Former Blue Chip boss Mark Bryers has been discharged from his five-and-a-half year bankruptcy, though he's banned from acting as a manager or director in New Zealand for another seven years because of the risk he poses to the public.
In the High Court in Auckland, Associate Judge Jeremy Doogue today lifted the long-running bankruptcy order hanging over Bryers' head, that prevented him from holding director or management roles in Australia, where he's lived since 2006. The judge decided Bryers still poses a continuing risk, and has "little insight into the harm that he has done", though the chance of returning to New Zealand was a small one.
"It is clear that the reason why he wishes to be discharged from bankruptcy is not so that he can return to New Zealand to resume business, but so that he can play an active part in businesses in Australia, such as the Talos enterprise, without risking contravention of Australian Corporation Law," the judgment said. "Whether it would be desirable for him to do so from the perspective of the Australian public is not something I need to comment on. It will be for the responsible authorities in Australia to judge that question."
At the two-day hearing this week, the court was told Bryers' $230 million debts were unrelated to Blue Chip's 2011 collapse, and were a result of personal guarantees he had made to financiers for third-party property developments and to Mide, the New Zealand franchisee of Australian-based Blue Chip Financial Solutions (later Northern Crest) which were never pursued by the parent company.
The judge said Bryers alone was the author of the transactions that caused his personal debts, and structured his affairs in such a way so that he would not have rights to access various assets held in trusts.
"Even if attention is confined to the question of the debts that Mr Bryers personal incurred, the picture that emerges is of a business person who is prepared to structure his arrangements in such a way that large-scale losses could not be avoided by creditors having assets to resort to," the judge said. "The fact that the guarantees were inherently risky meant that the overall position that Mr Bryers got himself into was hazardous."
Because of the risk Bryers still posed, the judge made orders restraining his business activities in New Zealand for another seven years. Those orders prevent Bryers from taking part in the management of any business, being a director of a company, being employed by a relative or any entity controlled by a relative.
The judge said Bryers' role at Talos Accounting Group contained management functions, but wasn't at a director level, and didn't breach New Zealand law.