Ross Asset liquidators face hurdles in untangling mess

Dec. 24 (BusinessDesk) - PwC's John Fisk and David Bridgman have found another pitfall as they try to untangle the mess surrounding Ross Asset Management which may make it more difficult to try and recovery the missing investor funds.

The High Court in Wellington appointed Fisk and Bridgman as liquidators of Ross Asset Management last week, and the pair have found that about 40 percent of all stocks identified are held in an individual client's name, according to their first report. That means that any recovery from those specific assets may not be available to the wider pool of investors.

"We are working with the advisors and respective investors concerned to determine entitlements to these investments with the assistances of our legal counsel," they said in the report.

The duo was initially installed as receivers and managers of the operation that Fisk has previously described as having the hallmarks of a Ponzi scheme. Some 1,720 investor accounts show investments totalling $449.6 million, though Fisk and Bridgman have only been able to identify $10.5 million of assets.

"The records of the Ross Group are not of sufficient standard to immediately and accurately identify all assets and accordingly the schedule of such assets continues to change as the identification process continues and new assets are located and accurate information is obtained," the report said.

Fisk and Bridgman said they have been approached by a number of investors with queries about the impact of the receiverships on their tax situation, and they expect to have an update next year.

The liquidators back setting up a committee of Ross group creditors to represent those people owed by the fund manager, and are holding a vote to select up to seven members to join the group to represent those interests.

Investors have 13 people to choose from, including hospitality industry veteran Gary Clarke, property manager Stephen Cooper, Ross Asset investor Yvonne Cooper, Kordia chief financial officer Jason Fullerton-Smith, public servant Tom Halliburton, horticulture investor Matthew Heller, surveyor Malcolm Hughes, ex-construction firm executive Peter Macdonald, foreign affairs consultant Alan Pearson, Barrington Prince, property valuer Arthur Stewart, lawyer John Strahl, and Ross Asset investor spokesman Bruce Tichbon.

Wellington fund manager David Ross wasn't available in the early days of the investigation due to his hospitalisation under the Mental Health Act.

The various funds were frozen after a Financial Markets Authority Investigation, and the Serious Fraud Office is also inquiring into the case.

(BusinessDesk)

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