Storm investors face huge decision

Storm Financial investor Mark Weir must decide whether to take a settlement or see out a class action.
Storm Financial investor Mark Weir must decide whether to take a settlement or see out a class action. Barry Leddicoat

AFTER years on social welfare and facing foreclosure on his Palmwoods home, Storm Financial investor Mark Weir is hoping to live the rest of his life with "dignity".

Whether that means seeing through a three-month class action in court or taking an 11th-hour Commonwealth Bank settlement offer is a "monumental decision" he and many other investors must make in the next month.

He has put in long hours the past four years co-ordinating the Storm Investors Consumer Action Group to help hundreds of scorned investors in the class-action process.

But after another false start yesterday in the highly anticipated court battle involving Storm, CBA, Macquarie Bank and Bank of Queensland, Mr Weir said he must assess whether he should move forward.

The grandfather of three must calculate whether he would get enough of the $3.3 million he lost to get off social welfare and "get on with my life with some dignity".

"For those who've had a carrot dangled in front of them, do we run the full course on the risk of going to the High Court in three years time and getting the same amount or do we take this money, get on with it and make the most of our lives? That's the question," he said.

"Some of them will be determined to roll the dice completely, probably because they've got some working life ahead of them. For others, it will be a monumental dilemma."

CBA offered investors $136 million compensation after reaching an out-of-court settlement with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission on Friday.

Thousands of investors lost about $3 billion - the value of their portfolios at the market's peak - when Storm collapsed in 2008.

Sydney law firm Levitt Robinson has launched class actions against the three banks which were expected to run alongside an ASIC trial alleging the banks supported Storm's unregistered managed investment scheme and were knowingly involved.

The banks deny the allegations.

A packed Federal Court in Brisbane heard that the CBA, which settled without admitting liability, would provide "indicative" compensation figures to class-action members within a fortnight so they could make an "informed judgment".

Barrister Tony Morris said his clients, who were pursuing CBA, could only accept the money if they withdrew legal proceedings.

Sunshine Coast police officer Sean McArdle, who lost a $4 million portfolio in the debacle, said he would not accept the CBA offer and planned to pursue the class action.

He said this "extraordinarily disappointing" move showed Australia's biggest bank could "buy itself out of any wrongdoing for a pittance" and the other banks would be "crazy" not to take a settlement deal, too.

Mr McArdle said that based on his calculations, investors were likely to get just 4.5 to 9 cents in the dollar while the banks involved "walk on all their wrongdoing".

Judge John Reeves dismissed the charges against the CBA and adjourned the case until next Monday.

Topics:  business commonwealth bank finance investment storm financial

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