Appeal reduces sentence for Sam Spence

On 30 September 2021 the sentence handed down to Sam Oliver Spence on 5 May 2020 for breaching insolvency and companies laws was reduced on appeal.

Background

Between 2011 and 2018 Mr Spence was the director of, or involved in the management of, several roofing companies which operated under the trade name “Compass Roofing”, including Compass Roofing Ltd, Compass Group Ltd and Caspian Engineering Ltd. 

Through his mismanagement of these companies, Mr Spence caused significant losses to the companies themselves, totalling over $1,000,000. He also caused losses of over $1,000,000 to creditors, including the Inland Revenue Department through unpaid tax, as well as to customers, some of whom paid thousands of dollars for work which was never done or done in a defective manner.

Mr Spence managed the various Compass Roofing entities until they incurred significant debt and became insolvent. He would then place the company into liquidation, but before the liquidator took control, he would transfer the assets to a new company at a significant undervalue and divert money the company received in order to continue trading under the Compass Roofing brand, thereby engaging in phoenix company offending. 

Mr Spence was adjudicated bankrupt in February 2018, meaning that he could not be a director of, or take part in, the management of a company without the consent of the Official Assignee. To avoid this restriction Mr Spence’s de facto partner Jessica Brechelt became the named director and the face of the various Compass Roofing entities. However, in this role she permitted Mr Spence to continue managing the business under the guise of being employed as a quantity surveyor.

For her role in this offending, Ms Brechelt was sentenced in the Auckland District Court on 16 January 2020 to 6 months’ community detention, 150 hours community work and 12 months supervision on charges of being a director of a phoenix company. This included for aiding or abetting Mr Spence to take part in the management of a phoenix company, and aiding or abetting Mr Spence to take part in the management of a business whilst bankrupt. 

Once his financial mismanagement had come to light, Mr Spence refused to comply with both the liquidators and the Official Assignee. He failed to provide the liquidators with the books and records of the liquidated companies, failed to provide a statement of affairs setting out his financial position to the Official Assignee, and misled the Official Assignee.  His non-compliance was further aggravated by the racist, sexual and homophobic abuse which he directed towards the liquidator. 

His abusive behaviour continued throughout 2018, with threats being directed towards elderly and vulnerable customers, creditors and other people whom Mr Spence came into contact with during the course of his management of Compass Roofing. 

“Mr Spence has persistently breached his obligations and responsibilities as a director, and then as a bankrupt. He has caused real harm in the community, including to vulnerable consumers. The sentence he has received, which follows a thorough investigation by MBIE’s Integrity and Enforcement team, provides an emphatic message that this type of financial mismanagement and fraudulent conduct will not be tolerated,” said Registrar of Companies and Official Assignee, Ross van der Schyff.

Sentencing — 5 May 2020

On 5 May 2020, Sam Oliver Spence, a roofing contractor who operated predominantly in the Auckland region, was sentenced in the Auckland District Court to 5 years and 6 months imprisonment on 11 charges filed under the Companies Act 1993 and Insolvency Act 2006.

This was the first prosecution in New Zealand for serious breach of director’s duties under s 138A of the Companies Act, and also included breaches of the Companies Act phoenix trading provisions. 

The judge considered that a sentence below the maximum sentence of 5 years imprisonment available for any one charge would not reflect the seriousness of Mr Spence’s offending, which he described as prolonged and systemic and with a calculated criminal aspect.

Sentencing — 13 August 2020

Not included in the matters that Mr Spence was sentenced for on 5 May 2020 were charges of attempting to pervert the course of justice and forgery. These charges arose from a fraudulent statement which Mr Spence filed with the Court in an attempt to secure his continued bail whilst the Companies and Insolvency Act charges were before the Court. 

Sentencing for the charges of attempting to pervert the course of justice and forgery took place in the Auckland District Court on 13 August 2020. At this hearing Mr Spence was sentenced to an additional 10 months’ imprisonment, which was to be served cumulatively on that handed down on 5 May 2020. This took his overall sentence to 6 years, 1 months’ imprisonment.

Appeal — 24 August 2021

On 24 August 2021 Mr Spence’s appeal was heard and allowed in part. The court found that the starting point was too high and that insufficient discount was allowed for personal mitigating factors. The sentence handed down on 5 May 2020 was replaced with a sentence of 3 years, 9 months, imprisonment. The 10 months’ imprisonment for charges of attempting to pervert the course of justice and forgery was not subject to appeal and remain unchanged, meaning that Mr Spence’s overall term of imprisonment is 4 years, 7 months.     

Mr Spence remains an undischarged bankrupt, and following his conviction is automatically disqualified from being a director or promoter of, or taking part in the management of a company for a period of 5 years.

Offences

Mr Spence was convicted of the following offences:

  • Serious breach of director’s duties (x 2) – Companies Act 1993, s 138A;
  • Taking part in the management of a phoenix company (x 2) – Companies Act 1993, s 386A;
  • Being a director of a phoenix company – Companies Act 1993, s 386A;
  • Failing to file a statement of affairs – Insolvency Act 2006, ss 67 and 433;
  • Misleading the official assignee – Insolvency Act 2006, s 440;
  • Failing to comply with a s 261 notice (x 2) – Companies Act 1993, s 261;
  • Taking part in the management of a company whilst bankrupt (x 2) – Insolvency Act 2006, ss 149 and 436;
  • Making a forged document (representative) – Crimes Act 1961, s 256(2); and
  • Attempting to pervert the course of justice (representative) – Crimes Act 1961, s 117(e)

Related news

Fraudulent roofing contractor Sam Oliver Spence imprisoned for breaches of company and insolvency laws
Published 7 May 2020

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