Costs awarded against Spring, Atkins in messy liquidation of Whale Oil

Costs have been awarded against Marc Spring, Juana Atkins, Brian Henry and Howard Taylor in what looks to me like an attempt to interfere in the liquidation of the Whale Oil company, Social Media Consultants Limited.

It seems to have been orchestrated by Spring. I suspect that Taylor and Henry won’t be pleased to be caught up in this but the High Court says they signed the court application for “a number of orders against the respondent as liquidator of Social Media Consultants Limited, including an order that she resign from that office effective immediately”.

The application was discontinued, but costs have been awarded for what the court described as:

The proceedings were vexatious and improperly brought in the form they were commenced. They wrongly alleged fraud, criminal harassment and blackmail without any proper basis for such scandalous allegations.

In February 2019 the company running the Whale Oil blog site, Social Media Consultants Limited, was put into voluntary liquidation. At that time the sole director and shareholder was Juana Atkins, wife of Cameron Slater. At about the same time Slater declared himself bankrupt and has since then unsuccessfully tried to claim bankruptcy exempted him from ongoing defamation actions against him.

Whale Oil was moved to a new site, The BFD, which continues to operate. The new site is registered to Suva Media Company Limited, with Atkins sole director and shareholder. Howard Taylor was the founding director and shareholder but handed over to Atkins in March last year.

March 2019: Liquidated Whale Oil company owes more than half a million dollars

In August 2019: Liquidator message on Whale Oil

It is the liquidator’s opinion that the director of Social Media Consultants Limited, Juana Atkins or someone directed by her has illegally used the customer database for the benefit of another business entity.

The Six Monthly Liquidators Report for Social media Consultants Limited in October 2019 showed there were issues with assets related to the blog:

The Six Monthly Liquidators Report in June 2020 repeated the above statement and also included:

This has now been dealt with further in High Court.

On 13 November 2019 the applicants issued an originating application seeking a number of orders against the respondent as liquidator of Social Media Consultants Limited, including an order that she resign from that office effective immediately.

On 16 March 2020 the applicants discontinued the application. The respondent now seeks costs.

The proceedings were misconceived from the outset. The applicants are stated to be Frog Rock Trust and four named persons. The trustees of the Frog Rock Trust were not identified. It is now accepted that the Frog Rock Trust is not a legal entity.

It may not be a coincidence that a company FROG ROCK MANAGEMENT LIMITED has Atkins as the sole director and shareholder (Slater was also a shareholder up to 2005).

The four other named applicants all signed the application, which was stated to be made under s 284 of the Companies Act 1993 for urgent emergency orders.

The four are named as BRIAN HENRY, HOWARD TAYLOR, JUANA ATKINS and MARC SPRING.

Henry is well known as friend and lawyer of Winston Peters, a trustee of the NZ First Trust, and has represented Slater in defamation proceedings (not any more).

It seems remarkable that an experienced lawyer would sign an application with a lay litigant trying to represent him, this just doesn’t make sense to me.

The application came before Associate Judge Andrew on 13 December 2019. Mr Spring, one of the named applicants, sought to appear on behalf of all the applicants. The Judge recorded that Mr Spring had no authority to represent parties in this Court and it would be necessary for the applicants to obtain proper legal representation. The Judge also noted there were issues as to whether the respondent Ms Toon had been properly served with the proceedings. She had only obtained copies of the relevant documents by picking up copies from the Registry.

Spring has been associated with Slater and Dermot Nottingham in a number of failed legal actions, including against myself. He has not properly served proceedings before, including to me.

It’s basic that a lay litigant cannot represent others in court. Nottingham has had similar difficulties so Spring should be aware of that.

By the time the matter next came before Associate Judge Sargisson on 6 March 2020 Mr Nicholls had been instructed by the applicants. Mr Nicholls …had some difficulty to support the standing of the remaining applicants except for Ms Atkins (who was a director and shareholder of the company in liquidation). Judge Sargisson directed further steps be taken in relation to the standing of Mr Henry, Mr Taylor and Mr Spring if the matter was to be pursued. As noted, shortly afterwards, on 16 March, the proceeding was discontinued.

But costs were sought.

The application contained a number of extreme allegations against the
respondent.

That sounds typical of Spring, Slater, Nottingham et al.

The allegations were purportedly supported by affidavits from Mr Spring, Ms Atkins and Mr Cunliffe. The allegations are serious, particularly when made against a professional person such as Ms Toon acting in the course of her profession. If made publicly and found to be wrong they would support a claim in defamation. Allegations made in Court proceedings are privileged. With that privilege comes a responsibility to ensure that allegations of fraud or dishonest behaviour have a proper basis.

