Receivers probe related-party loans at failed lender Gippsland

Failed rural lender Gippsland Secured Investments misled investors about its exposure to certain property loans, a report by the trustee has revealed.

Failed rural lender Gippsland Secured Investments misled investors about its exposure to certain property loans, a report by the trustee has revealed.

It comes as the lender's directors and auditors are being scrutinised, with related-party transactions under the microscope.

The Victorian non-bank lender collapsed last month, putting $143 million in local savings in jeopardy. The interim report to noteholders reveals almost two-thirds, or 63 per cent, of the company's loan book is comprised of property development loans - higher than the 40 per cent stated in the company's prospectus.

The trustee and receivers are examining GSI's loan book, including discounted loans given to directors, with a view to selling the portfolio to recover some of the investor funds. Receiver Adam Nikitins from Ernst and Young said he could not say why loans had been misclassified.

"The prospectus has said one thing, and we have said another thing," he said. "Whether it was a view that was taken knowingly or mistakenly, I can't answer that."

At the centre of investigations into why the non-bank lender collapsed is a loan to property development group Riviera Properties, whose director, John Stephenson, was also on the board of GSI.

Mr Nikitins said a focus of the investigation was related-party transactions. "The loan to Riviera is significant, not only because of its size but because of the related-party nature of it.

"Riviera has publicly stated it is a related party of GSI by virtue of having common directors. That is a matter of fact. The director stepped down several months ago, but for the lion's share of the journey, there was that common interest."

Mr Nikitins said there was no evidence that directors had pulled any money out of GSI before the company froze its accounts. Part of the investigation would be an assessment of whether directors had fulfilled their statutory duties.

The trustee and receivers say they are confident of returning between 80¢ and 90¢ in the dollar to investors if they sell the portfolio.

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