Earlier this week, the Chief Executive and two former directors of South Canterbury Finance, the failed finance company, faced Justice Heath to hear his verdict relating to New Zealand's largest ever fraud case. Some $1.6B was owed to creditors when SCF collapsed in 2010. Justice Heath found one director guilty on five charges, and he acquitted the other director and the Chief Executive on all of the charges they faced. In his decision (all 258 pages), the judge blamed the former chairman (Alan Hubbard, who was killed in a car crash some time after the collapse), who appeared to rule with a dominant hand.
What I cannot fathom in this case is how one director can be found guilty of knowingly making false statements and the chairman can be blamed for ruling with a dominant hand, yet another director was not found guilty. Clearly, the director adjudged to be guilty was not happy. The board is a collective of directors, so decisions should be decisions of the board—surely the prospectus was considered and approved by the board and not an individual? That the board is one is what we teach on the Institute of Directors' Company Directors Course and elsewhere.
This judgement raises some interesting issues relating to the law (that I don't profess to understand) that are relevant for practice. I have requested a copy of Judge Health's decision, and plan to read it over the coming week, because clearly I am missing something.
Thoughts on corporate governance, strategy and effective board practice; our place in the world; and, other things that catch my attention.