Rod Petricevic

No interference, no communication, time to reinstate Collins

Hamish Rutherford finds that Judith Collins had no input at all into investigation of the poor behaviour of Adam Feeley.

Another claim by Nicky Hager and the hacker that has fallen down with an examination of the truth.

Judith Collins had no input into an investigation into the conduct of the former boss of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) once it was set up, the State Services Commissioner (SSC) says.

Less than a month before the election, Collins was forced to quit as a minister after an email written by Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater suggested that as Police Minister she was ??gunning for [Adam] Feeley??, then the director general of the SFO in October 2011.

At the time Feeley was under investigation by the SSC, following media reports that he celebrated charges against former Bridgecorp boss Rod Petricevic by drinking champagne belonging to Bridgecorp directors.

Eventually, the investigation cleared Feeley, who continued in the role for around a year, before leaving to become chief executive of the Queenstown Lakes District Council.

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Journalists whine about delays with OIAs and now they are whining about quick turnaround

Journalists always whine about the turn around time for Official Information Act requests.

They complain that the ministers treat the 20days as stipulated by law as a goal and a delaying tactics.

And yet when a minister who has information to hand and no reason to delay it they now whine it was a quick turn around.

Spare me, these pricks are so slippery when it comes to news.

Judith Collins’ office processed an Official Information Act request in just two days to release an email embarrassing then Serious Fraud Office head Adam Feeley in 2011.

The revelation comes as ripples from the Dirty Politics saga widened during the weekend after a series of bombshells including:

? Collins stepped down as Justice Minister after an email handed to the prime minister’s office raised questions about her involvement in what leaked emails appear to suggest was a campaign by Right-wing blogger Cameron Slater and others to undermine Feeley while he was SFO boss.

? Prime Minister John Key confirmed there would be an inquiry into Collins’s actions in relation to Feeley, with details of the inquiry to be announced today.

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EPMU Pads Books With Pike River funds

NBR Online:

The dodgy accounting practices of the EPMU have been looked at by the NBR, in?particular?the accounting for donations for the Pike River miners families:

The EPMU is defending delays in establishing a trust for Pike River mine disaster families after questions were raised about its accounts.

The country’s largest private sector union was one of many organisations to take donations after the November 2010 disaster, in which 29 men were killed.

EPMU communications director Neale Jones?told NBR ONLINE it had raised $750,926 by the end of last year, and money is still trickling in.

Payments totalling $344,745 were made to the Grey District Council’s fund early last year, but the balance of $406,181 is still on its accounts to December 31, 2011, published on the Societies and Trusts Online website this month.

That money had been earmarked for an educational fund for the killed miner’s families.

Questions were raised on the Whale Oil blog about?the union’s lack of transparency?and, at worst, whether the EPMU was using the money to boost its accounts.

Mr Jones says the union has applied to the Charities Commission to register the EPMU Pike River Family Education Trust.

Money should be dispersed within a few months, he says ? likely before the two-year anniversary of the disaster.

Why has it taken this long?

“It’s quite a complex process having to work out how that’s all distributed and then seeing who’s eligible,” Mr Jones says.

While left-wingers are ranting at finance company directors let us have a look?at the union who it appears are cooking their own books.

Even Rod Petricevic didn’t use funds donated for dead workers to make himself look better on paper than he was.

Has the Union borrowed money from thrid parties based on these padded accounts?

Mr Jones says the union is holding the Pike River money in a separate bank account and the interest is going back into the fund. The union’s auditors insisted if the money was being held it had to appear on its accounts.

“It’s a transparent process and our accounts are public.”

And a good thing too the accounts are public, because we can see that the EPMU is basically?presenting dodgy accounts.

The fund was started prior to 2010 balance date so if the unions auditors insisted on the fund showing on the balance sheet then they should have corrected the 2010 accounts as well and not show the net balance in 2011. Maybe the prior period error of $1m is part of it?

But the bottom line is this,?the treatment of the fund is wrong. The auditors can insist on showing on their books all they like but why haven’t they shown the liability for the payment out which would reduce the balance sheet. It is known as a contingent liability. To not show this is materially affecting the position shown in the accounts.

There can be only one reason to show only one side of the ledger in properly accounting for those funds and that is to make the accounts look better than they really are.

The Panel

Yesterday I was on The Panel on Pat Brittenden’s Radio Rhema show.

