Strategy, information management and cooperation from the banks are pivotal to the smooth running of the largest class action ever seen in Australia, according to plaintiff firm Maurice Blackburn.
Seventy-three thousand people have thus far signed up to challenge 12 Australian banks in relation to an alleged billions of dollars in late and penalty fees - or exception fees - wrongly collected by the banks over many years. "In terms of the number of clients, this is clearly the biggest class action we have done," managing principal NSW Ben Slade told Lawyers Weekly.
"We have identified all the exception fees, the banks and the contracts that are the basis of [the actions]. There is now some analysis to be done on the most extravagant of those fees ... and we need to identify those people who are most enthusiastic about their cases being used as examples to bring before the court."
Despite the number of people involved, Slade said technology will allow the work to be undertaken efficiently, as opposed to the burdensome paper-based systems of the past. "Each of those 73,000 people who register will become our clients and we have a solicitor-client obligation ... that needs to be carefully managed," he said.
"You have to throw a lot of energy and people at it to make sure it works well [but] we have a sophisticated database which allows people to reach us online ... It is fairly complex and expensive intellectual technology we are using to manage a class as big as this, but it can be done."
Twelve separate actions will be filed in the Supreme Court of Victoria, but just how many lawyers will be required to work on the actions remains to be seen.
"At some stage we will have a significant number of lawyers working on this, [and if] we have a significant discovery burden we will have to employ a number of paralegals to help us sift through the information," said Slade.
"But [this will only happen] if the banks are being reallysilly. We'd like to keep discovery minimal."