Posted on 24 Jun. 2019
Slater and Gordon has reached a conditional agreement with Australia’s largest milk supplier Murray Goulburn and its subsidiary to settle a closed unitholder class action on behalf of over a thousand Australian and international investors.
Under the proposed agreement, the Murray Goulburn Co-operative Co Limited entities will pay a total of $42 million, inclusive of legal fees and interest, to settle the claims of class action group members. The settlement is subject to Federal Court approval.
The class action was commenced in August 2018, and was pursued on behalf of more than 1300 institutional and retail investors who acquired Murray Goulburn units between 29 May 2015 and 27 April 2016.
The proposed settlement was reached ahead of a four-week trial which was scheduled to commence in February 2020.
Slater and Gordon Practice Group Leader Emma Pelka-Caven said: “The conditional settlement is an outstanding outcome for group members and, if approved, will be a significant recovery of our clients’ losses.”
“It was also achieved within twelve months of Slater and Gordon filing the proceeding,” Ms Pelka-Caven said.
The lead plaintiff in the action was Endeavour River Pty Ltd. Endeavour River Director Rod Gibson said: “For the plaintiffs to recoup such a significant proportion of their losses is an excellent result when at one stage our investments seemed lost. It is a tribute to the initiative and efforts of our solicitors and litigation funder.”
The proceeding was funded by one of the world’s leading dispute resolution financiers, IMF Bentham (ASX:IMF). IMF has a strong track record financing disputes around the world, including successful class actions in Australia and globally. Kristen Smith of IMF said “IMF Bentham is delighted to assist unit holders to recover substantial compensation for their investment losses. Over our 18 year history IMF has returned more than $1.4 billion to funded claimants."
The proposed settlement will be presented to the Federal Court for approval, and class members will receive details of the proposed settlement shortly. The Murray Goulburn entities make no admission of liability under the terms of the settlement agreement.
The class action filed by Endeavour River is a separate proceeding to the open class action proceeding filed by John Webster ATF the Elcar Pty Ltd Super Fund Trust in 2017. The Webster proceeding is continuing and the open class members in that proceeding are not participants in this settlement.
Murray Goulburn Timeline
29 May 2015
The MG Responsible Entity issued a Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) which provided a forecast to its shareholders and unit holders of a FY16 net profit after tax of $85.8 million.
29 February 2016
Murray Goulburn announced a revised FY16 net profit after tax forecast of approximately $63 million, citing historically weak dairy commodity prices.
27 April 2016
Only two months before the end of the financial year, Murray Goulburn downgraded its FY16 net profit after tax forecast to between $39 and $42 million. In announcing the FY16 Downgrade, Murray Goulburn blamed:
- Weak growth in Chinese demand for adult milk products in the first half of April 2016, resulting in reduced expectations for sales and revenue during the fourth quarter of FY16;
- A strengthening AUD:USD exchange rate; and
- A downward revaluation of milk product inventory expected to be sold in FY17.
On the same day
Murray Goulburn also confirmed that its CEO and Managing Director, Gary Helou, and its CFO, Brad Hingle, would resign from their respective positions.
In response to the news
Murray Goulburn Co-operative’s unit price fell more than 40 per cent from its prior closing price of $2.14 on 21 April 2016 to $1.26 per unit at close of trade on 27 April 2016.