Walker meeting broke guidelines

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The Independent Online
RAYMOND HOCKING, a senior partner in the insolvency division of the accountants Stoy Hayward, breached the guidelines of the Society of Practitioners of Insolvency in his handling of last week's meeting of the creditors of George Walker.

The meeting, chaired by Mr Hocking, approved an Individuals Voluntary Arrangement which enabled Mr Walker to avoid bankruptcy. During the meeting Mr Hocking accepted faxed proxies as proof of debt from some creditors.

This meant that a number of creditors, including a French group, Holt Freres, where Mr Walker is president, and other companies with connections to the Walker family were allowed to vote in favour of the IVA. It was approved by a narrow majority, with 75.8 per cent of creditors, who are owed more than pounds 180m, voting in favour compared with 75 per cent needed.

The amount of the faxed proxies accepted by Mr Hocking amounted to more than pounds 30m. If they had been rejected the majority would have fallen to far less than 75 per cent. In addition, the banks are angry that a claim by Birdcage Walk, a Walker family company now in liquidation, was rejected despite being backed by an affadavit from Mr Walker.

Attempts to raise both matters at the creditors' meeting by representatives of the banks were overruled by Mr Hocking.

It is understood that a number of banks, including TSB Group and Standard Chartered, are preparing a challenge to the IVA. If successful they will apply to have Mr Walker declared bankrupt, which would mean he cannot hold office as a director of a company.

The statement of insolvency practice, published by the SPI earlier this year, says: 'Proxies to be used at the (creditors') meeting are valid only if they they are lodged by the time stated in the notice convening the meeting.

'It should be noted that the Department of Trade and Industry is of the opinion that faxed proxies are not valid and Official Receivers do not accept them for meetings convened for them.'

When contacted yesterday Mr Hocking disputed this opinion, saying it was his view that faxed proxies were acceptable and that the Official Receiver accepted faxed proxies as proof of debt.

However, in an offical DTI notice dated 3 August 1989, the principal examiner, G J A Harp, said: 'The current instructions to Official Receivers are that a proxy may not be accepted unless it bears an original signature.

'Accordingly, it would seem to be almost impossible for a faxed proxy to be acceptable.'

It is understood that the DTI has reconfirmed this position to the SPI this week.

Furthermore, the Insolvency Practitioners Association, under which Mr Hocking is registered, said in a statement of 24 July 1989: 'It is the view of the association, which is endorsed by the Department of Trade and Industry, that faxed proxies and proofs are not acceptable. Only original signatures can be allowed.'