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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 70

[Valuations on page 4 of pamphlet.]

Valuations on page 4 of pamphlet.

A few examples will show how disingenuously these have been put before you.

No. 11.—Owing, £l,607; Dobson's Valuation, Nil; Realised, £614.

My report states, "No. 11 filed schedule in February, 1890. I understand that the validity of the deed held by the Company has been questioned, and that the debt is likely to show a total loss."

This information was written down by me from the Managed dictation; he did not show me the deed which represented the security, as he said it was valueless.

The fact was that the deed had never been registered. (I believe Mr Bartleman was blameless in the matter). Eventually the Company got a dividend of 4s 11d in the £.

No. 12.—Owing, £145; Dobson's Valuation, Nil; Realised, £150.

My report states "I did not see these chattels, and could obtain no information about No. 12."

The Manager told me he knew nothing about No. 12; that it was useless trying to see the chattels as it had been ascertained in similar cases that the neighbours exchanged horses when the security came to be realised. He asked me to find out what I could about No. 12 when I was in a certain district. Eventually another person gave a cheque for No. 12's debt.

No 31.—Owing, £519: Dobson's Valuation. Nil; Realised, £310.

No. 31 was known as "Rakaia Grain Account," and the following is my report written from Mr Bartlemants dictation:—"The Company, in order to secure grain grown page 25 upon McKerrow and Mann's farms, purchased it at the market price. The purchase resulted in a loss for which the Company hold no security whatever."

When the Manager received copy of my report he wrote to his Head Office on 4th August, 1890.

"Mr Dobson puts the whole amount as a deficiency, notwith-standing the fact that we held against it 2071 bushels of wheat and 1165 of oats."

Nos. 11, 12 and 31 were accounts at various agencies, and the manager's knowledge of them coincided with my valuations. To prove to you that what I state is correct I will quote an incident regarding an account which I will call


My report reads: "Amount owing, as per Mr Bartleman's statement, £672. Wheat in store at Oamaru will leave a debit balance."

Wishing to make my report as correct as possible I telegraphed from Napier for information and received the following reply:—

"Rocks wheat sold, deficiency two hundred and thirty three pounds six and fourpence.

A. Bartleman,

I now find that since June, 1890 further sales of grain have reduced the deficiency from £233 6s 4d to £163 13s 4d.

No. 33.—Owing, £220; Dobson's Valuation, £78; Realised, £168.

My report states, "Security, 5lac. 2r. 13po. No. 33 never executed a mortgage and deserted the property. Mr Blank offered £3 5s per acre for the section. Mr Bartleman asked me to advise whether this should be accepted. Land all fiat and stony. No buildings thereon. Section lies into Hororata Township, which, however, is an unimportant village. I recommended that Mr Blank's offer be accepted. The section is only valuable to some one requir- page 26 ing a horse paddock, and is not worth more than £1 10s per acre if put in the market."

It did not occur to me to add that if the offer of Mr Blank, who wanted a horse paddock, was accepted, the valuation should be raised to £168. The members of the Edinburgh Board would [unclear: arrive] at that conclusion without my assistance.

Land Tax Values.—I hope and believe that in many cases the late Departmental Valuations exceed those made by me, but I have read a letter wherein the Land Tax values of eight of the Company's farms are given at £19,625. My valuation of the same farms was £22,700.

"Any comment would be superfluous."

I now reproduce a circular, issued by the Edinburgh Board to the Shareholders, which some of you have perhaps mislaid—

The Colonial Investment & Agency Company (Limited). 46, Castle-street, Edinburgh,

Dear Sir,—In accordance with the understanding arrived at the Board deem it their duty to inform you without delay of the result of an independent report by Mr Robert Dobson on the securities held by the Company. The report, which was received by mail on the 21st instant, is very voluminous and goes into great detail on the various securities.

In addition to the sum of £60,000 written off by the old Company, it shows an estimated depreciation of the assets of £55.000.

