The mother of all expense reimbursements - $160,000 handed back after legal advice
Today we should get some insight into what's in the box of documents seized by police from Slater and Gordon under their search warrant on 17 May this year.
Here's the SMH's Mark Baker on 17 October, 2012.
Gillard files missing, say lawyers
A FILE detailing Julia Gillard’s role in helping set up a union slush fund from which her former boyfriend stole hundreds of thousands of dollars has disappeared.
Law firm Slater & Gordon yesterday said it could find no documents relating to the work done by Ms Gillard — a former salaried partner of the firm — in establishing the Australian Workers Union Workplace Reform Association in 1992.
Police believe the association was used by Ms Gillard’s former boyfriend and senior AWU official Bruce Wilson to steal more than $400,000, including about $100,000 which helped fund the purchase of a Fitzroy unit bought with Ms Gillard’s professional assistance.
Slater & Gordon managing director Andrew Grech told The Age last night that the firm had not been able to locate any documents relating to the controversial transaction. ‘‘We have not been able to identify any such documents following extensive searches of our archival records,’’ Mr Grech said.
‘‘If there are such documents, we don’t have them. They could have been misplaced, or lost. I simply don’t know.’’
We know that the file was present at Ms Gillard's departure interview on 11 September, 1995.
My recollection is that all of that happened in or about mid-1992. Is that right?
JG: I wouldn't want to be held to the dates without looking at the file, but whatever the dates the file shows are the right dates, so . . .
PG: Yes. And to the extent that work was done on that file in relation to that it was done by you?
But it's now disappeared. So today's proceedings can't be about setting up the workplace reform association.
For the avoidance of doubt in relation to the AWU matter:
a) Slater & Gordon acted for both a union and a union official (personally).
b) in acting for the official, Slater & Gordon obtained information:
i). that was confidential to the official; and
ii) the disclosure of which to the union would have represented a conflict between the interests of the union and the interests of the official.
c) Slater & Gordon ceased acting for both clients after it became aware of this conflict situation.
Peter Gordon was a little more descriptive when he and Nick Styant Browne were jointly involved in putting this statement together, published by The Australian newspaper on 21 August, 2012. Peter Gordon says Slater and Gordon found out about the Wilson allegations in July, 1995.
I have been told that the relevant Slater & Gordon files reveal that certain relevant 'new' information was made to Bernard Murphy in July 1995, and very shortly thereafter to Ms Gillard. No evidence in any of the firm's records exists that information as to any matter which can incontrovertibly be described as wrongdoing was available to or known by either of them before this time. Shortly after this time, this 'new' information was passed on to the other partners. There was a small delay in the transmission of this information by Mr Murphy to the rest of us which I interpreted as mediated only by the serious deterioration in our relationship and the mental strain under which he obviously labored at the time. When the information was conveyed to the other partners, the firm immediately ceased acting for the AWU, for Mr Wilson and Mr Blewitt. The leadership of the AWU had passed at this time from Mr Wilson to a new administration which retained Maurice Blackburn. Both Maurice Blackburn and the new administration were aware of the relevant allegations and was to our satisfaction, in a position to protect the union's interests insofar as those interests may have been affected.
So we know that Peter Gordon's memory had been refreshed prior to his August 2012 statement by the details contained in "the relevant Slater and Gordon files". That lends support to the belief that those files were available to police when they executed their warrant this year.
I think Peter Gordon's interpretation of the "small delay" in the transmission of information by Bernard Murphy to the other partners is a charitable one. Perhaps today we will see what else happened during the "small delay" and whether either Bernard Murphy, or Ms Gillard continued to give Bruce Wilson legal advice.
On 17 August, 1995, Bruce Wilson, Jim Collins and Bob Smith attended at the Commonwealth Bank and each signed a hand-written letter describing the only accounts in which the AWU had an interest as being the AWU Victorian Branch Account and the AWU Grant Account.
As a result, the Commonwealth Bank released the money in the AWU Members Welfare Association No 1 Account directly to Bruce Wilson (the signatory) and Bob Smith.
Wilson at that point assumed the rights of an owner, or appropriated that money. It will be interesting to hear what factual basis Wilson, Bob Smith and Jim Collins have for telling the bank that the AWU had no interest in the money in the AWU Members Welfare Association No 1 account.
After appropriating the money, Wilson further dealt with it as it was returned to the various companies from whom it had been extracted. But it's important to note, it was not the AWU that returned the money, the CBA did not release the money to the AWU. It was Wilson and Bob Smith's money to deal with, and they had arguably deceived the CBA in the hand-written letter which claimed that the AWU had no interest in the money in that account.
So Wilson supervised the release of the money - more than $160,000 - and its repayment to the companies from whom he had extracted it. Today we might find out on whose legal advice he did that.
As I said in this post on 10 July, 2013 - "maybe the Minchin Protocol started right here" as it's unusual in the extreme for anyone to return money that's been properly received in the first place.
Phil Gude spoke about the matter in October 1995 in this newspaper article.
Mr Gude said that when Wilson had found he had been discovered, he sought legal advice from the union's solicitors, Slater and Gordon, and was given advice by Ms Gillard.
Slater and Gordon's lawyers continued to act not for, but against the AWU after July, 1995
The Murphy/Gillard actions after July, 1995 were similar to their actions in August, 1993 when allegations of financial mismanagement were made within the AWU against Ralph Blewitt. Instead of acting to examine the matters raised and to safeguard the AWU's interests, Gillard and Murphy went in to bat for Wilson and Blewitt, issuing agressive defamation proceedings against those people who were calling for proper audit and enquiry into the branch finances.
It's hard to see how the interests of Slater and Gordon's client the AWU were served in either case. After Wilson returned the money to the companies, the AWU was put to considerable time and effort to get that money back and in so doing it asserted its rights as the owner of the money. It will be interesting to see how police treat the hand-written letter of 17 August in which Wilson, Smith and Collins tell the CBA that the AWU has no interest in the Member Welfare Association No 1 money.
That assertion by the police about the furtherance of fraud in relation to these documents is starting to make a bit more sense.