Our Sydney stirrer, Crullers, went along to see Brad Cooper’s first three hours in the witness box at the HIH Royal Commission. Crullers was the lone voice of dissent in calling for Cooper to be removed from the Collingwood board back at their December AGM, and after seeing Cooper in the flesh, feels thoroughly vindicated.

Crullers had never seen anything of Brad Cooper when, at the Collingwood Football Club’s AGM, Crullers asked Eddie Everywhere whether “we” (i.e. the club of which Crullers was pretending to be a member) were getting value having Coops on the board.

Crullers based this solely on the fact that Cooper had attended a mere 9 out of the 13 board meetings during the year, wasn’t at the AGM because he was up to his glazed over eyeballs thanks to HIH troubles and had been whacked with a fine by the AFL for dancing on the MCG during a Barnesy performance.

If Crullers had seen Cooper’s HIH Royal Commission testimony before the Collingwood AGM, he not only would have called for a petition of members to remove him from the board, he would have called for ASIC to bar him from all company directorships.

Loathe as I am to use this space to engage in personal insults, Cooper is quite clearly an idiot.

He simply does not have the mental faculties to run the corner milk bar (or its modern equivalent, the so-called “Convenience Store”), let alone a multi-million dollar concern.

Cooper may have once run a successful business (or been able to sell something as such) and been a motivational speaker who people would shell out hundreds of dollars to see. But his scatter-brained testimony in front of the HIH Royal Commission suggests that if he once had a savvy business noggin, it is now completely fried.

Compare that to Jamie Packer’s testimony in front of the OneTel inquiry.

I was reasonably critical of Jamie’s first three hours in the stand, but on reading back over my notes (yes, believe it or not, I do take notes – and keep them!) I’d have to say Jamie held up pretty well under an intense grilling.

He was obviously well prepared to answer the predictable questions, his memory didn’t fail him all that often and certainly only when it would be unreasonable to expect him to remember intricate details from years back. And despite counsel trying to back Jamie into a corner and pounce, there weren’t that many occasions where counsel scored a decisive victory.

Cooper’s position may be harder to defend because he is arguably more directly responsible for his worries than Jamie was for OneTel, but his performance was a zero out of ten by comparison to Jamie.

Aside from not being adequately prepared for the more obvious questions, he didn’t understand counsel’s questioning on numerous occasions, his answers were often self-contradictory and he said many things which were just plain stupid.

Ominous signs early for Cooper

The day didn’t start well for Coops.

Crullers was seated at 9:30 on the dot and the judge, Justice Neville Owen, got things going about 9:35. When Cooper was called a couple of minutes later, he was nowhere to be seen. A few heads turned and then he bustled in a minute or so after he’d been called.

Late for a court appearance?

Not good form.

Having seen plenty of company directors in action at AGMs and Jamie’s solid performance at OneTel, Cooper was seriously underwhelming.

He is just not a polished performer.

It shouldn’t count for much – Crullers is very much a substance over style man – but how anyone in business could get suckered into a Brad Cooper business is beyond Crullers. Perhaps in the distant past he may have had some substance (or the smarts to gloss over any flaws), but now that that is not apparent, the style just won’t carry him.

Missing board meetings, AGMs and turning up late to and bumbling your way through court appearances are largely matters of style, but in Crullers’ book they count volumes.

The role of company directors

Coops has a curious take on what the role of company directors is.

He was talking about a charity that he and Rodney were involved in, the Kindness Foundation.

When asked whether Rodney was involved in running it, Coops said “Rodney wasn’t involved in running it – he was on the board of it”!!

If Brad’s idea of directors’ responsibilities is that they don’t run their companies, is it any wonder FAI Home Security collapsed?!

The Kindness Foundation has a warm and fuzzy new-age feel about it that sounds like it could have been the brain child of Jo Dee Rich.

It was promoted, initially in schools, for people to perform “random acts of kindness”. There was only ever one “Kindness Week”, which took a year to organise, and the planned second “Kindness Week”, as Coops explained, “for a variety of reasons wasn’t promoted”.

Not too sure what he means by “wasn’t promoted”, but I think it means it just never happened.

Well, the “variety of reasons” are now patently obvious, aren’t they?

The people on the board didn’t actually “run” the dang old thing!

What’s in a name?

Nothing much as far as Coops is concerned, apparently.

Coops has a bit of a problem remembering names, even well known ones.

Twice he referred to PricewaterhouseCoopers as “Coopers Price Waterhouse”.

What sort of “businessman” can’t get right the name of one of the four biggest accounting firms in the world?

Twice he referred to the slightly lesser-known merchant spankers and vulture capitalists SG Hambros as “S and G Hambros”.