A solicitor associated with such pleadings or allegations has an additional
responsibility and can be the subject of disciplinary proceedings if the allegations are made without a substantive basis. Quite apart from the solicitor’s responsibility, a party who wrongfully makes such allegations is at risk of sanction by an adverse costs award.

Mr Nicholls submitted that the situation fundamentally arose from lay people attempting to avert what they honestly believed to be an injustice. The application was not intentionally vexatious.

My response based on past experience with Spring to “honestly believed to be an injustice” and “not intentionally vexatious” is ‘yeah right’.

I am satisfied that the criteria for indemnity costs is made out in this case.

The proceedings were vexatious and improperly brought in the form they were commenced. They wrongly alleged fraud, criminal harassment and blackmail without any proper basis for such scandalous allegations. Such serious allegations against a professional person in the role of liquidator required a serious and detailed response.

In bringing the proceedings the applicants acted improperly and unreasonably. To exacerbate matters, it appears the proceedings were brought with the intention of preventing Ms Toon from carrying out her proper functions as liquidator. The proceedings were hopeless and on the information before the Court would never have succeeded.

Not only hopeless. Spring, like his associate Nottingham, has a record of making accusations and claims in courts unsupported by evidence or facts.

So far Spring has managed to avoid being held to account (while Slater and Nottingham have both been convicted, bankrupted and having their reputations publicly damaged by their own actions.

But in this case Spring and Atkins have been to the fore in proceedings and there will be a financial cost.

The respondent is to have costs against the applicants Brian Henry, Howard Taylor, Juana Atkins and Marc Spring, jointly and severally, in the sum of $15,983.15.

Compared to costs incurred by Slater and Nottingham that isn’t a lot, but at least Spring and Atkins are being held to account for some of their actions. I can only guess why Spring has involved himself in this.

Atkins is deep in it due to taking on the legal and financial responsibility of Whale Oil. This may just be the start of the financial repercussions for her.

Judgment: FROG ROCK TRUST v TOON (as liquidator of Social Media Consultants Ltd) [2020] NZHC 1407 [22 June 2020]

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26 Comments

  1. watchingpete

     /  31st July 2020

    Silly boy PG, [deleted]

    Reply
    • Silly girl.

      I have quoted from a publicly available court judgment. That can’t be in breach of a court order unless the judgment itself is in breach of the court order.

      As for your allegation about me being set up, that’s totally false, and seems to be an ongoing misguided obsession. I know who has actually tried to set me up. I suggest they don’t make matters worse. I suggest you take care as well.

      Reply
  2. Blazer

     /  31st July 2020

    Henry being entwined with these ratbags is the biggest mystery.

    This Marc Spring has a central role.
    Does he have a legal background?

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  31st July 2020

      Yes, the only obvious link between Henry and Slater is Peters and his blogging support. That Henry turned up in court to watch Slater getting fried suggests a beautiful friendship may have ended.

      Reply
      • Duker

         /  31st July 2020

        Henry is a barrister , appearing in court is what they do. Slater case against Craig had nothing to do with Peters..
        Another stupid comment which you are renowned for…and using nasty unsubstantiated personal claims too…well well..Pot kettle

        Reply
        • He didn’t appear in court as a barrister in this case:

          Slater did not have a lawyer representing him but his former advocate Brian Henry was in the back of the courtroom, declining the possibility raised by Justice Palmer of assisting the court and Slater. Henry said he was suffering from shingles and “no longer appearing before this court”, adding he was there because it “was too good a show to miss”.

          https://www.newsroom.co.nz/the-return-of-dirty-politics

          Reply
        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  31st July 2020

          Your usual tripe delivered as if you know something, duker. And as if I made any reference to the Craig cases.

          Reply
  3. regancunliffe

     /  31st July 2020

    Interesting. And here I was thinking that Toon wanted this all suppressed…

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  31st July 2020

      The accusations having been declared a load of malevolent, lying crap by the judge would possibly have changed her mind?

      Reply
    • She may want false accusations suppressed but the judgment is a public document with no court suppression orders on it. This is legal basics. I suggest you get better informed about how these matters work.

      Reply
    • Duker

       /  31st July 2020

      Misleading are you ?
      [14]”Sensational allegations of the type made in the present case can attract the attention of the media. In this case an application was made by the media to search the Court file, which Ms Toon’s solicitors had to respond to.”

