The ABC is being taken to court over a 7.30 story that allegedly showed “reckless indifference to the truth”. A wealthy Brisbane businessman and the ABC are set to face off in a court showdown about news stories he claims cost him millions of dollars. Kevin Young, the founder of the Property Club real estate investment advice service, is suing the national broadcaster for damages.
In documents lodged with the Federal Court, Mr Young, dubbed “Australia’s most successful property investor” on his website, alleges ABC stories published in 2014 about him and the business made him look like a fraud.
According to the documents, the stories published online and broadcast on the 7.30 program allegedly made it appear that Mr Young and his business, previously known as The Investors Club (TIC), “acted fraudulently by preparing loan documents for a retired couple which they knew contained false and overstated financial information”.
The ABC stories are also alleged to have made it look like Mr Young and his businesses conduct caused the couple to lose their life savings.
Court documents state that Mr Young or his business did not prepare any loan documents for the couple, nor did they act fraudulently or have any responsibility for the couple’s financial loss.
The ABC denies the stories conveyed any of those meanings, however in court documents prepared by the broadcaster’s legal team, it was acknowledged that an online version of the story about Mr Young’s business had been “amended” in December 2014.
Originally, the ABC story said lawyers representing the retired couple had alleged “TIC, a branch manager and mortgage broker secured loans using falsified documents”. Court documents state the ABC changed the story to say “lawyers … allege that a mortgage broker involved in the scheme secured loans using falsified documents”.
Around the same time that change was made, a further editor’s note was attached to the bottom of the online story, making it clear the allegation about falsifying documents was made against an unnamed mortgage broker and not Mr Young or his business.
Another editor’s note was placed on the story in 2015, noting the retired couple at the centre of the 7.30 story had settled the legal case referred to in the report and judgment was entered in favour of The Investors Club and the mortgage broker.
The ABC acted maliciously and showed “reckless indifference to the truth or falsity” of what representations were made to them regarding the story, court documents lodged on behalf of Mr Young state.
In response the ABC says it denies it was recklessly indifferent, motivated by an improper purpose or that it “knew any of the statements made or conveyed by the publications were false”.
Regarding the claim for damages, court documents filed on behalf of the ABC state the broadcaster believes that even if Mr Young incurred a loss “it does not follow that that was as a consequence of the representations alleged” in the news stories.
Mr Young claims after the ABC stories were aired the ANZ bank changed its mind about offering him a $20m loan and the bank’s move forced him to sell numerous residential properties as forced sales to reduce a $10m debt owned to the National Australia Bank.
“Since the broadcast of the publications, inquiries to the applicants business have significantly fallen and the applicants income has been substantially reduced,” court documents submitted on behalf of Mr Young state.
The case was mentioned during a brief hearing at the Federal Court on Thursday. The court heard a final hearing into the dispute is expected to run for a week. After hearing from ABC barrister Grace Keesing and Mr Young’s barrister Kieran Smark SC, Justice Michael Wigney set October 24 as the hearing start date.
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