AMP judge won’t move state class action to Federal Court
Justice James Stevenson July 9, 2018 4:43 pm By Christine Caulfield | Melbourne

A NSW Supreme Court judge refused Monday to move one of five class actions filed against AMP to Federal Court, and invited law firms for the other four actions to join the case in the state court.

Justice James Stevenson gave the firms until July 16 to decide whether to seek transfer of their Federal Court class actions against the wealth manager to his court, or risk an anti-suit injunction. That injunction would pause their cases while the state class action – brought by Quinn Emanuel — proceeds on its own.

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.”

The ruling is the latest in an unprecedented jurisdictional battle, in which class action lawyers from Maurice Blackburn, Slater & Gordon, Phi Finney McDonald and Shine Lawyers are unlikely bedfellows in a fight against Quinn Emanuel over where the actions against AMP should be heard.

The four firms want Quinn Emanuel’s case moved to Federal Court; AMP wants all five class actions consolidated in state court; and Quinn Emanuel wants an injunction against the Federal Court four. The debate over multiple class actions across multiple jurisdictions is a first of its kind in Australian litigation history, the court heard.

Late last month Judge Stevenson expressed concern that if he didn’t make a ruling he could “put the weight” of a significant decision on his Federal Court counterpart, Justice John Middleton.

The next case management hearing has been scheduled for 20 July.

The cases 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.

ASIC’s investigation is ongoing.

AMP is represented by Herbert Smith Freehills.

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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.