      Crazy allegations against Ms Toon were made in the application, which would be the reason to not publicise
      “(a) Ms Toon had entered secret negotiations and sales contracts with a
      minor creditor with a joint desire to destroy the value of the company’s
      major asset;
      (b) Ms Toon had acted to criminally harass and blackmail other persons
      wishing to protect the value of the domain name in order to obtain
      assets that did not belong to the company in order to destroy the value
      of the company’s assets and reputation;”
      Judge quite rightly said they were utter nonsense

      “The allegations were purportedly supported by affidavits from Mr Spring, Ms Atkins and Mr Cunliffe. The allegations are serious, particularly when made against a professional person such as Ms Toon acting in the course of her profession. If made publicly and found to be wrong they would support a claim in defamation. Allegations made in Court proceedings are privileged. With that privilege comes a responsibility to ensure that allegations of fraud or dishonest behaviour have a proper basis.
      The Judge said
      “The allegations are serious, particularly when made against
      a professional person such as Ms Toon acting in the course of her profession. If made
      publicly and found to be wrong they would support a claim in defamation.”

      The tactics used against a small rural school wont work in the big smoke against highly regarded professionals where dispute resolution/conflict is their day job.

      Reply
      • regancunliffe

         /  31st July 2020

        The tactics used against a small rural school wont work in the big smoke against highly regarded professionals where dispute resolution/conflict is their day job.

        I find that truth works just fine, thanks.

        Reply
        • Duker

           /  31st July 2020

          Works ? yeah right
          CUNLIFFE v MARSH [2018] NZHC 948 [1 May 2018

          “[1] On 1 May 2018 the applicant, Regan Cunliffe filed an “Interlocutory
          Application ex parte for an Interim Injunction (Under Urgency)”, accompanied by an
          affidavit sworn by Mr Cunliffe. Mr Cunliffe sought:
          ….
          [7] Mr Cunliffe concluded his letter to the Board by citing the United Nations
          Convention on the Rights of the Child as providing support for his submission.

          “[15] As a result Mr Cunliffe’s application was declined. Costs are to lie where they
          fall.

          Once again , legal BS and crap masquerading as ‘truth’
          CUNLIFFE v MARSH [2018] NZHC 948 [1 May 2018]
          [Fixed link]

          Reply
          • Duker

             /  31st July 2020

            More Truth
            SELLMAN v SLATER [2018] NZHC 3057 [23 November 2018]
            “[12] Mr Regan Cunliffe has provided an affidavit for Mr Slater which suggests the format of the hacked emails that were discovered shows they were stored in a way which meant they could have been edited and they omit the metadata which suggests they are not original.11
            However, that does not rebut Mr Smith’s evidence. And Mr Salmon submits these opinions are extraordinary given that Mr Slater gave a statement to the Police in August 2014 that Mr Cunliffe “runs the technical side of Whale oil”,12 and so must have been in a position to check whether the documents are fake”.
            [20]…
            He submits Mr Slater is in the extraordinary position of seeking to have documents excluded while refusing to disclose documents that will confirm their authenticity. He submits Mr Cunliffe’s evidence is irrelevant and is inadmissible opinion evidence as he does not purport to be an expert and is not independent from Mr Slater.”

            Court didnt believe you then either , instead preferred a database expert Smith.
            And of course nothing from Slater can be believed

            Reply
            • regancunliffe

               /  31st July 2020

              I’d love for the court to explain to me how someone could be in the position to check whether documents are fake when they’d never had access to the personal email account.

          • regancunliffe

             /  31st July 2020

            Keep up, Duker. There’s a whole lot that’s happened since then…

            Reply
  4. I have had confirmed what seemed obvious – there are no court suppression orders on this judgment, so claims there were appear to be either through ignorance or trying some sort of stunt or scare tactic.

    Reply
  5. artcroft

     /  31st July 2020

    I believe all this results from too much alien demon sex.

    Reply
    • Jack

       /  31st July 2020

      I presume that’s a joke, in which case I’m in. No uptick though.
      Laughter is good medicine.

      Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  31st July 2020

      Can you please identify the alien, arty? I’m having trouble eliminating the various possibilities.

      Reply
      • Jack

         /  31st July 2020

        If I could give that a dozen down ticks Al, I would.
        Sorry Pete. Just trolling.

        Reply
      • artcroft

         /  31st July 2020

        Sorry, but Pete doesn’t encourage the revealing of posters true identities.

        Reply
  6. Tipene

     /  31st July 2020

    Regan & his wife Rachel Cunnliffe have a deep, abiding, and embedded history of advocating for scumbags, especially in their local Helensville area as moderators for the local community Facebook page.

    It is therefore no surprise to me that they are arse-deep in Slater “lurve”.

    [Deleted, that’s not appropriate here – PG]

    Reply
    • regancunliffe

       /  31st July 2020

      Are you referring to that time you kept spamming a Facebook page about your personal grievance with a certain individual, were repeatedly asked to stop after complaints from the community about your behaviour, and were then subsequently moderated as a result of your non-compliance?

      Reply
  7. Tipene

     /  31st July 2020

    And after reading the Cunnliffe v Marsh (2018) case, it seems the Cunliiffes were too pig-ignorant to file an application to have their sons name redacted from the public court record.

    Stupid is as stupid does.

    Reply

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