Leighton Associates are excited to say that New Zealand's cleverest and most creative lawyers are in employment law. And their stories are amazing.
On balance, we reckon the internationally brilliant Warwick Reid is outshone by the more shadowy Tony Smith.
Warwick Reid of Tauranga is the world's most famous money-launderer. He was convicted of taking bribes as Acting Chief Crown Prosecutor in British colonial Hong Kong in the 1980s, but turned informer to get out early. He even sued because it wasn't early enough. When he got out, he was escorted back to New Zealand. The Hong Kong press said he had witness protection. The New Zealand press kept very quiet.
Reid bought land in Tauranga in the name of his wife and his solicitor. While he was in prison, the Attorney-General put a caveat on the land to reclaim fines. Reid said he couldn't do that. Junior lawyer Stephen Kos took a case to the Privy Council to change the law so bribes could be reclaimed through land. Warwick Reid became world famous, because all law students learn that case.
Reid was escorted out of prison into a military Black Hawk helicopter. Within days of returning to Tauranga, he swore a false affidavit for a Chinese businessman, in return for $1,000,000. Hong Kong wanted him to be extradited but New Zealand prosecuted him in the Tauranga District Court and Rotorua High Court. He got two years for attempting to pervert the course of justice.
Reid's wife Judith was an accountant. She worked for the management consulting company KPMG, as Judith Brake. For some reason she moved to a smaller company, and for some reason they made her redundant, without using the right process. In 2009 Reid represented her as her employment advocate, and from then on he was involved in employment law. He ran two companies doing employment law as his new business.
Strangely, the New Zealand press seems to have reported very little about Reid even though he is so well known world wide. Some Kiwi lawyers don't even know this celebrity is still alive, let alone doing employment law in Tauranga.
Tony Smith of Wellington University got involved in employment law at about the same time as Reid. He is not as well known as Reid, though things can change, and we think he has been much more clever.
Reid made money from crime, but he got caught and went to prison. If he was still doing it, he can't flaunt it in his lifestyle. But when Smith was caught, he paid lawyers to make it legal. And he didn't even pay with his own money. So he is still at large and going to drinks parties, and he and his mates and relatives can all flaunt it. We think that's a lot more clever.
Tony Smith did an LLB and an LLM at the University of Canterbury in the 1960s. After that he networked and mocked the system. He involved his family and his mates. We think that was very clever. If he was ever going to get caught, so were his mates. So they would look after him.
He got admitted to the New Zealand Bar but he didn't do any legal practice in New Zealand. He went to Cambridge University for fifteen years to do a PhD, but instead of doing the research, he bought a PhD instead.
He got a "life fellow" of a Cambridge college, two high level university research jobs and a "personal chair" of Cambridge University, an LLD title but he still didn't do any research projects we can see. We understand that some people valued his computer expertise so it didn't matter to them if he didn't do any normal research.
Cambridge mates were very useful. Judge David Eady helped Smith put his name on a book as editor, but other people helped with actually writing it. Michael Tugendhat arranged for him to help on court cases so he could be admitted to the English Bar, but he didn't have to do any legal practice. Tugendhat became a Judge when Eady retired. Smith stayed in his 5RB Chambers.
When the British government started paying universities on actual research, Smith found himself on the back foot but got a high paying job at Wellington University as Dean of Law and Government Relations.
He didn't need to do teaching or research although his job was to "lead research". He could also sign $500,000 at a time from a publicly funded "discretionary account", no questions asked. He made his mate Gordon Anderson a Professor of Labour Law. He gave academic titles to his admin assistant Gordon Stewart so they could both use the discretionary account. Their useful mate was Geoff Davenport, an employment lawyer who fixed all the high paying jobs at Wellington University. Davenport fixed things at Parliament as well.
In 2010 Smith wrote a book chapter on terrorism saying he was on the International Panel of Advisors at the famous Lockerbie Trial. There wasn't an International Panel of Advisors at the famous Lockerbie Trial. Leighton Associates asked the Advertising Standards Authority about that. They required him to produce independent evidence that the Panel existed. But like we said, Smith was really clever. He changed the wording to "a" panel, and left the statement on the website. We also understand a certain friend he did a favour for once actually was at the Lockerbie Trial and maybe didn't mind a "confidential" suggestion that Smith might have been "a" panel by himself.
