Case Study on Group Cost Orders
4th January 2023
LIEBERMAN v CROWN RESORTS LTD  VSC 787
In Lieberman v Crown Resorts Ltd, the solicitors for the plaintiff had filed, in Victoria, a class action on behalf of the shareholders of Crown Melbourne Ltd. Concerns were raised about the company’s Anti-Money Laundering (AML)/ Counter Terrorism Financing (CTF) risk and control frameworks and governance, and the share price of the company fell by over 8% in the wake of this news.
Class Actions in Victoria have a new and, as of date of this publication, unique component: the Group Costs Order (GCO). The GCO, pursuant to s33ZDA of the Supreme Court Act 1986 (VIC), if approved by the court, calculates legal costs in class actions as a percentage of the amount of any settlement that may be recovered. The Court has ultimate discretion to make and vary the amount under the GCO.
In this case, the plaintiff solicitors had applied for a GCO and asked the court for percentages as follows:
27.5% for any settlement between $0 - $100,000,000
22.0% for any settlement between $100,000,001 - $150,000,000, and
16.5% for any settlement over $150,000,000.
Justice Stynes allowed the GCO and the percentages proposed by the plaintiff’s solicitors. In arriving at this conclusion, Her Honour mainly considered the proportionality, fairness, and equity of the GCO rate, as well as the effect of the rate on the group members and the return on investment for the plaintiff solicitor firm.
Having considered these issues, Her Honour determined that the GCO proposed by the plaintiff solicitors would protect the return to group members and provide a reasonable and realistic amount to the plaintiff solicitors for the risk they would have undertaken in running the case.
GMP Law has recently filed Diesel Emission Class Actions against Hino Motors and Mercedes Benz in the Supreme Court of Victoria. GMP Law intends to apply to the Court for GCOs for each of these class actions.