Thursday, October 29, 2009

Marching Orders part 2

Mine Host requested an advice from a lawyer. He contacted his (then) current law firm and was directed to a smart young lawyer specialising in the field in question.

The requested advice was: "What are the implications and downside to winding up "Shelf Company X"?

Shelf Company X was a small company that had been used by Mine Host in the past. It had no assets, had not traded for several years, yet had suddenly become the target of a massive claim by the Tax Office, for a figure well into Six digits. (How Shelf Company X got into this predicament will be covered in another post)

At the time Mine Host was thousands of miles away in a new career, working more hours than a human should be awake, and did not want to engage in litigation against the ATO.

Especially as:
If he won: He got nothing except a massive legal bill.
If he lost: He had to pay the massive Six figure sum and he got a massive legal bill.

The smart young lawyer sent Mine Host a very long written advice. He covered many topics, but made no mention of the implications of winding up the company.

Mine Host phoned & wrote to the lawyer, restating the initial request.

The Smart Young Lawyer sent Mine Host another long written advice, covering many topics, but again made no mention of the implications of winding up the company.

Mine Host contacted the Lawyer again, ensured the lawyer understood his simple request and once again the Smart Young Lawyer sent a long written advice.... (and so on and so forth).

This went on for several exchanges. Mine Host grew rapidly more impatient. Time was wasting.

Eventually in exasperation Mine Host contacted the overseeing partner at the law firm and in-a-manner-that-could-not-be-mistaken instructed the partner that he was-sick-to-death-of-the-Smart-Young-Lawyer giving advice-on-everything-under-the-sun-except what he had been asked.

Shortly thereafter Mine Host received the advice he requested.

The advice: (abridged) "If the company is dissolved nothing will happen. The sole creditor is the ATO, and they won't be able to grab anything. Your troubles will be over"

The time take to produce the Two Paragraph Advice: One Month

The bill: $20,000.00 (due to the large amount of written advice provided)

Mine Host severed relations with that law firm just as soon as Shelf Company X was dissolved.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Marching Orders part #1

A couple of months ago Legal Eagle and Mine Host discussed briefly the matter of clients not feeling their lawyer is entirely on their side.

The matter of dismissing one's lawyer cropped up. Mine Host has form in this area.

It was suggested that Mine Host may have been blaming the lawyer for Mine Host's failure to not disclose all details of his case. Hmmm.... read the next few posts & see if the lawyer or the client who was out of order.

One of the messier partings was from a Brisbane law firm with a double-barrelled name, quartered in a high rise office tower.... Messy because it took a while.

This firm had been Mine Host's "law firm", giving advice & acting for him in various matters, one such matter being an asset purchase.

This asset came with a few clapped out but registered, vehicles. It was the lawyer's duty to ensure the transfer of Motor Vehicle Registrations.

The asset transferred smoothly, as did the ancillaries, including motor vehicles.

However registrations of these motor vehicles did not transfer to Mine Host. The (annual) registrations subsequently expired without renewal notices having arrived.

Mine Host telephoned to the Department of Transport & enquired as to when he could expect the renewal notices (and new registration sticker to affix to the window).

The Department, upon learning the registration number (on the "Number Plate" affixed to the front and rear of the vehicle) refused to continue discussions, stating the motor vehicles were registered to another party, and the Dept. was not at liberty to discuss the registrations with an "outside party".

Furnishing the Department of Transport with proof of ownership made no difference. The Dept. could discuss the registrations only with the holder of those registrations.

Mine Host contacted the lawer at the firm with the double-barrelled name, explained what had happened & asked for him to sort the matter out.

Nothing changed.

Some time later Mine Host contacted this lawyer to find out why he was not getting satisfaction, and asked to see a copy of the transfer form that had been lodged with the Department of Transport.

Nothing was forthcoming, and whenever Mine Host phoned, the lawyer was not available.

Emails to the lawyer likewise went unanswered.

Two Years later Mine Host gave up emailing the lawyer.

Eventually a sympathetic clerk at the Motor Vehicle Registry informed Mine Host that at time of transfer a submission had been recieved from the seller, but not from the buyer (that would be Mine Host).

Not revealing who held the registrations, the clerk asked Mine Host if he knew a certain person. Mine Host did, the person was a former employee of the vendor. There was no fathomable explanation for why this person held the registrations.

Mine Host made contact with this fellow, who was by now most confused, being stuck with vehicle registrations he knew nothing about.

The renewals had not been delivered in a timely fashion, and the registrations were now in default.

Of course a simple transfer from the current holder to Mine Host, now possible, would have resolved the matter, however the matter should never have arisen in the first place, and the other fellow was in all the trouble that comes with "defaulting" on a government debt.

Mine Host, by now well & truly tired of a lawyer who did not return phone calls or emails, made a most robust phone call to the big name law firm, explaining in a very matter of fact voice the situation he was in, with particular emphasis on the fact that Two Years had now passed, and the situation that an innocent party was in, possibly all due to inaction by the lawyer at the time of transfer.

Another partner took the call and discussed the matter with Mine Host, undertaking to find out what had happened. Some time later this other partner provided Mine Host with the original of the motor vehicle registration transfer form. It clearly showed that the registrations should have been transferred to Mine Host...... It had never been lodged.

Mine Host expressed to this other partner his disappointment with the law firm.

The law firm sent a bill for $660 for forwarding the (unlodged) transfer form.

