THE insolvency firm RSM Bird Cameron has launched legal action against a former partner, Glenn Anthony Crisp, alleging he committed fraud and misappropriated more than $500,000, much of which was used to renovate a suburban property, over the course of a long-running liquidation.
The court case comes as the Gillard government released draft laws on Wednesday to overhaul the insolvency profession, including giving greater powers to creditors to remove liquidators and curb excessive fees.
The parliamentary secretary to the Treasurer, Bernie Ripoll, said in a statement: "The Gillard government is committed to restoring the community's confidence in the effective regulation, high professional standards, transparency and accountability of the insolvency profession following recent high-profile cases of misconduct by corporate insolvency practitioners."
Mr Crisp, a veteran practitioner whose list of insolvency appointments runs to 11 pages, has worked on jobs including Mick Gatto's Elite Dogman & Riggers, which failed in February owing the Tax Office $3 million, and the trucking company Viking Group, which collapsed last year amid allegations of fraud. He now works for a rival firm, Jirsch Sutherland.
He denies the allegations, which relate to the liquidation of Foodlife Inventory Holdings between 2002 and 2008. In a statement, his legal team said the allegations of fraud against him were not properly pleaded, he had provided all information about Foodlife to RSM, and the firm had released him from any liability in a deed signed when he left it in August.
BusinessDay is able to reveal details of the case after the Chief Justice of the Victorian Supreme Court, Marilyn Warren, threw out Mr Crisp's attempt to obtain a suppression order.
Justice Warren also denied a bid to force Fairfax Media to reveal its source, saying the application "contains an element of fishing", and awarded costs against Mr Crisp.
She said there was "a public interest" in reporting on Mr Crisp because as an official liquidator he acted as an officer of the court when he accepted appointments from the courts.
Mr Crisp is liquidator of Viking Group, which collapsed amid allegations that invoices had been falsified and luxury cars had gone missing.
The Herald Sun reported in August that it had "seen" emails to RSM in which "claims were made that Hells Angel bikies illegally took trucks and other equipment on behalf of RSM Bird Cameron". RSM has denied using Hells Angels to repossess goods and also continues as liquidator of the Viking Group companies.
Mr Crisp was also appointed liquidator of Mick Gatto's Elite Dogman & Riggers in February. That job remains with RSM.
RSM filed a writ on November 8 and a statement of claim eight days later. On the day of the writ, its 80 partners placed a caveat on Mr Crisp's property in Lysterfield, Victoria.
The statement of claim alleges that as liquidator of Foodlife, Mr Crisp billed $2.1 million but failed to pass all the fees through to RSM, leaving a "shortfall amount" of $514,313.
RSM alleges that between September 8, 2004, and June 23, 2006, Mr Crisp made 70 payments from an account to his personal bank account to meet debts that he personally owed creditors.
RSM is seeking damages, an account of profits made by Mr Crisp in breach of his fiduciary duty, an order that any profits or benefits are held on trust for RSM, an order that Mr Crisp holds his interest in the property at Windsor Drive, Lysterfield, on trust for his former employer and costs.