Vocation Limited Class Action
This website contains important information about the Vocation Limited Class Action proceeding which is currently before the Federal Court of Australia (VID 434 of 2015).
What is the Vocation class action about?
The Applicant in the Vocation Limited Class Action (Federal Court Proceeding: VID 434 of 2015) alleges, among other things, that Vocation Limited (in liquidation) (Vocation) made misleading or deceptive statements in, and omitted information that was required to be disclosed in, its prospectus, contravened the continuous disclosure requirements of the Corporations Act 2001(Cth), or otherwise made statements that were misleading or deceptive, thereby causing loss to persons who acquired an interest in ordinary shares in Vocation shares during the period 27 November 2013 and 4 December 2014 (inclusive).
The Applicant also claims that PWC caused loss to group members by making certain statements while retained to carry out an audit of Vocation Limited’s FY2014 financial report.
The Applicant also claims that certain of Vocation’s directors, namely Mark Hutchinson, John Dawkins and Manvinder Grewal engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct.
PWC has also filed cross-claims joining the following parties as cross-respondents to the proceeding:
- Vocation’s former lawyers, the Partners of Johnson Winter and Slattery (JWS); and
- Certain of Vocation’s former officers and directors, Mark Hutchinson, Manvinder Grewal, John Dawkins, Stephen Tucker, Michelle Tredenick and Douglas Halley (the Officers and Directors).
A number of the cross-respondents have also filed their own cross-claims, as follows:
- John Dawkins (Vocation’s former chair) filed a cross-claim against JWS;
- JWS filed a cross-claim against Vocation and the Officers and Directors; and
- Mark Hutchinson (Vocation’s former CEO) filed a cross-claim against JWS;
- Manvinder Grewal (Vocation’s former CFO) filed a cross-claim against JWS.
For further information about the Vocation Class Action, refer to the FAQ section below.
Update on proceeding
At a recent Case Management Hearing, the trial date set for February 2020 was vacated and the matter set down for trial commencing 2 March 2021 for an estimate of eight weeks.
The original trial date was vacated on the basis that there are ongoing uncertainties in relation to very important matters, such as the outstanding dispute concerning PWC’s claim of privilege against self-incrimination and exposure to a penalty, unresolved issues concerning various claims of privilege made by Vocation which require determination, and outstanding discovery issues as against Vocation. All of these issues mean that the scope of various parties’ discovery is uncertain which in turn impacts on the Applicant’s ability to prepare and serve expert evidence in preparation for trial.
In light of the recent decision handed down in the ASIC proceeding against Vocation and certain of Vocation’s former directors and officers, the Applicant has now amended the pleading and joined certain of Vocation’s former directors, namely Mark Hutchinson, John Dawkins and Manvinder Grewal as Respondents. The Applicant alleges that these directors engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct. The Applicant has filed and served the amended pleading on the parties and the Respondents and Cross-Respondents now have to file and serve any defence or amended defence (where appropriate).
Progress of Litigation
The parties attended the most recent case management hearing before His Honour Justice Middleton on 15 November 2019. Middleton J made orders in relation to the outstanding privilege dispute with Vocation and the Department of Education and Training (the Department). Vocation has made claims of privilege over the production of various documents, and the Department is claiming privilege over various documents discovered by one of the Cross-Respondents to the proceeding. These disputes are set down for hearing on 31 January 2020.
The next case management hearing is also on 31 January 2020.
The mediation has now ceased and the matter remains unresolved. We expect that there will be no further movement on settlement for the time being. Further progress may be achieved with developments in the proceeding, for example once the Judge makes a decision about PWC’s self-incrimination claims and we start to file expert evidence.
If there is anything of which you are unsure, you should seek your own legal advice or contact:
- Maurice Blackburn Lawyers at VocationCA@mauriceblackburn.com.au or 1800 645 488; or
- Slater and Gordon Lawyers at firstname.lastname@example.org on 1800 555 777.
Frequently asked questions
You are a class member if you:
- Acquired an interest in fully paid ordinary shares in Vocation Limited during the period between 27 November 2013 and 4 December 2014 (inclusive);
- Suffered loss or damage by reason of the conduct of the Respondents, as alleged in the Amended Consolidated Statement of Claim;
- Are not any of the following:
- A related party of Vocation Limited;
- A related body corporate of Vocation Limited;
- An associated entity of Vocation Limited;
- A director, an officer or a close associate of Vocation Limited;
- John William Cruse Webster (as Trustee for the Elcar Pty Ltd Super Fund Trust) being the Plaintiff in proceedings VID 228/2017 against Vocation in the Federal Court of Australia.
If you are a class member you should read the Court approved notice regarding the Vocation Limited Class Action.
A class action is an action that is brought by one person (an Applicant) on his or her own behalf and on behalf of a class of people (class members) against another person or persons (Respondents) where the Applicant and the class members have similar claims against the Respondents.
Class members in a class action are not individually responsible for the legal costs associated with bringing the class action. In a class action, only the Applicant is responsible for the costs.
