ASIC action results in long Federal Court disqualifications

Two officers of a company involved in a land banking scheme have been disqualified from managing corporations for five and a half years and four years.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission announced today that the men, Michael Grochowski and Ian Stephens had been disqualified for five and half years and four years respectively for their involvement with Bilkurra Investments Pty Ltd and Foscari Holdings Pty Limited which operated land banking schemes in Victoria known as Hermitage Bendigo and Foscari to raise approximately $24 million from investors.

It said the Federal Court had decided on the disqualifications despite Grochowski not being named a director of either firm and nonetheless finding that he was an officer of the companies until they were wound up in 2017 on application filed by ASIC

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In deciding on the period banning, the Court considered a 2012 decision by a delegate of ASIC prohibiting Grochowski from providing financial services for four years.

ASIC noted that the court had found that the appointment of Stephens as a director of both companies, as an experienced chartered accountant, presented a false façade of meaningful oversight and governance of the companies’ affairs.

Further it said the Court found Stephens failed to exercise any meaningful decision making and management responsibility for the companies, which had obtained large amounts of investment from the public.

Commenting on the disqualifications, ASIC commissioner, John Price said they would help protect the public from further investing with officers of companies that repeatedly failed.

He said ASIC would be continuing to investigate failed land banking schemes and taking whatever action was necessary to ensure failed scheme did not continue.

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