AMP class action turf war escalates with threat of anti-anti suit injunction
Class Actions July 11, 2018 11:02 pm By Miklos Bolza | Sydney

The law firm behind one of four AMP class actions in Federal Court might call for an anti-anti-suit injunction in response to a threat by a NSW Supreme Court judge to block the actions from proceeding in favour of the lone case filed against the wealth manager in state court.

An emergency hearing was called Wednesday by Federal Court Chief Justice James Allsop for Justice Michael Lee to hear from Maurice Blackburn and barristers for the three other federal class actions in what has become a turf war between the courts over the competing shareholder suits.

Barrister Guy Donnellan, representing the Maurice Blackburn class action, told the court the law firm had drafted an application to push back on a proposed anti-suit injunction, raised as a spectre by NSW Supreme Court Justice James Stevenson on Monday.

In his judgment, Judge Stevenson dismissed calls to move Quinn Emanuel’s state class action to the Federal Court and gave lawyers for the four federal proceedings until July 16 to decide whether they would transfer their matters to his court. The judge said he would consider issuing Quinn Emanuel’s proposed anti-suit injunction blocking progress in the Federal Court proceedings if the firms refused to move their cases.

“I am not persuaded that it is ‘more appropriate’ in the interests of justice to transfer these [Quinn Emanuel’s] proceedings to the Federal Court,” Judge Stevenson said.

In addition to Maurice Blackburn, Slater & Gordon, Shine Lawyers and Phi Finney McDonald are the law firms suing AMP in the federal jurisdiction.

The four firms had asked the NSW Supreme Court to stay Quinn Emanuel’s proceedings until August 14, when Federal Court Justice John Middleton is expected to hear a transfer application by AMP, which wants all five actions consolidated in the state court.

At Wednesday’s emergency hearing in what has become a tangled jurisdictional battle, Judge Lee told the barristers for the Federal Court cases they had kicked an “own goal” by making their stay applications to the state court.

The judge gave the lawyers until Friday to confirm with the court whether they would file the threatened anti-anti-suit injunction in a bid to “preserve the status quo”.

The cases against AMP are being billed as among the largest shareholder class actions ever in Australia.

Testimony at the Banking Royal Commission revealed AMP had charged customers fees for no service 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.

AMP is represented by Herbert Smith Freehills.

Barrister William Edwards appeared for the PFM class action; Jonathan Burnett for the Shine Lawyers action; Robert Weber, SC, for the Slater & Gordon action; and Steven Finch SC for AMP.

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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Miklos Bolza

Miklos Bolza has been a journalist for three years. He has written for a variety of publications, including NZ Lawyer, HRD Australia, and Australian Broker. He is currently the Sydney court reporter for Lawyerly.