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Macquarie targets one Devon departee

Macquarie and its subsidiary Brook Asset Management have issued proceedings against its previous executive director Mel Firmin and his new employer Devon Funds Management, following the resignation of three of its key staff to take up positions at Devon.

Wednesday, July 7th 2010, 5:00AM

by Jenha White

The notice of proceeding and statement of claim was made by Brook Asset Management and Macquarie on 15 June and the first conference in the High Court against Firmin and Devon will be on 17 August.

Macquarie sent out a letter in early June to investors alleging there had been breaches of fiduciary obligations by departing members of the investment team.

Devon Funds Management executive chairman Paul Glass says he understands Macquarie has now retracted the allegations against the members of the investment team, Slade Robertson and Chris Gaskin and now Macquarie is taking Firmin, who is not a member of the investment team and Devon to court about an employee related matter that has "no substance whatsoever".

"It's a bizarre action and in my view the only purpose is to bully Mel. Their aim seems to be to cause stress to the departing employee and despite requests by Mel and Devon for Brook or Macquarie to provide any evidence to support its allegations, absolutely nothing has been produced.

"The link to Devon is exceptionally tenuous and we've sought advice and been told reliably that the proceeding is without merit and is an abuse of process.

"It is something of no concern to Devon whatsoever."

Glass said he could not comment further on what the proceedings are about.

Brook did not want to comment on the legal proceedings but its barrister Stephen Langton said the case had been served and proceedings filed in the High Court.

Glass has history with Brook as its co-founder with Simon Botherway until 2007 when Brook was sold to Macquarie Group.

Glass returned from gardening leave in March and acquired Goldman Sachs JBW Asset Management renaming the business Devon Funds Management.

Last month Glass announced that Brook's Mel Firmin, Chris Gaskin and Slade Robertson had resigned from Brook to join him and own equity in Devon.

Firmin was the executive director of Brook, while Gaskin and Robertson were directly responsible for managing funds holding over $1 billion in Australian equities.

This announcement resulted in Morningstar putting Brook's Alpha and Tasman strategies on ‘avoid' because the remaining analysts in the Tasman fund were "capable and experienced" but lacked portfolio management and were at risk of leaving Brook as well.

Firmin has started at Devon as the managing director and Robertson as a portfolio manager. Gaskin is to start on September 1 as a portfolio manager.

Jenha is a TPL staff reporter. jenha@tarawera.co.nz

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