Australia’s leading class action law firm Maurice Blackburn Lawyers has launched a shareholder class action against Treasury Wine Estates (ASX: TWE) alleging the wine giant misled the market for 18 months before it finally came clean about its declining US business.
A class action was lodged with the Victorian Supreme Court today (Friday) and follows Maurice Blackburn’s earlier successful class action against Treasury which resolved in 2017 with a $49 million settlement in favour of shareholders.
Treasury’s share price plummeted by over 20% in late January 2020 after it downgraded its earnings forecast from the 15%-20% growth estimated in February 2019, blaming leadership changes in the Americas and changing wine dynamics in its key US market. However, Maurice Blackburn’s latest action alleges Treasury’s problems in the Americas went back well before it announced its EBITS growth forecast on 14 February 2019.
Maurice Blackburn class actions Principal Miranda Nagy, who also conducted the previous class action against Treasury between 2015 and 2017, said:
“From at least 30 June 2018 to 28 January 2020, Treasury’s US performance was in decline, with diminishing sales, a weak US brand portfolio overall, and slowing growth of its key brand 19 Crimes, added to which were unsustainable levels of inventory held by its distributors,” Ms Nagy said.
“Treasury failed to disclose these problems. It also did not correct many representations from earlier years that it had “reset” the US business in FY2015, and was no longer chasing short term profit at the expense of long term growth, after its past problems with US performance and inventory that were the subject of Maurice Blackburn’s first class action against Treasury.”
Class action lead plaintiff Steven Napier said TWE had failed investors.
“Investors are entitled to be informed about the health of the companies they are investing in. Treasury has betrayed those of us who in good faith put our money into the company. We deserve transparency and proper information to inform our decision making,” Mr Napier said.
Both the new Maurice Blackburn class action, and the previous class action settled in 2017, involve market disclosures about the company’s business in the United States, which were followed by sharp falls in TWE’s share price. Back in 2013, the problems led to a $160m provision and the destruction by steamroller of millions of bottles of excess aged wine held by US distributors.
The latest potential claim concerns Treasury’s ASX announcement on 28 January 2020 in which the company:
- downgraded its 2020 earnings growth forecast from an anticipated rate of 15% to 20% down to 5% to 10%;
- reported a decline in first-half 2020 earnings in the Americas to $98.3m, a decline of over 26% from the previous year on a constant currency basis; and
- discussed problems in its Americas wine business, including leadership changes and a “loss of execution momentum” and stated a need to “manage our US and Commercial wine business differently”.
National head of Maurice Blackburn’s class actions practice Andrew Watson said shareholder class actions ensured companies that misinformed the market were held to account.
“Good companies have nothing to fear from the existing laws and bad companies should not be given a free pass to engage in misleading or misinforming the market. A functioning class actions system is a deterrent to corporate malfeasance, and signals to both investors and consumers that wrongdoing comes at a price, bolstering confidence and ensuring the efficient allocation of capital in the market.”
Shareholders who purchased Treasury shares from 30 June 2018 to 28 January 2020 are eligible to join the class action.
Media inquiries: Paddy Murphy at Maurice Blackburn on 03 8102 2003 or 0490 297 391 or via firstname.lastname@example.org