Robbing the Widow

Merkel v Superannuation Complaints Tribunal [2010] FCA 564 is a case in the Federal Court of Australia in which the Honourable Justice Gray condemned the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal.

Gray J stated at Para 69: “The picture that emerges from the Tribunal Chairperson’s submissions is one of an institution under-resourced to deal with the number of complaints it receives. In those circumstances, there is a danger that an institutional culture will develop in which the institution’s officers strive to reject as many complaints as they can at the outset, in order to give the institution some breathing space to deal more thoroughly with the complaints that are not rejected. If such a culture exists in the Tribunal, it would be most unfortunate“.

The Merkel case involved Ms Marilyn Merkel who was the widow. Ms Merkel’s late hisband was a Member of Telstra Super. Telstra Super Pty Ltd is the Trustee.

At the date of Mr Merkel’s death, there was a substantial sum standing to his credit in the superannuation fund. On the basis of instructions he had given while still alive, the amount was invested in Telstra Super’s growth fund, the remainder in its balanced fund.

After Mr Merkel died, there was a delay of a few months before Telstra Super made a payment to Ms Merkel, during which the sum standing to Mr Merkel’s credit increased substantially.

Shortly before making a payment to Ms Merkel, Telstra Super took away the increase and replaced it with a lower amount representing interest on the sum outstanding.

The result was that Ms Merkel received a sum substantially less than the sum that had been standing to the credit of Mr Merkel before the increase was removed.

Ms Merkel lodged a complaint with the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal, however the Tribunal unilaterally ruled that the Tribunal did not have the jurisdiction to deal with the complaint.

Gray J found that the Tribunal had failed to afford Ms Merkel Procedural Fairness (Natural Justice) by failing to provide proper reasons for this ruling and for failing to allow Ms Merkel or her representatives the opportunity to rebut the reason provided.

Gray J found that the Tribunal had not bothered to look to the authorities in previous cases concerning the jurisdiction of the Tribunal and ruled that the Tribunal in this case did in fact have jurisdiction.

Ms Merkel eventually received the money that the Trustee of Telstra Super and the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal had sought to deny the widow – Ms Merkel.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>