Enforcing financial rights

13 Dec 2023

Every year we act for people experiencing financial abuse, exploitation, fraud and insurance disputes. Here are some de-identified cautionary tales from 2023.

Azra was the victim of intimate partner financial abuse.  Isolated from family and friends, she was prevented from working by her partner and was entirely financially dependent on him.  At a time when she was pregnant and experiencing postnatal depression, Azra was forced to sign loan documents for hundreds of thousands of dollars in respect of a property development she knew nothing about.

When Azra was unable to repay the loan, the lenders obtained default judgment and commenced bankruptcy proceedings against her.  By this time, Azra was financially vulnerable, supporting herself and her 2 children on Centrelink payments.

We helped Azra to have the Court set aside the default judgment on the grounds that it would be unconscionable to enforce the agreement against her, and we negotiated for the bankruptcy proceedings to be dismissed without costs.

At the conclusion of the matter, Azra told us, "I feel so relieved that it's all done!  Thank you again for your support during this time and I am forever grateful to the Clayton Utz team."

After breaking her phone, Greta's partner, Troy, offered to buy her a new one.  Troy purchased the phone and put the contract in his name. 

A short time later, Greta reported Troy to the police for sexually assaulting her and surrendered the phone to the police - about 4 months into the phone contract.

Troy brought retaliatory proceedings against Greta, claiming she owed almost $2,700 for the phone and related costs.  We were able to have the proceedings dismissed on jurisdictional grounds, finding that Troy had not established that there was a debt to be repaid (with the phone more than likely a gift).

While Sophia was studying her diploma of remedial massage, she became a trainee at her local chiropractic practice.  Under the training agreement, the practice agreed to train Sophia and cover the cost of her diploma in exchange for her giving free massages to clients of the practice.

After completing around 130 hours at the practice, Sophia discovered that none of her hours counted towards her diploma.  She left the practice and received a letter demanding she repay over $5,000 in "training costs".  We wrote to the practice on her behalf and noted that the training contact had not been registered (as it should have been), Sophia had not been paid (as she should have been) and, in any event, Sophia was not required to repay the practice given she had completed her course and they had not offered her employment under the terms of their agreement.  Within a week, the practice withdrew the demand.

Nathan is a young person with complex PTSD and autism.  Some time ago, he lived with his uncle and his uncle's "friends" and recalls misplacing his ID during this time.

This year, Nathan was served with a statement of claim filed by the Australian Taxation Office claiming he owed over half a million dollars in unpaid taxes as the sole director of an Australian asphalt company.

Nathan had been the victim of identity theft and his signature had been forged.  After seeking legal assistance, Nathan reported the theft and alleged fraud to the police, and we assisted Nathan in getting the ATO to drop the claim against him and discontinue the proceedings.

Last year, we shared the story of our client who was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer.  She had tried to access her life insurance through her super fund only to discover that her policy had been cancelled and reinstated on a restricted basis.

We assisted our client to make a complaint to the Australian Financial Complaints Authority who ordered the super fund to pay our client around $90,000.

Had our client's policy not been cancelled, she would have been entitled to a further amount of around $150,000.  Late last year we commenced proceedings in Court to recover this amount, and this year negotiated a settlement with our client being repaid the entire amount outstanding plus interest.

Clayton Utz communications are intended to provide commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular transactions or on matters of interest arising from this communication. Persons listed may not be admitted in all States and Territories.