We posted quite a bit about the Trust Account Receipt for this money just before Anzac Day.
The AWU Workplace Reform Association cheque for $67,722.30 was deposited at a WA branch of the CBA on 18 March, 1993. The cheque wasn't made out to the CBA for conversion into a bank cheque, it's a cheque from the account of the AWU-WRA to the Trust Account of Slater and Gordon.
By April, 1996 it was clear that the cheque and the statements of account that showed the cheque being deposited into Slater and Gordon's Trust Account were important pieces of evidence in the Industrial Relations Court of Australia and its investigations into The AWU Scandal. Ian Cambridge expressed incredulity at Slater and Gordon permitting the use of funds from the AWU-WRA in the purchase of real estate by an individual. So what Slater and Gordon's bank told the firm, and what the firm recorded in its Trust Account to describe the deposit in its bank account are important matters.
The Slater and Gordon conveyance and mortgage files were subpoenaed by the Industrial Relations Court (and on the basis that Ian Cambridge's affidavit exhibited all relevant material returned with the subpoena) it can be inferred that no copies of the Trust Account Receipts were sent by Slater and Gordon with the conveyance file to the court.
Here is Slater and Gordon's letter in response to Ralph Blewitt's recent written request for a copy of the Trust Account Receipt:
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.
You will note that Mr Higgins doesn't state that the firm has no copies of the relevant Trust Account Receipts, rather that "it appears the firm largely no longer holds trust account receipts for the early 1990's". It appears - the firm - largely - no longer holds.....
Maybe the firm might like to have a closer and better look.
Spin Baby, Spin goes on to make these observations
An interesting response from James Higgins of Slater and Gordon. I’d like to ask Mr Higgins where they filed their original Receipt Requisition and duplicate trust account receipt, and where the original trust account receipt was kept as it wasn’t sent to the client. In my experience the duplicate and original trust account receipt should be on the conveyancing file. A search in the Matter Accounts Group would of course fail to turn up the receipt. DOH! Do these guys think we’re idiots or something? Have they looked on the conveyance file? Perhaps Slater and Gordon operates in a different manner than all the firms I’ve worked at and doesn’t file Cheque and Receipt requisitions and the corresponding cheque remittance advice and duplicate receipts on the relevant files? Somehow I doubt it. My bulldust detector is going beep, beep, beep.
It doesn’t surprise me that their Matter Accounts Group search results showed nothing. They’d need to access archive file boxes of their accounts department to access the correct records. He doesn’t say Slater and Gordon have searched for those file boxes and they have been destroyed. He doesn’t say they’ve looked on the conveyance file as well. He just implies they’ve looked in their “system” (that’d be the current one) and there’s nothing to be found, which is exactly what I’d expect if that’s the only place they looked.
Would they be willing to access their old Accounts Boxes from the relevant period to see what their Trust Account Bank Statements from that time show the entry from their bank to be? It’s that entry that should be on the trust account receipt, not what was written by the conveyancing clerk who “takes a stab in the dark on who the recipient might be” for a direct deposit. If I were the Police I’d be subpoenaing that bank statement from Slater and Gordon from that archived accounts department box. I know it’ll be there if they haven’t destroyed the relevant box and that destruction or otherwise can be confirmed by the company that’s been hired by Slater and Gordon to hold their archived files (someone like Recall or Brambles). Every touch leaves its trace and every story can be background checked if it doesn’t sound right. If Slater and Gordon want to pretend that their bank records no longer exist in their archive boxes, what would there be to stop the Police going down to the archive company and accessing the relevant boxes to get it? Nothing. This is a fraud case and the Police are quite capable of going and getting that statement if they think it relevant. I reckon I could find it myself within ½ a day with the right access to the archival storage system.
