winger because her name sounds a bit like Jonah Lomu.

        • r0b

          I wasn’t suggesting it was illegal.  I was suggesting that it is damn close to something that is illegal.  I was certainly suggesting moral “guilt by association” with similar acts that are criminal.

          Interesting that the SFO is investigating, no?

          • Oleolebiscuitbarrell

            ..and I hope they get nailed.  It seems to be common feature of just about all of these finance company collapses that they lent money to entities related to certain of the directors or shareholders on unusual terms.

            Trustees and independent directors should be worried.

            • wtl

              I’m sure even if they are found guilty they’ll just get a few months of home detention.

        • RedLogix

          I was against it when Labour brought in the scheme

          So was Labour. If you recall the scheme was merely a copy of exactly what govts all over the world were doing in a desperate response to a massive collapse in confidence in the financial sector. In essence these parasitic bastards put a gun to the head of govts everywhere and said… ‘bail us out or we take you down with us’.

          I clearly recall Michael Cullen telling Kathryn Ryan on RNZ at the time ( you know back in the days when Ministers regularaly fronted up to serious media) that he was very concerned about having to do this, but unless he did there would be a massive run on our banks and finance companies that could collapse the economy overnight.

          He very clearly went on to say that the whole scheme would most certainly have ‘perverse effects around the margins’. His exact words. He foresaw exactly the kind of problems that could so easily arise if the govt didn’t stay on top of matters.

          Which this govt has demonstrably failed to do.  Blaming Labour for the scheme’s existence is just a transparent diversion.

          • Herodotus

            RL not all govts bailed out finacial institutions – Iceland allowed market forces to do the natural culling of dead wood. It was painful for the economy – but Iceland is now free from this cancer. All the other traditional western countries are still battling over the legacy of the bailouts, and the actions of these coys leaves a very foul taste in the mouth, especially when bonuses are reported based on record profits. Andf the month after the tax surcharge was removed in G.B. massive bonuses were paid out. Funny that, oh how shortsighted some govts are, they sold us all down the river.

            • RedLogix

              Ah well that’s a very fine kettle of Icelandic fish… but NZ isn’t Iceland. In reality the Icelandic govt had pretty much no choice but to let it’s banks fail… that country’s crisis was so extreme it got outside what even that govt could rescue.
              By contrast the conventional wisdom in this part of the world was to prop up the banks with these schemes. I guess in one sense you are right. There would have been merit in letting these institutions fail… but bear in mind that the four big Aussie banks may well have had the last word in this matter.
              Besides realistically Dr Cullen was looking down the barrel of a very tough election… what Minister of Finance, of any party, anywhere, anytime, would have risked throwing the nation into an precipitous, unpredictable economic crisis at that very moment… if he did not have to?
              Sure you can accuse Dr Cullen of self-interest… but realistically repudiating the banks at that point in time was never an option.

              • Herodotus

                From memory here were approx 50 of these “other banks”, yet the majority of them of any substance already gone, so the coleratal damage was less than otherwise. I accept we know more after the event, yet the govt could have protected the big real banks (remember these were the only ones paying into the fund- a form of insurance anyway). Sure there would have been a run, yet the govt guarantee was to be phased out, only delaying the run (who in their sound mind would now be willing to invest in these???, many were lured with an extra 1-2% interest and nieve to understand that the rewards were well below the risk they were entering)
                Not only SCF but it would be great to know how many others were tagged by treasery as doubtful.
                Has a great idea after the event, SCF could have been merged with Kiwibank (as a gift to enable some growth, at least then KB could have a wee injection of some growth)

        • Mrhappy

          Mate, I’d love to see that, she’d be awesome.  If England puts her on the wing for the RWC they’ll be fucking unstoppable.

  5. Hanswurst 5

    Why did they write a blank cheque from we the taxpayers to bail out SCF “insiders”?

