Legal teams come to blows over ClubsNSW whistleblower controversy
Powerful pokies industry body ClubsNSW has told a court it is facing an “oppressive” and “inflammatory” campaign by a pokies whistleblower.
The Guardian reports that ClubsNSW has called on the courts to restrain whistleblower Troy Stolz from disparaging it further.
In July, the peak body was seeking a federal court order to stop Stolz making public comments, including to media outlets, about its motives or conduct while it sues him for allegedly breaching its confidence.
Stolz, a former ClubsNSW anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing manager, last year spoke out publicly about the sector’s alleged failure to stop money laundering through its pokies.
His former employer says Stolz did so in breach of his confidentiality obligations.
Stolz has more recently spoken out about the federal case brought against him by ClubsNSW, including to The Guardian and other media outlets, and in tweets, retweets and via a GoFundMe page he set up to help pay for his defence.
Lawyers argue defendant inflamed Clubs
Lawyers for ClubsNSW recently argued that Stolz’s comments represented an oppressive, inflammatory and frankly misleading public campaign designed to place improper pressure on it.
ClubsNSW said Stolz was wrongly trying to construct a narrative that he was being pursued for blowing the whistle and that his former employer was seeking to financially cripple him and silence the media about its actions.
Christopher Withers, SC, said the media campaign was obstructing the administration of justice and Stolz was acting with “the worst of motives” and “would continue to do so unless restrained”.
“Why are these communications happening? What is the intended purpose that lies behind them? And what we say is that the obvious purpose is…to assert pressure and influence on my client,” Withers said.
But Geoffrey Watson, SC, acting for Stolz, said there was no way the public comments had any impact on the case.
“The administration of justice in this country is a pretty robust thing. The judges are robust, the courts are robust, and in this instance, the litigants are robust,” he said.
“If anything that Mr Stolz has said could conceivably influence a court, a judge, well we would respectfully submit they couldn’t possibly have this effect.”
During his submissions, Withers read out a number of disparaging members ClubsNSW had received as a result of Stolz’s public commentary about the case.
ClubsNSW receives public lashing
Members of the public wrote to ClubsNSW saying things like “your blood-sucking organisation is just a parasite” and accusing it of “legal thievery”.
ClubsNSW said Stolz had handed legal letters from its solicitors to the media before responding to them and had tweeted and retweeted negative content on Twitter about the body.
It was also particularly aggrieved by a GoFundMe page Stolz set up to hold with his legal costs.
Withers argued the description on that GoFundMe page was “deeply problematic” because it fundamentally misrepresented a court order on legal costs.
“Mr Stolz with all of his knowledge of the background of this matter, who has retained solicitors and legal counsel, could not possibly have thought that his entity on the GoFundMe page accurately represented your honour’s judgment.”
Watson said Stolz had removed part of the GoFundMe page voluntarily.
“There’s no misrepresentation. There was a matter which crossed a line and was taken down. That stands to his credit,” he said.
The court also heard Stolz had recently retweeted a tweet suggesting a conflict of interest in the court’s consideration of the injunction.
Withers said the conduct was “deeply irresponsible” and should be taken into account by the court when deciding the injunction.
Watson apologised to the court on behalf of Stolz’s legal team.
“Your honour’s reputation for fairness and good judgement is well known,” Watson said.
“We accept that and I can just say on behalf of the lawyers, I apologise. I feel embarrassed standing here with the job of defending it, it shouldn’t have been said.”
Justice David Yates has reserved his decision.