Class members are “bound” by the outcome in the class action, unless they have opted out of the proceeding. A binding result can happen in two ways being either a judgment following a trial, or a settlement at any time. If there is a judgment or a settlement of a class action class members will not be able pursue the same claims and may not be able to pursue similar or related claims against the Respondents in other legal proceedings. Class members should note that:
- in a judgment following trial, the Court will decide various factual and legal issues in respect of the claims made by the Applicant and class members. Unless those decisions are successfully appealed they bind the Applicant, class members and the Respondents. Importantly, if there are other proceedings between a class member and the Respondents, it may be that neither of them will be permitted to raise arguments in that proceeding which are inconsistent with a factual or legal issue decided in the class action;
- in a settlement of a class action, where the settlement provides for compensation to class members it is likely to extinguish all rights to compensation which a class member might have against the Respondents which arise in any way out of the events or transactions which are the subject-matter of the class action and may also extinguish all rights to compensation which a class member might have against the Respondents’ related entities (including officers and former officers).
If you consider that you have claims against one or other of the Respondents which are based in your individual circumstances or otherwise additional to the claims described in the class action, then it is important that you seek independent legal advice about the potential binding effects of the class action before the deadline for opting out, being 4:00pm AEDT on 4 March 2019.
This class action, the Vocation Limited Class Action, is brought by the Applicant, on her own behalf and on behalf of all persons who are “class members” as defined in the proceeding.
The Applicant alleges that, among other things, Vocation Limited (the First Respondent) made misleading or deceptive statements in, and omitted information that was required to be disclosed in, its prospectus, contravened the continuous disclosure requirements of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth), or otherwise made statements that were misleading or deceptive, thereby causing loss to persons who acquired an interest in ordinary shares in Vocation shares during the period 27 November 2013 and 4 December 2014 (inclusive). The Applicant further alleges that PricewaterhouseCoopers (the Second Respondent) is liable to class members for loss caused by making certain statements while retained to carry out an audit of Vocation Limited’s FY2014 financial report.
The allegations made by the Applicant in the class action are set out in full in the statement of claim filed in the Federal Court (see: ‘Documents’ above).
Vocation Limited and PricewaterhouseCoopers have each denied or not admitted the allegations made against them and defended the action.
Vocation Limited was placed into Liquidation on 4 January 2016. The liquidators of Vocation Limited have stated that the company holds prospectus liability policies of insurance that respond to some but not all of the claims made in the class action. Specifically, they have stated that Vocation Limited does not hold insurance policies responsive to any allegation that it breached its continuous disclosure obligations or made misleading or deceptive statements after the issue of its prospectus in November 2013. If what the liquidators have stated is correct, there may be limited ability for the Applicant and Group Members to recover from Vocation Limited in respect of some of the alleged wrongful conduct of Vocation Limited.
Vocation Limited brought a cross-claim against Johnson Winter & Slattery in relation to the continuous disclosure claims against it, but is not presently pursuing that cross-claim. PricewaterhouseCoopers has brought cross-claims against Johnson Winter & Slattery, Vocation Limited and certain former officers and directors of Vocation Limited, namely: Mark Hutchinson, Manvinder Grewal, John Dawkins, Stephen Tucker, Michelle Tredenick, and Douglas Halley (Cross Respondents). The allegations made by PricewaterhouseCoopers against the Cross Respondents only apply if PricewaterhouseCoopers is found to be liable for the alleged contraventions by PricewaterhouseCoopers. Certain of the Cross Respondents have also made cross claims against each other. The allegations made are set out in full in statements of claim and cross-claim filed in the Federal Court (see: ‘Documents’ above).
The Applicant in a class action does not need to seek the consent of class members to commence a class action on their behalf or to identify a specific class member. However, class members can cease to be class members by opting out of the class action. An explanation of how class members are able to opt out is found in the Court-ordered notice.
The Court has made orders that (amongst other things):
- Any person who wishes to make a claim in any settlement of the Vocation Limited Class Action for loss suffered as a result of the Respondents' alleged conduct must by 4:00pm AEDT on 4 March 2019:
- have already retained:
- Maurice Blackburn Lawyers in writing and/or signed a funding agreement with International Litigation Funding Partners Pte Ltd (ILFP) in relation to this proceeding; or
- Slater and Gordon Lawyers in writing and/or signed a funding agreement with IMF Bentham Limited (IMF) in relation to this proceeding; or
- complete and submit the Vocation Limited Class Action Registration Form, by calling IMF Bentham Limited on 1800 016 464 or by email at email@example.com.
- have already retained:
- Any person who wishes to have no part in the class action must opt out of the class action by 4:00pm AEDT on 4 March 2019.
This deadline has now passed.
You will not become liable for any legal costs simply by remaining as a class member for the determination of the common questions or by registering your interest in receiving compensation. However:
- if the preparation or finalisation of your personal claim requires work to be done in relation to issues that are specific to your claim, you can engage Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, Slater and Gordon Lawyers or other lawyers to do that work for you. A copy of the terms on which Maurice Blackburn Lawyers and Slater and Gordon Lawyers are acting in this class action may be obtained from them on the numbers shown below;
- if any compensation becomes payable to you as a result of any order, judgment or settlement in the class action, the Court may make an order that some of that compensation be used to help pay a share of the costs which are incurred by the Applicant in running the class action but which are not able to be recovered from the respondents. The Applicant may also may also seek an order that part of any compensation that becomes payable to class members who have not signed a funding agreement with ILFP or IMF is paid to ILFP or IMF in return for ILFP and IMF funding the class action.
- class actions are often settled out of court. If this occurs in the class action, you may be able to claim from the settlement amount without retaining a lawyer provided you have registered your claim.