Progress of Litigation
The parties attended the most recent case management hearing before His Honour Justice Middleton on 15 November 2019.
Middleton J made orders in relation to the outstanding privilege dispute with Vocation and the Department of Education and Training (the Department). Vocation has made claims of privilege over the production of various documents, and the Department is claiming privilege over various documents discovered by one of the Cross-Respondents to the proceeding. These disputes are set down for hearing on 31 January 2020.
The next case management hearing is also on 31 January 2020.
At a recent Case Management Hearing, the trial date set for February 2020 was vacated and the matter set down for trial commencing 2 March 2021 for an estimate of eight weeks.
The original trial date was vacated on the basis that there are ongoing uncertainties in relation to very important matters, such as the outstanding dispute concerning PWC’s claim of privilege against self-incrimination and exposure to a penalty, unresolved issues concerning various claims of privilege made by Vocation which require determination, and outstanding discovery issues as against Vocation. All of these issues mean that the scope of various parties’ discovery is uncertain which in turn impacts on the Applicant’s ability to prepare and serve expert evidence in preparation for trial.
In light of the recent decision handed down in the ASIC proceeding against Vocation and certain of Vocation’s former directors and officers, the Applicant has now amended the pleading and joined certain of Vocation’s former directors, namely Mark Hutchinson, John Dawkins and Manvinder Grewal as Respondents. The Applicant alleges that these directors engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct. The Applicant has filed and served the amended pleading on the parties and the Respondents and Cross-Respondents now have to file and serve any defence or amended defence (where appropriate).
The mediation has now ceased and the matter remains unresolved. We expect that there will be no further movement on settlement for the time being. Further progress may be achieved with developments in the proceeding, for example once the Judge makes a decision about PWC’s self-incrimination claims and we start to file expert evidence.
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 Grewal, 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 Grewal 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 $2.6 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.