Royal Commissions

If you require representation in a Royal Commission or Commission of Inquiry, or assistance with written responses to requests for information you will need a team with genuine experience and specific expertise in these complex areas. We have helped our clients prepare for more than 15 Royal Commissions and Commissions of Inquiry, which gives us a keen understanding of the operational complexities involved, as well as the pressure points and public interest issues that are likely to arise.

In recent years, the live streaming of public hearings has led to increased transparency of Royal Commissions. Given the inquisitorial nature of hearings during this time, there is the additional increase of media exposure as well as heightened public awareness of witness responses and other parties' responses to requests for written submissions. The Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry has already started sending requests to industry participants for detailed explanations on various expenditures for periods extending back 10 years.

Preparing written submissions and assisting with representation at a Royal Commission requires different skill sets—Sparke Helmore is able to offer both.

We have particular expertise in preparing written submissions and can:

  • assist with written responses to specific requests for information made by a Royal Commission
  • advise on responding to and preparing for specific issues that may arise in relation to the Royal Commission
  • advise on the scope of the terms of reference, the role, procedures and powers of Royal Commissions, the responsibilities of witnesses and principles of contempt
  • advise on whether you may have an interest to protect at the Royal Commission, whether you should seek leave to appear at the Royal Commission and, if so, in respect of on what terms, for what issue and duration and what evidence (if any) should be provided in advance
  • complete audits of all claims and notifications held in respect to the nature of the Commission
  • respond to summons to produce documents and summonses to give oral evidence received from the Royal Commission and, in respect of the latter, detailed witness preparation and document review to maximise witness competence
  • prepare submissions and draft statements of witnesses and potential witnesses for Royal Commission hearings, including statutory declarations and document briefs
  • appear in case studies before the Royal Commission, should you have some involvement or should the case study be one upon which you can assist the Royal Commission
  • minimise reputational damage that may be caused by unfavourable evidentiary references to you or your corporation at Royal Commission hearings in daily media reports
  • manage and review the Royal Commission database of documents to limit any "surprises" for your witnesses in cross-examination, including the forming of unfavourable perceptions of your witnesses, by counsel assisting the Royal Commission
  • assist with minimising  the risk of findings of fact by the Royal Commission that may be against you or your interests and that could ground further claims or litigation in the form of either class actions, claims against directors or prosecutions by regulators, such as ASIC, APRA or the ACCC, and
  • assist with minimising the risk of unfavourable references to you being made in any draft findings of the Royal Commission that may be circulated. If such references are made, we can draft submissions to reduce or delete such references in any final report of the Royal Commission.

An area that is often overlooked is whether or not your insurance will cover the costs of legal representation associated with attendance at, or submissions to, the Royal Commission.

Sparke Helmore is an award-winning insurance specialist firm. We can advise on critical issues, including:

  • the relevance of policy documents and company insurance coverage as well as the insurance issues relevant to the directors and officers of the company (including in-house legal counsel) whose conduct may be considered in conflict with the interests of the company itself
  • aspects of insurance programs, including a review of policies and cover (recent and historical) and the impact that the Royal Commission may have on such insurance programs, and
  • legal rights the company may have against professional advisors on whose advice the company has relied historically if adverse findings are made against the company by the Royal Commission.