The bank has strenuously denied these allegations and was seeking to have the case dismissed before the transaction was struck.
The man who was driving the case brought by Vantage, Vic Ferreira, has now been sacked by the new ownership group and an independent panel is reviewing the case “due to the affiliation between the new owner and Macquarie”. The court has stayed the matter until the review is complete.
New York-based Vantage and its owners Big Apple and Clear Choice provide financing to several large energy companies in the US so that they can bridge the gap between when they bill customers and when they are paid. Macquarie is a key player in this space.
Macquarie was the lender and advisor to Vantage before the collapse of Big Apple and Clear Choice. Vantage had borrowed $US50 million from Macquarie and Big Apple had borrowed $US25 million. The same Macquarie banker who brokered the debt deals was also the financial adviser to Big Apple in its acquisition of Vantage.
Mr Ferreira was the boss of Big Apple before the acquisition of Vantage. Big Apple entered into bankruptcy in 2018 after Macquarie called in its legal rights over breaches of the loan agreement.
Vantage hit Macquarie with the civil claim earlier this year which included very serious allegations of misconduct against the Australian bank.
“Macquarie engaged in multiple predicate criminal acts, including criminal interference with commerce by threats of violence through the use of extortion and strong-arm fear tactics, putting Vantage, its customers, and Vantage through extortionate threats to customers, in fear of economic loss and ultimate financial ruin.”
Vantage alleges Mr Ferreira and Big Energy was misled by their Macquarie banker into buying Vantage.
“In short, the Macquarie defendants… desperately needed to cover up a bad investment in Vantage to avoid losses by making sure that internal numbers stayed high and bonuses would continue to be paid,” court documents allege.
“Macquarie covered the loss the only way it could, by lying to and bullying one of its other clients that had a strong balance sheet and also relied on Macquarie’s capital to keep operating its business and coerced them to “acquire” Macquarie’s bad investment.
“The ultimate result of that coerced transaction was the bankruptcy of two entities and clients of Macquarie, Big Apple and Clear Choice, and the destruction of Vantage.”
It is alleged the purchase of Vantage by Big Energy was brokered by a Macquarie banker who advised both sides of the transaction while also being a director of Vantage.
Mr Ferrira claims that banker complained to him on several occasions that the bad debt in Vantage had blown out his division’s cost of capital and was harming their bonuses.
“If [the banker] was successful in securing a payment on the legacy debt, his group’s cost of capital would be lowered resulting in higher profits for [the banker] and Macquarie.”
Macquarie described the case as frivolous in its legal response to Vantage’s claim.
‘This litigation was filed in a transparent attempt by Vantage’s former CEO to disrupt the sale of Vantage in Big Apple’s bankruptcy,” it lawyers said.
It said the allegations of racketeering, extortion and corporate sabotage were completely meritless. Despite Mr Ferreira’s allegation against his Macquarie advisors, Macquarie said that it showed he made the decision with advice.
“Notwithstanding these outrageous claims, the further amended complaint makes clear that Big Apple, Vantage, and Ferreira acted voluntarily and in their own economic self-interest at all times.”
A spokeswoman for Macquarie declined to comment as the matter was before the courts.
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Sarah Danckert is a business reporter.