The Department's debt collection lawyer had been sooled onto the bunny who had been lumbered with the regos. This lawyer, now armed with the original of the transfer form, instructed the Queensland Government to transfer the registrations to Mine Host, expunge the other fellow from the registration records, to expunge all mention of any "default", to cease all action against the other fellow, and to reverse any action that had been taken. Furthermore the department was to immediately notify the hapless fellow of this.

What had happened at time of transfer?
Someone, with only one of two matching forms, had read the back of the vendor's transfer form, and taken his "agent or servant" to be the person to whom the registrations were to be transferred.

Mine Host no longer uses that hyphenated-named law firm.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Beyond words

Uncle & his best friend joined up at the start of the war. They trained together & were posted to the same infantry unit in Malaya. When Japan entered the war the fighting went badly and retreat was ordered.

Uncle was shot in the legs in one of the first clashes with the Japanese army. He was unable to walk, and such was the urgent pace of the retreat that he was among those left behind by their own unit.

Uncle & other men unable to walk were laid in the shade in a sheltered position, their mates propped canvas shades over them, Uncle & his mate shook hands and parted.

One can only imagine what were the thoughts & the mood of the men who retreated south leaving their mates to the Japanese. In later years the only comment on the matter from Uncle's mate was gruff & along the lines of: Had they known what the Japanese treatment of prisoners was to be, they would never have abandoned them.

The wounded men lay abandoned, unable to move, pondering their fate. Hours later they heard the approach of the Japanese army. For most of a day they could hear, but not see, the Japanese carefully making a systematic approach to what would have seemed to be an Australian position.
When Japanese scouts ascertained there was no military threat, the Japanese came in full force. It was made plain to the wounded men that they must march, or be beaten.

None could walk, so Japanese soldiers got stuck into them with rifle butts. It was made plain to the Japanese officer commanding that none of the Australians could walk. The Japanese officer replied that the Australians would march, or the beating would continue.

Most of the skin on the front of Uncle's face had been lifted in a 3-cornered gash, & hung down over his face. His nose, brow ridges and teeth & jaw were smashed, giving him the appearance of being dead. The Australians were pushed together by the Japanese, Uncle was not grouped with the others, presumably he was believed dead.

The Japanese became tired of wielding rifle butts. A tripod mounted machine gun was positioned facing the Australians, and fired continuously into the collection of wounded & immobile Australian soldiers. Then Japanese soldiers advanced forward and bayonetted any who had survived the machine-gunning. The men who were still alive lay still & feigned death, even as they were bayonetted.

After the machine-gunning and bayonetting many were still alive. Uncle & other survivors lay still. The Japanese then poured petrol onto the dead & living Australians and ignited it.

It was dark by this time, & uncle was able to make it into the nearby long grass & into the forest. He was unable to walk, unable to see, & unable to eat. The first 30 days of wriggling on his stomach through the jungle were the hardest.

When recaptured several weeks later, he was wasted enough to not be expected to live, his injuries were in a very serious state.

He recovered in Changi jail, and spent most of the war on the Burma Railway.

At war's end he returned to his home. His eyes had a look in them that caused all & sundry to pause & reflect.

Uncle rarely spoke of the war, always wore long sleeves & long trousers, and became practised at training his hair so that though it appeared to be in an untidy state from him performing manual labour, was actually carefully trained to cover the maximum amount of scarring.

Uncle was one of those who never purchased a Japanese car, and never worked for an employer who dealt, even peripherally, with a Japanese company.

On the difficulty of years later and after a wartime of events, identifying which Japanese officer or soldier committed which atrocity, and the unreliability of identifying the actual perpetrator, he stated that "Hanging any Japanese officer is a good start...", his eyes making it plain how extensively he thought war crimes trials should proceed....

Uncle would have no part of any suggestion of a national reconciliation with Japan, and on occassion walked out of a job without another word rather than be in the presence of one who believed that Japan's wartime record should be treated with tact.

He never exhibited bitterness toward people who seriously urged him that Japan should be treated with tact. In fact he never exhibited anything, simply never responded to any further contact from them, ever.

Uncle went to his grave maintaining that the Japanese were a very intelligent and very dangerous species of monkey that was able to interbreed with humans. This was not an obtuse expression of bitterness, it was his acknowledgement that huge numbers of individual Japanese had over many years, performed acts which no human could have committed.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The expert Touch

It may not be widely known, but in the years just after the war quite a number of Dutch national servicemen were demobbed in Australia. Several of these men worked on the same sawmill as Mine Host's grandfather. This was in the days when immigrants were required to work a minimum of 2 years in the bush, at a labouring job dictated by the government.

Mine Host's Aunts were keen pianists, playing every day for hours.
These ladies each have now retired from a lifelong career as music teachers, and still play daily, now with more than 70 years on keyboard. A record of which they are justifiably very proud.

As many musicians are, they were fanatic as teenagers, and played for hours each day. The sawmill workers were able to hear the piano notes coming from the cottage.

One day one of the Dutchmen ventured to the door of the cottage, and asked the lady of the house, in very broken English, that he had been listening each day to the playing, and how nice it was, and would the girls mind if he "had a go himself"?

Graciousness dictated that he be invited in, for a cup of tea & then he sat down at the piano and demonstrated skill on the piano that silenced the household. His playing brought goosebumps to the backs of the girls necks.

Prior to being conscripted, he had in Europe been a concert pianist. He was most grateful for the opportunity to play.

Why he had chosen demobbing in Australia, followed by years of unaccustomed rough labour on a bush sawmill, was an unexplained mystery. He was in the company of his countrymen (the sawmill was mostly Dutch) but was in possession of a skill that would have better served him in Europe.

His playing was such that to this day the Aunts are in awe of the playing that afternoon in the sawmill cottage.