Lawyers on a weakly basis

It is the Lawyers Weekly that gets the attention at present. The article (at https://www.lawyersweekly.com.au/biglaw/22159-lawyers-don-t-need-to-become-accomplices-to-white-collar-crime) gives us the nice title with ‘Lawyers ‘don’t need to become accomplices’ to white-collar crime‘, yet is that statement anywhere near the truth or the applicable situation that many face in today’s industry? Monty Raphael QC talks the talk and does so very nicely as the experienced QC he is, yet there were a few points in all this that are an issue to me and it should be an issue to a much larger community. For me it starts with the quote ““Cyber space has not created any new crimes, as such, really, of any significance,” Mr Raphael said.” This is of course a correct statement, because until the laws are adjusted, plenty of issues are not covered as crimes. We merely need to look at the defence cloak that ‘facilitation’ gives to see that plenty is not covered. The case D Tamiz v Google Inc is merely one example and as technology renews and evolves, more and newer issues will rise, not merely in cases of defamation breaking on the defence of mere facilitation.

Yet for this matter, what is more a visible situation is the case of Tesco a how PwC seems to not be under the scrutiny it should be, it should have been so from day 1. So when we read: “Mr Raphael insisted that lawyers have an ethical obligation to ensure they do not support or enable white-collar crime” we are introduced to a statement that is for the most seemingly empty. I state it in this way, because the options of scaling the legal walls while not breaking any of the laws that were bended to the will of the needy is an increasingly more challenging task. If the legal walls were better than PwC would clearly be in the dock 2 years ago, or would they? In addition, they are not alone, merely slightly (read: loads) more visible as the profit before tax for Tesco ended up being minus 6.3 billion in 2015.

Monty makes a good case, yet the underlying issue is not the lawyer, it for the most never was. It is the law itself. This is why I object to the title, it is nice but is it true? PwC shows that even as we oppose their actions, the fact that they are not in the dock is because when we see Reuters (at https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-britain-tesco-fraud/former-tesco-executives-pressured-staff-to-cook-books-court-told-idUKKCN1C41TK) we see “Tesco’s auditors PwC were “misled and lied to,” Wass added“. Is this true? Let’s consider the evidence, can it be shown and proven that they were lied to?

It might never be proven because the people in the dock have had years to get their story right (read: synchronised). What I stated at the very beginning of the events of Tesco remains true and it remains the issue. The fact is that PwC made that year £13 million from this one customer. Much of it in a project and auditors for the rest and they did not spot the fact that the books were ‘cooked’, will remain an issue with me for some time to come. It is the Tesco case that also underlies the issue here. It is about the weak lawyer, not because he is weak, but the lack of proper laws protecting all victims of white collar entrepreneurs is stopping them from aiding potential victims. In addition as the law is struggling to merely remain four passes behind it all, it becomes less and less useful, not to mention a lot less effective. As the next generation of economic tools are being rolled out (block chain being a first), we will see new iteration of issues for the law, for both the CPS and DPP as it cannot progress forward in light of the legal parties not comprehending the technology in front of them, so showing wrongdoing will become an increasingly hard task for lawyer to work with. The biggest issue is that as it is all virtual, the issue of non-repudiation goes out of the window. Not only will it become close to impossible to work with the premise of ‘beyond all reasonable doubt‘, there is the fact that ‘proof on a balance of probabilities‘ is becoming equally a stretch. The fact of non-repudiation is only one of several factors. So as we have seen that successful criminals tend to hide on the edge of technology, the chance to stop them is becoming increasingly less likely.