He couldn’t remember the name of the broking firm who were responsible for the listing of Home Security International on NASDAQ.

Unimportant details like that were beyond him.

In fairness though, listing on the second biggest US stock exchange is a mere blip in the life of a small Aussie company, so it’s unreasonable of us to get Cooper to recall the fine details.

And Crullers was only there for the first three hours – God help Coops later in the day after 6 hours on the stand!

What’s in a date?

About as much as what’s in a name, it seems.

Coops was led a merry dance by counsel assisting the inquiry, Mr Martin, over the date when Rodney joined the board of Home Security International.

He insisted after a couple of questions that it was in April 2000.

After asking whether he was sure about that, Mr Martin tendered as evidence a fax sent by Coops to our Rodney in December 1999, congratulating Rodney on joining the board.

While it is nitpicking to be critical of Coops for getting his dates muddled from two and a half years ago, this was a material fact and one that he should have brushed up on before taking the stand.

The difference between Jamie’s OneTel preparation and Coops’ HIH preparation was never more evident than on this doozy.

Incidentally, in that very same fax, Cooper made the comment that he looked forward to “many good times travelling to and from New York together as we build our global security business”.

What the heck does this mean?

Cooper was legendary for throwing huge shindigs on train rides from Brisbane to Sydney, perhaps he and Rodney enjoyed their own quiet in-flight soirees?!

But for the grace of Rodney, we would have collapsed

Coops confirmed that Home Security International would probably have never got off the ground if not for Adler’s support, FAI put Cooper and the company in a position where they would be able to succeed financially and HIH continued to provide support without which HSI would have collapsed.

And, last but not least, Cooper agreed that HIH’s support would not have come about without the intervention of Rodney Adler and that HSI had cost HIH “a lot of money”.

No surprises there, but all necessary to set up the case against our pal, Rodney, for his part in the HIH collapse.

The “blank cheque story” – oh it’s true, it’s true

Cooper was asked whether the “blank cheque story” was true.

This is the one doing the rounds in the financial press that Rodney Adler had apparently signed a blank cheque and given it over to Coops to fill in and help himself to a bit of assistance in the early days of FAI’s involvement in the home security business.

Today, Coops confirmed that it wasn’t just an invention of an overly-imaginative press.

But he assured us that it was a “small amount”.

Like a shag on a rock

Counsel assisting the Royal Commission spent a fair bit of time getting a grip on Bradley’s business and personal relationships with the players in HIH.

Of Rodney, he said that he’d known him approximately 10 years and that they had enjoyed a “social relationship” for part of that time, about 2 years or so where they would attend social events together. For the rest of the time, it was purely business.

On Ray Williams, Cooper was at pains several times to testify what a thorough gentleman the old fella was. But they only had a business relationship, if thoroughly cordial and polite.

He was also asked about Bill Howard, the man who last week said that Cooper had stood over him to trump up the letter about HIH’s sponsorship of the Collingwood Football Club.

Unfortunately, in the time I was there, our Brad didn’t say too much about Howard.

Instead, he had a couple of 15 or 20 minute sprays about all that was wrong with his relationship with HIH.

He dumped a bucketload on former director Dominic Fodera, saying that he’d left him 22 messages to which he had never responded, along with several emails and faxes.

He claimed that Williams entrusted Fodera with the job of getting HIH people into HSI and fixing the problems with the HSI business by getting a couple of board spots. Cooper said that Fodera would say that he would do it, but as soon as Williams left him to his own devices, Fodera would do nothing.

He also dumped on Charles Richardson, an SG Hambros advisor to HIH. Richardson had played hardball with Cooper, putting the hard word on him so that HIH could get an option to buy 50% of the shares in HSI.

Coops recounted a tale of how, around Christmas 1999, Coops got the message that Richardson was in his office, had packed the wife and kiddies away for the Christmas / New Year break, and wouldn’t leave the office until Coops gave him the option he was after.

Quite bizarre behaviour, indeed.

If Cooper had any balls, he would have told this Richo character that he could spend Christmas sulking in his office for all he cared!

A shoddy effort all up

We’ve written enough about poor old Bradley today.

But there was so much confusion, self-contradiction, inability to understand counsel’s questions, elongated pauses and general inanity in his testimony that we’ll have to go through the official transcript and provide the choice cuts when they become available on line in the next day or so, hopefully.

But Crullers’ overwhelming worry after only a few hours’ exposure to Cooper was “do people like that really run companies?”

Yes, they do.

But scarier still is that people of this calibre can get on the board of entities that are far more important than publicly listed companies – footy clubs!

We’ll have more Cooper Bloopers later this week.

Peter Fray

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