ALLENS ARTHUR ROBINSON has announced the firm does not agree with claims that it failed to ensure its client, James Hardie Industries, disclosed crucial information to the NSW Supreme Court about its controversial move to the Netherlands.
The firm argues it did not breach its duties in relation to the scheme of arrangement, pointing out that Commissioner David Jackson QC’s report said that the failure to reveal information in this respect did not result from a deliberate act.
While the Jackson Report found that two partners within Allens had failed to disclose important information to the Court, it also states that the firm did not attempt to pervert the course of justice.
Allens lawyers Peter Cameron and David Robb were said to have informed the Court that James Hardie would ensure that partly paid shares would be left behind in Australia as a safety net for asbestos victims. When these shares were later cancelled, the Court was not informed, the Report said.
But the firm now argues that the Commissioner “finds that it is not clear that any such breach caused loss, or that even if disclosure had been made that subsequent events would have turned out differently”.
The firm has welcomed Commissioner Jackson’s “outright rejection” of claims that it contravened the Trade Practices Act 1974 or that the orders of the Supreme Court were procured by fraud.
The firm has faced allegations that it failed to exercise due care and skill, and contributed to James Hardie’s failure to comply with its duty of disclosure to the NSW Supreme Court when it asked for approval in 2001 to move to the Netherlands. The firm’s recent statement rejects these claims.
Allens continues to advise James Hardie on some matters, the firm said. However, there are a number of specific Commission-related matters in the future in which it will not be acting for James Hardie. This is by mutual agreement, the firm said.
See News review this week: Where to after the Jackson Report?