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SCF broke rules, kept deposit guarantee

Written By: - Date published: 1:00 pm, April 15th, 2011 - 26 comments
Categories: accountability, business, john key - Tags:

Yesterday, under the cover of CERA, the government released hundreds of documents relating to South Canterbury Finance, it’s use and abuse of the deposit guarantee scheme, and the bailout. They show SCF broke the terms of its guarantee but National turned a blind eye.

The Herald describes the contents of the papers:

The Reserve Bank recommended putting the failed finance company “on notice” after it discovered large transactions carried out in January 2009 had gone unreported.

Its letter to Treasury said the transfer of $89.6 million of loans from South Canterbury to its parent company Southbury in January was in breach of the deposit guarantee scheme contract signed on November 19, 2008.

South Canterbury was required to get permission from Treasury for any transfer of assets in excess of $21.36 million, the Reserve Bank said. Treasury had not been informed of the transaction.

Another $90 million loan to a related party also came under fire.

Despite the contract making it clear similar transactions above the value of $22.3 million needed consent, there was no independent certification from the Crown, the Reserve Bank said.

“No consent was sought by SCF from the Crown for this transaction to take place, nor was there any independent certification from an expert approved by the Crown to show that the transaction was at arm’s length.”

Guarantee scheme team leader John Park wrote to South Canterbury in the wake of the revelations requesting information on the transactions within two weeks.

He notified the company that the Government could pull out of the guarantee scheme for similar offences.

“The Crown views clause 6.2 as being very important. You will appreciate that breaches of clause 6.2 can result in withdrawal of the Crown Guarantee under clause 6.9.”

So, National guarantees SCF’s deposits. Almost immediately, SCF begins what looks like asset-stripping. The Treasury and Reserve Bank know about this and know it is in breach of the rules of the deposit schem. So does the government. Remember, John Key has said that “The entire time I’ve been Prime Minister I’ve had Treasury in my office week after week, month after month telling me South Canterbury Finance was going bankrupt”. Yet Key and the responsible minsiter, Bill English, fail to act by removing the deposit guarantee.

This has cost the taxpayer hundreds of millions of dollars.

David Cunliffe is right. Someone needs to resign. If not Key, it should be English.

Update: See frogblog’s excellent coverage of this topic.

26 comments on “SCF broke rules, kept deposit guarantee ”

  1. frog 1

    Cheers, r0b.  I’ve been trawling through the Treasury documents and have some more on this over here.  Much the same conclusion as you – English needs to be lined up over this.

  2. Yep it has been quite a week.
    1.  Urgency to enact the internet discontinuation law.
    2.  Urgency to enact CERA
    3.  Legal Aid gets another hack
    4.  Posturing over a peaceful protest at sea
    And in the background Sammy Wong and hints of corruption and suddenly a pile of SCF disclosure is dumped in the public domain.  I wonder if the timing was deliberate?
    I suspect that SCF will get worse and worse for the Government.  Keep up the good work  R0b (and Frog).

    • Draco T Bastard 2.1

      To sum up, one week and NACT have trashed our democracy for the benefit of foreign corporations, themselves and their rich mates.

    • toad 2.2

      Of course the timing was deliberate.  Release it when there is all sorts of other shit going on, and most journalists pick the easy stories to run with, rather than ones like this that require reading a large number of documents to understand what went on.
      At least the Herald ran a story on it on their front page, but that was on a pretty insignificant aspect in the context of the big SCF picture.

      • oscar 2.2.1

        and we know that mediaworks won’t be critical of the government at all this year. Will it be prime? Is there a way to have the standard as a panel show on sky.
        After all, if ppv (pay per view) relies on viewers, perhaps those of us who are politically articulate, could provide discussion. I’m looking at mickerysavage, toad, martyg, and eddie when I say this. PeteG could be the likes of an entertainment guest.
        There are heaps of people out there hungering for discussion. This type of show could provide the vehicle as backbenchers sucks with wallace the vomit.
        Such topics could include what the major parties paln to do with mmp results.

        Ps: i will refrain from any further discussion on climate change as the facts, they are a’changin.
        Pps: electorate vote labour. Party vote green. All my posts will end with this note.

