A response to John Hawkins: Dear PPB Advisory: Possible misuse of public funds to prop up seemingly bankrupt companies

John, its unlikely PPB will get that far with any investigation. Their progress to sale of the Tasmanian Forestry Estate proceeded despite the last matching audited Annual Reports of Gunns GNS and Gunns Plantations GPL showing that Gunns owed Gunns Plantations $84M (surplus grower investor proceeds of course) and that there was no cross-guarantee between the two.

What is missing in the minds of the Receivers and Liquidators is any determination of fault. The PPB Administrators Report s439A, 15 months later, shows a spectacular turnaround of $88M owed by GPL to GNS, without any explanation. Paramount is the presence of an asset they can charge against, and in this case its been that of the powerless and hapless grower investor. The primary focus of the Receivers is to then imperil that asset.

Other than purchasing those reports through ASIC you will have trouble getting them as the first thing the Receivers and Liquidators did was to pull the public records from the website on the stated pretext that it was too costly to maintain! Annual Reports, PDSs and forester reports all gone.

PPB has no reason to resolve anything quickly while charging on average $485/hr. In Court their hired mouthpieces are charging $800-$1200/hr and senior counsel appearances are $10,000/day, and their briefing entourage another $10,000/day at least.

Their activity will come to an end when the funds they can draw on from grower investors is exhausted. Those funds will not stretch to, nor could they be applied to the deeper investigation you are suggesting.

HOWEVER The Tasmanian Forestry Estate, in the joint Receiver Liquidator sale included the GPL plantations together with line items for processing sites, land, Gunns plantations etc. AND the Pulp Mill Opportunity (PMO).

Most egregious of all in the poor sale process, is that assets were pre-allocated a proportion of the sale, and the PMO, unbuilt and unsold, has already received a significant allocation. Despite a strong case by the Gunns Growers Group (read top echelon of Clayton Utz, as private investors with $20M invested) the Court upheld that that allocation be made. The arguments, albeit redacted can be found here http://www.abl.com.au/gunns in Outline of Submissions of Gunns Growers, Redacted Confidential Outline of Closing Submissions of Gunns Growers.

I am bound by court confidentiality, but the Further Outline of Submissions of Receivers and Managers does use an indicative figure see para 22. (I suggest you take a copy rather than rely on being able to return to PPB lawyers, ABL’s site.) As a witness to the SEN Economics References Committee I have spoken in camera.

The 2001 Woodlots (now managed with a new RE and excised from the joint sale) have secured a sale at $15/GMT at stump to Forico and after concessions to belligerent Receivers. Pruned logs elsewhere of that age are generating returns of $25/GMT.

2002 Option 2 clearwood, in which I was an investor keen to support local value adding, were planted on prime sites before the madness started. They are 100% pruned with clear stems to 8m now, and yielding 116% of forecast. The return to grower investors will be $318/ha or well less than $1/GMT.

Throughout the proceeding SCI 2095 2013, improbable decisions have been made. I leave it to the reader to guess the outcome of some the following:

The Court – has | HAS NOT – explored the GNS liability to GPL
The Court has a filed copy of the original 2013 Liquidators URS valuation – yes | NO
The Court supported the release of the original 2013 Liquidators URS valuation – yes | NO
The Court supported the confidentiality of the 2015 Liquidators URS valuation – YES | no
The Court has – heard my submission on Costs | IS MAKING A DECISION ON THE PAPERS ONLY
The Liquidators as the grower investor RE negotiated | DID NOT NEGOTIATE with the proposed alternative Macquarie RE
At sale the Liquidators promoted | DID NOT PROMOTE the Option 2 value-added trees
The Liquidators as the grower investor RE assisted | OBSTRUCTED grower investor enquiries
The Liquidators as the grower investor RE maintained | LET FALL AWAY the Grower Committee of contingent creditors
The PMO allocation is – a fraction of | equivalent to | a multiple – of its salvage value
The PMO allocation – did | did not – exceed the gross grower investor return
The PMO allocation is a – fraction | multiple – of the net grower investor return
The Court has invariably – DEFERRED TO | not deferred to the – robust commercial negotiation and judgement of the Liquidators and Receivers.

Now if that PMO allocation could be recovered …

And if you think farce, I can tell you it stinks in the Supreme Court of Victoria.

What about two Justices doing a quick exit, because when they stand everyone does and the Court is dismissed.

In the last hearing Justice Judd announced “this Court is adjourned until tomorrow”, got up and left. Without actually saying so the hearing was finished, although he was in that Court on other matters the next day. The Receivers lawyers themselves were confused. I was planning to cross-examine Daniel Bryant as I’ve done before, but his honour set no opportunity to do that.

I’ve probably been in contempt of the Court a couple of times*, but I don’t think you’d want to go there – yet.

Sixth Affidavit of Trevor Leslie Burdon 15th Jul 2015

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Judgement by The Hon Justice Judd 18th Aug 2015

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*Judgement_JJUDD_SCI20132095_20150818_TBurdon_20150820
Forwarded but not usually filed.
(Circulated to Court and Parties – Liquidators, Receivers, Mr Musgrave. An extract and from my 5 page document citing errors and clauses for suggested review in the Judgement. This feedback has been requested in earlier hearings, mainly for purposes of confidentiality sought by the parties. His honour’s Associate and the Liquidators initially rejected the filing of mentioned handed-up evidence discussed in the Court with the Justice, and only relented when I asked for its destruction and statement confirming the same!)

P57 … He refused that offer. Mr Burdon was mistakenly left with the impression the hearing was continuing to a second day, and arrived the following day with a statement of thanks for the forbearance of the court, and questions for Mr Bryant. He formally lodged evidence he had handed up the previous day, and fought for it to be filed. He begrudgingly accepts responsibility for denying the court, professional plaintiffs and ten-thousand grower investors the benefit of the answers to those questions. He should have known better, he has been caught out by a quick exit from proceedings before – specifically, in the SCI 2013 2095 Costs hearing.

I was rolled by a Justice of the Court in front of the professional plaintiffs without a peep from them.

And if you knew more of the belligerence of the Receivers you’d appreciate that I couldn’t afford to be held liable for costs for a fraction of a day in that Court. The Liquidators lawyers, have now stated that if I were to seek an appeal they would apply for security for the Court costs from me!

The injustice is why I’m consumed …

*Trevor Burdon is a Business and IT Consultant. Though resident in Melbourne he expects to eventually return. Though a critic of Gunns, he invested in early schemes to help protect heritage forest. On ASIC’s pitiful advice that he complain in Court, he appeared at the commencement of the Gunns Plantation Proceeding. Uniquely, as an individual grower investor, he has been there ever since, alongside the Liquidators and Receivers counsel at the bar.