Controversial company Rebl Corp renamed
EXCLUSIVE: The founding director of embattled advertising firm Viewble Media has started a new business from the ashes of his controversial company Rebl Corp and the government cannot do anything about it.
Michael Maunder was one of the founding directors of Sunshine Coast-based Viewble Media and claimed in court documents to have developed the company's "cost neutral" system which is currently under government investigation.
Mr Maunder was paid under a settlement deed to leave the company in October 2017, with his co-directors Jason Madden and David Reid later saying in affidavits filed in court proceedings that they had found him "increasingly difficult" to work with.
Viewble provided small business owners with television screens to display in-store advertising and would off-set the cost of the screen's lease with advertising revenue.
Customers leased the screens from third-party finance companies - many claiming unknowingly - and would be bound to pay out the remainder of the $15,000 contracts if Viewble collapsed.
Liquidators were appointed to Viewble Media in January this year and its associated company Jasdav in November 2018 with initial creditor's reports stating the combined amount owed to unsecured creditors is almost $100m.
After leaving Viewble Media, Mr Maunder went on to start Rebl Corp, which through its subsidiary companies - Digital Rebl and Media Rebl - used the same contract system with finance companies, but sold Customer Relationship Management Software instead of advertising screens.
The CRM was sold to customers along with a "cost neutral" online advertising package which included short videos posted to the small businesses' social media channels.
Rebl Corp and Viewble Media were both referred to as a "scam" in an Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) quarterly report which is working towards a solution for the small business owners affected in conjunction with the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) and the relevant finance companies.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) are also assisting with inquiries.
Digital Rebl and Media Rebl were placed into liquidation in March this year owing more than $5 million to unsecured creditors.
Despite these investigations, Mr Maunder has been free to change Rebl Corp's name to Mier Developments and is selling CRM software called MiConnect.
It is unclear if the company is offering "cost neutral" contracts and Mr Maunder has not responded to requests for comment.
Mier Developments, which trades as Mier Software, claims on its website to have been operating since 2011, but its website was created in April this year according to domain registration data and its name was registered with ASIC a month prior.
The phone number listed for Mier Software is the same as Rebl Corp's previous phone number and it operates from the same virtual Sunshine Coast office as Rebl Corp's predecessor, Halast Media.
A video posted to Youtube explaining how to use MiConnect includes photos which are marked with Media Rebl logos.
The phone number has been redirected to a company called Integra Media which now owns Rebl Corp's CRM software, and emails to Mier Development's email address bounced back.
Directors of companies that have been liquidated or are under investigation by ASIC are not precluded from managing other companies, according to the financial regulator's guidelines.
As Mr Maunder has not been declared bankrupt and has not been disqualified as a director, he is free to undertake directorship duties provided he is acting lawfully.
The Australian Taxation Office - which is part of the Phoenix Taskforce along with ASIC - was unable to comment on whether Mier Developments' profits could be used to pay Media Rebl and Digital Rebl's creditors or if any investigation had been launched into Mier Developments.
When asked if the ATO could prevent Mr Maunder from renaming Rebl Corp - which has not been liquidated - and continuing his business, a spokesman directed News Corp to ASIC.
Speaking generally, Maurice Blackburn employment law principal Giri Sivaraman told News Corp illegal phoenixing had wide reaching impacts on not only the business community, but staff, contractors and the Australian Taxation Office
"There doesn't seem to be enough barriers to stop it happening," he said.
"It gives business a very bad name and leaves a sour taste in the mouth."
Mr Sivaraman said there needed to be a more "comprehensive solution" to stop phoenixing from occurring including the "prevention of directors who have been involved in phoenixing from operating as directors again".
He also recommended "mandatory education" for directors about their responsibilities towards employees and government agencies.
"At the moment it's very easy to become a director, you just have to be over the age of 18," Mr Sivaraman said.
An ASBFEO spokesman said Mier Developments had been brought to its attention earlier this year and the information had been passed on to the relevant agencies.
The spokesman said all small business owners should be wary when signing contracts and ensure they fully understand their obligations.
"If there's anything you're concerned about, get third party advice."