The valuation is stated to be upon the basis of the productive power of the securities, which the Directors understand to mean ability to pay interest on the amount of the valuations. This very severe test at the present time when the colony has been passing through a crisis, and shows a result much more unfavourable than any previous reports received by the Board.

Mr Dobson has evidently in preparing the valuations taken great. page 27 care to avoid any over-statement of value. This impression is con-firmed by the fact that some sales of the smaller securities have been made since his report was prepared and that the prices obtained were in excess of his valuations.

The Local Board have not yet had an opportunity of seeing the report, but a copy has been sent to them, and the Directors expect to have their observations before the annual meeting."

I quote the foregoing to remind you of the fact that the "late members of the Local Board of Advice "lost the insignificent sum of £60,000 on behalf of the Old Company long before I was asked to make an independent report.

No wonder they feel annoyed at the polished wit contained in the minute which not only dismisses them but also thanks them for their "faithful services."

In their minute of 19th August, 1890, the "late members of the Local Board of Advice "indulge their wit at my expense and also at the expense of those gentlemen who assisted me with the valuations. It is not, however, so polished as that which emanates from the Northern Athens.

They say:—" During Mr Dobson's comparatively lengthy visit to Dunedin obtaining office information respecting the Company's securities, he appeared to avoid any communication with the members of the Board on the Company's business, as he never once referred to it, though every opportunity was afforded him of doing so."

This almost "stirs up the monosyllables of my unsanctified vocabulary," for 1 have always considered that the "late members of the Local Board of Advice" (Mr Bartleman always excepted) were not very desirous of talking to me.

Mr Begg—I met in the Company's office. Certainly he shook hands, but that was all he had to say I failed to draw him with the very original remark that it was a "fine day." Then I made another attempt and told him that when a youth I was in the office of my page 28 esteemed old friend Mr E. B. Martin, and remembered him (Mr Begg) very well in 1869.

That froze him.

I afterwards heard that he was arranging one of his "analytical" sporting tours, so I suppose his mind was not in a state of receptivity.

I did not see Mr Begg again until Friday, 2nd December, 1892. Again we were at the Company's office.

I, like the Peri at the gates of Paradise, was demanding admission.

He, like the gallant leader of the "late members of the Local Board of Advice," was awaiting solicitor's opinion as to how he could legally charge six months' fees in advance and have the necessary entries made in the books before handing them over to me.

Mr Begg appeared smilingly delighted. Perhaps he thought that his opportunity had come and that he was going to give me a bit of his mind. I thought too much joy might make him ill and so. although he "'ticed me on" several times, I made the "retort courteous," and disappointed him.

Mr John Reid.—I called upon this gentleman twice, but he was out upon each occasion. I am not aware that he returned my call. Up to the time of writing I have never seen Mr Reid, but it is a sight which I must not miss for is he not one of those three gentlemen who "thought it not incompatible with a fine sense of honour" to draw their solatium six months in advance, notwithstanding that their powers had been revoked?

Surely three out of the four gentlemen who composed the "late Local Board of Advice" ought to have felt themselves handsomely paid for the next six months when they received the thanks of the Edinburgh Board for their abl—, I beg pardon, "faithful services."

Mr James Smith—I saw in the Company's office. He was good enough to ask me to come and stay at Greenfield when 1 was page 29 in that neighborhood. I travelled in the train from Lawrence to Milton with Mr Smith, junior, to whom I explained why I was unable to visit Greenfield, and I expressed my regret thereat.

Mr Babtleman.—I regret that I have been compelled in self-defence to introduce the Manager's name into these pages, If any blame attaches to him for the non-success of the Company it is of that negative order which could not fail to be induced by contact with a Board possessed of a jellified vertebra. When forced to refer to the Manager I have tried to bear in mind the admonition contained in Proverbs xii. 18.

The next item in this minute is a gratuitous statement that my "experience is not of a practical character, and is chiefly confined to office work."

I won't trouble you with my experience but 1 think a fair retort would be that the experience of the "late members of the Local Board of Advice" in the management of Companies such as yours is not of a practical character, and is chiefly confined to losing their shareholders' money.

