Manus Island class action – Settlement Distribution Scheme Update
Over 97 per cent of settlement funds in the Manus Island class action have now been distributed to group members, with the majority of the remaining transfers expected to happen in coming days, making the Manus Island class action one of the fastest and most efficient settlement distributions in Australian legal history when compared to similarly large and complex cases.
On 6 September 2017, the Supreme Court of Victoria approved the settlement of the Manus Island class action. As a part of that process, the Court approved a Settlement Distribution Scheme (‘the Scheme’), which is a document that sets out the steps, procedures and powers involved in distributing the settlement funds to group members.
Since the settlement was approved by the Court, Slater and Gordon has been working to administer and implement the Scheme. Our role has been to apply the terms of the Scheme to obtain information and instructions from group members, finalise payment amounts and distribute those amounts to each participating group member.
The Scheme has remained supervised by the Supreme Court as it has been implemented and there have been hearings held approximately monthly to update the Court on its progress.
The Scheme has been extremely successful to date with over 97 per cent of the settlement funds distributed to group members in less than four months.
This is particularly significant considering the large number of group members involved in the Scheme, their wide range of locations around the world and the significant difficulties involved in making payments to many of those locations. All of these factors have made the current distribution process more challenging than most class actions.
Compared to other distributions for similarly large and complex cases, the Manus Island class action has been notably fast and efficient – to date, it has been one of the most effective class action distributions we are aware of for a case of this kind.
There are still some remaining steps to be completed in the Scheme in the weeks ahead before it ultimately concludes. So that group members have an easy way to understand the current status of the Scheme and the next steps, we have compiled some answers to the most common questions we have received about the settlement distribution process.
What is the current status of payments being made under the Scheme?
As at Monday, 9 April 2018:
- 1,646 of the 1,696 group members who are entitled to receive a payment under the Scheme have now been paid.
- These payments amount to approximately $68 million of the $70 million settlement sum.
- There are 40 payments still in progress with the bank making the transactions; we expect the funds from these payments will arrive in the accounts nominated by group members shortly.
How many payments are still outstanding?
In addition to the 40 payments that are currently in progress and which we expect will be completed soon, there are 10 remaining group members who have not yet had their payments made.
These payments are for individuals who have not provided us with any payment instructions over the past six months, or who have not yet responded to requests we have made for additional information to allow us to arrange payments to international accounts.
We are devoting considerable resources to trying to contact these group members so that their payments can be made to them.
When is the deadline for making payments?
The Court has directed that the time for making payments be extended until Friday 13 April 2018 and we are working to have all payments completed by that date.
What happens after the deadline?
The Scheme is designed to run over a limited timeframe and to distribute the entire amount of the settlement fund to the group members who are participating in the Scheme. The terms of the Scheme state that once the deadline has passed, any money that remains unpaid will be redistributed on a pro-rata basis amongst the group members who provided sufficient information or instructions to be able to be paid on time.
While the settlement money has been held in the account being used to manage the settlement distribution process, it has earned interest. This interest amount, less any tax required to be paid on it, will also be fully distributed to group members. After the deadline has passed and once the complete list of group members who have been successfully paid is known, the interest amount will also be divided pro-rata amongst the successfully-paid group members.
A small final payment, consisting of a pro-rata portion of the interest amount plus any redistributed funds that are available as a result of the deadline passing, will be made to all group members who have successfully been paid, which will disburse all remaining money in the settlement fund. We expect these payments will start being made in late April, and will likely take several weeks to complete.
Once these final payments have been completed, we expect to seek orders from the Court in June to conclude the Scheme.
Will any money from the settlement fund be retained by Slater and Gordon or any bank?
No. Aside from tax amounts that will need to be paid on the interest that the settlement fund has accrued, the entire amount of the $70 million settlement sum and all interest that has been earned on it will be paid to group members who are participating in the Scheme. No funds will be retained by or paid to Slater and Gordon or any bank that issues payments of settlement funds.
What should group members or their supporters do if they have any questions or concerns about the Scheme?
The Scheme is a complex process and group members and their supporters will obviously have questions about it from time to time. The best way to obtain accurate answers to these questions will always be to contact Slater and Gordon directly, as no other party will have access to the same level of information about the status or operation of the Scheme.