Talking firstly about Rod Petricevic and the sentencing he received today, is Cameron Slater and Sue Bradford. There’s more topics on the agenda today, including euthanasia.

Listen below for The Panel. It was pretty tough for me to be talking about euthanasia at the moment.


Waikato Times on Five Fingers Feeley

The Waikato Times editorial yesterday was scathing:

We can be sure how Minister of Police Judith Collins would have reacted, because she is minister in charge of the SFO. She is reported to have been concerned when she learned Mr Feeley had toasted the charging of Bridgecorp directors Rod Petricevic, Rob Roest, Gary Urwin and Peter Steigrad with a $70 bottle of the fallen finance company’s sparkling wine. Media accounts of an ill-considered email from Mr Feeley to SFO staff triggered the minister’s concerns.

Moreover, Mr Feeley was reported to have given a copy of Allan Hubbard’s biography, A Man Out of Time, as a booby prize at an SFO Christmas raffle. Ms Collins did not see the funny side. She referred the media revelations to the State Services Commission ? his employer ? for investigation. The book incident fortified the supporters’ view that the Hubbard investigation was biased from the outset. The Bridgecorp wine incident further meant Mr Feeley was no longer fit to work for the SFO if it were to maintain any credibility.

Mr Feeley has disputed using the Hubbard biography as a booby prize. It was a genuine prizegiving to reward good performance, he insists, although he acknowledged the gift of that book could have been misinterpreted.

SSC chief Iain Rennie said recognising staff achievement in the Bridgecorp case was reasonable, but using a bottle from the company and making the association clear in the staff email was “ill advised and demonstrated a lapse of judgment on this occasion”. But Mr Rennie credited Mr Feeley with being an “effective chief executive and leader” (although the leaking of the email suggests at least some SFO staff think otherwise).

Ms Collins has said she will be making her views clear when next she meets Mr Feeley. That is not an experience he will relish. She is not called “Crusher” for nothing.

Herald Editorial on Five Fingers Feeley

The Herald Editorial lets rip:

Adam Feeley, director of the Serious Fraud Office, let more than his hair down when he invited staff to a celebration of the laying of charges against Bridgecorp director Rod Petricevic. He also let down his position.

He did not quietly invite his team to a drink, which might be normal at the end of a busy week, he issued the invitation by email, announcing they could “celebrate” with champagne “that previously resided in Rod Petricevic’s office”.

Email is a dangerous medium. It is impossible to control its circulation and it is easily saved for evidence. Worse, there is something about the medium that tempts even cautious people to be clever, ironical and indiscreet.

Mr Feeley is just the latest sender to discover that what seemed entertaining when he pressed the button loses much of its charm in the public domain.

The old rule about email is never put anything in email that you wouldn’t put on a postcard.

It may be argued whether the greater offence is that he helped himself to Bridgecorp’s bubbles in the first place. Mr Feeley has explained that he came by it in his previous position heading the Eden Park Redevelopment Board.

The project used premises previously occupied by Bridgecorp and “three or four bottles of champagne were left behind after the sudden exit of the directors”, he says.

The right thing to do would have been to pass the bottle to the company’s liquidators, but how many in this situation would have bothered? It is easy to be righteous with the benefit of hindsight. The difference between Mr Feeley and most people is that Mr Feeley was subsequently appointed head of the SFO and he still kept a bottle of Bridgecorp’s wine.

He kept it to open, on behalf of the public perhaps, when his office had successfully completed its investigation. “Successful” in this context means the gathering of sufficient evidence to lay criminal charges – a court will decide whether the material is sufficient to find anyone guilty. Mr Feeley will hope the office celebration is ignored when the court weighs everything up.

This important, Five Fingers Feeley celebrated the laying of charges, there is no success in that. CHarges are laid everyday and routinely tossed out as well.

His judgment was seriously flawed in several respects: knowingly keeping the Bridgecorp bottle, holding a premature celebration of a case yet to begin, and then openly advertising the drinks and provenance of the bottle to a staff which included some who might have to give evidence in the case.

At one level it is understandable that, on a big project, those involved want to relax once a milestone is achieved. Fraud is said to be the hardest category of crime to prove. Intent is necessary and is often hard to establish. Suspects usually have resources and access to a first-class legal defence.

