Banks take  Bell Group case to High Court
Banks take Bell Group case to High Court

The banks involved in Australia's most expensive and longest-running court case are seeking to take their battle to the High Court.

The consortium of 20 banks including Westpac and Lloyd's TSB Bank last month lost an appeal in WA's Supreme Court against a 2008 ruling that ordered them to pay about $1.58 billion to the liquidators of Bell Group, once controlled by fallen tycoon Alan Bond.

They had agreed in 1990 to extend Bell Group's loans to allow it to restructure and remain afloat, and in exchange were given guarantees and security over Bell Group's publishing assets, shares in Bell Resources and other minor assets.

Bell Group was at the time on the brink of insolvency, and the banks were found by Justice Neville Owen to be liable as knowing recipients of the company's trust property.

On August 17, Acting Justices Malcolm Lee, Douglas Drummond and Christopher Carr decided that Justice Owen's order would stand, save for several amendments and additions.

Freehills partner John Vaughan, acting for the banks, said today that they had filed an application for special leave to the High Court.

Mr Vaughan said the banks were confident they could make a strong case.

"The effects of the Bell judgments are that both directors and financiers are likely to be much more risk averse and rather than attempt to put in place rescue plans to support businesses, they will find moving earlier to insolvency the safer option," he said.

The West Australian

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