Maurice Blackburn to back shareholders in battle with Crown over governance concern share plunge
Leading class actions law firm Maurice Blackburn Lawyers are seeking to hold Crown to account after chairwoman Helen Coonan today “unreservedly apologised” for the company’s “governance and risk management failings” at its annual general meeting.
The apology came after Crown Resorts’ share price fell 8.1 per cent on Monday after the company disclosed anti-money laundering agency AUSTRAC had identified potential non-compliance at Crown Melbourne with anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing laws.
“The potential non-compliance includes concerns in relation to ongoing customer due diligence, and adopting, maintaining and complying with an anti-money laundering/counter-terrorism financing program,” Crown Resorts said in a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange[PM1] [PM2] .
That announcement followed explosive evidence at NSW’s Casino Inquiry which has revealed that from 2014 Crown permitted foreign junket provider Suncity to operate its own cash desk at Crown Melbourne and, on one occasion, discovered $5.6m in cash in a cupboard. Counsel assisting described Suncity’s cash desk as an “island of immunity” from Australia’s strict anti-money laundering requirements.
Other evidence has traversed alleged connections between junket operators and organised crime in China, and the revelation that a company in the Crown group operated two bank accounts which were used to receive payments from patrons but which were allegedly not subject to disclosure obligations under anti-money laundering laws.
Maurice Blackburn Principal Lawyer Miranda Nagy said on the back of the evidence emerging through the casino inquiry, the firm was carefully considering expansion of its ongoing class action against Crown Resorts Ltd, which was filed after the listed company’s share price fell dramatically on the back of revelations in October 2016 that 19 Crown employees were detained in China on suspicion of engaging in illegal marketing of its gambling services. That class action is listed for trial in late 2021. .
“The new information about Crown’s operation of its “VIP” business in Australia and its interaction with foreign junkets that has emerged through the casinos inquiry continues to shock,” Ms Nagy said.
“On our analysis, this information is of grave concern to shareholders in Crown and we are carefully considering it. It suggests that Crown’s compliance with anti-money laundering laws was, at best, so inept that it presented an unacceptable risk to shareholders. And Ms Coonan has today apologised for Crown’s failings.”