Progress of Litigation
The parties attended the most recent case management hearing before his Honour Justice Middleton on 28 February 2020.
Justice Middleton made orders requiring certain of the Cross-Respondents to the proceeding to produce documents over which the Department of Education and Training (the Department) had claimed privilege. His Honour also made orders requiring Vocation and the Cross-Respondents to produce documents in respect of which Vocation had previously asserted a claim of privilege but subsequently dropped.
Following the case management hearing, the Applicant and Vocation resolved a dispute about Vocation’s claims of privilege over a number of its own documents and the Cross-Respondents’ documents. As a result, the Applicant has been able to obtain a number of documents which we think will be important to the claims made in the class action. Those documents are now being reviewed.
The parties are awaiting a judgment from Justice Middleton regarding whether Vocation’s auditor, PricewaterhouseCoopers, should produce its audit file or whether it is entitled to rely on the privilege against self-incrimination to resist production. In a welcome development on this point, a Full Court of the Federal Court handed down a decision in February 2020 in a different matter where it held that the auditor in that case was required to produce its documents and could not rely on the privilege against self-incrimination to resist production.
The matter is listed for trial commencing on 2 March 2021 and is estimated to run for eight weeks.
In light of the decision handed down in the ASIC proceeding against Vocation and certain of Vocation’s former directors and officers, on 11 November 2019 the Applicant amended her pleading and joined certain of Vocation’s former directors, namely Mark Hutchinson, John Dawkins and Manvinder Gréwal as Respondents. The Applicant alleges that these directors engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct.
The parties will shortly attend a further mediation of the proceedings. Updates on the outcome of the mediation will be provided in due course.
What is the Vocation class action about?
The Applicant in the Vocation Limited Class Action (Federal Court Proceeding: VID 434 of 2015) alleges, among other things, that Vocation Limited (in liquidation) (Vocation) made misleading or deceptive statements in, and omitted information that was required to be disclosed in, its prospectus, contravened the continuous disclosure requirements of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth), or otherwise made statements that were misleading or deceptive, thereby causing loss to persons who acquired an interest in ordinary shares in Vocation shares during the period 27 November 2013 and 4 December 2014 (inclusive).
On 22 July 2016, the Federal Court granted leave to the Applicant to proceed against Vocation in liquidation, subject to certain conditions.
On 17 March 2017, the Federal Court of Australia granted leave for PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) to be joined as the Second Respondent in the proceeding. The Applicant also claims that PWC caused loss to group members by making certain statements while retained to carry out an audit of Vocation Limited’s FY2014 financial report.
On 20 July 2018, PWC filed cross-claims joining the following parties as cross-respondents to the consolidated proceeding:
- Vocation’s former lawyers: the Partners of Johnson Winter and Slattery; and
- Certain of Vocation’s former officers and directors: Mark Hutchinson, Manvinder Gréwal, John Dawkins, Stephen Tucker, Michelle Tredenick and Douglas Halley.
The allegations made by PWC against the Cross Respondents only apply if PWC is found to be liable for the alleged contraventions by PWC. Certain of the Cross Respondents have also made cross claims against each other. More information about the Cross-claims can be found at www.vocationclassaction.com.au.
On 11 November 2019, the Applicant filed and served an amended pleading which joined certain of Vocation’s former directors, namely Mark Hutchinson, John Dawkins and Manvinder Gréwal as Respondents. The Applicant alleges that these directors engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct.
Maurice Blackburn’s Class Actions record is second to none
Maurice Blackburn is renowned for running the country’s biggest and toughest shareholder class actions, having conducted the first case of this kind in Australia and having secured nine of the ten largest class action settlements in Australian legal history.
Since the inception of our class actions department in 1998, we have obtained more than $3 billion in compensation for claimants.
Maurice Blackburn is also the only firm to have secured shareholder class action settlements in excess of $100 million. We have successfully conducted many shareholder class actions in line with our aims to provide greater access to justice and enforce Australia’s corporate governance standards.
For further information, or if you have questions in relation retaining Maurice Blackburn to act for you please contact us on 1800 645 488 or vocationCA@mauriceblackburn.com.au.