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Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Slater and Gordon and its Trust Account obligations

Ralph Blewitt was a sophisticated property investor with the independent means to buy an apartment, sight unseen, on the other side of Australia from where he lived.   He was introduced to Slater and Gordon by its Industrial Unit partner Julia Gillard.   Andrew Grech, the current managing director of Slater and Gordon (he was an employed lawyer in the firm at the time of the AWU Scandal) recently wrote that Julia Gillard acted directly for Ralph Blewitt in his purchase. of 1/85 Kerr Street.

Only Ralph wasn't really buying,  Bruce the boyfriend was.   Gillard's reputation with the firm was at stake, having introduced this business.   She'd be keen to make sure that Ralph's  money hit the firm's Trust Account exactly as planned - otherwise her partners might say she had bad judgement about people.   She'd do her homework and make sure the money was there, surely.

On Monday, 11 March this year I posted this article substantially written by Spin Baby, Spin.   Spin is a legal industry professional with distinctive competence in conveyance, mortgage and the management of money into and out of Trust Accounts in property and other commercial transactions.   http://www.michaelsmithnews.com/2013/03/for-all-those-who-operate-trust-accounts-in-victoria-and-for-those-who-can-remember.html?cid=6a0177444b0c2e970d017c3789d946970b

The next day I recorded an interview with Ralph Blewitt and posted a letter from a lawyer with copies of the law that regulated lawyers' trust accounts in the 1990s.   http://www.michaelsmithnews.com/2013/03/-a-letter-from-a-learned-friend-in-victoria-about-some-lawyers-trust-account-rules.html

Clearly, Slater and Gordon should have written out a receipt for $67K that hit its trust account as the proceeds of the AWU WRA cheque.   I'm told that the bank transmits the drawer of the cheque in its TT and that the drawer of the cheque and the Slater and Gordon client account to whose benefit that money was applied should have been noted on the receipt.   Spin Baby thought it significant that no receipt has surfaced, then or now, so did I - so Ralph undertook to write to Slater and Gordon and get a copy.

Spin Baby, Spin dropped this note a day or so ago

Spin Baby, Spin said:                           

                                Is Ralph able to let us know what the response from S&G is to date?  There will be a hand-written Trust Account Receipt Requisition on their file.  That is an internal document not discoverable by Ralph.  That hand-written document would have to be delivered to the Accounts Department for them to make the entry. They then issue an official trust account receipt, together with a duplicate file copy.  Those documents are then all filed on the file.  The file that Ralph received did not include those internal documents, which is normal when handing over a file to the client, however the official receipt should have been handed over, by law.  If Slater and Gordon are unwilling to issue a receipt, I would think that Ralph Blewitt could then lodge a complaint with the Law Society.  He needs that receipt as part of the evidence he can provide to back up his claims that he was just the bag man in the fraud.  Slater and Gordon's reluctance to issue the receipt suggests that they may be more involved in the fraud than originally suggested by them.  Claims of "I did nothing wrong" don't hold water if the firm is unwilling to issue a trust account receipt... What exactly is the firm hiding?\
ENDS - see what I mean about the distinctive competence?

 

NEW DEVELOPMENTS WE ANNOUNCE TODAY

Ralph wrote to Slater and Gordon's MD on 1 April this year.

From: ralph_blewitt
To: @slatergordon.com.au
Subject: FW: Request for Trust Account Receipts
Date: Mon, 1 Apr 2013 17:06:10 +0800

Dear Mr Grech,
Slater and Gordon acted for me in the purchase of 1/85 Kerr Street Fitzroy in February, 1993.
I recently asked you for a copy of the firm's file on the conveyance and the mortgage you gave me.
I've thoroughly perused what you sent in the conveyance and mortgage files and I see that you haven't included any copies of the Trust Account receipts for the money that I and entities associated with me paid you.
I did not receive any receipts at the time I paid you either.
I have been told that a law firm in Victoria has to make out a receipt when the firm receives money on trust.
Would you please send me copies of the Slater and Gordon Trust Account receipts for:
On 18 March the Australian Workers' Union Workplace Reform Association paid Slater and Gordon $67,722.30 as funds to settle my purchase.   Would you you please send me the Trust Account receipt for the Association's money?   I was the public office holder for the Association.
On 29 April, 1993 my wife and I sent you a cheque for $2,000 as requested to meet a shortfall in your Trust Account - would you please send me a receipt for that too please.




