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MR WARD’S DEFENCE, Issue 10430, 27 September 1897
MR WARD’S DEFENCE
The following is a fuller report of the Hon. J. G. Ward’s statement at the adjourned meeting of his creditors at Invercargill:— The Bankrupt said he presumed no one would object to him saying a word or two. He him self had listened to and very carefully read the report of Mr Brown, the accountant, who had been unable to discover any such statement as that indicated by Mr Ramsay that proper books had not been kept by him. When ho first met the creditors he said ho had the balance-sheets complete up to the date on which he ceased business, and the last balance-sheet for the business of J. G. Ward, giving complete information, was furnished to Sir Brown by him immediately after his arrival here'and before the investigation. After the commencement of the Farmers’ Association he was not engaged actively in business, the only operations that could be called business being the frozen meat works. He had disposed of those works at or about the time of the commencement of the Farmers’ Association, and he had all along held the opinion that he was not personally in business, but as a matter of fact-and he thought it only fair to claim it, and the liquidators should admit it—Mr Brown had had before him every item of J. G. .Ward and of his current account from the commencement of the Ward Association, which had been produced from the ledger account in the books of the Association, from which the old ledgering, if considered necessary to complete the posting of the books, could be done in a short time if ordinary accountants were employed. He did not care who the accountant was, whether ho was prejudiced or not—he maintained that the whole of the books of J. G, Ward were complete business bobks in every essential. There was not a book that a merchant should have kept but was amongst those now in the possession of the Assignee and if anyone made a statement that he did not keep proper books, it was not in accordance with tact. From the date of the stoppage of the J. G. Ward business his own personal account, kept in their ledgers, contained every item that was necessary to complete the posting of the books if it was thought de-icable to do it. He would take that opportunity of mentioning that he had listened to Mr Brown’s report whir very great pleasure. Mr Brown was, until after his visit here, entirely, a stranger to him, and was said to be a man very strongly opposed to him ; hut the report disclosed the fact that he was a fair man, and a thoroughly competent accountant, having done his work without prejudice. He had gathered information regarding a very large business in a manner which would enable anyone to get a knowledge of the position. He desired to direct attention to some of the facts placed before the meeting by'. Mr Brown. In table “A” a statement was furnished by Mr Brown showing that his (Mr Ward’s) private receipts paid into the account up to that time for three years were over £12,000, which proved that what he had all along said—that his earnings were more than sufficient to pay interest on all he wanted, and also reduce his indebtedness—was absolutely correct. Ho had given a statement of dividends, salaries, etc., showing that he had paid in' £12,000 himself; and while the Ward Farmers' Association went to the good £13,600, the Colonial Bank went to the bad only £37,000, which showed incontrovertibly that his position improved to the extent of £6,518 during the three years, and that period vas the most difficult that he or the district had passed through so far as business was concerned. He did not want to shirk any responsibility that might rest on him, and he had kept his present position whether he was responsible for it or not. In the statement before the meeting Mr Brown said tho loss on shares was £12,614, and ■ there was further down,in Mr Brown’s statement the liability of £16,000 on Nelson Bros ’ shares. As a matter of.fact there would be a loss of at least £14,000 to £15,000 on Nelson’s shares and pcssibly more, as they were at present not saleable. If they called to loss £14.000, that would make his los ses on shares £57,614 which included interest, rightly charged by Mr Brown, pf £I,OOO. He had to fight his battles over tho matter, and he did not think they would take exception to his referring at some length to it. If they were to analyse those shares they would find that £53,000 to £54,000 was Inst owing to the fact that the Ward Association was forced into bankruptcy. The interest on every one of those shares was being earned, and would hgve continued to he earned, except in the case ox Nelson Bros.'shares, which did not return any interest for a few years, if the position ho was now in had not been foiced upon him. He was not finding fault, but was stating what an absolute fact. In connection with that matter he wanted to say something, and he thought the liquidators should confirm what he would state. Mr Cook had already done so in the Supreme Court in Dunedin. There was a possible deduction that might have been drawn from the statement dealing with the £20,000 paid into the account at the Colonial Bank. Mr Cook had stated publicly in the Supreme Court that no imputation in any way could be levelled against him (Jlr Ward) that the funds had been used improperly or bad not keen accounted for fully. Tfis