Court orders 80-year-old Guvera investor be paid back $6.6m
An Australian federal court judge has ordered that a Queensland cane farmer be repaid $6.6 million – what he put into “at all times worthless” Guvera shares.
Justice Jennifer Davies had harsh words for AMMA Private Equity, a Gold Coast company run by Guvera co-founder Darren Herft, which raised capital for Guvera.
It said it forced the investor, 80-year-old Keith Messer, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s, to put more money into the tech company when it was already failing.
Documents filed in court stated that Messer, of Hervey Bay, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2012.
That year, allegedly, he was “induced” to buy $500,000 worth of shares in Guvera.
Over the next two years he made seven more investments although his “incapacity was or ought to have been apparent to anyone interacting with [him] during the relevant time.”
This was also despite Messer’s daughter, after the investment rose to $1.5 million, contacting an AMMA representative James Forrestel to say her father “did not understand the investments, had no paperwork and did not wish to invest further in Guvera.”
But the court was told that Forrestel had ignored her advice, and had accompanied Messer to his bank to break tern deposits so he could invest more in Guvera.
Justice Davies described Forrestel’s behaviour as “exploitative and manipulative” of Messer.
AMMA rejected the accusations, saying in court that Messer “confirmed that he understood the nature of the music streaming application and the business model of Guvera” and that their investor “asked detailed questions about the investments which indicated that he understood the nature and risks associated with purchasing the shares and [that he] had researched [Guvera’s] business model.”
The Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) told The Australian the regulator was “taking a close and active interest in the fundraising activities of Guvera and associated parties”.
The investigation was related to Guvera raising $180 million before trying, and being refused, a billion-dollar ASX listing in 2016.
Guvera collapsed a year after, owing 3,000 investors $185 million.
When ordering the entire money be paid back, Justice Davies said the shares in Guvera were “at all times worthless” and that Messer could never have sold them for any value.