Michael Pascoe writes:

Partner in law firm Piper Alderman, Simon Morris, has a list of recent work on his section of the firm’s “our people” web page. It includes acting for HIH non-executive directors, an unspecified Oil for Food inquiry witness and Sharman Networks, the operators of file sharer Kazaa.

What’s missing is the work done for stockmarket scamster David Tweed in assisting him to make millions out of ripping off unsophisticated shareholders – legally, of course.

As we alluded to in yesterday’s Crikey, grubs like Tweed can only function successfully with the willing assistance of lawyers and accountants. He needs their professional services to stay within the law while removing money from people who don’t quite know what they’re doing and to fight companies like IAG and AMP when they try to protect their shareholders from him.

So what does that say about the ethics of Piper Alderman? Solicitors can pick and choose the clients with whom they want to associate. If Piper Alderman partners are happy to take Tweed’s dubiously acquired coin and help him acquire more the same way, does that mean they think what Tweed is up to is just fine and dandy on the ethical and moral fronts?

When I rang Simon Morris this morning, he couldn’t give us an answer. At first he said he didn’t have any instructions from Tweed to talk about his matters.

But the questions raised aren’t about Tweed – they’re about Piper Alderman and its partners and their ethics. Mr Morris said he understood the question, but as PA was a partnership, he couldn’t comment on behalf of the partnership without consulting his partners. I left my number.

He did mention the old cop-out, “all people are entitled to representation” – but this isn’t about a barrister’s requirement to take on a criminal case; it’s about solicitors’ prerogative to support and enable scumbags to con people.

Basically, if Tweed is unethical and amoral in his business and Piper Alderman helps him, is Piper Alderman unethical and amoral?

“They’re your words,” said Simon. Yes, they are. “It’s not something I can give you anything on.”

Piper Alderman is not some back-lane shop trying to eke out a living on personal injury and workers comp. It’s a mid-size national firm with offices in four capitals. It says its mission “is to be and to be perceived to be a premium Australian law firm for quality of work and service to the client” while not giving up any traditional qualities including “ the overall importance of ethics and honesty in the practice”.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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