A Supreme Court action brought by listed financial advice company IOOF against Maurice Blackburn Lawyers has been resolved with both parties agreeing to walk away without costs.
The action centred on the use of documents made public by a whistle-blower that were provided to Fairfax Media, ASIC, the Senate and, ultimately, Maurice Blackburn.
Maurice Blackburn had announced a class action on behalf of shareholders in IOOF who suffered losses after the share price collapsed in June 2015 when the whistle-blower’s documents were revealed in the Age and Sydney Morning Herald.
As part of the walkaway agreement, Maurice Blackburn has regretfully agreed to no longer pursue the shareholder class action.
Maurice Blackburn Principal Jacob Varghese said the case highlighted the extreme inadequacy of Australian law to deal appropriately with whistle-blower information.
“We have long argued that whistle-blower laws in this country are completely inadequate, and this legal process has made that point very clearly,” Mr Varghese said.
“We need parliaments to codify the law to make it clear that there is nothing wrong with whistle-blowers communicating with class action lawyers acting for the victims of corporate misconduct. Without such change, it is too easy for corporate wrongdoers to tie up class actions in expensive satellite litigation and avoid accountability. That is what happened here.”
“The fact that IOOF sued Maurice Blackburn and no one else shows that this case was motivated for the sole purpose of stopping our firm from holding IOOF to account on behalf of shareholders,” Mr Varghese said.
“We still firmly believe IOOF did the wrong thing and should be held to account and that the reason it fought so hard was to avoid the scrutiny a class action would bring.
“When laws do more to protect the wrongdoer than the people trying to expose misconduct and bring justice to its victims, something is amiss and it needs to change.”