Smith, a lawyer called Austin Forbes who we understand used to flat with Smith, and Stewart's close friend Helen Cull, fixed the Law Society. They replaced the Rule of Law and Ethics and put Employment Law in there instead. The Law Society agreed to leave everything to judges.
Smith advised the government that it needed to give judges more power to order people to respect judges. MBIE's members and judges starting claiming they could make any order and send people to prison if they didn't like it.
MBIE was a big success. This huge government department was put together in 2012. They pre-authorised private lawyers like Buddle Findlay to act for other government departments. Which really means they were the easiest lawyers for government departments to pay.
Maybe it was just charm, but the real courts agreed that MBIE's orders were "specialist" and more important than the real courts. MBIE even had the power to authorise coverups of theft and to order people who reported the theft to go to prison. MBIE started running everything.
In 2013 they got an insurance company to pay over $3,000,000 to buy Peter Whittall out of prosecution for the Pike River Mine explosions.
Unluckily for Peter Whittall that was 80% of his insurance and we ask how much of the other 20% went to his lawyers. Unlucky if so because later the Supreme Court said that was illegal. So Andrew Little was supposed to get Whittall back ... to be defended on legal aid?
Smith still got promotions for mates and relatives and mates' relatives at Wellington University who could not get there any other way. His son already had a Crown Solicitor job. It's best to have friends in high places or if not to put your mates there.
But in 2014 Smith and Stewart were caught. They weren't the only ones. Managers in the Hamilton and Tauranga City Councils and Bay of Plenty DHB were caught in corruption. Pretty ordinary corruption, but also pretty big.
If you give people a get-out clause for anything they do, then some of them will do it. Especially if it includes taking money. All over New Zealand, managers and employers were caught. MBIE was making corruption legal.
But it worked out okay. The MBIE judges (and the members pretending to be judges) swung behind it. They said it was now okay for managers to agree not to report theft or forgery to the police. They could give in false records to explain where the money had gone. MBIE would get it all suppressed and the MBIE judges would send anyone to prison who breached the suppression. They did it too.
The lawyers concerned were getting their promotions too. By now the courts have got so many judges who have persuaded people that in New Zealand, crime can be authorised by MBIE, it's not likely anyone can change it. The former Chief Judge Graeme Colgan who passed most of the decisions that made legalising crime possible had to do it in public because New Zealand doesn't have secret law yet. There is no chance that the judge who sent the Tauranga whistleblower Geoffrey Brown to prison will ever be able to disguise what he did. He is now helping former theatre technician Peter Chandler, who fired a worker for reporting fraud, to sue her for putting photographs of him stalking her on Facebook, because he is now Chief Executive. His cases against that worker have cost the DHB hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars.
We at Leighton Associates wonder if Geoffrey Brown and Pete Chandler's neighbour Warwick Reid by any chance ever noticed that a legal process that is no longer limited to employment disputes but is available to secretly legalise any transaction his is just right for money laundering, but this time not getting caught.
So now MBIE has a list of approved Employment Lawyers for anyone in government to pay with government money. They can get any order they want from MBIE's Authority Members. The Employment judges will support the orders. The High Court will support the Employment judges. Or now that the system has been set up with all that public money, you could go privately.
Smith got the support of the Attorney-General and new Justice Minister Andrew Little for making it a criminal offence to say anything about a judge that might undermine confidence in the judiciary (such as what Helen Cull had done for him) and then for saying that orders of MBIE had to be obeyed or they could be sent to prison. Andrew Little held meetings all over the world about how important New Zealand's suppression rules were. It looked as though someone was taking advantage of a. rookie Minister.
Without the suppression rules for documents and names that were brought in to the Employment Law system, it really would not be useful for things like theft and money laundering at all. The point of the new system is that people can't get caught in a bad way, because wrongdoers can just get MBIE to suppress whatever they want to do, and send people to prison if they report it.
This is why we think Smith is cleverer than Reid. (Though we realise he didn't manage it alone.)
Reid got the law changed against him by Stephen Kos. Reid ended up driving a bus but Stephen Kos got a high paying job as a judge.
Smith changed the law against everyone else and now even Stephen Kos as a judge has to support him, if MBIE says.
We think Reid was clever but ultimately he failed as far as anyone knows. We think Smith has been really, really clever.