Steinhoff lawsuit seeks damages for period not covered in other countries - attorney

A class action lawsuit mounted against Steinhoff [JSE:SBH] will cover damage periods that cannot be covered in other countries, a German legal firm involved in the case said on Friday.

On Wednesday, Johannesburg-based LHL Attorneys filed a request for certification for a class action lawsuit in the South Gauteng High Court, a first step towards what could be one of South Africa's largest-ever corporate class action lawsuits.

According to TILP Litigation, the application is directed against "Steinhoff International Holdings N.V., banks, auditors and former board members and supervisory board members of Steinhoff". 

TILP described the action as an "international loss recovery effort", with law firms and experts from several countries, including the Netherlands and Germany.

The action covers shareholders who bought Steinhoff shares from June 26, 2013 to December 5, 2017.

"The South African class action is an essential element of our joint effort. And the class action can cover damage periods which cannot be covered in other countries," TILP Attorney Maximilian Weiss told Fin24.

It has been reported that the application is seeking to recover up to R190bn of investors' money, which was lost due to accounting irregularities at the furniture conglomerate.

On Friday, a Bloomberg report said Standard Chartered and Commerzbank AG were among companies targeted by investors.

It further stated that other businesses with links to Steinhoff, including Absa and auditors Deloitte and Roedl & Partner were also named as co-defendants, as the shareholders seek to recoup their money.

Individuals targeted include Jooste, ex-chairperson Christo Wiese and former CFO Ben la Grange.

Steinhoff’s accounting scandal came to light in December 2017, leading to Jooste’s abrupt resignation. The scandal has wiped out the value of the once glorious Stellenbosch-headquartered conglomerate.

A PricewaterhouseCoopers probe commissioned by the firm to investigate its finances is expected to be finalised by year end. The probe will determine how far back the irregularities stretched.

Steinhoff shares were at 17:10 trading at R2.22, down 5.13%.

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