Manny, JFK, and The Little Book
When Clovelly Lawyer John Kambas from JFK Legal placed his first advertisement in The Beast he never imagined it would lead to him taking on AMP Limited on behalf of a 94-year-old Holocaust survivor almost four years later.
Mr Kambas was sitting on the cliff just outside his family home in Kangaroo Valley, the only place on the property to get phone reception, when he received a call from Maroubra resident Manny Rosenthal.
“He asked, ‘Is this JFK the solicitor?’ in this really thick accent, and at first I thought it was a joke,” Mr Kambas told The Beast.
But Mr Rosenthal was insistent that he wanted “JFK the solicitor” to help him. Mr Rosenthal, now living in Maroubra, had gone to his safe to find his concentration camp papers to respond to the German Government, who thought he was dead, to prove that he was still alive and entitled to his Holocaust pension. In the safe, he found another document that had been long forgotten. The document was an investment notice from AMP recording a $20,000 investment Mr Rosenthal had made in 1982.
“Mr Rosenthal never received any notices regarding the investment and the interest was reinvested, so he forgot about it,” Mr Kambas explained.
Mr Rosenthal told Mr Kambas that he had found his number in “the little book”.
“I couldn’t understand, he kept saying, ‘the little book,’ then he said it was in Maroubra, and it came every month, and it clicked that he was talking about The Beast.”
They initially tried to resolve the case through the Australian Financial Complaints Authority but were unsuccessful in getting AMP to recognise Mr Rosenthal’s investment.
Mr Kambas told The Beast he did not think AMP realised how determined Mr Rosenthal was.
“There was this crazy Greek lawyer JFK and this Holocaust survivor Manny, who was going ‘all the way with JFK’ to court,” he said.
Mr Kambas filed the case with the NSW District Court, and with the help of The Beast Editor James Hutton, Mr Kambas contacted several news outlets, trying to get some media attention for the case.
The Daily Telegraph picked up the story the day before the mediation hearing, and on May 29 it ran a story about the case.
“I told The Daily Telegraph, ‘You’ve got to get the article in tomorrow,’ because there was a mediation,” Mr Kambas said.
The Daily Telegraph article had a positive effect and the case settled. Manny was very happy with the settlement.
“It was a David and Goliath battle, and in the end right was done,” Mr Kambas said.
“Did the article have an impact in the settlement negotiations? I think it did, as it helped our case, but who really knows?” Mr Kambas told The Beast.
Since then, the story has gone through Jewish, Greek, and regional media outlets.
Mr Rosenthal came to Australia in 1951 after initially travelling to Brooklyn following the war. He worked as a plumber and is a long-term resident of the Eastern Suburbs. He was the only member of his family to survive the concentration camps.
“In a legal career, you rarely get cases of this intrigue; a writer couldn’t have dreamed this up,” Mr Kambas said.
“If it weren’t for ‘the little book’, I wouldn’t have found him. I’ll be telling this story for a long time. When I’m ninety-four, I will still be telling the story of ‘the little book’.”