Kiwi lawyer suspended for 9 months; major law firm to defend Australian Tax Office

by NZ Lawyer17 Jul 2014
New Zealand lawyer suspended for certifying false document… A top tier firm to defend Australian tax office over claim it ‘ruined a man’s life’... Australia follows other nations with proposed cyber laws… and could lenders be using fake law firms to collect debts here?

New Zealand lawyer suspended by tribunal
The New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal has suspended Heval Hylan of Auckland for nine months after he was found guilty of misconduct for certifying a separation agreement which he knew was false. Mr Hylan acted for a woman and her husband who were not separated and were jointly caring for their children. The tribunal found that Mr Hylan knew the woman was being forced to sign the agreement by her husband and that it was needed to support a visa application to Immigration New Zealand for a person said to be the husband’s girlfriend. Law Society National Prosecutions Manager Mark Treleaven says New Zealand lawyers are held to “an extremely high standard of professional conduct, and they are expected to maintain the integrity of the legal profession no matter how much pressure is placed upon them".
 
Minter Ellison to defend tax office over $6m claim they ‘ruined a man’s life’
The Australian Tax Office face a day in court this September accused of ruining a man’s life by issuing an incorrect tax demand for $200,000; the amount was later revised to just over $8,500. Minter Ellison has been hired to defend the ATO against the legal action by Gary Kurzer, who believes they neglected a duty of care and caused him five years of emotional, physical and financial pain before settling the disputed tax bill. He claims he lost his home, business and marriage as a result of the issue. Kurzer is seeking almost $6m in damages and will take on Minter Ellison without representation.
 
Australia follows other nations with proposed cyber laws
Last week Britain and France were drafting emergency legislation to update the powers of security services relating to accessing data held by telecom and internet companies. Now Australian attorney-general George Brandis has signalled that similar powers are heading this way. Highlighting that the current laws date back to the 70s, a time way before smartphones and internet, Mr Brandis said that his office was considering options that may include requiring internet providers and telecom networks to retain data for up to two years, and making it easier for the security services to access that information. Privacy campaigners are concerned about any moves to ‘spy’ on citizens but the authorities say that there are genuine concerns over Australians who go abroad with the intention of training for terrorist activity on their return home.

Fake law-firm scandal grows
A scandal which began when UK payday lender Wonga was found to have been sending letters to customers appearing to be from a law firm has revealed a more widespread practice. While some were keen to throw mud at a company that makes short-term loans at very high interest rates, the names that are also less than transparent include some banking giants. Lloyd's, HSBC and Barclays have all sent letters from in-house legal teams that appear to be from third-party law firms. Consumer groups, the UK Law Society and a government Treasury select committee have condemned the practice and the banks say they no longer do it, but it does raise the question about how common this technique is. The issue for the law profession is that, although mostly these letters are from real solicitors, the practice does not reflect well on genuine law firms. So far it has not been exposed as an international practice, but as some of the names mentioned are global operations, it is entirely possible.

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