In the largest court case of the year, Centro Retail Australia and PricewaterwaterhouseCoopers have agreed in principle to a record settlement of A$200 million in a lawsuit lead by law firm Maurice Blackburn.
Martin Hyde, class actions principal at Maurice Blackburn, said the agreement was a major win for shareholders, with $150 million to go to the firm’s group members, who were funded by IMF. The remaining $50 million, including costs, go to Slater & Gordon group members.
Justice Gordon gave the parties until 10.15am tomorrow to agree the details of the settlement agreement. If the parties are not able to reach agreement as to the details by then, the Judge has indicated that the trial should resume.
"Our clients range from individuals, some of whom lost their life savings on Centro, through to the country’s largest financial institutions. We are very pleased to have secured for our clients, an in-principle agreement to deliver the biggest class action settlement in Australian legal history,” Hyde said.
He said the result of the long-running case sends a strong message to corporations and their advisors will be held accountable to shareholders if their conduct falls short of what the law requires.
Since issuing Federal Court proceedings in 2008, Maurice Blackburn and IMF have fought a long battle on behalf of shareholders who lost money in Centro Properties Group and its listed affiliate Centro Retail Group.
The case involved allegations that Centro and its former auditors, PricewaterhouseCoopers, engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct and that Centro breached its obligations of continuous disclosure.