Part 2: Meeting of 14 September 2011

Inquiry into aspects of ACC's Board-level governance.

On 1 September 2011, at 6.18 pm, Ms Pullar emailed Mr McCliskie, saying:

I have a number of issues regarding ACC – compliance and personal. I would like the opportunity to discuss these issues with you personally next time you're visiting Auckland.

Mr McCliskie had known Ms Pullar in the 1990s, when he was Chairman of ENZA Limited and she was employed by that organisation in a marketing role. Ms Pullar told us that she made a proposal to Mr McCliskie in 2002 to do brand development work for his business. Mr McCliskie told us that he cannot recall the proposal. Ms Pullar did not pursue the proposal because of her accident.

Mr McCliskie replied to Ms Pullar's email at 7.02 pm:

I could meet with you, but I need to say it's not good form for directors to discuss individual issues. I would refer them to the appropriate manager anyway, but it's your call. The best person for claims is Denise Cosgrove, and I could arrange for you to talk to her?

Ms Cosgrove is ACC's General Manager, Claims Management.

Ms Pullar responded at 7.38 pm:

I totally respect your position. I am aware of Denise. However, I would like to meet with you. Let me know what suits and where.

Mr McCliskie offered the afternoon of 13 September 2011, when he planned to be in Auckland. The meeting took place at 8 am on Wednesday 14 September. It was attended by Mr McCliskie, Ms Pullar, and Ms Pullar's support person.

There is no formal record of the meeting on 14 September, but the documents and other evidence that Mr McCliskie, Ms Pullar, and ACC gave us provide a reasonably consistent account of Ms Pullar's complaints about ACC. Mr McCliskie told us that he was careful not to discuss Ms Pullar's claim. Ms Pullar was clear that she did not ask Mr McCliskie to intervene in her claim and had no expectation of his doing so.

Both Ms Pullar and Mr McCliskie were clear that Ms Pullar did not inform Mr McCliskie of the privacy breach revealed by the Dominion Post in March 2012. Ms Pullar explained to us that she did not discover that she had the information from the privacy breach until about 26 October 2011.

Mr McCliskie considered Ms Pullar's complaints serious enough to ask her to put them in writing, so that he could refer them to the Chairman, Mr Judge.

Mr McCliskie and Ms Pullar each left the meeting with the view that Ms Pullar should meet Mr Judge.

Later on the morning of 14 September, Ms Pullar emailed Mr McCliskie:

Thank you for meeting with [my support person] and I this morning. I appreciate being listened to. I would welcome the opportunity to meet with John Judge to raise my concerns. In preparation for this I will prepare a 1 page summary of concerns that I believe need to be addressed &/or investigated in terms of ACC's direction, and resulting processes and operations. I will aim to get that to you in the next few days.

Ms Pullar's written version of her complaints was not prepared and sent to Mr McCliskie until 14 and 15 October, because she fell ill shortly after 14 September and was unwell for several weeks.

After receiving Ms Pullar's email of 14 September, Mr McCliskie emailed Mr Judge, forwarding Ms Pullar's email and summarising her allegations. He described his past business acquaintance with Ms Pullar and noted that she had been very competent in her work. He explained how the meeting of 14 September came about, including Ms Pullar's rejection of his suggestion that she should meet Ms Cosgrove. He continued:

Without going into all the issues which she claims there are many, she feels that she has been made a target of our new tough stance with regard to [ ] injury, illegal access by staff to her files, incompetent specialists who are referred to her by ACC, fraudulent activities by staff at ACC, poor process and many other very strong accusations.

She has written to Nick Smith requesting action, but because of her national party involvement, feels that Nick wont enquire as to her issues.

I was particularly careful not to engage with her on her gripes, but made it clear that we as a board would not condone any staff actions as suggested by her if they proved to be true.

Given that she claims to be able to work only half days due to her [ ], she is about to take legal action that could become an issue in the press given her other support.

My note to you, is that, I recommended to her that she should summarise her issues in one page and meet with you as Chair. I suggested this, that I as a director have no authorisation to take up any individual case grievances, and that we are between CEO's you could at least give the opportunity to air her concerns. I don't know any ACC history relating to her, and she may well be over the top in what she claims, but if she is correct, or even partly correct, then we need to put this to bed.

I will give you a call tomorrow to discuss further, but I feel that this has the potential to blow up in the media and that we should to avoid that in the first instance.

Mr McCliskie also sent a copy of this email to Ms Pullar.

When Mr McCliskie spoke to Mr Judge, they agreed that the proper course of action was to ask ACC management to review Ms Pullar's file. Mr Judge sent Mr McCliskie's email to Kurutia Seymour, then ACC's Board and Corporate Secretary. Mr Seymour forwarded the email to Ms Cosgrove on 16 September 2011. Mr Seymour advised Ms Cosgrove that "John [Judge] would like us to look at the case and confirm whether or not we believe that everything has been undertaken appropriately."

The review of Ms Pullar's file resulted in a briefing report dated 3 October 2011, prepared by ACC Claims Management staff for the Head of Business and Programme Management to brief Ms Cosgrove with. The briefing report outlined ACC's management of Ms Pullar's claim and listed the issues that had arisen between Ms Pullar and ACC, ACC's actions to resolve those issues, and ACC's assessment of whether it had appropriately fulfilled its obligations.