  3. marsman 3


    • Colonial Viper 3.1

      These NAT backed investors are so stupid the only way they can make money is by ripping off the tax payer.
      So much for these loser capitalists “adding value” to our economy.

  4. ghostwhowalksnz 4

    For the life of me I cant work out why it was an open ended guarantee. Normally in the US their longstanding guarantee for normal savings banks under the FDIC has a maximum of $100,000 per depositor  and I think it excludes  businesses.

    It seems like  ALL debts of SCF were covered not merely those of mum and dad depositors and in the wind up Key and English threw in the bond holders as well to ‘keep it tidy’

  5. One other comment.  Under the deed of guarantee (clause 10(a)) “if the Crown reasonably considers that the business or affairs of the Principal Debtor and/or any of its subsidiaries and/or any other Persion controlled by the Principal Debtor are being, or are intending or likely to be, carried on in a manner which … will or may extend the effective benefit of the Crown Guarantee to Persons who are not intended to receive that benefit … the Crown may withdrawn the Crown Guarantee by written notice to the Principal Debtor.”
    If rumours of buy up of “mum and dad” deposits is true then maybe they should have thought about withdrawing the guarantee.

    • Lanthanide 5.1

      If mum and dad deposits were being ‘bought’ by other private entities, then it doesn’t really have anything to do with SCF itself, so I think that clause doesn’t really come into play.

  6. Red Rosa 6

    No wonder there is a team of accountants in Timaru trying to sort this mess out, and possible criminal charges pending. 

    But let’s try a couple of simple questions to Key and English.

    1. Why, when SCF were clearly in breach of contract for not notifying one, and maybe two (!) $90m loans, was the government guarantee not suspended immediately, in January 2009?

    2. Exactly what did the PM say to Alan Hubbard in August 2009, given both well knew the parlous state of SCF?

  7. ianmac 7

    Posted this on Frog. Relevant here?
    I’ve been thinking. (I tremble when my wife says that!) This morning on Morning Report Key said repeatedly that the SCF propositions never made it to Cabinet. So that lets the Govt off the hook. Right.
    But wait there’s more. The discussions about the propositions were between Treasury and John Key! So it was John Key (on behalf of Cabinet and NZ?) who blocked the propositions!!!????
    I don’t really understand the complexities of the SCF but the email suggests to me that John Key blocked proposition for SCF as a personal favour from Key to Hubbard. What the …….?

  8. johnm 8

    Was the transfer of $89.6 million to the parent company Southbury good loan assets which despite the current problems in the economy are certain to return principal plus interest? If that were so then SC was evacuating to leave the sh*t for the taxpayer to pick up. SC broke its agreement in this transfer and should not have been covered for anything. The NeoLiberal Treasury warned the government repeatedly but they still chose to squander taxpayer’s money! It sounds to me like Old Bill’s mates club in the South Island: Does he get a big welcome in the RoataryClubs down there?
    It’s like Ireland. Its government had no legal requirement to bail out private foreign debt with the  private banks which debt got into troble with the financial neoliberal greed feeding frennzy which has now endangered the European Union and the Euro currency!! GREED GREED! Facilitated by the greedy bankers after their lucative commissions! So the crazy treasonous Irish Government have sold their own people into decades of debt servitude!

    This “Government” doesn’t believe in the Public Good and can’t wait to completely wank off NZ’s ability to help itsself. Example of this? the PUBLIC is now enabling home owners in CHCH to rebuild their homes by backing another failed Private enterprise AMI

    The objective of this bankrupt government is to Privatise everything meaning that AMI would fail and CHCH homeowners would never get their homes repaired!

    This has happened in the U$ which is totally ruined by the greed of the rich who will not share. The U$ is a HAS BEEN nation WHY? ORDINARY PEOPLE ARE INPOVERISHED IN THE pLAYGROUND OF THE billionaires and their gated communities

    • Red Rosa 8.1

      Disturbing parallels to Ireland – an economy held up as a model for us by John Key not so long ago. Irish government debt was minimal until they recklessly guaranteed their banks. Now that debt is heading for 100 bn euros, and still not properly quantified. Cronyism at it worst.

