Information for Great Southern growers
The Great Southern Group was a Perth based agri-business. Great Southern Limited (GSL), the parent company, was listed on the Australian Securities Exchange. Through its wholly owned subsidiary, Great Southern Managers Australia Ltd (GSMAL), it established, sold and managed approximately 43 agricultural managed investment schemes (MIS). Finance for the MIS was offered to investors via another wholly owned subsidiary, Great Southern Finance (GSF).
The majority of the Great Southern Group's revenue was raised through the sale of interests in MIS, but also through management fees associated with the MIS and interest on loans provided to MIS investors.
On 16 May 2009 GSL, GSMAL, GSF and other subsidiaries of GSL entered into voluntary administration. Ferrier Hodgson was appointed as the Administrator.
On 18 May 2009 secured creditors appointed McGrath Nicol as the Receiver and Manager to GSL and GSMAL (as well as other subsidiaries).
On 19 November 2009 GSL, GSMAL, GSF and other subsidiaries of GSL were placed into liquidation. Ferrier Hodgson was appointed as liquidator.
According to Ferrier Hodgson, the Great Southern Group had about 52,000 investors who contributed about $ 2.2 billion. Further, the group raised over $260 million in equity from shareholders, obtained over $200 million in unsecured convertible notes and raised over $600 million in secured funding.
Subsequent to the liquidation of the Great Southern Group, aggrieved MIS investors commenced various class actions.
Ferrier Hodgson is currently completing the liquidation of the Great Southern Group.
If you require further information regarding the liquidation please contact Ferrier Hodgson on 9214 1444 or go to www.ferrierhodgson.com/au/administrations/great-southern-limited
ASIC conducted an investigation into the collapse of Great Southern. ASIC assessed the conduct of GSMAL, and other financial services providers, in relation to the marketing and operation of Great Southern’s registered managed investment schemes.
ASIC’s investigation concluded there was no systemic mis-selling of the Great Southern schemes by financial advisers warranting enforcement action by ASIC. However ASIC did require a number of Australian financial services licensees to write to clients where there were indicators of potentially inappropriate advice. The letters to affected clients explained how to make a complaint in connection with the advice provided including information about the licensee's internal dispute resolution (IDR) process and the external dispute resolution (EDR) process.
Further, as a result of ASIC's inquiries, one licensee provided an undertaking to ASIC that it would immediately cease to provide financial services to retail clients while a number of licensees introduced new training programs for its financial advisers.
ASIC also investigated allegations against the directors of Great Southern, with a focus on whether any past actions of directors breached s180 (directors’ duty of care and diligence) and s184 (directors’ duty to act in good faith).
ASIC determined to take no further action as a result of our investigations.
In deciding what matters to pursue and what enforcement action to take, if any, ASIC considers a range of factors. Prior to spending public monies on commencing proceedings there needs to be sufficient evidence to prove allegations of misconduct in a form that is admissible in court. ASIC also assesses whether there are other actions that investors might be able to take on their own behalf, such as class actions.
Further information regarding ASIC’s approach to enforcement is contained in Information Sheet 151 ASIC's approach to enforcement (INFO 151).
Class action settlement proceedings
On 27 October 2014, ASIC sought and was granted leave by the Victorian Supreme Court to intervene in the hearing of the Great Southern class action settlement approval application.
ASIC appeared as amicus curiae – a friend of the court – in that application. ASIC observed the proceedings and provided the Court with submissions on discrete issues to assist the Court. ASIC was not a party to the action and did not seek or argue in favour of any orders.
On 11 December 2014, the Supreme Court of Victoria approved the settlement of the class action. View the Court’s reasons for decision.
As a result of the settlement, a formal Scheme of Arrangement will be proposed. ASIC does have, under the Corporations Act, a formal role in relation to Schemes of Arrangement.
ASIC’s primary consideration for such a Scheme of Arrangement is to ensure that investors are treated fairly and are not deprived of benefits or protections.
ASIC will consider whether all investors have been treated equally as amongst each other, and whether any investors have been disadvantaged. These are key considerations for ASIC when we decide whether to give a letter of no objection (which we can provide to assist the Court in its process to approve or otherwise the Scheme of Arrangement). It is always open to ASIC to draw the Court’s attention to specific issues of concern, including whether investors have been treated unfairly either as an entire group or if some investors have been favoured above others.
It is important to note however that the Courts have oversight over the entire Scheme of Arrangement process, and are ultimately required to approve the Scheme.
ASIC’s role in schemes of arrangement is detailed in Regulatory Guide 60 Schemes of arrangement (RG 60).
ASIC's approach to appearing in private court proceedings is set out in our Information Sheet Information Sheet 180 ASIC's approach to involvement in private court proceedings (INFO 180).
Investors who would like further information regarding the repayment of loans should contact Bendigo and Adelaide Bank’s dedicated Great Southern call centre on 1300 677 885.