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Opinion

Turnbulls, Goldman and Pengana bare all in court

An Australian court case brings together a former prime minister, Goldman Sachs, and a tale of friendship asunder at a funds management company.

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Back in 2003, Malcolm Turnbull, who was managing director of Goldman’s Australian operation from 1997 – and went on to become PM in 2015 – set up a new funds management business called Pengana Capital with a younger Goldman executive called Russel Pillemer.

When Turnbull prepared to lead the nation, he gave his stake in Pengana – which had been loaned to Pillemer – to his son and daughter, Alex and Daisy, to avoid a conflict of interest (or, detractors have since argued, to avoid scrutiny of his wealth).

All went well for a while, Pillemer rising to CEO of Pengana, but rifts became clear after the company merged with Hunger Hall International in 2017. Alex Turnbull claims Pillemer hid the deal from him, to the Turnbull family’s detriment, as they sold the shares to Pillemer before hearing of the merger.

Alex, through a company called Maurtray Pty Ltd, later commenced a law suit seeking A$6-12 million from Pillemer over the Turnbull family investment in Pengana.

Bizarre

The juiciest detail of the trial so far involves an email sent by Pillemer to Malcolm on November 18 2020. Its tone begins as fawning – “I just cannot understand how this has happened”, “You and I had a great friendship over so many years”, “For two decades I have been your greatest supporter” – and then changes significantly.

“The

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