This now gets us to the statement “In the wake of the Panama Papers revelation from law firm Mossack Fonseca, Mr Raphael cautioned that clients’ criminal activities can come back to haunt their law firms“, the fact that both former prime ministers involved in the Panama paper scandals, Bjarni Benediktsson and Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, have been re-elected to the Icelandic parliament (Source: IceNews), so it seems that the Panama papers are a little less of a haunt. In addition there will be a long debate of what constitutes the difference between Tax Avoidance and Tax Evasion, because only one of those two is illegal. In addition certain questions on how 2.6TB was leaked and no alarms went off is also an issue, because the time required to get a hold of such a large amount of documents would take a monumental amount of time and with every option to shorten the path, alarms should have been ringing. When we consider the basic IT issues, we get partial answers but not the answers that clearly address the issues, as they did not. The time it had required to do all this should have placed it on the IT radar and that never happened. So as we see on how patches and security risks are now being pushed for as a reason, we need to wonder if Mossack Fonseca could have been the wealthy party it claimed to have been. When we consider the expression ‘a fool and his money are soon parted‘ the lowest level of IT transgressions that have been seemingly overlooked gives rise to a total lack of Common Cyber Sense, staff that should have been regarded as incompetent and an infrastructure that was lacking to a much larger degree. You see, even before we get to the topic of  ‘illegally obtained data‘ which was used for investigations that have convicted people of crimes, the larger issue that could be in play  on the foundation of that data alone, a few prison sentences could be regarded as invalid, or might get overturned soon enough. There were cases where the story gives clear indications of what was done and here we see the consideration of what is admissible evidence. In this, the one step back is the IT part. The hardware would have regarded as little as $100K to upgrade to better security standards and hiring a better level of University Student in his or her final year might have given a much safer IT environment, perhaps even at half the current cost.

All issues worthy of debate, yet none of it hitting the lawyers; it more hits the infrastructure of it all. Yet these two issues that might now be seen as real hindrances for lawyers, in a place of laws that are now seemingly too weak, the law, not the lawyer. So as we recollect the Toronto Star in January 2017 where we see “Canada is a good place to create tax planning structures to minimize taxes like interest, dividends, capital gains, retirement income and rental income,” when we see the added “the Canadian government has made it easier than ever for criminals and tax cheats to move money in and out by signing tax agreements with 115 countries” we see growing evidence that the law is getting hindered by eager politicians making their mark for large corporations through the signing of tax agreements, and what they think would be long term benefits for their economy, whilst in actuality the opposite becomes the case. So every clever Tom, Dick and Mossack Fonseca can set up valid and legal shapes of international corporations all paying slightly less than a farthing for all their taxations. Legal paths, enabled by politicians and as the laws are not adjusted we can all idly stand by how nothing illegal is going on. So as we admire the weakly lawyers, we get to realise that the law and the politicians adjusting it weakened their impact.

In all this at no point would the Lawyer have been an accomplice. The data lies with IT, the setting of these off shore accounts were largely valid and legally sound and in that, there could always be a bad apple, yet that does not make the Lawyer an accomplice. That brings us to the final part which we see with “Money laundering has been in the spotlight recently, with the Commonwealth Bank facing punishment for failing to report suspicious deposits in its ATMs“. It needs to be seen against “Mr Raphael insisted that lawyers have an ethical obligation to ensure they do not support or enable white-collar crime” in this the banks are already faltering. We seek the dark light events of PwC and Mossack Fonseca, yet the basics are already getting ignored. I believe that the article is missing a part, I feel certain that it has at least been on the mind of my jurisprudential peer. You see, the legal councils will need to evolve. Not only will they need to do what they are already doing, the path where they (or more likely their interns) start to teach IT and other divisions a legal introduction on what is white collar crimes. The fact on how ‘suspicious deposits‘ could be a white collar crime is becoming more and more visible. I see that the education of IP legality in IT is now growing and growing. The intertwining can no longer be avoided. Now, we can agree that an IT person does not need a law degree, but the essential need to comprehend certain parts, in the growing mountains of data is more and more a given.

In all this there is one clear part that I oppose with Mr Raphael, it is the statement ‘There’s nothing cultural about greed‘, you see, as I personally see it that is no longer true, the corporate culture that is globally embraced made it so!

 

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