LHL Attorneys on Wednesday filed a prospective class action proceeding at the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg, South Africa over what it alleges was the destruction of over €12 billion (ZAR 185 billion) in shareholder value resulting from the long-running accounting irregularities at Steinhoff. It is seeking the recovery of those losses.
There are 42 defendants in the lawsuit including Dutch incorporated Steinhoff International Holdings NV, its South African predecessor Steinhoff International Holdings., Absa, Germany’s Commerzbank AG, UK-based bank Standard Chartered Bank, auditors Deloitte and Rödl & Partner, and several former and current board members, such as former Steinhoff International Holdings and Steinhoff International Holdings, NV CEO Markus Jooste, former CFO Ben la Grange and ex-Chairman and South African billionaire Christo Wiese.
Zain Lundell, of LHL Attorneys told CNBC Africa that once all respondents have been notified of the action a court date will be requested.
According to a statement from Steinhoff International Compensation Claims, the plaintiff who commenced the class action is being represented by the South African litigation firm, LHL Attorneys Inc and “has the backing of the Foundation Steinhoff International Compensation Claims, an initiative of institutional investors seeking a comprehensive, cross-jurisdictional recovery of losses suffered as a result of investments in various Steinhoff securities”.
The lawsuit’s claims are on behalf of investors who purchased Steinhoff shares in the period from at least June 26, 2013 to December 5, 2017.
“Steinhoff has operated and continues to operate in and out of South Africa. Steinhoff’s shares pre-December 2015 were listed on the JSE and its post-December 2015 shares are registered and traded on both the JSE and FSE. Thousands of South African shareholders have been affected by the defendants’ conduct, including the largest pension fund in South Africa, so it was a logical decision to commence this true opt-out class action proceeding here in South Africa.
“South Africa has a well-established and reliable legal system with favourable legislation that we believe will allow aggrieved investors to be fairly compensated for their losses. Moreover, South Africa’s true opt-out class action procedure is superior to the proceedings available in the Netherlands and Germany and, thus, will contribute to the protection of all shareholders, large and small alike,” reckons Lundell.