One of the advantages of the recent merger of GDLK and Venn Nemeth & Hart is that we have been joined by Andries Geyser, a highly-respected, veteran litigator. We took some time to find out more about Andries’ work and his philosophy of life …
I do a wide range of work, but I most enjoy liquidation and insolvency investigations. This involves tracking down money and other assets which may have been hidden when a person or business entity gets into financial difficulties. One thing I have learnt in my practice is that money does not ‘disappear’ – it has simply been moved and it is my job to find it. It’s a bit like fishing – you know that the fish are out there, you just have to catch them!
I am probably in the wrong profession. I have a strong feel for accountancy and numbers. It does not take me long to spot a financial ‘puff adder’ – a weakness in a balance sheet or an irregularity in a set of financial records. The temptation in a business which is facing insolvency is to shift money and other assets to third parties, without proper respect for the fact that separate entities are involved. An ability to work with the numbers is essential for unravelling these transactions.
The work is complex. (Andries points to a bookshelf running along one wall of his office containing 42 bulging lever-arch files relating to a single matter!). But I love the challenge. I like allowing my mind to run with a problem until a solution becomes apparent. I then test each proposed solution to see if it is good or bad. I find this process very rewarding.
I also enjoy structuring and re-structuring business entities. I am involved at the birth of businesses and, at least in some cases, at their death – in the form of insolvency. As a result, I have seen enough failed structures to know how to avoid the pitfalls and set up a business that will succeed. One of the most common weaknesses in failed businesses is greed on the part of the directors, combined with under-capitalisation. This results in directors borrowing money and, in due course, failing to repay. There is a need for some austerity when setting up a new enterprise.
Work is my hobby. I read the law reports as they come out and I enjoy keeping up to date with a wide range of legal subjects. I began working 53 years ago, as a clerk in the Deputy State Attorney’s Office in 1961. People have asked me if I intend to retire. I don’t … because I want to live until I die. I believe that you are only alive while you are making some sort of contribution to society.
I enjoy golf and horse racing. I don’t play golf often, but I play a lot when I do – my score is generally disappointing! My involvement with horse racing also goes back a long way and I served for many years as the steward of the Pietermaritzburg, Greyville and Clairwood race courses.