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Trivial pursuit and securities law

  • December 8th, 2007

Trivial Pursuit’s birth and infancy could never happen lawfully in modern New Zealand.

As just described on Radio New Zealand, two journalists designed the board on the back of a beer mat; they spent their savings, then multiple $1000 investments begged from friends and acquaintances (highly likely to be illegal), then amounts screwed out of creditors by offering shares in lieu of payment (definitely unlawful). The year their artist was obliged to accept shares (1982) 20,000 sets sold at around $50 each without fully covering costs. By 1984 it had taken off and 20m sets were sold.

All who kept their shares were rich.

 To do the same thing lawfully in New Zealand today (bank funding being unlikely because the odds of success were so low) they would have needed between $50 – $100k for lawyers and accountants before raising a dollar toward the dies and marketing materials the investors want to pay for.

My colleagues at Chapman Tripp and I have a dream – to write an opt-out code for SME capital raising that walks right past the idiotic rules that so frustrate would be business developers.

We would not abolish the monstrous edifice that is securities law. That would absorb too much wasted political energy.  Too many well meaning folk have invested too much in creating it to admit that it has no verifiable net value. Too many people make their living out of ‘protection payments’ guiding businesses through its unreasoning complexities.

 So our code would have an obsessional focus on ensuring harsh practical penalties for dishonesty (knowing deception) and informed consent to risk. Otherwise it would codify procedures ordinary decent people follow when they’re given free choice, not what theoreticians think they should do.

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