    I don’t mean to be the arch-pedant or anything, but this turn of phrase has been popping up all over the place recently, and it’s starting to get on my nerves.
    It should read “Why did they write a blank cheque from us, the taxpayers, to bail out SCF ‘insiders’?” One would never consider writing “Why did they write a blank cheque from we?” on its own, and the principle doesn’t change when the sentence is extended. “We” would be correct if it were the subject of the verb “to bail”, but it isn’t. It’s the object of the preposition “from”, so it needs to be “us”.

    • r0b 5.1

      I use the “we the X” quite a lot, in a deliberate echo of “we the people”…

      • Hanswurst 5.1.1

        Yeah, it’s crystal clear where your getting it from, it’s just strange seeing a slightly formal, ubercorrect formula used in a way which is bizarrely wrong in terms of its grammar. “We the taxpayers shall not countenance bailing out SCF ‘insiders’” would be fine, but what you have written just seems… odd.

        Still, I’m not going to lose any sleep over it. Just wanted to get it off my chest.

  6. vto 6

    It occured to me last night that Allan Hubbard and Lachie McLeod (ex-ceo) will come out of this stinking much worse than even Mark Hotchin and Eric Watson with their Hanover dividend rip-off.

    Hubbard by his well intentioned but bumbling old-style ways on a scale that deems such criminal, and McLeod by his insider loans and empire-style manner making loans as if the money was his.

    1. Why was SCF brought into the guarantee shceme when Key and English knew it was going to fail? (the big question)
    2. What inside information was passed between Nat govt players such as David carter, English, Shipley, Key and the Torchlight fund players such as Gould and Kerr (these people are old boy people).
    3. Why did McLeod and Hubbard make all those related party loans and bad loans post-guarantee acceptance? (to bail out before the collapse, thats what).
    4. What part did the assets of SCF play in all of this and where will they end up? (irrigation and dairy on NZ’s largest scale. again, ask David Carter etc)

    To those out there chasing these, good luck and keep at it. If the answers to those questions above turn out to be as suspected then the scandal is of govt-breaking proportions. As such should be.

  7. wyndham 7

    I was against it when Labour brought in the scheme

    In Parliament yesterday, John Key several times referred, in a derogatory way, to Labour having brought in the scheme. What conveniently seems to have been forgotten is that Labour did so with the full agreement of the then Opposition National Party.

    • RedLogix 7.1

      Thanks… I had forgotten that point.
      For Key to turn around and sneer about it now, when he of all people knows exactly what happened and why, is unforgiveably hypocritical.
      Even the Press Gallery know this… but the truth means nothing to them any more.. just the ‘game’.

  8. tc 8

    The SCF debacle needs to be pursued by all those who care about a fair go for the taxpayer, something sideshow and blinglish couldn’t give an F about, and something way too dangerous for the MSM to address as they’ll upset their backers.

    The timeline, players and facts are simply damming and Shonkey knows this as unlike the corporate shonky deals he’s done there’s alot more note taking and documentation attached to that PM job thingy he clowns about attempting to fulfill.

    No-one I speak to is fooled by them anymore and they’ve only got themsleves to blame…..absolute power corrupts absolutely.

  9. Name (Required) 9

    “Insider Trading” is using knowledge gained from a source on the ‘inside’ in order to buy shares before they increase in value, or sell them before they fall when the same information becomes public.
    An investment company making loans to related individuals is not “insider trading” in this respect, and would only be ‘illegal’ if it either was in breach of a fiduciary duty and/or was not disclosed to investors in a situation where such disclosure was required.
    Guaranteeing deposits was a policy decision made during the credit crisis in order to prevent the crisis becoming an all-out panic which would have made the situation immeasurably worse.  When bank runs start good, perfectly stable banks get sucked in and under.  In the US, which unlike many first world countries chose not to adopt this policy, many small, local banks have gone under in the last three years because depositors in them sought the ‘safety’ of the ‘Too big to Fail” banks like BoA and CitiCorp, which have also been able to pick off many more like predatory sharks in a tank and making them even richer and bigger – and more powerful.
    Once it decides to guarantee deposits the government can’t pick and choose whose deposits to guarantee.  Had it excluded SCF, it would have been  tantamount to saying SCF was bust which would have been a self-fulfilling prophecy – thereby denying SCF any chance it might have had of surviving and/or trading out of difficulty.
    Its easy enough to harp and carp in the aftermath when all outcomes are known, but the captain of a ship in a storm has some difficult decisions to make and your best chance of survival is to back him even if you think he’s wrong ‘ cos if you fight him at the time no-one’s going to survive.

