Debt Collection Agency Raided
November 15th 2004 (Sydney Morning Herald)
One of Australia's largest debt-collection companies has been raided by the Independent Commission Against Corruption.
Officers from the ICAC's Operation Argus executed a search warrant on the O'Connell Street offices of the Portfolio Management Group (PMG) last Friday. Boxes of documents, computer hard drives and telephone records were taken away.
A senior employee of PMG has told the Herald that the company had illegally obtained information on debtors from a senior officer at the Roads and Traffic Authority, as well as from sources inside the Australian Taxation Office.
The employee also claimed that staff at PMG regularly obtained confidential information from various banks about individuals who owed money to other financial institutions.
Yesterday the company's chief executive officer, Geoff Harper, denied there had been "any authorisation by me or the company for the use ... of inappropriately obtained information".
Mr Harper also said he was unaware of anyone within his company who had inappropriately sourced information.
When asked about the nature of the ICAC's raid on PMG's office, Mr Harper said
the raid was "a broad RTA issue" but that he was "totally in the dark" as to what it had to do with his organisation.
An RTA spokeswoman yesterday confirmed the authority was aware of the ICAC's investigation.
According to PMG's website, the group is "a successful and highly skilled company that specialises in the purchase, recovery and management of primarily consumer distressed and delinquent debt from credit originators".
PMG receives a commission for collecting unpaid debts, for instance on credit cards, personal loans or outstanding bills. Its clients include the Commonwealth Bank, American Express and the phone company AAPT.
The second arm of PMG's business involves the purchase of bad debts from large banking and financial organisations for between 10 and 20 cents in the dollar. PMG then attempts to track down the individual debtor to recover the money owed.
The major shareholders in PMG are the insolvency firm Sims Lockwood and Deutsche Bank's private equity and venture capital division, DB Capital Partners, which owns 40 per cent of PMG.
Twelve years ago, an ICAC investigation revealed a multi-million-dollar trade in confidential government information.