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Maurice Blackburn is conducting two class actions on behalf of Slater & Gordon (ASX: SGH) shareholders:

  • A class action against SGH’s former legal adviser Arnold Bloch Leibler (ABL Class Action); and
  • A class action against SGH’s former auditor Pitcher Partners and UK-based auditor Ernst & Young LLP (Pitchers Class Action).
     

This page is primarily about the Pitchers Class Action. If you are looking for further information about the ABL Class Actionplease click here.

Case updates

The Pitchers Class Action proceeded to trial in November 2021 which concluded in late December 2021. We are awaiting judgment, which is anticipated to be handed down anytime within the next few months.

The Applicant and Ernst & Young LLP have reached an in-principle settlement, subject to the approval of the Court. The claim against Pitcher Partners remains on foot. Further details of the proposed settlement with EYUK are available below.

Key dates

November 2021 – ABL Class Action reached an agreement to settle.

23 December 2021 – Pitchers Class Action trial concludes.

4 March 2022 – Court approval of the ABL Class Action settlement.


Am I eligible to register for the Pitchers class action?

You are a group member of the Pitchers Class Action if you acquired an interest in fully paid ordinary shares in SGH at any time between 30 March 2015 and 24 February 2016.

If you meet the above description and suffered loss or damage by reason of the conduct of the respondents named in the class action, you are a member of the class, regardless of whether you still hold shares or whether you also purchased additional SGH shares prior to or after that period.

All persons who were registered as Group Members in the original class action against SGH (Settled SGH Class Action) will automatically be registered as Group Members in the Pitchers Class Action, (regardless of whether they previously opted out of the Settled SGH Class Action).

It is possible that the Court may make orders requiring Group Members to register their claims to be eligible to participate in the class action. If you are a Group Member but have not yet registered, we encourage you to do so to ensure that you remain eligible.


About the class action

The Pitchers Class Action is the second of three class actions brought by the Applicant, Mr Matthew Hall, on his own behalf and on behalf of persons who purchased shares in Slater & Gordon Ltd (ASX:SGH).

The Pitchers Class Action was commenced in the Federal Court of Australia against Slater & Gordon Limited’s (SGH) SGH’s former auditor Pitcher Partners. The Applicant alleged that in Pitcher Partners, in SGH’s FY2015 audit, failed to identify or communicate risks around the likely impairment of the $1.1 billion goodwill asset (associated with the acquisition of the UK-based PSD division from Quindell plc). The result of this is alleged to be that SGH’s FY15 Financial Report and/or FY15 Appendix 4E were materially misstated. This impairment ultimately occurred six months later in SGH’s half-yearly report for FY2016.

Subsequently, Pitcher Partners alleged that the UK-based component auditor who performed the UK component of SGH’s FY2015 audit, Ernst & Young LLP (EY UK), was also responsible for any failure by Pitcher Partners to identify the impairment of the PSD goodwill asset. EY UK performed the component audit under the supervision of Pitcher Partners, but it was alleged, similarly failed to identify or communicate the risks outlined above and so was partly responsible for any loss caused by the performance of the audit.  Given Pitcher Partners’ allegations against EY UK, the Applicant also joined EY UK and substantially replicated the allegations against EY UK that Pitcher Partners had made.

The Pitchers Class Action proceeded to trial in the Federal Court in November 2021 and concluded in late December 2021. The parties are currently awaiting a judgment to be handed down by the Court.

Further information about the proceedings, including the Statement of Claim, is available to be viewed in the 'key documents' section at the bottom of this page.

Proposed settlement with EY UK

Following the trial, Pitcher Partners agreed to settle its cross-claim against EY UK, and in the same way the Applicant and EY UK have agreed to settle the claims of the Applicant and group members against EY UK on a “walk away” basis.  That is, no compensation is payable by EY UK to the Applicant or group members, and both parties will bear their own legal costs. 

In agreeing to the proposed settlement with EY UK, the Applicant took into account among other things, the reduced likelihood of a material financial recovery from EY UK in light of Pitchers’ settlement of its cross-claim against EY UK and the potential for additional costs to be ultimately borne by the Applicant and group members in the event that the claim against EY UK was unsuccessful and the litigation funder in these proceedings sought to recover any adverse costs payable to EY UK from any judgment in favour of group members in respect of their claims against Pitcher Partners.  

Group members should be aware that if the settlement is approved, they will not be able to bring any claim against EY UK in respect of the claims the subject of the class action.  As noted above, however, the settlement does not affect group members’ primary claims against Pitcher Partners.

No further action is required for group members who do not wish to object to the proposed settlement of the claims against EY UK. If you wish to oppose any aspect of the proposed settlement you should submit the document titled ‘Notice of Objection to Proposed Settlement’ here by 4.00pm (AEDT) on 22 July 2022 by sending it by email to:

(a)        the Federal Court Registry at vicreg@fedcourt.gov.au; and

(b)        Maurice Blackburn at SGH@mauriceblackburn.com.au.

