14 Jul 2009

ING legal waiver could be overturned - minister

1:46 pm on 14 July 2009

Commerce Minister Simon Power has indicated a legal waiver obtained by finance company ING might not be a cast iron guarantee against future litigation.

More than 95% of investors in two frozen ING funds agreed to waive their rights to future legal action in return for a partial repayment.

A Commerce Commission investigation is underway into how the ING investments were marketed and whether the marketing breached the Fair Trading Act.

Mr Power says officials have told him the waiver could be overturned in future, as any legal action brought by the Commerce Commission could see a court conclude the waiver is ineffective or should be set aside or varied.

The Commerce Commission, whose investigation will run for several more months, says any such order could be up to a court, not itself.

ING defends marketing

The chief executive of ING says it was always made clear to investors about the risk in the two products, which lost 80% of their value.

Helen Troup told Morning Report the products were marketed appropriately as low to moderate risk.

"In terms of meeting our investors expectations, we know this has been devastating. But as Liz Brown, the Banking Ombudsman, said, just because a fund has had negative performance does not mean that the risk was inappropriately disclosed."

The company said more than 95% of the appoximately 8,000 investors had accepted the company's offer as at 3pm on Monday.

About 85% chose to reinvest the 60 cents per unit payout in a five-year cash account run by the ANZ bank paying 8.3% over five years.

Ms Troup said on Monday the high level of acceptance reinforces that investors were made a good offer.

She said the waiver of future legal action was part of a commercial transaction the company negotiated with its shareholders, and without it, the offer would not have been possible.

Investor group will assist inquiry

A spokesperson for Frozen Funds Investors, which represents investors, says ING's partial repayment offer virtually circumvented the Commerce Commission's process by making people come to decisions quickly.

Andrew Davidson says the group will now do everything it can to help the commission's inquiry.

Ohariu MP Peter Dunne on Monday had called on ING to drop the requirement that investors who accepted its settlement offer must forfeit any legal action.

Labour Party commerce spokesperson Lianne Dalziel says she will draft a Member's Bill allowing investors to gain from any legal action or settlement if the commission finds any wrongdoing.