Cattles investors demand justice at AGM

ANGRY investors in troubled sub-prime lender Cattles are preparing to descend on the company's AGM tomorrow to call for the resignation of key directors.

Led by rebel shareholder Barry Dearing, the investors are demanding justice after an accounting scandal at the Batley-based lender wiped out the value of their shares.

"The main point is that nothing appears to have been done to bring the people responsible for this billion pound loss to any form of justice," said Mr Dearing.

The small shareholders said they were not impressed with the explanation given by non- executive directors that they were reassured that everything was entirely as it should have been and that there was no reason for concern.

The investors plan to make their feelings known at the AGM at 11am tomorrow morning at the Queens Hotel in Leeds.

Mr Dearing said support for his resolutions, which were proposed in December after it was decided the company would be run in the interests of creditors, has escalated in recent weeks.

There is particular anger at the news of a possible scheme of arrangement that will give shareholders no more than 1p for each share.

Mr Dearing said he has been contacted by shareholders from all over the country with expressions of support and several "significant shareholders" from Europe have voted in support.

"One large European shareholder is flying in to Leeds in an attempt to protect his investment and will join with other shareholders to ask searching questions of the directors," said Mr Dearing.

"Shareholders are fed scraps of news by the directors when it suits their purposes."

Despite their protest, the small shareholders expect to see their resolutions defeated by institutional shareholders who want an end to the debacle.

But Mr Dearing is hopeful that the number of votes cast against directors' recommendations will serve to mark the displeasure of private investors.

"Many have lost fortunes in consequence of the failures at Cattles," he said. "It may be that the institutions will finally sit up and take notice that the established pattern of non executives holding multiple appointments does not work to police the activities of executive directors."

There are also likely to be questions about the role of former auditors, PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

The shareholders are calling for the resignation of executive chairman Margaret Young, as well as non-executive directors David Haxby, Frank Dee and Alan McWalter.

They claim non-executive directors failed in their duties, let accounting errors go unnoticed and failed to act in shareholders' interests.

Shareholders at a meeting in December called for the company to be wound up, but were defeated by creditors.

Cattles has urged shareholders to vote against the special resolutions, insisting they are not in the interest of the company or its stakeholders.

"Non-executive directors have provided leadership and continuity, dealing with a range of challenges, " said Ms Young.

She said non-executives regularly challenged former executives, but were given incomplete and misleading information.

Ms Young has confirmed the group is being investigated by City watchdog the Financial Services Authority. She and Mr Haxby are up for re-election.

Last month Cattles revealed long-delayed results for 2008 which showed losses were nearly 200m higher than first thought at 745m.