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Former Greenwoods & Herbert Smith Freehills partner suffers setback in $15m lawsuit

A former Greenwoods & Herbert Smith Freehills partner who made sensational allegations about Lendlease’s financial statements has had a setback in his plan to sue both for over $15 million.

user iconNaomi Neilson 19 October 2023 Big Law
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Anthony Watson, a former partner of the now PwC-owned tax advisory firm Greenwoods & Herbert Smith Freehills (GHSF), claimed he suffered career and financial detriments after blowing the whistle on what he alleged were tax frauds committed by Lendlease.

He is now suing GHSF and Lendlease for $15.5 million in damages for allegedly breaching whistleblower protections.

However, parts of Mr Watson’s amended statement of claim were struck out or dismissed by the Federal Court on Wednesday (18 October) following a decision reached in August about the proper construction of whistleblower protections under the Treasury Laws Amendment Act and the Taxation Administration Act.


In the August judgment, Justices Mark Moshinsky, Wendy Abraham and Elizabeth Raper considered whether detrimental conduct engaged in prior to both of the acts coming into effect on 1 July 2019 meant that detriment caused by the conduct continued on or after that date.

The court answered no to both considerations and, as a result, ordered that related parts of Mr Watson’s statement be struck out.

Given Mr Watson has “foreshadowed an application for leave to amend”, the proceedings have now been listed before a case management hearing before a docket judge at a later date.

In prior court judgments, Mr Watson alleged he disclosed concerns about Lendlease’s financial statements and compliance with taxation law to a senior Lendlease employee in or around February to August 2013 and then again in March 2014.

He also claimed to have disclosed these concerns to GHSF.

As a result, Mr Watson alleged he was subjected to detrimental conduct, including removal from the Lendlease account, denial of paid sick leave, reduction of his remuneration and a notice of termination.

Following his resignation, in which Mr Watson said he was “constructively dismissed”, he continued to disclose concerns about Lendlease’s alleged financial statements and its taxation position.

Mr Watson alleged to the Federal Court the detrimental conduct is ongoing “because he had not been re-employed, and nor had he been reinstated to the Lendlease account or given an apology”.

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