AMP class action lawyers agree to ceasefire in jurisdictional war
Class Actions July 13, 2018 8:47 pm By Christine Caulfield | Melbourne

Lawyers in the turf war over five competing AMP class actions have agreed to a temporary peace accord after the battleground edged close to the realm of the absurd, with a threatened anti-anti suit injunction being met with calls for an anti-anti-anti suit injunction.

Class action firms Quinn Emanuel, Slater & Gordon, Maurice Blackburn, Phi Finney McDonald and Shine Lawyers agreed to halt their tit-for-tat injunction threats after an emergency hearing Thursday before the Chief Judge of the NSW Supreme Court’s equity division, who ordered the lawyers to lay down their swords.

Justice Julie Ward was forced to step in after Quinn Emanuel — the firm whose lone class action in the state court is set against Federal Court shareholder class actions of the other four firms in the high-profile jurisdictional battle — called for the anti-anti-anti suit injunction.

That injunction, the firm said, was needed to block Maurice Blackburn from following through on its application for an anti-anti suit injunction, which in turn was drafted in response to the anti-suit injunction threatened by the judge presiding over Quinn Emanuel’s case. That injunction would have blocked the Federal Court actions from proceeding.

Under the terms of the ceasefire, all five firms have backed down from their calls for injunctive relief and Quinn Emanuel will notify its Federal Court counterparts of any plans to seek orders furthering its case.

Maurice Blackburn, Slater & Gordon, PFM and Shine still face a July 16 deadline set by NSW Supreme Court Justice James Stevenson to decide if they will seek to transfer their cases to his court.

And on August 14, Federal Court Justice John Middleton will hear arguments for consolidating the cases in the state court by AMP, the company in the middle of the tussle.

The cases, billed as among the largest shareholder class actions ever in Australia, follow damaging hearings at the Banking Royal Commission that revealed the wealth manager had charged customers fees for no service for over a decade, and misled the Australian Securities & Investments Commission about the practice.

The revelations sent AMP’s share price plummeting by more than 10 percent, wiping $2 billion off the company’s market valuation. The company’s CEO and chairwoman resigned, as did three AMP board members, and its group general counsel was terminated.

Quinn Emanuel was the first to file its case by mere hours, on May 9, followed closely by PFM. Shine, Slater & Gordon and Maurice Blackburn.

On July 9, Judge Stevenson issued an order refusing an application by the Federal Court four to move Quinn Emanuel’s case to their venue.

The judge said that NSW — the headquarters of AMP — was the “natural venue for resolution of all five matters”.

“It is common ground that this court is a natural forum for resolution of Ms Wigmans’ (Quinn Emanuel’s) claims and the claims of the class she represents. That must be so. The defendant, AMP, is here. AMP wishes to have Ms Wigmans’ claims against it resolved in this Court. The events took place here. The persons criticised in the pleadings are here. The doubtless voluminous documents that will need to be considered are here,” the judge ruled, adding that the proceedings were more advanced than any of the Federal Court cases.

“I am not persuaded that it is ‘more appropriate’ in the interests of justice to transfer these proceedings to the Federal Court.”

AMP is represented by Herbert Smith Freehills.

The Quinn Emanuel case is Marion Antoinette Wigmans v AMP Limited. The PFM case is Wileypark Pty Ltd v AMP Limited; the Shine Lawyers case is Andrew Georgiou v AMP Limited; the Slater & Gordon case is Fernbrook (Aust) Investments Pty Ltd v AMP Limited; and the Maurice Blackburn case is Komlotex Proprietary Limited as Trustee for Breda Sinclair Industries Superannuation Fund v AMP Limited

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Christine Caulfield

Christine Caulfield has been a journalist for 18 years. She was most recently the Co-Managing Editor at US legal news publication Law360. Prior to that she worked as the County Court reporter for The Herald Sun. She is Co-Founder and Editor of Lawyerly.