If you submitted an opt out notice prior to the Court-imposed deadline of 8 September 2021 you do not need to do anything in response to this notice. You will not be affected by the class action or the proposed settlement with EY UK.

The proposed settlement with EY UK will be listed for a hearing on 5 August 2022. The settlement must be approved by the Federal Court as being fair and reasonable, and in the interests of group members. 


How do I register for the class action?

Pitchers Class Action:

You are still able to register for the Pitchers class action by accessing the online registration portal here.

On the registration portal, you can register your details and will be provided an opportunity to retain Maurice Blackburn to represent you in the class action.

ABL Class Action:

Registrations for the ABL Class Action have now closed as per the court-ordered deadline. For further information on the ABL Class Actionplease click here.


Frequently asked questions

Maurice Blackburn is Australia’s leading class action law firm. We have achieved the nation’s largest class actions recoveries, collectively having recovered over $3.7 billion in compensation for victims of wrongdoing.

Signing up to the ABL Class Action and the Pitchers Class Action will not expose you to any out of pocket costs. Unless and until there is a successful outcome, all costs in the proceedings will be borne by Maurice Blackburn and the litigation funder, International Litigation Partners No 15 Pte Ltd. In the event of a successful outcome, any legal and funding costs will be deducted from, and will not exceed, any compensation that you are entitled to receive. Both the legal and funding costs must be considered and approved by the Court before they are able to be deducted.

Both the ABL Class Action and the Pitchers Class Action have been commenced on an “open class” basis.  There are both funded and unfunded Group Members in the class, and at an appropriate point in the litigation we will apply for orders (similar to the common fund order as part of the settlement of the SGH Class Action) to ensure that all Group Members – whether funded or unfunded – share the legal and funding expenses equally in the event of a successful outcome. Further notice of any such application will be provided in due course. 

Nothing.

As a group member (and not the Representative, in whose name the case has been brought), an adverse costs order may not be made directly against you in respect of the determination of the common issues in the class actions. Unless and until there is a successful outcome to the class actions, all costs will be borne by Maurice Blackburn and the litigation funder.

Where seven or more people have claims that arise out of similar circumstances, a class action can be brought by one claimant on their own behalf and as a representative of others.

The class action process saves time and expense by avoiding the need for the courts to determine common issues of fact or law more than once. Class actions are efficient, enabling disputes and claims involving large numbers of people to be resolved via a single case.

Pitchers Class Action

The Pitchers Class Action proceeded to trial on 9 November 2021 and concluded trial in late December 2021. The outcome of the trial along with a judgment is anticipated within the next few months.

ABL Class Action

The Applicant in the ABL Class Action entered into an agreement to settle the proceeding against Arnold Bloch Leibler (ABL) for the settlement sum of AUD $28 million, inclusive of costs and interest. The agreement to settle the ABL Class Action was subject to approval by the court. Details of the proposed deductions to the settlement sum are contained on the website of Maurice Blackburn and you are encouraged to read that information. You can access the website here.

On 12 October 2016, Maurice Blackburn commenced a class action against SGH on behalf of the Applicant, Matthew Hall, and all persons who acquired an interest in fully paid ordinary SGH shares between 30 March 2015 and 24 February 2016 (Settled SGH Class Action).  All persons who acquired an interest in fully paid ordinary shares of SGH during the period 30 March 2015 to 24 February 2016 and did not opt out of the class action by the date ordered by the Court were Hall Group Members. An in-principle settlement was reached in July 2017, and a Deed of Settlement was executed in September 2017.  

The settlement of the Settled SGH Class Action was approved by the Federal Court of Australia on 14 December 2017. Final distributions for the Settled SGH Class Action have been determined and distributed, and the settlement administration has now concluded. If you were a Hall Group Member, but did not previously register with Maurice Blackburn and/or did not return your Participant Declaration by the Participation Deadline (23 February 2018), you are bound by the terms of the settlement, but are not eligible to receive a distribution from the Settlement Fund. You do however remain eligible to participate in the ABL Class Action and/or the Pitchers Class Action if you acquired SGH shares during the relevant period (see the earlier answer to “Am I eligible to register for the class actions?”).

Key documents

News

In the News - Australian Financial Review:
EY targets Pitcher Partners in Slaters class action
Global accounting giant EY has alleged its national rival Pitcher Partners engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct and negligence in its 2015 audit work for Slater and Gordon before its near collapse.

In the News - The Sydney Morning Herald:
Slater and Gordon settles class action against itself
Shareholders in Slater and Gordon have reached a $36.5 million settlement with the beleaguered law firm, a move that will pave the way for the group's restructure.

Want to find out more?

If you would like further information regarding the class action, please contact us at SGH@mauriceblackburn.com.au, on 1800 572 151 (+61 1800 572 151 for international callers) or by mail to the address below:

SGH Class Action
Maurice Blackburn Lawyers
Level 21, 380 Latrobe Street
Melbourne VIC 3000

Please note that our response to correspondence by post may be delayed.

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Our Canberra office is now closed, but our team continues to serve ACT clients and are available for phone and video appointments. If you need legal advice, please call us on 1800 675 346.

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