Storm Financial battle begins

IF PEOPLE who lost their homes in the Storm Financial collapse had instead lost them in a bushfire, would the government reaction have been different?

Sunshine Coast police officer Sean McArdle, who was among 3000 clients who lost more than $3.5 billion when share markets fell in 2008, told a large crowd of victims at Redcliffe on Tuesday night he had no doubt the nationwide response would be "like nothing we've ever seen before".

But he said this "tragedy" was not treated with the same compassion and victims, many small-time mum and dad investors with little understanding of the financial industry, instead had been viewed as greedy.

Sydney law firm Levitt Robinson is running a class action against the Commonwealth Bank and Macquarie Bank for about 650 Storm victims.

The action will run alongside the Australian Securities and Investments Commission case which alleges the CBA, Macquarie and Bank of Queensland supported Storm's unregistered managed investment scheme.

The banks deny the allegations.

Hundreds of Storm victims are expected to converge on the Federal Court in Brisbane for the start of the three-month case on Monday, though the case could be delayed a further week if legal argument has not been resolved by then.

They have been told they could recoup more than $1 billion if the action is successful.

Mr McArdle, who this week has been slapped with a $1.2 million counter claim for mortgage and margin loan repayments from the Commonwealth Bank, urged people to disregard this move.

"You have other things to worry about like looking after yourselves and your families," he said.

"This has been going on for four years and the toll on you all, personally, is immeasurable.

"The harm this institution is doing to Australian families is wrong."

Lawyer Stewart Levitt told the crowd he was dedicated to this "human rights case".

He said these victims had battled their way through life to fund a healthy financial future and had, instead, found themselves in the same socio-economic predicament as those oppressed for other human rights reasons.

"You don't have to be black to have human rights, you don't have to be poor, you have to be oppressed by a large institution which doesn't respect you and takes advantage of you," he said.

"That's a human rights case and you fit the bill.

"You worked hard all your life and you trusted some of the most important pillars of our financial system, some of the major trading banks.

"Unfortunately, they haven't been kept in check by the regulators or the government.

"Storm was under absolute scrutiny by ASIC in November, 2007.

"Now they're prosecuting them for the very thing they failed to address and could have prevented.

"They said they were bringing these proceedings to set a new moral and legal bar for the provision of financial services and products in Australia.

"You are the battlers against the banks.

"This is an unprecedented example of people taking responsibility for themselves for their own mistakes and injustices rort against them.

"The truth will be told unless the banks determine there's a fair and equitable settlement and they put teeth in the promise 'Where right has been done we will make it right'.

"We know what's in your records is often falsified, often by Storm planners or by bank officers.

"It's not what you told them, it's what they told you that's on trial in this case."

Mr McArdle urged the victims to dig deeper to fund the lengthy legal battle.

"You have a unique opportunity to stick it to the biggest bank in Australia and their counterparts," he said.

"We have the case, the evidence, the legal team and the venue to make a stunning victory occur".



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