AMP has fight on hands over bid to move class actions
Class Actions June 7, 2018 10:14 pm By Christine Caulfield | Melbourne

AMP will begin its push on Friday to move competing Federal Court class actions to the NSW Supreme Court, but the company will face fierce opposition.

The embattled wealth management firm, which has had a tumultuous month since the Royal Commission’s exposure of its misconduct over advice fees, wants the cases centralized in the state court, and will make its pitch to Justice John Middleton at a hearing in Melbourne.

The NSW Supreme Court is the location of the first filed class action against AMP, brought by Quinn Emanuel. But three other class actions, lodged by Phi Finney McDonald, Shine Lawyers and Slater & Gordon are now underway in the Federal Court. Maurice Blackburn, which is also investigating a case, has yet to file.

AMP flagged its intention to seek consolidation of the cases at a directions hearing last month before NSW Supreme Court Justice David Hammerschlag.

Barrister for the firm, Elizabeth Collins, SC, said at the May 18 hearing that AMP was planning to have a “dialogue” with class action lawyers about consolidating the cases.

“I’ll wait with baited breath,” Judge Hammerschlag told Collins.

Slater & Gordon, which filed its class action on Wednesday in the Federal Court in Melbourne, confirmed the firm would contest AMP’s application to consolidate the four cases in NSW.

Quinn Emanuel partner Damian Scattini said the battle in the Federal Court would be “interesting” but would not have any impact on his case.

“None of this affects us in the NSW Supreme Court. It’s interesting, but we’re just getting on with our case,” Scattini said.

PFM declined to comment Thursday. Lawyerly also sought comment from Shine Lawyers and Herbert Smith Freehills, which represents AMP.

The class action firms have been jockeying to attract shareholders with record low commission rates. The case is being billed as one of the largest investor class actions ever in Australia.

Testimony at the 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%, wiping $2 billion off the company’s market valuation. The company’s CEO and chairwoman resigned, as did three AMP board members. It’s group general counsel was terminated.

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; and the Slater & Gordon case is Fernbrook (Aust) Investments Pty Ltd 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.