Walton collapse: Frustrated subbies launch court bid
UNPAID Walton Construction unsecured subcontract creditors fed up with the lack of progress made in clawing back funds, have petitioned the Federal Court for a significant change to the process.
An application was filed in the Federal Court of Brisbane late Friday for the appointment of a Special Purpose Liquidator with the specific role of bringing claims against Walton Construction's sole director Craig Walton and his banker the NAB.
Michael Caspaney of Menzies Advisory, who has become Queensland subbies' liquidator of choice, would drive that specific action if the application to be heard by Justice Roger Derrington on Thursday was granted.
Mr Caspaney was also the subcontractor-appointed liquidator to the Cullen Group as well as Ashtay Group trading as CMS Construction.
The October, 2013, collapse of Walton Construction and its wholly-owned subsidiary Walton Construction Queensland left debts of more than $90 million, although the NAB managed to retrieve all of its own exposure before that occurred.
Subcontractors Alliance leader Les Williams said the latest move was in the interests of 1400 unsecured creditors still unpaid any of the money they were owed when Walton closed its doors in Brisbane in October 2013, only to re-badge and re-open the next day as Peloton and the Tantallon with the same staff, equipment and vehicles.
He said current liquidator Grant Thornton had said it would neither support or oppose the appointment.
"The current liquidator decided on legal advice not to pursue the claims," Mr Williams said.
"Our legal advice is different. We will need a Special Purpose Liquidator to run the claim so are seeking to have Michael Caspaney appointed.
Grant Thornton was appointed by ASIC in 2014 following the regulator's successful appeal to the Full Court of the Federal Court of Australia to have the company's first liquidator, Lawler, Draper Dillon removed from the position.
That decision concluded "that a reasonable fair-minded observer might reasonably apprehend that, because of the liquidators' prior referral relationship with the Mawson Group, who had influenced their appointment as liquidators of the companies, and the liquidator's interest in not jeopardising their future income, they might not discharge their duties with independence and impartiality. The court noted that it was unfortunate that the liquidators did not recognise the conflict of interest at the time it was first raised".
According to its June Remuneration report Grant Thornton has since collected around $1.8 million in fees, nearly $700,000 of which came from the Queensland Building and Construction Commission and the national Fair Entitlement Guarantee to conduct public examinations.
It also charged the liquidation $16,504 for 37.2 hours work liaising with the Committee of Inspection "regarding their concerns surrounding the NAB investigations; detailed review of all previous advices received regarding the NAB, multiple discussion with our solicitors regarding the NAB investigations and the committee's concerns; liaise with our solicitors and the Committee of Inspection to create a brief to Counsel; discussions with the Committee of Inspection regarding the brief to Counsel; collate all information regarding the NAB to provide to Council; Liaise with the Committee of Inspection regarding various information requests".