Mr Feeley was appointed to head the office not quite two years ago. He quickly carried out a restructuring under which some of the office’s senior staff departed, raising concerns at a loss of institutional knowledge and experience.

But criticism of the SFO’s performance had reached a point that the previous Government intended to submerge it in the police. The present Government reversed that decision and put Mr Feeley in charge.

A year ago he had to announce that insufficient evidence of fraud had been found in the Blue Chip group of companies and no charges would be laid. In June he made the same announcement in two other finance company cases. The investigation of Hanover Finance is taking its time.

It is easy to imagine why the office would be relieved at taking a big case to court, but not easy to conceive of a director marking it so inappropriately, with the accused’s wine.

The minister in charge, Judith Collins, has referred the incident to the State Services Commission, the referee of public employment. It may not warrant a red card but a serious caution would be in order.

Actually I think a red card is in order. It is totally inappropriate to filch a bottle of plonk either percieved or actual if you are the head of the SFO. Caesar’s wife springs to mind.

Storm in a tea cup?

So Bill English says:

Finance Minister Bill English says controversy over Serious Fraud Office boss Adam Feeley celebrating criminal charges against Rod Petricevic with Bridgecorp champagne is a “storm in a tea cup“.

English said the SFO had been under a lot of pressure to pursue people following the collapse of finance companies, and he did not have a problem with it.

“I think it’s a bit of a storm in a teacup quite frankly. These agencies have? been under a lot of pressure in recent years because there was a general feeling in the community that the enforcement agencies hadn’t done their job and that’s one of the reasons people lost up to $8 billion in finance companies,” English told NewstalkZB.

This from the man who diddled his?accommodation?expenses. Pffft. A bit rich from the guy who was supposed to go to New York to stop a credit rating down-grade and came back with bad news to be talking about storm’s in tea-cups.

It isn’t a storm in a tea cup when the boss of the agency?responsible?for dealing with serious fraud is a light fingered pickpocket of other peoples assets. It is serious.

Five Fingers Feeley and “Karori” Bill English might not think it is serious but I am pleased to see the minister?responsible?Judith Collins thinks it is.

Five Fingers Feeley’s job on the line?

“Five Fingers” Adam Feeley’s job may be on the line after Judith Collins, the minister responsible for the Serious Fraud Office referred the matter tot he State Services Commission.

The head of the Serious Fraud Office is facing an employment investigation for celebrating criminal charges against Rod Petricevic by serving to staff champagne belonging to Bridgecorp directors.

And a legal expert says it is disappointing to see such behaviour from a government department responsible for such high-level investigations.

A spokesman for Serious Fraud Office Minister Judith Collins said she had referred SFO head Adam Feeley’s actions to the State Services Commissioner, his employer.

Prominent lawyer Nigel Hampton, QC, said last night that Mr Feeley’s actions were “not appropriate at all”.

“A, to celebrate as it were steps along the way and then to publicise it is not appropriate. And B, to do it with property that arguably isn’t yours anyhow seems to me to be rather questionable in its own right. Just because it’s left over or sitting in someone’s office doesn’t make it yours,” he said.

“This is supposed to be an agency that is created to uphold certain principles as to appropriate ownership.”

Mr Hampton said the incident had potential to harm the SFO’s court case against Bridgecorp.

“In the hands of a capable questioner, [the incident] can make them look rather embarrassed and lessen their credibility.

“I think it’s disappointing. You wouldn’t expect, part way through a task, the Commissioner of Police inappropriately celebrating a step along the way in an investigation.”

Five Fingers Adam FeeleyIt is highly inappropriate that the boss of the countries top law enforcement organisation misappropriated the assets, no matter how small, of the shareholders,?receivers?and liquidators of Bridgecorp, then skited about it to staff and then rubbed those charged noses in the fact by quaffing the stolen assets at a?party.

The problem Five Fingers Feeley has is that he doesn’t think he did anything wrong.

This is the guy who is in the paper and news more than tv celebrities and boasting all the time about what his agency is going to do. Compare the incidence of Adam Feeley in the news with that of new Police Commissioner Peter Marshall.The SFO regularly leaks details of investigations and seems to conduct itself as though they are the Untouchables. This case just highlights the culture that exists and has been allowed to fester at?the?SFO.

Five Fingers Feeley might have got away with this sort of behaviour under CHris Finlayson or Simon power but I doubt he will get off scot free under The Crusher.