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Federal Court dismisses ASIC’s case against liquidator

Regulation

A Gold Coast liquidator has won a four-year legal battle against the regulator with the Federal Court dismissing proceedings brought against him.

By Miranda Brownlee 9 minute read

The Federal Court late last week dismissed ASIC’s case against Jason Bettles, a registered liquidator and partner at Worrells Solvency and Accounting.

ASIC instigated court proceedings in November 2019 alleging that Mr Bettles had breached his professional duties as a liquidator while appointed to wind up the Members Alliance Group of companies between July 2016 and July 2017.

The corporate regulator alleged that Mr Bettles had failed to act independently and with a degree of care and diligence required of a liquidator, leading to the improper transfer of Members Alliance Group assets.

ASIC failed to make its case that Mr Bettles was involved in the development and implementation of a complex strategy to transfer assets and divert income streams from various members of the Members Alliance Group to the detriment of creditors.

It also failed to establish its case that Mr Bettles had demonstrated egregious departure from the standards of propriety, independence, and care and diligence required of a registered liquidator.

On Friday 18 August, Justice Markovic delivered her judgment in the long-running case, dismissing the proceedings and ordering ASIC to pay costs.

Justice Markovic said after reviewing the material presented she was “not satisfied that there are any matters’’ that required orders being made against Mr Bettles.

In her judgment Justice Markovic found Mr Bettles had not breached his liquidator duties under the Corporations Act, noting that “a reasonable and informed third party, on the information available at the time would not reasonably form the opinion that Mr Bettles might not bring an independent mind to the liquidations and thus may not be impartial because of a lack of independence, or a perception of a lack of independence.”

Mr Bettles welcomed the judgment and said it marked the end of what had been “an emotionally taxing’’ period for himself and his family.

“I am grateful for the unwavering support of my wife and children, Worrells Queensland, and my referral community, who have supported me at every stage of these proceedings,’’ he said.

Mr Bettles has worked as a professional liquidator for 21 years, 19 years of which has been spent as a principal at Worrells Queensland, managing the firm’s Gold Coast practice.

“I have always acted with professionalism and integrity while discharging my duties and responsibilities as one of just 660 registered liquidators in Australia,’’ he said.

“I am looking forward to putting this matter behind me and to continuing to help Australian business owners and individuals navigate financial adversity and to secure the best outcomes for creditors when businesses fail.’’

Worrells Queensland Principal Raj Khatri said the firm had supported Mr Bettles at every step of the complex and lengthy legal proceedings.

“Mr Bettles is well regarded by his colleagues and trusted by his clients. He has handled what has been an extremely difficult and challenging period with strength and grace,” said Mr Khatri.

 

 

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