The Federal Court shareholder class action trial against Sirtex Medical Limited (ASX:SRX) begins today in Melbourne, starting at 10.15am.
Shareholders suffered a 37 per cent price drop following Sirtex’s shock announcement on 9 December 2016 of deteriorating earnings and sales growth, and a further 9 per cent price drop when Sirtex subsequently announced an investigation into the share trading activities of then-CEO Gilman Wong. Mr Wong sold 74,968 Sirtex shares in October 2016, and following the investigation, Sirtex terminated his employment.
The shareholder class action alleges contraventions of the ASIC Act, Corporations Act and the Australian Consumer Law in seeking to establish that the company engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct and/or breached its continuous disclosure obligations. Class Actions Principal Lawyer at Maurice Blackburn, Ben Slade, said the events were deeply troubling.
“When a CEO dumps more than $2 million worth of stock shortly before the company releases a surprise announcement of a severe decline in earnings and sales growth, and investors then suffer a 37 per cent share price dive off the back of that, it is fair to question a company’s compliance with continuous disclosure laws,” Mr Slade said.
“The ongoing integrity of the market and future investment in it demands that proper corporate conduct standards are adhered to or held accountable when flouted.
In broad terms, the case alleges that Sirtex: (a) did not have a reasonable basis for telling the market that it expected double digit growth would continue in FY2017; (b) failed to disclose to the market material information which cast significant doubt upon the reliability of its double digit sales forecast; and (c) engaged in related misleading or deceptive conduct.
In short, the case centres upon the actual or constructive knowledge of Sirtex’s officers (including, but not limited to Mr Wong) of information giving rise to the 9 December 2016 announcement from 24 August 2016 and in the months leading up to the sale of Mr Wong’s shares.
The case is before Justice Bernard Murphy and is scheduled to run until June 20, being heard in both Melbourne and Sydney.