Mega-claims don’t have a happy history in Australian courts. Ask Kerry Stokes. Ask John Maconochie.

At least Stokes had the money to have his many days in court. Maconochie’s massive Idoport action against NAB – he was after $50 billion or so – failed in 2001 when he ran out of cash while pursuing the bank over alleged breach of a contract to develop an electronic trading platform for it.

We’ll never really know the merits of Idoport’s case as the NAB demanded the company post a $60 million surety when its legal bills began to add up to that amount. Marvellous how expensive the legal system can be if you’re fighting a big bank with battalions of lawyers checking, cross-checking, examining and then re-examining every syllable.

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Idoport couldn’t raise the security so NAB’s lawyers bulldozed ahead, obtaining barring orders and such and eventually seeking to have Idoport wound up.

Idoport’s case was good enough to get the nod from Einstein J to proceed in the first place – against NAB’s best efforts, of course – and to convince OAMPS to blow a few million in backing the legal action. (As a bemusing footnote, OAMPS finished up having to pay NAB $2.95 million and give it all its banking business for four years – bet that’s a happy banker-client relationship.)

Maconochie has been nothing if not dogged. He tried to have another go in 2005 with another backer, but it looks like the legal curtain finally came down on him in the NSW Supreme Court yesterday, unnoticed amongst the rustle of expensive silk and learned counsel.

Idoport was trying to stop NAB winding the company up with an interesting argument along the lines that the $63,789.154.88 in legal costs should be offset against $414 million the NAB owes Idoport, and thus NAB is not a creditor and can’t have Idoport wound up.

Yes, but no. Young CJ noted many of Idoport’s arguments, but eventually came down on the big bank’s side.

It’s been quite a saga, but it looks like the final curtain is but days away. The legal system has worked the way it does. Whether there was justice, well, that’s another matter.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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