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Money and justice

Written By: - Date published: 4:24 pm, October 11th, 2009 - 32 comments
Categories: uncategorized - Tags:

Jenny Ruth has the best comment I’ve seen on Philip Field’s sentence in today’s Sunday Star-Times – not available on the paper’s website or on Stuff.co.nz.

Taito Philip Field was a pompous twit over the Thai tilers’ affair, particularly in his inept attempts at a cover-up, but his six -year jail sentence is outrageous.

Ruth contrasts Field’s sentence, where she says “the Crown estimates the free labour Field received from eight Thai tradesmen was worth $58,000”, with the near six-years meted out to Allan Hawkins for the Equiticorp fraud, where $327 million in 1987 dollars was involved, and the victim was the taxpayer.

She then lists others who had “a much easier ride.” They include Sir Robert Jones, who sold 105 million Robert Jones Investment shares between mid-1989 and November 1991 for prices above $1 each and should have filed substantial shareholder notices during that period at the same time as he was exhorting mum and dad shareholders to buy the shares. Jones was ordered to forfeit six million shares and pay $250,000 to cover the Securities Commission costs of prosecuting him. The more than $105million worth of shares were worth $8.4m at the time of the judge’s decision. the mum and dad shareholders were the victims then.

And Michael Fay and David Richwhite, who sold 17.5 million Tranzrail shares for $3.60 in 2002 just ahead of a profit warning which sent the shares plummeting to “well south of $1”. Fay and Richwhite settled out of ourt with the Securities Commission for $20 million in 2007 on a no-fault-accepted basis. “The victims in that case were the institutions who bought the shares and the savings of many thousands of mums and dads those institutions are charged with managing’, said Ruth.

And Tim Hunter, in the same edition of the SST, likewise not available on the website, passes imaginary sentence on Westpac after wondering what a judge might have said to Westpac after finding that “yes, it did dodge $586 million in tax.” He starts:

Westpac, I find you have committed a most serious offence. Our society is built on a collective shouldering of the burden. while we all have our individual interests, we nevertheless pull together to achieve benefits for the country as a whole – the Kiwi iwi, if you like.’..

You, however, decided to avoid your responsibilities, to freeload on the society in which you earn your living. Wilfully, and with barely a thought for the harm you were causing you constructed a series of arrangements with various accomplices overseas to deprive this country of $586m.

And concludes:

In summary, your action showed extreme selfishness, greed and a careless disregard for your fellow man.

You deserve the maximum penalty this court can award. I hereby fine you “use of ”money interest of $375m. Non of your executives or accomplices will go to jail and none will face a sanction of any kind.

You are free to go.

The fools go to jail and the moneyed go free. This puts the faux outrage of the right-wing blogs over Field into perspective – Taito was a fool. But it’s the moneyed going free that’s the real outrage – it’s happened too often in this country.

And Stuff should publish this stuff on Stuff.co.nz – might save a few more mums and dads.

32 comments on “Money and justice”

  1. TightyRighty 1

    corruption and abuse of office by an elected official couldn’t possibly be worthy of a six year sentence. is that what your saying john a?

    • Marty G 1.1

      I think John’s saying the robber barons should have been locked up for good. It’s not got anything to do with excusing Field

  2. IrishBill 2

    I disagree, I think the sentence was on the large side but justifiable and I think each other sentence mentioned was way too light. In fact I’d say that half the problems the NZX has with underinvestment is due to the fact most Kiwis sense it’s the stomping ground of cowboy capitalists who will never be held to account for their dodgy dealings.

    • TightyRighty 2.1

      and yet all kiwis have no choice other than compulsion to “invest” through taxes in the dodgy dealings of cowboys such as field and carter in parliament.

    • Rex Widerstrom 2.2

      I agree IB. And where those sentences would be out of kilter in a far more offensive way — and where Field’s already is — is when they’re compared against the sentences handed out to someone who has harmed or killed someone.

