Hotchin, Watson settle with NZSA, continue to chase Sheppard on defamation - Sheppard speaks out
Former New Zealand Shareholders Association chairman Bruce Sheppard is welcoming the association’s ceasefire in a defamation suit brought by Hanover Finance’s shareholding frontmen Eric Watson and Mark Hotchin, saying it leaves him free to fight on without concern for the organisation.
Hanover director Mark Hotchin and promoter Eric Watson sued Mr Sheppard and the association he founded over his allegations they behaved criminally and fraudulently as businessmen and deserved to be imprisoned.
The New Zealand Shareholders Association (NZSA) has reached a settlement, reported to be six-figures, with the two men.
But Mr Sheppard says his own defence against the defamation action is soldiering on, and he will be arguing for a jury trial at the next court date this month.
“I am pleased that the NZSA has achieved settlement of this matter.,” Mr Sheppard says in a statement.
“The NZSA was founded as a group of volunteers who focus on supporting investors and frankly this case was a worry and distraction to people who do what they do for the good of the community out of a sense of justice and charity.
“For me personally this is also a positive outcome as I now no longer have to be concerned about the effect that this action is having on an organisation I founded and deeply care about,” Mr Sheppard says.
Mr Sheppard will rely on honest opinion and qualified privilege to defend his statements about Messrs Watson and Hotchin – some broadcast in a November 2009 television interview with Close Up presenter Mark Sainsbury.
These include allegeding that each man was a “crook” and they allegedly misled Hanover investors by falsely stating that $10million of their own money would be put into a debt restructure programme.”
Read more about the comments by Mr Sheppard, which Messrs Watson and Hotchin say attacked their reputation, here.
Hanover Finance froze $554 million of funds for its 17,000 investors after running into financial difficulties. Investors then accepted what turned out to be a disastrous deal where their debt was swapped for equity in Allied Farmers.
The association awarded its 2010 Golden Glob award to the two businessmen in 2010. Sheppard gave media interviews in 2009 where he suggested the pair didn't act correctly over Hanover's debt restructuring proposal.
The Shareholders Associaton "accepts that Mr Sheppard's comments were incorrect," The NZSA said in a statement. The association "regrets any adverse public sentiment as a result of the comments."
The Herald on Sunday, on which Mr Watson is an occasional columnist, reported that NZSA had paid a "six-figure settlement' to end the defamation action against it.
Mr Watson's spin doctor Niki Schuck today denied Hanover convinced investors to accept the Allied deal. She says it was Allied's deal, it was independently reviewed and the investors voted to accept it.
With reporting by BusinessDesk