questio i had been put to Mr Brown to slate whether there were any grounds, and, if there were, what grounds, for suspecting that Mr Ward received money during the period he had to deal with and had not accounted for it. Mr Brown's reply was that there were no grounds for any suspicion that any money during the period under review had been unaccounted for beyond that drawn in the ordinary course. They would find that his account at the Colonial Bank did not increase after the £20,000 was paid in, and that was an emphatic answer to those who might make the imputation that there had been an improper use of any of the money referred to. Mr Cook had been good enough to acquit him in Dunedin, and Mr Brown had done the same in his report, and he (Mr Ward) now asked Mr Ramsay, on behalf of the official liquidators of the Colonial Bank, also to endorse the statements of Mr Cook and Mr Brown, ls up matter how much people disagreed with hirn he thought that an unwarranted stigma in connection with that particular matter should, out of fairness, be removed. He might state that during the whole of the time he was in business he never at "any period made an investment for his wife or family excepting one, which appeared plainly in the current account in the Ward Association books, and a copy of whiph h e cpnt tp tho Assignee with his original statement. ” Tho amount was £IOO, 'and side by 'side with that fact, while it was not compulsory for him to do it, he bad got properties transferred from his wife to the value of £2,700, and put them at the back of the Ward Farmers’ account and his owp. The only investment that he had ever made, so jar as his family was concerned, directly or indirectly, from his earnings, was one of £IOO, and be had not transferred or made over any properties tp either his wife or family. He was not going to refer to what had occurred at the last meeting, further than to the matter
of the furniture in his house. At the fr sent moment every item paid for furniture by him 'vouM he found in the hooks, and he could with confidence say that there was not £25 worth paid for by him from either his business earnings or official salaries. Their furniture included presents from their friends immediately after their marriage. He was not going to allow anyone to say that he had been using money out ot his business for private purposes, though he was in trouble. It was a very ea>y matter under such circumstance as his to criticise a man engaged in a large business. He, however, was no gambler or drunkard, and bad not wasted money privately on himself or family. He had made mistakes, hut no one could say that he had done an intentionally wrong thing. In his conduct of his business affairs he had had a first-class staff of accountants and clerks, and he had never superintended the books nor interfered, nor had he ever made an entry in them. Ho had not tried to shiik his debts, nor sought tho protection of the Bankruptcy Court voluntarily. Circumstances had driven him into that Court, and it remained to be seen whether those to whom he was responsible for the payment of the money were going to get him through and allow him an opportunity of trying to pay as much as he could. He was not afraid.- At the least, he would be able to reduce the indebtedness. He hod never asked to be relieved of any burdens, and while he was on that subject he might mention that there had been a great deal ot talk about the amount of his indebtedness to the Colonial Bank and of the Association to the Bank, but, adding the two together, they approximately were £150,000 They had before them a statement of Mr Brown showing that the assets were worth £103.000 when he gave up business, but those snarlers who were continually pointing to his liabilities of £BO,OOO conveniently omitted to mention what assets there were against the amount. They kept all that in the background, and while they sirgled him out as a subject for bitter comment tbev kept their mouths shut on the matter of the £3,000,000 which had been 10,-t to two institutions in the colony by those who were howling at and criticising him. He had been largely responsible in saving thousands of traders in the colony from financial" disaster, and he had received the testimony of numerous people that he had averted a great disaster, some of whom, strangely enough, had been the first, when they were made safe, to turn round on him and attack him by whatever means wore at their disposal. He was not referring to the liquidators, who were, of course, carrying on their official duties to tho best of their judgment and ability. There were people outside the two institutions altogether who had never had any transaction with him, but who had got themselves very much out of joint and had down all in their power to press him down as much as they possibly could. Though now in a very embarrassed and unenviable position, he had no doubt he would ovoicomc the greatest of the troubles he had surrounding him. but be did not wish to dwell further on that aspect of the matter. He was glad of the opportunity of refening to the report of Mr Brown, who was an accountant at tho head of his profession, and his work upon tho face of it showed that he was a man who was unbiased and understood his business- thoroughly. ‘Southland No.vs.’
MR WARD’S DEFENCE, Issue 10430, 27 September 1897
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