      I know a young girl — a first offender – serving five years for an “armed robbery” in which she waved a corkscrew at someone while out of her mind on drugs, took $5, a cellphone and car keys, and promptly crashed the car. No one was hurt, or even touched. The judge’s immediately preceding sentence was of a young man, with a string of previous convictions, who’d caved in a father’s head with a cricket bat, in front of his children, because he (the victim) had asked the youth and his friends not to walk through the middle of their Boxing Day game of family beach cricket. That sentence too was five years.

      There’s something awfully, sickeningly wrong with justice systems that place a higher value on property than on life.

      • Ag 2.2.1

        Yeah, well as far as I know all judges start out as lawyers, so in a way it makes perfect sense.

    • Pascal's bookie 2.3

      I’m not really sure that’s a disagreement. You’re comparing the sentences to a personal standard, and saying this sentence is about right and the others too light. The article compares them to each other and implies that either this sentence was too harsh or the others too soft.


  3. John A 3

    Depends on how serious the corruption and abuse. I’m saying there are a lot more serious forms of corruption and abuse of position that don’t receive anything like six years in prison, particularly when it comes to money matters.

  4. gitmo 4

    What Irish said 100%.

  5. TightyRighty 5

    this is a precedent john a. the first official in office to be charged with corruption. wouldn’t a more lenient sentence have made it seem like corruption was a light weight crime?

  6. BLiP 6

    The law has been written by the rich for the rich and, as that famous American transvestite head of the FBI said:

    Justice is incidental to law and order

  7. RedLogix 7

    John A,

    A fine post I agree with 100%. Thanks for writing up what I’ve been too busy and distracted to do for myself.

    Personally I still think the whole thing was a witch hunt, that while Field’s actions were professionally incorrect, that he had to be stood down as a Minister… and that his subsequent attempts at damage control were ludicrously inept… he was never a criminal.

    I’ve taken the time read up as much as I can access on the case against him, and personally I think it’s a load of bollocks. The Crown for instance, accumulates something like $58,000 of work done for him, by using trade rates.. when in reality much of the work was done on a low level DIY basis, and would never have been renumerated at those rates. Moreover the Crown deliberately doesn’t include the free rent many of these people were getting. At best I believe Field may have benefited by maybe $15-25k at most. (On that basis will we ever see Sir Double Dipton serve a 120 year sentence for the $400k he has stolen from the taxpayer? Doubt it.)

    Nor was any evidence to suggest that Field had said to anyone anything along the lines of “If you do this work for me, then I’ll get your immigration status sorted”. That would have been clearly prosecutable. Instead what we had was a very busy man, dealing with hundreds of people in dire circumstances… and getting sucked into an unwise blurring of boundaries, poor paperwork and forms of reciprocity, that while acceptable in his culture, are not so in ours. Politically his errors of judgement were terminal, I can accept that.

    But criminal? No.

    • Dan 7.1

      If only someone had said to Field “It’s not a good look, Taito.’
      I do hope he appeals; the sentence is way out of kilter.
      Great series of inputs people!

    • Rex Widerstrom 7.2

      Oh come on Red Logix… there’s a culture of “chiefs” in various Pacific cultures ripping people off and unless we brave false charges of racism and state it’s unacceptable we’re just turning a blind eye to exploitation.

      Growing up, my late best friend used to despair of his mother giving virtually every spare dollar the family had to their Minister. He apparently needed a new church, even though there was already one plenty big enough in use round the corner. It got as far as the foundations, which took years to appear, before he ran off back to Samoa with one of the congregation. and the balance of the cash

      There was a very clever satire of this on a NZ sketch show a few years back. I can’t recall the name of it though… but “the Minister” was always popping round to raid the poor family’s savings and then head off in his new 4WD. It’s the only time I’ve ever seen anyone brave enough to admit openly what anyone who knew a Pasifika family knew was happening.

      If indeed it’s “acceptable in his culture” then it shouldn’t be, and it certainly ought to be held up to shame and ridicule in NZ.

      Power should never be used corruptly, whether to double dip in Dipton or misappropriate money in Mangere.