Then we come to that very ancient sarcasm about "a young man."

Pitt was charged with the same offence by persons who were jealous of his ability.

History repeats itself: but did I not correctly grasp the fact that the mind of the "analytical hunter" was not run upon the "broad guage?"

How often, alas, the traveller," Religion," occupies the sleeping car of the narrow guage mind to the unconscious exclusion of his fellow traveller, "Christianity."

The only evidence I had of Mr J. B. Reid's youth was that he spent a lot of time trying to persuade an invalid to go to the Hospital, where he wished to maintain him for six months.

"So shines a good deed in a naughty world."

page 30
I really must quote the next paragraph:—

"The members of the Board up to this time have been unaware of Mr Reid's extensive practical knowledge and experience, and are rather surprised that Mr Dobson has discovered in him such exceptional qualities."

This, of course, referrs to Mr J. B. Reid. No doubt Mr John Reid's "exceptional qualities" as a practical valuer have been known to the "late members of the Local Board of Advice" for many years.

Well, Gentlemen, I am sorry to have to do so, because it involves reference to persons who have met with misfortune and death, but I must ask you to compare my judgment in selecting my associates with the perspicacity displayed by the "late members of the Local Board of Advice" in selecting their associates. Probably they and I differ as to the quality of ability which is valuable. They, no doubt, selected a peculiar sort of it in great quantity.

Southland Agency.—The minute says there was a heavy loss.

Timaru Agency.—Both their agents are dead.

The loss at Timaru was heavier than the loss in Southland.

Oamaru Agency.—Rightly or wrongly their agent got locked up for a time.

The loss at Oamaru was heacier than the loss at Timaru.

The minute proceeds to say:

"In the Southland portion of Otago Mr Dobson seems to have obtained the assistance of Mr . . . . though the Manager had previously acquainted Mr Dobson with the Company's experience of him, and the heavy loss the Company sustained through his firm, which of itself should have prevented any prudent man from concoosulting him on any matter in which this Company is interested."

(After reading this I concluded that when Proverbs xii. 16, was written the author probably italicised the word "prudent.")

page 31

This refers to my friend Mr Hugh Carswell, who, in the estimation of the Southland community, stands second to none for uprightness and integrity.

The Manager did tell me that the Company had lost money through Mr Carswell's firm.

Mr Carswell happened to meet me at Wyndham, and I insisted upon his driving with me to Invercargill, in order that he might act as guide, and point out the properties.

Mr Carswell appeared much concerned at the low estimate I formed of the value of the country. He said to me," You're wrong, Dobson; the whole of these Southland lands will 'come' again, and "McKerrow says so too." He did not make a single valuation for me.

Note.—Mr McKerrow was formerly Surveyor-General for this Colony

After reading that portion of the minute last quoted, you will be surprised to learn that the "prudent men" who comprised the "late members of the Local Board of Advice" actually continued to employ, as their agent at Timaru, a gentleman who, with his late partner, was debited in the Company's books with a large sum under the very significant heading of Misappropriations Account.

The poor fellow was, I believe, true to the Company, but he eventually justified the confidence which the "prudent men" reposed in him by following in the footsteps of his unfortunate partner, and by "helping himself to eternity before he was summoned to the table."

Let us turn the page.

page 32

The minute next contains a beggarly sneer at Mr Lachlan McLean. My statement is true, and further, when he verbally reiterated his views as to value he was told that he "must be mad."

Very likely. The fact remains that the British and New Zealand Mortgage and Agency Company stands at the top of the list as having lost the largest amount of money in the shortest possible time, and the genial and contented Lockie, much to the delight of his numberless friends, has, up to the present, escaped the Seacliff warders.

Then follows a paragraph about myself which I must not pass unnoticed, viz.:—

"Mr Dobson, having undertaken the valuation, ought to have availed himself of the most capable assistance obtainable, instead of employing men connected with himself in business without any regard to their fitness for the serious responsibility involved" The italics are mine.

