22nd November 2018

David Russell AM RFD QC delivered the 2018 W A Lee Equity Lecture on the topic ‘Equity in an Age of Uncertainty: Big Data, Confidentiality and Fiduciary Liability.’

Now in its 18th year, the W A Lee Equity Lecture is a calendar highlight for many members of Brisbane’s legal fraternity. We thank the Honourable Chief Justice Catherine Holmes for chairing the evening which was held in Brisbane’s Banco Court, and the Honourable Margaret McMurdo AC, Chair of the Queensland Community Foundation (QCF) Board of Governors, for her kind vote of thanks.

“It is wonderful to see so many people here this evening. It is my understanding that this evening’s lecture is at full capacity. This has become a regular occurrence and is a testament to the success of the W A Lee equity lecture series, which continues to thrive,” said Associate Professor Judith McNamara, Head of QUT’s School of Law.

David Russell AM RFD QC commenced legal practice in 1974. He is admitted to practice in Australia, England and Wales (Lincoln’s Inn), the Courts of the Dubai International Financial Centre, New York (as a Legal Consultant), the Singapore International Commercial Court, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea and was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1986.

During the lecture, David discussed how trusts are becoming subject to regulation which is drafted without consideration of the specific needs of trusts and those connected with them. David commented that this is due to an increasing use of trusts as commercial and wealth management vehicles. He also spoke of the increasing disconnect between fiduciary principles and public behavior in the political and corporate realms.

“The political process simply becomes a free for all in which all participants look simply to the maximization of their own benefit. In such an environment, property becomes not the right of the owner but merely a temporary advantage at the convenience of the state, and the rule of law becomes not a fundamental principle of a free society but the means whereby the majority, unencumbered by any notions of respect for the interests of others, acts solely for its perception of its own interest,” he said.

Mr Russell went on to discuss the longer-term consequences of Data Protection Legislation, the disclosure of beneficial interests under the Common Reporting Standard and European Anti-Money Laundering Directives and the linkage between the decline in public trust in institutions and the failure of fiduciary obligations to be applied and enforced.

“It is becoming increasingly clear as time passes that conventional notions of confidentiality relating to the deliberations of trustees and the affairs they administer are being radically challenged by new laws, many of EU origin which either fail to take into account the special obligations of trustees or are actively hostile to the notion of a trust, and which have been enacted without any consideration of their potential effect on the law of trusts,” David said.

The W A Lee Equity Lecture is held each year in honour of foremost equity and trusts academic and author, Honorary Professor W A ‘Tony’ Lee. Tony is the co-author of ‘Principles of the Law of Trusts’ and was Commissioner for Law Reform Queensland, between 1990 and 1996.

Thank you to this year’s event sponsors, the Queensland Law Society, Queensland Community Foundation, Bar Association of Queensland, Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) and QUT Faculty of Law.

To view photos of the event, please visit the QUT Faculty of Law Flickr page. Past lectures can be accessed in the QUT Law Review, the Faculty of Law’s open access journal.

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