Sullivan action suffers a setback
I can see you … Westpac's Gail Kelly and Lend Lease's Steve McCann. Illustration: John Shakespeare
The founder of the collapsed Gold Coast finance group City Pacific, Phil Sullivan, has suffered a setback in his defamation action against Andrew Griffin, the chief executive of the responsible entity which took control of City Pacific's flagship mortgage fund in 2009.
The NSW Supreme Court on Friday refused to accept several submissions made by Sullivan relating to alleged comments made by Griffin on his website and at two investor meetings (in Sydney and Brisbane) of the stricken mortgage fund in 2010, where he questioned why the City Pacific founder was not behind bars.
With Sullivan having already launched a similar defamation action in Queensland against Griffin, Justice Henric Nicholas said: ''The plaintiff relied on an additional, alternative ground upon which it was submitted that these proceedings were not proceedings in relation to the same, or like, matter as the matter the subject of the Queensland proceedings.
''I find that the Sydney presentation and the internet publications in these proceedings are the same as, or like, the Brisbane presentation which is the subject of the Queensland proceedings.''
Sullivan sued Griffin in the NSW Supreme Court over 11 alleged imputations, including that he suggested the City Pacific founder was a criminal, had defrauded investors in his fund, had ''behaved in such a way as to deserve to be convicted of a serious criminal offence and imprisoned'' and ''sought to conceal his fraud on the fund members by destroying documents''.
Aside from citing comments made by Griffin on his Balmain Trilogy website, Sullivan submitted video recordings of the investor information sessions in Brisbane and Sydney in his evidence to the NSW Supreme Court.
In the transcript of the Sydney meeting, Griffin said: ''The next question, why isn't Phil Sullivan behind bars? Or somewhere else out of harm's way. Well, we can only bring civil suits as your responsible entity, we cannot bring criminal proceedings.''
Sullivan, however, is ''not automatically barred from continuing'' with his defamation action against Griffin in the NSW Supreme Court.
It is four months since Sullivan helped answer questions at a public examination arranged by Balmain Trilogy in the Darlinghurst court house. At the time, he said the media was largely responsible for City Pacific's troubles. ''The negative press was strangling our business,'' he said.
Late last year, Sullivan dropped his action against the Australian Securities and Investments Commission in the Federal Court in Sydney. He had accused the corporate watchdog of ''abuse of process'', alleging it had colluded with Balmain Trilogy.
Sullivan was also challenging a request from the watchdog, which was seeking to examine him under Section 19 of the ASIC Act.
Around that time, an attempt to wrestle control of the City Pacific-founded First Mortgage Fund from Balmain Trilogy - that was backed by Sullivan - also fell over.
A CLOSE WATCH
The chief executive of Lend Lease, Steve McCann, had better not take too many coffee breaks when he gets down to constructing Sydney's $6 billion Barangaroo South development.
That is because the two major tenants who signed up for the 323,000 square metre development - Westpac and KPMG - will be keeping a minute-by-minute lookout on the project.
''I'll look forward to watching the progress from my office on the 21st floor. I can ring Steve every day to say what's happening,'' said the chief executive of Westpac, Gail Kelly, on Friday, after confirming the bank will be the development's biggest tenant.
Kelly's office on Kent Street is just across the road. If that was bad enough, KPMG's Australian chief executive, Geoff Wilson, also has a top view of the project. ''We are next door so we can also watch the progress,'' Wilson said.
The once-mighty rivers of gold (aka classifieds) that ran through Fairfax Media will slow to an even tinier trickle next month, courtesy of the insolvency profession.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission will from July 1 no longer require insolvency-related notices to be published in newspapers. Insolvency and company deregistration notices will be published on a website that will be launched by ASIC from that date.
''This is a positive initiative for people affected by the insolvency of a company,'' ASIC's deputy chairman, Belinda Gibson, said in a recent statement. Not so positive news for the trickles of gold.
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