      • RedLogix 7.2.1

        For every instance of abuse, there are many more examples of the culture of ‘big man’ chiefs looking after their people as well, acting as centers of ‘redistribution’ among their extended families and village communities. Sure they take in a lot, but they also give out a lot as well…. it’s a form of socialism writ on a personal, very local scale. It’s a collective way of living that has evolved and worked for these people for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.

        Now it’s a social model that’s not without it’s obvious potential shortcomings… but neither is the robber baron capitalist model we run so fabulously crash hot either. The point is… it’s how the Pacifica people do things, and from what airy peaks of moral high ground are we to tell them that they’re wrong?

  8. torydog 8

    Gosh this “tighty righty”person needs to keep taking ya meds!!!!!!

    TR Stop telling out and out fabrications and take a look at your own crowd!

    • TightyRighty 8.1

      what out and out fabrications loser? where is a single fabrication in my argument on this thread? or are you just trying to spin it so field doesn’t look like an asshole corrupt politician.

      I would never defend anyone on the right if they did what he did from a position of elected trust. using business people as an example of Field doesn’t deserve six years? that is grasping at straws. not entirely unexpected by me of this site.

  9. mike 9

    You lefties don’t even start to get it. Allan Hawkins was not elected to serve the people – do you still think TPF was only guilty of trying to help people?

    • RedLogix 9.1

      and the victim was the taxpayer.

      So you think the theft of $327m (and that would be around several billion in present terms) of taxpayers’ money is not also a betrayal of public trust also?

      Look at every other example John has given; all of them a betrayal of public trust orders of magnitude greater than Field’s… yet the consequences were risibly light compared to what the brown skin fella got.

      • mike 9.1.1

        Ffs – now you stoop to the race card.

        This poor ‘brown skined fella’ enslaved and bribed other brown skined fella ‘s and then lied to cover up lies under oath.

        All this while being protected by corrupt enablers at the very top of the labour party.

        • RedLogix

          Fact is that the rich white guys get off light, the brown or working class ones get slammed. I’m not playing any ‘cards’ here mike, this isn’t some game here… people’s lives have been ripped up and pissed on over this cynical witchhunt. If I see this kind of shit, I’m going to call it for how I see it.

          As for ‘enslaved and bribed’ and ‘corrupt enablers’.. jeez you really did swallow it whole didn’t you?

  10. Bill 10

    I didn’t follow this whole affair very closely at all.

    It has left me disquietened insofar as I am aware that a lot of people are being pulled up in relation to immigration issues in the media, which lead me to wonder about the xenophobic element of this affair

    Actually, not xenophobia. Not racist either. It’s a class thing.

    The only people who have to negotiate an obstacle course on their way to being to where they want to be are the working class. And that leads to all types of dealings and exposures/blackmails/threats.

    And yes, before anyone asks, I should and do know .

  11. George.com 11

    Maybe Field did deserve 6 years. Maybe that is an appropriate penalty for his crime. Might be that Awatere-Huata got off lightly though at least her political career was ruined as a result, which was a huge bonus for NZ.

    However the likes of Fay, Richwhite, Jones, Hawkins etc all deserve time inside. The question is not perhaps should Field be getting a lighter sentence. It’s when do we see Fay et al doing a stretch behind bars. For all of Winston Peters faults and some of the xenophobic policy rants, I fully supported him in trying to call those bstds to account.

    Ironic, my anti spam word is ‘charged’. Exactly what needs to happen to F&RW etc

    • RedLogix 11.1

      OK George, I’m not going to argue with you. While I have an opinion, I accept that there are others who believe Field was criminally guilty and desrved the six years or more. Hell I recall a Stuff poll last week where a majority thought Field’s sentence should have been longer. It’s moments like that I truly wonder at the sanity of most of my fellow citizens; but I’ll let it pass without a coronary.

      So if a few ten’s of thousands worth of corruption is good for six years, then what should you get for several billion’s worth?

      Or is it worth my pointing out that it’s the just working class/brown skinned guy who gets the extra kicking when he’s down?