The briefing report acknowledged there had been "some valid operational issues", including "inappropriate email communication between a health provider and [Branch Medical Adviser]" and "illegal access to client file by a health provider".

The briefing report concluded that:

ACC is undertaking the management of this client in line with its claims management processes. This will ensure an appropriate diagnosis is ascertained and the relevant treatment and entitlements are provided to ensure the effective rehabilitation of this client.

There have, however, been some valid operational issues outlined above which ACC has managed or is currently managing in line with operational systems, processes and policies. Furthermore, from a relationship management perspective, ACC has arranged meetings with the client at both a National and Area management level within [ACC's Recover Independence Service] to endeavour to resolve this situation.

The briefing report finished with the recommendation that:

It is recognised that the client still perceives there to be issues at hand. These are, however, operational in nature and should not be handled by the Chair. It is recommended that a meeting with the National Manager, ACC Claims Management is offered to the client as a way forward.

On Wednesday 5 October, Mr Seymour received an oral briefing on the contents of the 3 October briefing report prepared for Ms Cosgrove. Mr Seymour reported back to Mr Judge by email, noting that the Recover Independence Service was handling Ms Pullar's claim and briefly describing the stage that her claim had reached.

Mr Seymour reminded Mr Judge:

You will recall more than a year ago the board were advised that as the claims that fell under the Recover Independence Service progressed through the case management and assessment processes, there would be an increase in the number of clients who would be unhappy with the direction of their rehabilitation.

On the management of Ms Pullar's claim, the email commented:

I was advised that it would be fair to say that the management of Ms Pullar's claim early on was not as good as we would normally expect, however I am also advised that the Recover Independence team are comfortable with the decisions that have recently been made regarding assessments and the management of her claim.

The email also noted:

On discussing Ms Pullars claims with Claims Management, her case is being managed and progressed in the same manner as most other claims that have been identified as suitable for intensive case management.

On the wider issues that Ms Pullar had raised, Mr Seymour noted that Ms Pullar had raised "the ongoing and quite particular concerns" previously and that "in a number of areas, Ms Pullar and ACC have a different view".

Mr Seymour concluded by telling Mr Judge that he had forwarded the matter to the National Manager, Claims Management, who would respond to Ms Pullar and invite her to meet him in Auckland. Mr Judge responded by email that he agreed with Mr Seymour's suggestion.

Mr Seymour told us that he suggested a meeting to give Ms Pullar an opportunity to discuss her entitlements and the management of her claim with a senior representative of ACC who had the authority to make decisions. Mr Seymour hoped that the outcome would be an improvement in the relationship and communication between Ms Pullar and ACC.

At this point, Hans Verberne, ACC's Northern Area Manager, was acting as National Manager, Claims Management, while the incumbent, Mike Tully, was on leave. An ACC Area Manager has no responsibility for the Recover Independence Service, but the National Manager, Claims Management does. Although Mr Tully returned to work at the beginning of November, Mr Verberne, having become involved in the issue, agreed to continue with arranging the meeting, which Mr Verberne would attend.

We asked whether it was unusual for managers of Mr Verberne's seniority to meet claimants. We were told that, although unusual, it was not without precedent. For example, Mr Verberne said that he had attended "a dozen or so" claimant meetings, usually where there were "ongoing issues", but in his substantive position as an Area Manager Mr Tully, the National Manager, Claims Management, told us that he had not had any meetings with claimants.

Mr McCliskie emailed Ms Pullar on 12 October, telling her that Mr Judge had asked Mr Seymour to address the issues she had raised at the meeting on 14 September and that Mr Seymour had asked Mr Verberne to meet her. Mr McCliskie emphasised again that, as directors, it was not appropriate that he or Mr Judge intervene in her claim.

On 14 and 15 October (the second email was a corrected version of the first), Ms Pullar emailed Mr McCliskie, copying Mr Judge and Mr Seymour, the written statement of her concerns that she had told Mr McCliskie she would prepare after their meeting on 14 September. Mr Seymour forwarded the emails to Mr Verberne.

The emails covered a range of issues under the headings of "fairness", "privacy", and "public/claimants perception of the Corporation". The emails described the issues in general terms, with only infrequent references to Ms Pullar's claim.

Ms Pullar thanked Mr McCliskie for his response and for taking up the matter. She noted that:

My purpose for contacting you was to highlight my concern as to the Corporations current approach (policies, processes etc) whereby claimants are not being treated in accordance with the spirit of the Code – which is one of ‘fairness', respect, courtesy and in a manner which preserves the claimants dignity. It was not specifically just in relation to my claim.

Ms Pullar thanked Mr McCliskie for the introduction to Mr Verberne and said that she would contact him to arrange a time for Ms Boag and her to meet him "to discuss my personal issues with my claim". She said:

I totally understand it is not appropriate for you, John Judge or the Minister to be seen to be influencing any outcomes on my behalf.

Ms Pullar emailed ACC again on 20 October 2011 with more information about her allegations. Her email was addressed to her case manager and copied to several ACC managers, including Mr Seymour and Mr Verberne, and also to Mr Judge and Mr McCliskie.

Neither Mr McCliskie nor Mr Judge acknowledged any of the emails described in paragraphs 2.30 to 2.34, both believing that ACC management was appropriately handling the matter.

We understand that neither Board member heard any more of Ms Pullar until the media stories in March 2012, other than advice from Mr Seymour to Mr Judge in early December that the planned meeting between Ms Pullar and Mr Verberne had taken place.

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