Hugh Wildman would not be offended, we believe, if he was characterised as one of those persons who doesn't see a spotlight before which he can resist casting himself. Not literally, of course.
Yet, we confess, even for Mr Wildman, to have been surprised when he turned up at the Supreme Court earlier this week - in whatever capacity he calls it - to plead on behalf of Mr Carlos Hill.
Mr Hill used to run an outfit called Cash Plus Limited, which is presumed to have been a Ponzi scheme that bilked investors of billions of dollars. He is charged with fraud in a case that should have started last week but, thanks to Mr Wildman, was delayed.
First, we wish to make it clear that we do not pronounce on Mr Hill's innocence or guilt. That is for the court. But there are matters worthy of public discussion, not least Hugh Wildman's conduct.
Cash Plus was declared bankrupt. Mr Wildman, an attorney, was until recently the company's trustee in bankruptcy. He had an obligation to pursue the interest of the company and those who had investments therein. We interpret that obligation to include pursuing justice for the shareholders in the broadest possible sense and to the full extent that the law allows.
In terms of the practical application, Mr Wildman and ourselves apparently differ on that obligation.
When he appeared at what should have been the start of Mr Hill's trial, it was to tell the judge that, one, Mr Hill had identified substantial amounts of money with which to reimburse his aggrieved former clients some of their cash; and, two, that he was retained by Mr Hill to assist in the liquidation process. Another lawyer for Mr Hill subsequently reported that a so far publicly unnamed foundation would cough up US$75 million.
The spotlight shines!
If this deal comes through, Mr Wildman will undoubtedly share some of the credit for what he failed to achieve while he was liquidator and trustee in bankruptcy, during which time he suggested, on a number of occasions, that he was just about to get his hands on lumps of cash. Now, as then, we have our doubts. We hope to be proven wrong.
There are a number of issues that beg explanation.
Why, for instance, would it have required Mr Wildman to inform a judge that Mr Hill was coming into money to meet his obligations, and/or to ask for an adjournment to the case?
Further, it seems inexplicable that it was allowed.
We wonder what would be the position if the prosecution in Mr Hill's fraud case was to deem it desirable to call Mr Wildman as a witness in his capacity as the former liquidator of Cash Plus. That option now seems to be severely compromised.
We know that Mr Wildman says that he was not being paid by Mr Hill - but from whom, or on whose behalf, he would have received instructions. Further, Mr Wildman suggests, he was acting in the interest of the Cash Plus depositors. So, he insists, there is no conflict of interest.
We do not know the canons of Mr Wildman's profession, but we understand the notion of accountable, moral conduct, including their seepage to conflicts. In that sense, Mr Wildman stands on moral quicksand.
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