Some of the world’s most eminent academic and legal experts gather today in Melbourne at The 2017 Corporate Conduct and Class Actions Symposium to analyse 25 years of the class actions regime in Australia.
Headlined by renowned UK academic and class actions researcher and analyst Rachael Mulheron from Queen Mary University of London, the event brings an impressive array of international and domestic academics, sitting judges, institutional investors, regulators (ASIC/ACCC) and other legal luminaries together to look at how the Australian regime has influenced other jurisdictions, how it has worked to date, and opportunities for improvement.
Andrew Watson, National Head of Class Actions at Australia’s leading plaintiff class actions law firm Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, says experts will analyse the regime against three key criteria:
- Does it increase access to justice?
- Has it enhanced judicial economy by ensuring the quelling of large numbers of controversies in an efficient manner?
- Has it created a role for private enforcement in relation to corporate misconduct that complements and supplements the role of public authorities
“The system has undeniably increased access to justice by recovering around $3.5billion for victims of mass wrongs, across the gamut of potential kinds of matters: claims for refugees, consumers, small businesses, employees, shareholders and other investors, product liability cases, cartel cases, cases involving those twin Australian scourges of bushfire and flood and more,” Mr Watson said.
“On the second point, I think it is inconceivable that the array of disputes which have been run as class actions since 1992 could have been managed as efficiently in any other regime.
“Finally on the issue of private enforcement it is noteworthy that both the ACCC and ASIC have separately supported the role played by class actions as a supplement and complement to the role of public enforcement.
“So on any rational analysis, the regime is working and working well, but that is not to say there aren’t improvements within reach that would further enhance the system.
“Some would include substantive law changes in relation to overseas cartels; greater protection for whistleblowers; streamlining procedures and reducing costs through procedural innovations in the Courts and the introduction of depositions to the heart of issues in dispute quicker.
“We also need to improve access to justice by expanding funding options – the development of common funds, the introduction of contingency fees, and the possibility of a public fund – are all important and achievable improvements at hand.”
The Corporate Conduct and Class Actions Symposium – an annual event run by Fairfax Media (BusinessDay) in conjunction with Maurice Blackburn Lawyers – brings on board Monash University (Monash Business School) as an event partner this year.