Thank you, look forward to receiving the receipts.
After a bit of follow up, Ralph received this note from Slater and Gordon.
From: @slatergordon.com.au
To: ralph_blewitt
CC: @slatergordon.com.au
Subject: Your recent request.
Date: Mon, 8 Apr 2013 02:52:43 +0000

Dear Mr Blewitt.
I write in response to the request for Trust Account receipts associated with your conveyancing file for your purchase of a property in 1993. I am assuming for this purpose that you are no longer represented by Galbally Rolfe and I can communicate directly with you in this regard. For the avoidance of doubt, and as we have previously advised you should continue to seek independent legal advice concerning these matters.
Your request was to our Managing Director Mr Andrew Grech. Mr Grech is on leave and has asked me to respond on his behalf.
Under the rules and laws applying to Trust Account receipts they must be kept for 7 years. Nevertheless we requested our Matter Accounts group search for receipts from 1993 related to this matter. Unfortunately it appears the firm largely no longer holds trust account receipts for the early 1990's given the expiration of time. We do enclose a copy of our Trust Account ledgers which we have previously provided to your lawyers. You will note that the ledger reflects that the transactions you have inquired about involved a Direct Deposit in your name. You are aware you deposited those funds at a Commonwealth Bank Branch in Western Australia. As previously advised to your lawyers there is no reference in your conveyance or mortgage file concerning where you sourced those funds. The other transaction you inquire about concerned a personal cheque in the name of R E & J A Blewitt.
You will note that these ledgers are in fact copies of the actual ledger that was printed off for the file on 13 July 1994 prior to any controversy concerning this conveyance. I am informed that this was likely to be for the purposes of archiving the file.
Yours faithfully
James Higgins

 

I thought this sentence largely stood out.

Unfortunately it appears the firm largely no longer holds trust account receipts for the early 1990's given the expiration of time.  

So Slater and G0rdon says that in 1994 it printed off copies of the Trust Account Ledger so it could include those copies in the file, which it then archived.   At that time it was obliged to retain its Trust Account Receipts for the next 6 years , one year having expired..   It was obliged to create and issue a receipt for any money deposited in its Trust Account, showing who paid the money in and to which client account the monies were allocated.   So if Slater and Gordon met its obligations in issuing Trust Account Receipts, presumably copies were filed with the conveyance file, that would be logical.   Then, given the expiration of time, some one must have gone in and largely taken the trust account receipts out of the file - cause they're largely not there.   But the Ledger is!    More analysis on the General Ledger in a moment.  

Now back t0 Mr Higgins of Slater and Gordon and his letter to Mr Blewitt.  Here are Mr Higgins own words about the $67,000 cheque drawn on the AWU-WRA and deposited to Slater and Gordon's Trust Account. 

"You are aware you deposited those funds at a Commonwealth Bank Branch in Western Australia. As previously advised to your lawyers there is no reference in your conveyance or mortgage file concerning where you sourced those funds."

 I'll bet there's no reference to it!   The file has been exhaustively screened to make sure there's no reference to it - I'm not suggesting subterfuge, rather that it has been scoured to find references to the drawer of the cheque.  It would be a killer blow if Slater and Gordon had received from the Commonwealth Bank on its 1993 standard telegraphic transfer form the details of the drawer of the cheque that was negotiated into the Trust Account.  

Higgins says "there is no reference in the conveyance or mortgage file concerning where you sourced those funds."   There is also no copy in the conveyance file of the Trust Account.   A receipt that if completed with all the information available would have noted the drawer, or owner of the cheque account from whence the funds came, and the Slater and Gordon account, Ralph Blewitt (no middle name) to whose benefit the money went.

Just for completeness, here is the Slater and Gordon conveyance file as sent to Ralph Blewitt last year by Slater and Gordon
http://www.michaelsmithnews.com/2012/11/the-slater-and-gordon-property-and-mortgage-files-in-case-you-havent-seen-them.html

And here is the Trust Account Ledger, printed off for inclusion in the conveyance file, but either not accompanied by the Receipts, or the Receipts were removed from the file after 7 years.   It is interesting to see that where money did come from Ralph, it's recorded as RE & JA Blewitt, that is the drawer of the cheque.  When the $67K hit the Trust Account for Bruce's house, it's recorded as coming from Mr Ralph Blewitt.http://www.michaelsmithnews.com/2012/08/the-awu-scandal-the-slater-and-gordon-trust-account-general-ledger.html

Finally, there's one more major matter involving this file.   The AWU under the leadership of Ian Cambridge subpoenaed from Slater and Gordon all its files and documents on the conveyance and mortgage for Kerr Street.   As I note in the post below, what Ian Cambridge received and Exhibited to his Affidavit was a tiny fraction of the actual documents that were in the file.   The late Geoff Shaw and  Julia Gillard's mentor and former Socialist Forum Comrade Jon Rothfield are recorded on the front covers of the conveyance and mortgage files as being responsible for determining what documents were in and what were out in answer to the Federal Court's subpoena.   Lots was out.   And that includes the Trust Account Receipt for $67,000 which actually came from the Gillard created slush fund.http://www.michaelsmithnews.com/2012/12/the-subpoena-to-slater-and-gordon-for-the-conveyancing-and-mortgage-files.html

 

 



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Where it Started

Gillard & the AWU scandal

Interview with Bob Kernohan