Leo D'Angelo Fisher Columnist

Leo covers management and leadership issues, business trends and corporate strategy. He is a former senior business writer at The Bulletin and a former host of The Business Hour on 3AW.

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Strange way to settle the score

Published 14 November 2012 05:41, Updated 19 November 2012 09:44

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In what would have to be one of the more unusual – if not altogether bizarre – instances of a fallen chief executive striking back in defence of his reputation, the founder of collapsed Gold Coast mortgage fund manager Equititrust, Mark McIvor , has self-published a “novella” to set the record straight.

The 62-page work is part polemic, part allegory, part autobiographical and part handbook for aspiring entrepreneurs. Titled Strange Animals Come Down to Drink, it is also intended to be anonymous.

“To my surprise I have discovered a writer within,” says McIvor in a letter to supporters in which he explains his decision to write his colourful but anonymous expose of the skulduggery that led to Equitrust’s demise. BRW is in possession of the letter, as well as a copy of the novella.

“I have purposefully written this story under a non [sic] de plume. It has been my historical preference to eschew public attention. However these issues are so grave I am obliged to ‘shout from the roof tops’.”

In keeping with the theme of anonymity, the identities of the players in McIvor’s dramatic corporate saga are disguised, and it starts with the dramatic cover illustration.

On the cover is an array of menacing creatures – including a cobra snake, a snarling wolf (in sheep’s clothing), a T-Rex (in a suit) and what appears to be a hyena (in a fetching blazer) – hoarding mounds of cash as they surround a Monopoly board. Each of these characters features in McIvor’s colourful narrative. In the foreground lies a besuited and very much dead executive with a knife in his back. Presumably that’s McIvor – or i konoclast, as the author signs the book’s prologue.

The cast of characters in the publication includes Bully Raconteur, Mr Suntan Man, King Con, Deer in the Headlights, Mr Baklava, King Reptile, the Bumbling Bureaucrat and Grubby Journo.

Those who have closely followed the fortunes – made and unmade – of McIvor and the company he started in 1993 may be able to put names to some of the pseudonyms. It can only be assumed that McIvor – a solicitor – has brushed up on his defamation law. But in the meantime, he will no doubt be hoping that his enigmatic defence of Equititrust will become the talking – and guessing – point of huddled gatherings in the halls of corporate power.

When Equititrust’s two principal funds were wound up by the Queensland Supreme Court on November 21, 2011, the fund manager had 1400 investors, mainly retirees, and $550 million in funds under management. As a lender to Queensland property developers the company was exposed to the state’s property downturn – but McIver, who says he lost $100 million of his own money in the collapse, insists the reasons for the failure of Equititrust run much deeper than mere property and economic cycles.

The novella is sub-titled “A requiem of a financier and a stinging indictment of corporate corruption”. McIvor is the financier, and clearly the hero of this epic. In his introduction to the novella he offers this description of the writer – that is, himself: “The writer is the Managing Partner of a boutique investment banking group committed to re-empowering regional Australia and its South Pacific neighbours through an equitable financial services system.”

He continues: “The writer has chosen to author this novella under a nom de plume to draw attention to systemic corruption which besets our country.”

It is not the first time that McIvor has made his case of corruption, incompetence and collusion. In a submission to the Senate’s inquiry into the post-GFC banking sector in July, McIver catalogued a “concatenation of events” that led to the demise of Equititrust, which included the “arrogant unconscionability of the major banks, the systemic incompetence of the regulatory system, the routine breach of fiduciary duties and professional codes by large insolvency and law firms acting as bank ‘enforcers’ and the greed and moral turpitude at large in Australia businesses”.

In his submission to the Senate inquiry, McIvor foreshadowed publication of Strange Animals and again explained that he would not be naming names – no doubt to the senators’ disappointment (and somewhat defeating the purpose of the inquiry).

In his submission he stated: “Other than the banks, ASIC and persons engaged in overt corporate crime, I will not mention people by name. I shall adopt pseudonyms so that the various interconnected events can be understood and the roles of the various parties and organisations understood.”

However, even a cursory reading of McIvor’s Senate submission will reveal at least some of the protagonists that feature in Strange Animals.

So, while the guessing game begins and defamation lawyers wait for their phones to ring, McIvor has issued an information memorandum for the creation of a “partner-owned mutual investment banking group” under the Mi Guardian Fiduciary banner. (That’s the “boutique investment banking group” McIvor refers to in his introduction to Strange Animals.)

Employing his newly discovered flair for writing (but not spelling), McIvor tells “commercial colleagues, strategic allies and potential investors whom I respect” in the above-mentioned letter about his new venture.

“[I]t is our intention to forge a new banking brand empowering communities to own there [sic] own banking infrastructure,” he writes. “Our citizens have had enough of the unimaginative, bullying and rapacious conduct of our banking system, insolvency profession and white collar criminals.”

Nobody could accuse McIvor of lacking imagination.

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