Piper Alderman has confirmed it has no immediate plans to take on the traditional heavy hitters of the Australian class action market, saying it will continue with its current strategy.
The firm, which is currently conducting a class action on behalf of the collapsed Gold Coast-based Equititrust Income Fund, has ramped up its litigation workload recently, but told Lawyers Weekly it is not positioning itself in direct competition with Slater & Gordon and Maurice Blackburn.
“I don’t think Piper Alderman is taking on Slaters or Maurice Blackburn,” said Amanda Banton (pictured), the Pipers partner leading the Equititrust action.
“Our firm has always been involved in litigation relating to complex financial products, securities actions and large-scale commercial litigation (both acting for the plaintiff and defendants).”
She added that the firm has a strong corporate client base and that there will be “no change in approach” to the type of class actions it pursues.
Banton has litigated to judgment on a number of high-profile matters in the past 12 months, including a $200 million action against the now-defunct investment bank Lehman Brothers Australia and the case against Standard and Poor’s for failing in its duty of care to investors in relation to high-risk constant proportion debt obligations (CPDOs).
“Most of the clients in those cases, and in Equititrust, have individually lost millions of dollars and are considered significant corporate clients or high-wealth individuals,” said Banton.
The Equititrust action, on behalf of investors who poured $194 million into the mortgage fund with the promise of a return but could yet lose 90 per cent of their money, is pleading a case for breach of duties by the company and several of its directors, claims of imprudent investments by the company and its directors, and for other breaches of the Corporations Act.
Banton has also revealed that large corporate clients and high-wealth individuals are increasingly looking to offload litigation risk to funders.
“Litigation funding is becoming far more prominent in respect of corporate clients and high-wealth individuals and most top-tier firms now do funded actions. As I understand it, Mallesons, Henry Davis York, DLA Piper and others all do funded work.”