NAB will give evidence at Walton inquiry
THE National Australia Bank will give evidence at an inquiry to be held in Melbourne late next month into the $91million collapse in 2013 of Walton Construction.
The move comes as a senior official of the bank acknowledged what he said were a series of errors on NAB's part in its handling of the Walton account.
Sunshine Coast subcontractors who worked for Walton on the Coles Nambour construction lost $2.9million when the company went into administration and then liquidation on October 4, 2013.
Liquidator Mike McCann, of Grant Thorton, has been under pressure from creditors to call the bank to the hearing, a move he had rejected as unnecessary until Thursday, even after questioning from the Queensland Government which, with the Australian Securities and Investment Commission, is funding the legal exercise.
Geoff Green, head of NAB Specialist Banking Services Melbourne, said yesterday he would give evidence in camera next Wednesday to a joint party Senate Inquiry into Construction Industry Insolvency in Canberra and then under oath on December 2 at the Melbourne public examination in court into the Walton collapse.
He stressed the NAB was co-operating with the Walton liquidator and would provide a number of documents to explain its role as banker for the failed builder.
Mr Green said he had initially asked Mr McCann to call the bank to give evidence to allay perceptions it had been involved in a series of moves by Walton and its business advisors, the Mawson Group, which set up two phoenix companies to take over Walton projects.
The pair had discussed the matter during a conversation relating to their shared involvement on the board of ARITA, the Australian Restructuring Insolvency Turnaround Association.
The NAB, which faced potential losses of $20million at the time it received a report into Walton's precarious financial state in early 2013, ultimately retrieved its position. Mr Green said the bank had made a number of inexplicable errors including one of its bankers recommending Mawson to Walton, failing until May 3, 2013, to register its own security position with the builder and then leaving more than half-a-million dollars worth of vehicles in control of phoenix company Peloton for five months after the Walton collapse.
Subcontractors Alliance head Les Williams said creditors had supplied both ASIC and the liquidator with questions they expected to be put to the bank at the court examination in Melbourne.
Mr Williams of Coolum said the decision to call NAB to give evidence had taken too long, given it had been the Alliance's first request of the liquidator appointed after Walton's first liquidator Lawler Draper Dillon was removed by the Federal Court for perceived bias.
The Alliance has raised with ASIC its concerns about Mr McCann's potential conflict of interest arising from his shared involvement with Mr Green on the ARITA board.