      • George.com 11.1.1

        I am not settled on how long Field deserved RL. I didn’t follow the entire trial closely nor the judges decision. Compared to A-H he got a heavy term though I am not sure how the issue of using immigrant labour whilst also the Minister ties in to things. By that I mean whether Feild deliberately exploited the immigrants by delaying their application or misleading them in order to take advantage of their labour. What he a bit of a ‘naive corner cutter’ or a ‘calculating user’. Either way, he was found guilty and the courts handed down a penalty. My knowledge doesn’t allow me to say too much more.

        My real focus however was on the corruption of some of our ‘knights of business’ and the rorts they got away with. If Feild deserves time inside, so do they I think.

  12. Victor 12

    Hey TR and Mike,

    John A does have a point. We are way too lenient on insider trading in this country. We bought this crap that there is no ‘crime’ to insider trading. Yet in Hong Kong, the place with the most free markets (even according to recent arrival like Cactus Kate) treats insider trading seriously. A Morgan Stanley MD was sentenced to jail for six years a few weeks ago, for an insider trade that in the end netted a few hundred thousand dollars.

    The trouble with the Right in NZ is that they love oligarchs, not free financial markets. Hence, we let the old boys off.

    There is a real inconsistency here .. .

  13. Good post John A.
    People need to be reminded on a regular basis just what thieving bags of shit Bob Jones, Fay and Richwhite really are.

  14. Deemac 14

    Agree with the post – Field is a crook but a dumb one, not a menace to society who will reoffend. It is hard to see what real purpose is served by a long sentence rather than say 2 years. From the judge’s remarks it seems Field’s real crime was obfuscation and delay once charged – mucking the courts about is seen as lese majeste!

  15. ben 15

    John I have to say I have almost no sympathy with what you’re saying here. Listing people burned in corporate scandals is hardly helpful. The victims were investors seeking a return that, in those cases, did not materialise. More of then than not, those returns do materialise. Sometimes they do not. The deal with investing is that you can lose your investment. So you diversify, you invest what you can lose, and you bear risk in exchange for reward. Those wiped out by these investments didn’t follow these time honoured rules. You do all of that voluntarily.

    Contrast that with what happens when the government gets involved. You do not have a choice. Governments have an exceptionally poor investment record, persistently earning inferior returns for a variety of institutional reasons. Study after study after study shows this. Taxpayers do not have the right to opt out. They are simply forced to bear the cost of leader after leader, of any stripe, acting in their own interests and guilding their own reputation by creating such value destroyers as ACC, Transzrail now Kiwirail, and the SOEs. When they go belly up, it is the taxpayer that must bail them out. When they actually work, the value created is used to prop up the other stuff that is failing or channeled to another scheme that, on average, loses.

    Now the jail terms for Muldoon and Prebble and [insert relevant National party 1990s person] and now Cullen is zero, and the value destroyed by the institutions they created probably exceeds $10 billion. I believe rail in NZ alone has destroyed at least that amount in its lifetime. These are the folks who got off lightly.

    • Victor 15.1

      Ben, Yours is the attitude that has screwed NZ as an equity market (and only too typical of the NZ Right. Look at DPF touting stocks he owns on his website), and ensured property is the investment asset class of choice for NZ investors. The victims of insider trading are victims like anyone else. They were promised free and fair markets, and they did not get it.

      These corporate scandals are not victimless crimes. They are crimes.

  16. Deemac 16

    ben, your post makes no sense at all – not a jot. Study after study? Er, name one. Investors know they risk losing everything – really? I could go on but it’d be as tedious as your post. Are you on some strong medication? maybe tone it down a bit or people will start backing away from you.

  17. Taito Philip Field was more than just a fool and a twit.

    Just do a google search of several NZ blogs (that arent political) and you will find writings of people who have dealt with him in the past.

    These people all got screwed by him, and found him to be sleazy and corrupt, long before he become a politician.

    But if you want to be suckered into his defense, then that is your right.

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