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THE BANK OF NEW ZEALAND, Issue 8050, 29 October 1889
THE BANK OF NEW ZEALAND
The following letter appeared in Satur- ‘ Frees ’ over the signature of Mr G. G. Stead ;
In view of the effect which the proceedings at the Bank of New Zealand’s annual meeting may have, not only on tho bank itself but on the colony at large, it need scarcely cause surprise if the singular character of the late president’s speech, as reported in your issue of this morning, should occasion some severe strictures to be passed upon his conduct. Mr Buckley took exception “ to the balance-sheet as a whole, as not being a fair and correct statement of the liabilities and assets of the bank, as there were losses and deficiencies of long standing which were not provided for.” What amount ot confidence is to be placed in Mr Buckley's statement may best be judged by reviewing his connection with the bank. Last year Mr Buckley was appointed a member of the Shareholders’ Committee for the purpose of inquiring into the bank’s position. 11 ow prominent a member he was may be imagined from Major George’s statement at yesterday’s meeting that Mr Buckley seized two-fifths of the honorarium —the honorarium, I presume, accorded to the Investigating Committee. At all events, although Judge Gillies was nominally chairman of this committee, Mr Buckley was unquestionably its head and front, and was believed to have taken an extremely active part in conducting an investigation, which, from his recognised ability as an accountant, we may fairly assume to have been of the most minute and searching character. That it was so in Mr Buckley’s own estimation is evident from his words and actions when president of the bank after the Committee’s report was presented. So fully satisfied docs he appear to have been with the bank’s revised position that he had no hesitation in being a party to the issue of HO,OOO new shares, representing an additional paid-up capital of L 485.000. On Mr Buckley, therefore, rests a heavy re r sponsibility to the public, whom he took into his confidence, and, by vouching for the accuracy of the Committee’s figures, was instrumental in inducing to take up the new issue freely. There is no call to impugn the accuracy of these figures, and Mr Bucklev’s own subsequent policy served to confirm them. It is possible that he might in the first instance have been misled by the bank officials through the so-called inaccuracy and untrustworthiness of the returns sent in to the Investigating Committee. §i?ch ap accusation, however, at this time of day bears on the face of it the aspect of a splenetic afterthought. The fact that the Committee were not bound down to any unreasonably short time for bringing in the report, and had the amplest possible means at their disposal for making it full and accurate, would imply inexcusable negligence on Mr Buckley’s part if his present contention were correct, and throw discredit on that enormous capacity for dealing with figures which he has been supposed to possess. Further, on Mr Buckley assuming the reins of office he had abundant and varied opportunities of verifying or correcting his former conclusions. His was no wooden figurehead chairmanship, but an autocratic rule. If King Log reigned before, King Stork governed now; and it is said that presidentship, chairmanship, managing directorship—if not practically general managership — were all embodied in Mr Buckley. Nothing of importance, it may be presumed, therefore, could well be done without his sanction and supervision, nor could the bank’s policy be directed towards any particular lino of action without his cognisance. Haying enjoyed this position during the half-year edded 30fch April last, and for some time previously, he must have been at that date thoroughly qualified to amend or modify the estimate ho had formed before entering upon it, Is there anything in his recorded address at the half-yearly general meeting on the 30th April to indicate his having repented the confidence he had placed in his previous estimate, or to prepare one for the pessimistic view he now professes to take of tho bank's position ? Nothing of the sort; quite the contrary. Everything, in fact, was painted more or less couleur de rose, and it may be supposed that this sunshiny view of the aspect of affaire was less owing to Mr Buckley’s genial and hopeful temperament than to his confidence in actual facts—a confidence apparently unwarped at that time by counter irritations or ulterior motives. His address contained such expressions as the following, which, if there is any trust to be placed in Mr Buckley, we are surely entitled to regard as embodying his deliberate views; “We may congratulate ourselves on the amount of profit earned during the half-year. ■ • . The signs qf returning prosperity to which I was able to refer at our last meeting have since become more pronounced, , You will doubtless agree that I am justified in taking a confident view of the future.” Mr Buckley’s autocratic rule seems, how-
over, to have at last proved too much for his colleagues; and whilst the majority of his codirectors desired, in the true interests of the bank, to “ let the dead past bury its dead,” Mr Buckley appears to have wished its ashes to be raked up. About this time, whether precedent to, or consequent on, these differences in the Board, Mr Buckley, in spite of all his public utterances, commences to sell out the bulk of his shares and of those owned by his co-director and brother-in-law, Mr M'Loan, and moves at the Board that a transfer to the Sydney register should be authorised. Was or was not Mr Buckley aware of the impropriety, if not the illegality, of suoh a transfer, and wherein aid this attempt on his part differ from a similar improper proceeding on the part of the old Board in the matter of a transfer of shares to the London register, which he had reprehended in the strongest terms at a general meeting last year? Having unloaded to confiding Investors shares which hobelieved, according to his own present showing, from sources of knowledge private to himself as a director, to be greatly over-valued, and having practically deserted the bank, from what motives I leave the public to judge, but retaining just sufficient shares to qualify for attending the annual meeting, he appears there to have vilified the institution in a fashion the most amazing when trasted with his formerly expressed opinions. First of all Mr Buckley is trusted by the shareholders so investigate the bank’s accounts ; later on he is appointed president; after what the public had a right to assume to have been an exhaustive examination, he* is instrumental in putting forward a report which has the effpet of restoring confidence in the institution, and in inducing the public to take up a new issue of shares; after presiding over the bank’s affairs for the best part of a year, he addresses the shareholders with congratulations on its position and prospects, and yet before another halfyearly meeting has come round he takes umbrage at his colleagues, sells all his shares but five, and then, but not till then, bitterly assails the institution which, by all known laws of commercial honor, he was bound to defend and support. Surely the public will hesitate before accepting the guidance of one who, by his own showing, has pioved himself so untrustworthy a pilot and so unstable an adviser,
THE BANK OF NEW ZEALAND, Issue 8050, 29 October 1889
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