Gentlemen, I must point the moral to the Home Board and say that if the foregoing admirable sentiment had been written in letters of gold upon the walls of the Board room before the power of attorney was sent to the" late members of the Local Board of Advice" the Shareholders might have been at leant £60,000 and possibly £115,000 better off than they are now.

Is it possible that the "pamphleteers" think I should have applied to them; surely they would not offer such an insult to my intelligence.

(1)I knew what a very incorrect impression the late Mr Dick Peddie had carried away.
(2)I wished and intended to make an independent report
(3)I had seen the following reports and documents.
On 3rd March, 1890, a certain Company, of which Mr Reid,(not Jim, but the "practical valuer ") was Chairman, presented a report and balance-sheet to the shareholders bearing the following legend:—

"I have examined the above Balance-sheet and Profit a:..; Loss Account, together with Vouchers and Accounts, as also the books of the Company, and securities, and hereby certify that the page 33 above agrees with the same and is a correct statement of the affairs of the Company.


Alex. C. Begg

, Auditor."

I think that is the right document.—Yes, I remember being particularly struck with the fact "that the above agrees with the same." After such a dive as that I half expected to see Mr Begg "emerge at the end of the sentence with his verb in his mouth."

I should like to have put the word "fees" in lieu of "verb" but it would have murdered the quotation, besides his fees were safe, was not Mr John Reid the Chairman?

"Arcades ambo," (free translation, "Christians both.")

On Tuesday, 10th March, twenty-three days after Mr Begg had given his certificate, a clerk in the employ of the Company referred to, pleaded guilty to a charge of embezzlement. Mr Solomon for the defence said:—

"It was a physical impossibility for this fraud, which had been carried over years, to have passed the eyes of any one man who looked at the bank pass book and compared it with the cash book."

("The above with the same," don't you know.)

His Honour, Mr Justice Williams, said:—

"There is no doubt the most elementary precautions in the office would have prevented these frauds from having been perpetrated. The accused, however, seems to have falsified the ledgers and to have deceived the Auditor. As to that, there is this alternative, either the Auditor has not performed his duty, or if he has performed his duty in a way in which commercial men would expect him to perform it, then the system of audit is of itself a most ridiculous sham."

These documents speak for themselves, and any comment upon them would be superflows.

"I thank thee, Jew, for teaching me that word."

The last quotation I will make reads thus—

"The members present regret that the absence of Mr Smith from the Colony prevents his attendance at this meeting, but from his ex- page 34 pressed views they are satisfied that he quite coincides with the opinion now expressed." . . . . "Mr Smith subsequently concurred."

I am of opinion that Mr Smith did not retain his individuality upon all occasions at the Board meetings.

Probably he considered that in the matter of resolutions, and especially in the wording of accounts, he could not do better than "subsequently concur" with the Chairman of "practical experience," and the distinguished Auditor of the Company referred to.

When the overseer of one of the Company's farms wanted to know what improvements he might make, he was told to "write to Mr Smith."

No doubt the other "late Members of the Local Board of Advice" felt that their "experience was chiefly confined to office work.'

When a would-be tenant wrote about a farm saying: he would "come down to Dunedin when Mr Smith is in town," the Manager replied that it was "Mr Smith's busy season," and he saw no reason why the negotiation should not be conducted by letter.

It would not have caused very much more delay if Mr Smith had been "in Napier, in the North Island of New Zealand, some six hundred miles" away.

I have many more interesting things to tell you, gentlemen, but I must not forget Mr Weller's advice about letter writing: meanwhile I have three reasons for devoting the closest attention to the Company's business—
1.I have accepted Mr Lawrie's offer, and put my hand to the plough.
2.(This reason will be fully appreciated by "prudent men" who draw their fees in advance). My substantial re-muneration depends upon the successful liquidation of the Company, without calls being made upon you; [unclear: ride] my letter to Mr Lawrie, 16th April, 1892.
3.I wish to further prove to you that the opinion of the "late members of the Local Board of Advice" is wrong, and that the action of the Edinburgh Directors is right in appointing as their attorney Robert Dobson.

Proverbs xxii-i.