On 12 October 2016, Maurice Blackburn commenced a class action against Slater & Gordon Ltd (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 (Hall Class Action).
An in-principle settlement was reached in July 2017, and a Deed of Settlement was executed in September 2017. Following two settlement approval hearings, settlement of the proceeding (Hall Settlement) was approved by the Court on 14 December 2017.
What actions do you need to take?
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 are Hall Group Members.
If you are a Hall Group Member, you will only be eligible to receive a distribution from the Settlement Distribution Fund if you returned, or someone returned on your behalf, a valid Participant Declaration to Maurice Blackburn by the Participation Deadline (being 23 February 2018).
Hall Group Members who are eligible to participate in the Hall Settlement (Participants) will have received an email or letter from Maurice Blackburn dated 21 May 2018 confirming that we have received and accepted their Participant Declaration.
If you are a Hall Group Member, but have not previously registered with Maurice Blackburn and/or did not return your Participant Declaration by the Participation Deadline, you will not be eligible to participate in the Hall Settlement.
About the Hall Settlement and the SCS
On 12 October 2016, Maurice Blackburn commenced the Hall Class Action against SGH under Part IVA of the Federal Court of Australia Act 1976 (Cth) (FCAA). An in-principle settlement was reached in July 2017, and a Deed of Settlement was executed in September 2017. Following two settlement approval hearings, the Hall Settlement was approved by the Court under section 33V of the FCAA on 14 December 2017.
The total settlement amount is $36.5 million. SGH’s insurers paid $32.5 million (Insurer Contribution), which represents most of what remained available under the company’s insurance policies. SGH, through financing provided by its Senior Lenders, paid $4 million (SGH Contribution). The Insurer Contribution, net of approved legal costs and funding costs, was used to set up the Shareholder Claimant Scheme Fund (SCS Fund). The SGH Contribution did not go into the SCS Fund and will be distributed only to Hall Group Members who have returned an accepted Participant Declaration (Hall Participants) along with their share of the SCS Fund through the Hall Settlement Distribution Scheme (SDS).
Also at the 14 December 2017 hearing, the Court approved two creditors’ schemes of arrangement that SGH propounded under Part 5.1 of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) in order to restructure the company without entering into external administration. These are the Senior Lender Scheme between SGH and its secured creditors, and the Shareholder Claimant Scheme (SCS), which operate in conjunction with the Hall Settlement. Mark Korda and Bryan Webster of KordaMentha have been appointed by the Court as “Scheme Administrators” of the SCS. Further information about the SCS is available at: www.kordamentha.com/Creditors/Slater-Gordon-Scheme.
Maurice Blackburn submitted Proofs of Debt for approximately 5,000 registered Hall Group Members with approximately 8,800 shareholdings in the Hall Settlement against SGH to the Scheme Administrators (Hall Proofs). The Hall Proofs have now been adjudicated by the Scheme Administrators, with the accepted value of the Hall Proofs amounting to 99% of the proofs of debt which were accepted. Accordingly, the bulk of the SCS Fund, net of the costs of administering the SCS, was transferred to Maurice Blackburn on 15 May 2018.
The additional SGH Contribution of $4 million will be added to the amount received from the SCS, so that Hall Participants receiving a distribution via the SDS will receive both their pro rata share of the amount paid out of the SCS and their pro rata share of the SGH Contribution.
The next step in the process is that Hall Participants will receive Notices of Estimated Distribution (NOEDs) which will also invite Participants to provide their EFT details for payment.
The amounts reflected in the NOEDs may change before distributions are made because the Court has not finalised the amount approved for Maurice Blackburn’s legal costs or the amount payable to the litigation funder. At the 14 December 2017 hearing, the Court approved part of the requested amounts and reserved the question of further amounts. We will be asking the Court to finalise those orders and to approve an amount for the costs incurred by Maurice Blackburn in administering the settlement. We are hopeful that these remaining issues will be resolved quickly and without causing undue delay in distributing the settlement.
The distribution of the settlement funds is governed by the SDS, available here. Schedule B of this document is subject to confidentiality orders. If you are a Participant under the Settlement Distribution Scheme and would like to inspect Schedule B, you will need to sign a confidentiality undertaking - please contact SGHSettlement@mauriceblackburn.com.au for more information.
If you need any further information, please don’t hesitate to contact us on 1800 572 151 (+61 1800 572 151 for international callers), by emailing SGHSettlement@mauriceblackburn.com.au, or by mail to the address below:
SGH Settlement Administrator
Maurice Blackburn Lawyers
Level 21, 380 Latrobe Street
Melbourne VIC 3000