The director of a Canberra law firm has been ordered to pay a $20,000 fine for failing to pay superannuation to employees.
John Nicholl, who is listed online as the managing director of Canberra Legal Group, was publicly reprimanded by the ACT Civil and Administrative Appeals Tribunal (ACAT) after admitting breaches to superannuation laws.
Senior Member Graeme Lunney, SC, fined Mr Nicholl and imposed a number of conditions on his practising certificate, including he hire an accountant to provide monthly compliance reports to the Law Society for one year regarding payment of the superannuation guarantee.
"The respondent's practising certificate shall be immediately suspended until he complies with the orders," Mr Lunney ordered.
Mr Nicholl was also ordered to pay the Law Society's costs.
Although, Mr Lunney said it appeared no person had suffered a financial loss.
The tribunal heard Mr Nicholl had jointly proposed the penalties he should suffer as a result of the breaches.
A judgement, published last week, said the ACT Law Society took Mr Nicholl to ACAT alleging Mr Nicholl had committed professional misconduct by breaching the Commonwealth Superannuation Guarantee Act.
The law sets out the obligations required by bosses who take superannuation contributions from their employees.
The exact breaches are not outlined in the decision, however, it said the complaint had been based on "various breaches of those obligations by [Mr Nicholl]."
The judgement said Mr Nicholl had been previously reprimanded and fined by ACAT in relation to money held in trust in 2013 and failure to pay superannuation in 2016.
In 2013, a finding of unsatisfactory conduct was made. While in 2016, he was fined $7000 and ordered to undertake a course in ethics and practice management.
"The misconduct here is essentially delay," the submission to the tribunal by the Law Society said.
"Ultimately, the respondent was eventually able to meet his liabilities. The conduct does
not relate to dishonesty [or] lack [of] competence in practice."
The tribunal heard that Mr Nicholl had admitted wrongdoing at the outset and expressed remorse and embarrassment.
"It’s apparent to me that the practitioner is remorseful and also embarrassed at the conduct that led to the application being filed," Mr Lunney wrote.
The tribunal heard that Mr Nicholl had paid the employees the superannuation owed, plus 10 per cent interest.
"My findings therefore are that the present conduct involves delay in receipt of entitlements and it is not at the most serious end of a notional continuum of default," Mr Lunney wrote.
"It did not involve dishonesty; no lack of professional competence was related to it; no one is likely to have been affected financially by it with the exception of the delayed receipt of funds for which compensation has been made; the practitioner has demonstrated remorse not only by admitting the conduct and its effect but also by cooperating in the inquiries that have been conducted by the applicant.
"Although it does not excuse the conduct in any fashion, his affidavit does disclose external financial and personal pressures that existed at the time of the conduct."