  9. johnm 9

    A Clarication to the above: It’s because we haven’t privatized just yet everything the PUBLIC still has the wherewithal to guarantee AMI to get CHCH houses repaired a Good thing! If we had the U$ W**nker system there wouldn’t be any money!!! (They don’t believe in the public good) and the Free Market would force CHCH home owners to sell their houses for anything sharks would pay them! That is the system ACTnat freak show believe in!

  10. Draco T Bastard 10

    Govt’s $60m plan to rescue SCF

    Documents made public yesterday by the Treasury show Prime Minister John Key and Mr English ended up authorising the loan after the investors demanded repayment within 24 hours. The documents show the Government was prepared to lend up to $125 million to stave off the company’s collapse.

    The documents show Mr English had secured Mr Key’s approval for the loan and necessary arrangements were made but the Herald understands it was never drawn.

    So, as early as 2k9 and the government was propping up SCF to try to stop the bailout. Considering that SCF should have been dropped out of the deposit guarantee before then that should have been the point at which the company was allowed to fail.

    • wtl 10.1

      Failure to provide the loan would have meant that:

      The company would run out of cash and “this would trigger the Crown guarantee on SCF’s deposits, with a net cost to the Crown of an estimated $667 million”.

      It appears that the loan was provided but never used. SCF remained in the scheme ultimately resulting in its collapse and:

      Last week Mr English said the Government expected a $1.1 billion loss once company assets were realised.

      This is a cost of >$400 million extra to the taxpayer because SCF was not allowed to collapse earlier.

    • toad 10.2

      Drako, SCF couldn’t have been dropped out of the guarantee scheme just because they were in the financial poop.
      But they could have been dropped out because of their breaching their Deed of Guarantee, both initially in the instance cited in this post and because of the subsequent revelations of their management incompetence which Frog has highlighted over at frogblog.

      • Draco T Bastard 10.2.1

        SCF couldn’t have been dropped out of the guarantee scheme just because they were in the financial poop.

        I didn’t ask for it to be but according to Frogs post this loan guarantee happened months after it was found that they’d broken the deed. In other words, SCF should have been dropped out of the scheme and allowed to fail before this loan guarantee that Blinglish and JK set up.
        The collapse of SCF shouldn’t be costing the taxpayer anything. The actions of JK and Bill English seem to have been to ensure that it did.

  11. Irascible 11

    No wonder, then, that Hubbard wrote to Key & English thanking them personally for propping up his failing finance company.
    The heated seats of Key & English’s BMWs need to be turned up to intense grill over this.

  12. Steve Withers 12

    If handing $1.2Billion of taxpayer’s money over to a company you KNOW broke the rules doesn’t warrant a resignation…..the mind boggles as to what worse horrors might be required for a resignation. 

    OK…so SCF and the National MPs involved were mates and had longstanding relationships. Those should not come first. Bill English is Minister of Finance, not SCF’s crony ATM..and English – at least – should resign for behaving like the latter.

    Yes…a lot of people in Canterbury would have been affected by SCF falling over.  But instead, English lumbered the whole country with what is basically a commercial loss due to mismanagement. Not an earthquake or tsunami.

  13. Red Rosa 13

    Here is a comment from a previous SCF enthusiast who has been sadly disillusioned


    which raises more questions than answers, of course.

    Public enquiry has been understandably confused by the complexity of the whole shambles. Cunliffe is barking up the wrong tree so far – no bid for SCF was ever put forward which Treasury could take seriously – and no other politician seems keen to have a go for fear of making a fool of him/herself. 

    But the simple questions demand answers. Why has the taxpayer been lumbered with this $1bn bill, when it could have been avoided?

    And rather than get bogged down in the shifty SCF accounting,  it might be more productive meantime to pursue the dairy/Timaru/farming/National Party connections. 

  14. tc 14

    Red rosa is onto it and the Christ college old boy network sideshow John and botherway belong to has a central role.

    This is great example of our non existent MSM and their nat sycophants like Armstrong now suggesting a public service payback behind the Beemer saga rather than incompetence and elitism by their idols.

    Look over here everybody sideshow made a funny……anything but look at the wreckage they’re creating in the nz economy, power, education, justice etc etc

  15. Red Rosa 15

    The SCF Saga has a long way to run yet. 

    Cactus Kate can spot socialism a mile off…..here we go… 


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