Personally I think that response from Higgins is a complete fob-off and I’d be going back to them asking them to clarify exactly where they searched, and where they expect the original and duplicate copy of their receipts would have ended up prior to their “destruction”. Perhaps they don’t file them on their files like the firms I’ve worked for. If they don’t want to answer in a timely manner, maybe Mr Styant-Browne would be willing to comment on normal practice at Slater and Gordon at that time on where the trust account receipts issued by the Accounts Department would have been filed if they weren’t sent to the client/depositor? Every touch leaves its trace and I bet Mr Styant-Browne or indeed anyone who worked at Slater and Gordon at that time can confirm in a statutory declaration exactly where receipts issued by the Accounts Department in relation to client matters were filed at Slater and Gordon. I bet the answer will be: on the relevant file.
If the current partners want to play games in relation to a simple request for a trust account receipt that should have been filed on the conveyance file and is easily accessed because they’ve already handed most of the client-portion of the file over to Blewitt – we know they’ve got that file, then I’m willing to play games too and give some good leads for a story. Any journalist worth their salt out there prepared to start approaching partners who were at Slater and Gordon at the time for comment on where the Blewitt receipt should be? Personally I hope Ralph is not prepared to lie down on this and writes back to Slater and Gordon seeking clarification of exactly where they have searched – and where they haven’t searched…
This blog post sets out the Trust Account and other practice rules that were relevant at the time.
And this from a learned fellow who's written in the past couple of days.
Mr Higgins of Slater and Gordon writes:
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
previously advised to your lawyers there is no reference in your conveyance or
mortgage file concerning where you sourced those funds.
Learned fellow goes on to observe:
The Ledger is incorrect.
Trust Account receipts (and subsequently Trust Ledgers) must
show the drawer of cheques received.
It is misleading
to say the S & G trust ledger reflects a “direct deposit” in Blewitt’s name
and he deposited those funds.
Blewitt deposited an AWU-WRA cheque with the Commonwealth
Bank in Perth to be transferred by telegraphic transfer by the bank to the
credit of Slater & Gordon’s trust account for the benefit of Ralph Blewitt.
The bank was required and would have shown in their
statement of the Slater & Gordon Trust account a receipt of a cheque from AWU-WRA
to be credited to the Trust Account of Slater & Gordon for the benefit of
Slater & Gordon incorrectly recorded in their
Trust Account ledger that the cheque was drawn by Ralph Blewitt. It was not.
Trust ledgers are required to accurately reflect the issued
Trust Account receipt for funds received.
Assuming the Trust ledger reflected the issued Trust Account
Receipt then the receipt is also incorrect if it did not show the funds were
received from the AWU-WRA, being the drawer of the cheque..
Trust Account receipts and subsequently, Trust Account
Ledgers are required to detail the drawer of the cheque, as well as the
details of the beneficiary and the matter/file it relates to.
The correct wording of the receipt and then the Trust
Account ledger should have been something along the lines –
“Received on the
___day ____of 1993 the sum of $67,000 from the AWU-WRA on account of
Ralph Blewitt re the purchase of 1/85 Kerr Street, Fitzroy, (File number
In relation to Slater and Gordon's statement: 'As previously advised to your lawyers there is no reference in your conveyance or mortgage file concerning where you sourced those funds", Learned Fellow says:
Sophistry! What is in or not in the client files is
not entirely relevant.
However, the Slater & Gordon Trust Account copy Receipt
Book , their CBA Trust Account Statements and the Client Trust Ledger are
The CBA Trust Account for Slater & Gordon issued
statements should have and I expect would have shown the drawer of the cheque
deposited to the account was the AWU-WRA for the benefit of Ralph Blewitt.
The Trust Account Receipt and Trust Account ledger issued by
Slater & Gordon should have reflected this. If not ,then Salter &
Gordon breached their legal obligations.
It seems to me from the foregoing that just what the CBA put on Slater and Gordon's Trust Account Statement next to the deposit on 18 March, 1993, will be a very important entry indeed. Check your bank statements, where a cheque is deposited, does your bank write out the name of the drawer, account number or other details?