Investors still unable to get back $200M from Bill Lewski’s Prime Trust’s collapse

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Investors seeking $200 million compensation over the collapse of Bill Lewski’s Prime Retirement and Aged Care Property Trust in 2010, are still chasing their money a decade later.

In February 2018, Mr Lewski paid nothing to walk away from $190 million in civil claims brought against him, his fellow directors and advisers to Prime Trust. There was no money for the 9,000 unitholders in the trust who had invested $550 million.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) told the investors its authorisation to make decisions under a scheme designed to compensate people for bad decisions by regulators expired in 2015.

ASIC referred the investors to Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg. However, Treasury officials and Jane Hume, the Financial Services Minister, have told investors that Mr Frydenberg is unable to make a decision because it would interfere with ASIC’s independence.

The bureaucratic impasse is yet another blow for long-suffering investors in the Prime Retirement and Aged Care Property Trust, who have spent more than a decade trying to recover some of the money they poured into the group, without success.

In their claim for compensation, the investors state ASIC should never have trusted Prime Trust’s Founder Mr Lewski, to run an investment group using other people’s money.

Mr Lewski, who drives a Porsche and lives in Melbourne’s upmarket seaside suburb of Brighton, withdrew an alleged $93 million from Prime Trust.  

The Federal Court in October 2019 reinstated the original penalties and corporate director bans, less time already served, on Mr Lewski, Mark Butler, Kim Jaques and former Liberal Party Health Minister Dr Michael Wooldridge.

Mr Lewski was disqualified from managing a company for more than 13 years and fined $230,000 and Mr Butler and Mr Jaques were each disqualified for two years and 134 days and each fined $20,000.