An Australian judge rejected a request on Wednesday for mediation Sydney between one of the world’s richest women and her three children in a dispute over a multi-billion dollar family trust, saying there was little chance of a settlement.
Reuters reported the case, which is being heard by the New South Wales Supreme Court, is an unwelcome distraction for mining magnate Gina Rinehart as she is currently trying to to secure funding for a $10 billion iron ore mine.
The case also brings more unwanted public scrutiny to Rinehart, a public figure who has become more vocal on policy matters, saying things like “Australian miners should work more like Africans, who are happy making two dollars a day.”
Rinehart’s three eldest children, John Hancock, Bianca Rinehart and Hope Welker, are seeking to oust their mining magnate mother as trustee of the multi-million dollar family trust. Hope Rinehart Welker, Bianca Rinehart and John Hancock sued their 58-year-old mother in Australian state court last September, accusing her of misconduct by threatening their financial ruin and breach of trust.
They claim she acted “deceitfully” and with “gross dishonesty” in her dealings with the trust, set up in 1988 by her father Lang Hancock, with her children being the beneficiaries. They want her removed as trustee of the Hope Margaret Hancock Trust, which holds 23.45 percent of the voting shares of Hancock Prospecting Pty and may be worth as much as $4.5 billion.
Rinehart is supported by her youngest daughter, Ginia, in the bitter family battle. The court has heard Ms Rinehart contacted her three elder children in early September 2011, days before Ginia turned 25, when the trust was due to vest.
Rinehart warned her children the vesting of the trust on September 6 would render them liable for a substantial amount of capital gains tax and lead to their bankruptcy.
Hancock Prospecting Pty Ltd is developing what would be Australia’s fourth-largest iron ore mine and generates hundreds of millions of dollars a year in royalties from rich iron ore tenements secured by Ginia Rinehart’s father Lang Hancock, a legendary figure in Australian mining history.
The dispute has already caused a delay at Hancock’s flagship Roy Hill iron ore mine, rail and port project in Western Australia, which is now running into some stiff headwinds from slowing China demand and soaring costs.
A halving in iron ore prices over the past year has dented both investor appetite for such projects and the 58-year-old widow’s fortune, estimated by Forbes in February at around $18 billion. Hancock is currently trying to raise about $7 billion in debt funding to get the massive project into production.
It is not clear what impact, if any, the removal of Rinehart as trustee of the family trust would have on Hancock Prospecting and its iron ore, coal and media empire, but few lawyers following the case see a possible dispute resolution Sydney in future litigation between family members. Shares in the company can only be held by Rinehart and her direct descendants and cannot be pledged as collateral.
Anyone who has tried to resolve civil disputes through direct litigation knows the process can be very expensive, and can take multiple years to reach a conclusion.
Luckily, there are ways around this. A variety of alternative dispute resolution Sydney methods are available to help reduce costs and speed up resolution of civil disputes. The two most-common methods are arbitration, where an arbitrator imposes an outcome on the parties after a formal evidentiary hearing, and mediation, where a mediator assists the parties in reaching an out-of-court settlement through an informal negotiation process.
A mix of the two, referred to as Med-Arb, is also sometimes used. In Med-Arb, the parties first try to settle the dispute with the help of a mediator, but if settlement doesn’t happen the mediator takes on the role of arbitrator, presides over an evidentiary hearing, and issues an order.
Binding mediation is another recent development in alternative dispute resolution. Through this process, the parties agree to first try to settle their dispute through mediation, but if they are unable to reach agreement, they give the mediator the power to make a decision for them. Unlike with Med-Arb, the mediator doesn’t become an arbitrator, and there is no formal Arbitration hearing. Instead, the mediator makes his decision based solely upon what he has learned during the informal mediation process.
According to expert mediator Sydney, binding mediation is good because it creates the environment for a definite resolution. The parties know going in that, even if a settlement isn’t reached, the dispute will be resolved. The process is also much faster, and cheaper, than the traditional Med-Arb processes because there is no evidentiary hearing following the unsuccessful mediation.
But other legal experts have criticized binding mediation because it may decrease the possibility of a settlement and it lacks the safeguards of a fair hearing. The mediator in a binding mediation, as is the case with an arbitrator, is given ultimate power to resolve the matter. However, unlike the arbitration process, and unless the parties provide in their written agreement, there are no safeguards for a fair hearing.
A controversial and long-running dispute over the mishandling of radioactive materials at an Australian nuclear research facility has ended after a court-ordered mediation Sydney, The Australian reports.
Former health and safety officer at the facility, David Reid, submitted a report to regulators, along with a complaint that the facility was selling falsely labelled batches of Y-90, a medical isotope used in radioimmunotherapy treatments for cancer. According to Reid, the facility knowingly sold the falsely labelled batches and did not inform officials, a violation of Australian manufacturing guidelines.
After receiving the courts decision, both the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) and Reid seemed to welcome the confidential settlement, which was reached late last month at the Federal Magistrates Court in Sydney.
Though ANSTO has reached a dispute resolution Sydney with Reid, industry analysts remain skeptical as questions remain about occupational health and safety and management practices within ANSTO’s radiopharmaceutical production facility.
There are also implications for the nuclear medicine community as Reid has lodged a complaint with the Therapeutic Goods Administration regarding batches of radiopharmaceuticals that he claims were falsely labelled by staff at the production facility.
His complaint follows the release last month of a damning review by global consultant KPMG into previous investigations, both triggered by Reid, into two Yttrium-90 contamination events at the facility. The first was conducted in-house by ANSTO, the second by the regulator, the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency.
Reid, a former technician at the facility, was suspended in June 2008 after going public with accusations of safety breaches, cover-ups and bullying at the facility and was eventually fired in 2011.
But Reid was not alone, technicians Jason Howe and John Bourke were also bullied and harassed after trying to report a September 2010 incident in where a coworker was contaminated with Y-90.
In related news this week, ANSTO and its subsidiary Petnet faced a direction hearing in the Federal Court in Sydney after a case brought by Cyclopet, a Sydney-based supplier of fluorodeoxyglucose, a radiopharmaceutical used in positron emission tomography, or PET scans.
Mediation is an efficient and alternative way of resolving legal conflicts without resorting to a trial. The process revolves around engaging a mediator to act as a neutral third party and help the two conflicting sides come to a mutually beneficial agreement. A Sydney mediation attorney does not choose a side or issue a decision as to who is “right” and who is “wrong;” rather, he acts as a negotiator and helps both parties resolve their issues.
There are several characteristics of the mediation process that make it unique.
- Volition. Both parties hire the mediator by their own free will, and they are free to leave the mediation or end the process whenever they desire.
- Collaboration. All three parties work together to find a solution.
- Control. Both parties involved in the disagreement share power in the decision-making process. No one can be forced to accept terms they don’t agree with.
- Confidentiality. The process is confidential, and materials assembled for mediation are usually not admissible in court should the matter in question come up again. The mediator will always describe the exact terms of confidentiality.
- Impartiality. A mediator will always remain impartial and not favor one party over another. Decisions are made without bias.
- Smart spending. Mediation is an extremely cost-effective alternative to court proceedings.
With alternative dispute resolution methods like mediation and arbitration Sydney residents involved in legal disputes have a way to resolve their issues efficiently and out-of-court.