A director and his private training school can now be named after being fined $56,000 for the unapproved enrolment of international students and false marketing claims.
But the director, Daniel Hunt, has also fought off an appeal by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) after he was discharged without conviction.
Hunt and The Career Academy (TCA), an NZ unregistered private tertiary provider, pleaded guilty on the morning of trial in March last year to 33 total charges.
Career Academy, based in Parnell, has been one of New Zealand's largest education providers outside the NZQA framework for the past 10 years, specialising in online courses.
It also operates out of Australia, Singapore, the UK and Ireland, and currently provides courses for more than 20,000 students, Hunt says.
He faced 16 charges and his school 17 over breaching the Education Act.
The allegations, brought by NZQA, were for the unapproved enrolment of 18 international students and making false representations that TCA had consent to assess against certain unit standards.
Later in 2018, Judge Brooke Gibson convicted TCA on each charge and fined it $56,000, while also ordering it to pay court costs of $2210.
While discharging Hunt without conviction, the judge also ordered him to pay $24,000 towards the costs of NZQA.
Judge Gibson also refused to keep TCA and Hunt's name permanently suppressed.
NZQA appealed the decision to discharge Hunt, while the director and his school challenged the decision to not keep their names secret.
This month, the High Court dismissed NZQA's appeal against Hunt's discharge but also decided to lift the veil on the director and TCA at 2pm today.
In a statement to the Herald, Hunt and TCA apologised for what it called "administrative errors".
It said the breaches of the Education Act were "inadvertent errors" the company made in its administration and marketing material.
One such breach saw the school charge fees for a student enrolled in its dog grooming course for accounting-based unit standards, court documents obtained by the Herald show.
The school also claimed its courses were approved by NZQA and used the unauthorised usage of protected terms such as "New Zealand" to describe its programmes.
In its statement, the school said: "These terms were removed and have not been used since."
Other terms illegally used included "Bachelor of Business", "NZ Diplomas & Certificates", and "New Zealand Diploma in Accounting", while advertisement on the school's website read "accredited NZ qualifications from $25 per week".
Judge Gibson said: "There was a clear false misrepresentation in the material published on the website. This is not simply a training issue. Anyone reading the website would have been led to believe the [school] was offering an approved training scheme."
TCA's website also said it allowed students to enrol in courses without requiring details of their New Zealand residency, citizenship or visas.
Court documents showed in July 2016 a prospective student asked TCA if NZQA approved its courses.
Replying in an online chat, a school employee said "many courses are NZQA approved" despite none of the courses offered having approval.
Other breaches by TCA included enrolling at least 34 students into its small business accounting course and offered the educational business' unit standards without the permission of NZQA.
Court documents also show NZQA met with Hunt after it became aware the school was enrolling international students in September 2015 and informed him of the legal requirements.
In January 2016, NZQA again wrote to TCA requesting it immediately stop enrolling international students and amend its website.
The school finally replied in May 2016 through its lawyers, saying it would not enrol international students but was unaware of any current international students in its course.
TCA also told NZQA it had "no ability" to provide a list of former international students.
A few days later, NZQA responded with its lawyers and said TCA's website was still allowing international students to enrol.
It was only after then that changes were made to TCA's site.
But in June 2016, Hunt further told NZQA five international students and a student on a visitor's visa had enrolled.
In an affidavit, a senior tutor at TCA said in mid-2016 the school was beginning to develop and "implement new processes for international student enrolments, but these were not fully completed at the time of the NZQA visit".
It resulted in "some of the international students slipping through the cracks".
Some of the students included an English woman, two Russians, a South African, an Italian, and a Japanese citizen, who paid fees ranging from $149 to $2450.
"Since NZQA became aware of the Career Academy and Mr Hunt's actions, NZQA attempted to get Career Academy and Mr Hunt to adequately address its concerns, however these actions led to NZQA's decision to bring criminal prosecution proceedings in late 2016," Eve McMahon, NZQA's acting deputy chief executive, quality assurance, said today.
"Many opportunities were provided to The Career Academy and Mr Hunt to address NZQA's concerns over an extensive period," she said.
"While legal action is often a last resort, it is important that unregistered private training establishments are aware that NZQA will take appropriate action, including the use of legal remedies, if breaches of the Education Act have occurred."
In its statement, TCA said most of the charges related to the accidental enrolment of 18 international students, who had had their fees refunded.
No further international students had been enrolled since, it said.
Judge Gibson said Hunt's "culpability is essentially based on his carelessness".
"Certainly they pleaded guilty to false representations but a number of the false representations were, I accept, caused by muddlement, error, poorly trained staff and trying to control and oversee a business that grew rapidly," he said.
In her appeal judgment, Justice Mary Peters also accepted Hunt and Career Academy had taken all reasonable steps to resolve the issues but it proved more difficult to achieve this than expected.
Hunt explained in his statement: "The Career Academy simply grew too fast for the control systems we had at the time.
"It was never our intention to mislead and we have since improved our systems and processes so this can never happen again. We are confident in our current enrolment, documentation and monitoring processes."
He said he and TCA sought name suppression "to protect our students" and ensure their TCA qualifications would not be "unfairly tainted by isolated bureaucratic errors".
None of the charges, Hunt said, related to the quality of the education provided by TCA or the value of their qualifications.
"The Career Academy staff and I stand by the high quality of our teaching and the validity of our assessments."
In her judgment, Justice Peters said: "The merits of TCA's qualifications, and the training and education it provides, have never been in issue."
Hunt claimed when the company started in 2009, TCA made the "conscious decision" to operate as an internationally approved training organisation.
In his statement he said many of TCA's course were accredited by the International Council for Online Educational Standards.
TCA, however, is not registered or approved under the NZQA framework.