  10. vto 10

    Mr no name, I don’t think anyone denies what was going on then. It is a story in itself.

    However, not all finance companies were allowed into the scheme for a start so when you say “Had it excluded SCF, it would have been  tantamount to saying SCF was bust which would have been a self-fulfilling prophecy” you miss a couple of crucial component…

    Firstly, other finance companies were excluded, which nullifies most of your post; and,

    Secondly, Key has admitted they knew from the very first day he became PM that it was going bust. So there would have been no self-fulfilling prophecy about it. It was bust already effectively. It should not have been admitted to the scheme – that is the biggest issue of them all, and while your post sounds knowledgeable (and from within some halls of insiderness) it misses these fundamentals.

    edit: meant as reply to name at 12.33pm

  11. Adrian 11

    As “periferal collateral damage” to the SCF cock -up I have a first hand take on things. I’m owed all of last years income by a company that has a SCF loan that it had been servicing correctly, like a lot of others, and when the shit hit the fan, the White-Collar-Looters ( receivers) demanded all of the loan back NOW. The company tried to comply but even tho they are a viable exporter none of the ten banks they approached would take up the loan in place of SCF, it was apparent that all the other banks had got together and decided that they would not bail out the SCF receivers, so the company told them to FO as did most of the other companies with SCF loans, as was reported a few weeks ago. The demand was then “all of it in 3 years”, the answer was the same, FO, they are now paying 5 % of income over and a above P&I. That’s where my money is going, so as a primary producer, I and others like me are doing the fucking bailing out at 100% of income. This is the big problem for the Govt as the WCL’s can’t get any money out of the loan book, most of these loans are “good” loans, but to forcibly call them in would absolutely cripple huge numbers of companies and production.  Here’s a solution, although a little late, if SCF had to be bailed out it should have been done by issuing Govt Bonds paying bugger all, say 1% instead of cash. Then the bonds could have been used as guarantee on the secured assets of SCF. Easy as, the opportunistic arseholes would have got their money back and the whole farce would not have been such an anchor on the Govt’s books. Obviously this is too simple for English and Treasury fuckheads to grasp.  P.s I think all White Collar Looters should be nationalised, and a service like the old Public Trust put in place.

    • vto 11.1

      Adrian, that has been going on all over the country since 2007 in case you haven’t noticed. Businesses with loans from useless finance outfits have had to refinance back to ‘traditional’ banks. This has been possible where the businesses are sound, and not possible where the businesses are not sound.

      Your claim that the big banks got together to deny any refinancing of SCF loans is not right. Refinancing has not happenned when the business and its debt requirements do not stack up. It may pay to re-assess the business you are involved with. Nonetheless it is still tough – hope you get through it.

      Also delivers another lesson which perhaps all could learn from and at the same time deliver a power punch to the banking cartel evil-doers. USE NO DEBT.

  12. Tiger Mountain 12

    SCF is the story that keeps on giving. Hopefully Shonkey’s financial genius reputation has been dented severely. The group photo on this site of the Natz front rankers just shows how shallow they are on real talent.

    18 months ago a popular term was “meme” (ideas socially transmitted in some way similarly to genes) borrowed from the likes of biologist Dawkins. Another term is irrational persisitance which would describe a good number of the right wingers that comment here.

  13. Treetop 13

    Talk about a ponzie scheme, (SCF). 

  14. Rich 14

    Labour should have closed the finance company sector down in 2005.

    Before you accuse me of false hindsight, I said this in 2005

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  • Remarks to Diplomatic Corps
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