Class action on the table

Posted March 2, 2016

Fedral Court Melbourne

Subcontractors who lost millions of dollars in the wake of national company Walton Construction’s collapse in late 2013 are looking increasingly unlikely to recoup cash owed to them.

That’s the view of Subcontractors Alliance chairman Les Williams, who recently attended the last day of public hearings convened by liquidator Grant Thornton in Melbourne.

Mr Williams, who lives at Coolum, is one of 600 unsecured creditors in Queensland owed about $30 million in total.

The unpaid debt owed by Walton Construction Australia-wide is double that, involving more than 1300 parties.

Mr Williams said it was now a waiting game until Grant Thornton filed a report with ASIC.

“I’m not confident (anything further will happen),” he said.

“The inquiry has gone on for over two years and, as I see it, so many questions still remain unanswered.”

Mr Williams said most of the money owed in Queensland was from outstanding wages due to subcontractors from 21 Walton Construction projects from July, August and September 2013.

He believes the best hope for subcontractors is to mount a class action against Walton Construction and the National Australia Bank.

“I believe NAB has recovered $20 million even though it was not a secured creditor in Queensland,” Mr Williams said.

He said a class action could question NAB’s right to all of the $20 million.

“What I want to know is where has the money owed to the subcontractors gone?” he said.

Mr Williams lodged a six-page submission to ASIC’s Adrian Brown, the senior executive leader of the Insolvency Practitioners’ Stakeholder Team.

In that submission he outlined how Walton Construction had companies created in 2012 where assets were moved around as a result of a restructure.

“Two years and four months later and over $1 million-plus in liquidators’ fees, some of which was generously donated from public funds, creditors of the Walton’s group possess little more information that they did in October 2013,” Mr Williams said.

“Creditors are concerned at the lack of information that is forthcoming after this extended period of time and of constantly being dismissed with claims of confidentiality and operational matters to avoid disclosure. This lacks transparency.

“Surely as victims of this liquidation we have a right to full disclosure of information?”

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