In Australia, a group of Crown Resorts Limited shareholders are reportedly set to launch a class-action lawsuit against the casino operator following last year’s arrest of 18 of the Melbourne-based firm’s employees in China.
According to a report from the Australian Associated Press news service, the arrests in Shanghai on October 16 for alleged “gambling crimes” saw the value of shares in Sydney-listed Crown Resorts Limited fall by 14% to wipe more than $993 million off the firm’s value.
The arrested employees, which included three Australian citizens in Jason O’Connor, Jerry Xuan and Pan Dan, were subsequently charged with promoting and organizing gambling activities in mainland China in violation of rules laid out by President Xi Jinping in February of 2015. Local officials believe that the detained Crown Resorts Limited workers reportedly helped to entice Chinese nationals including high-value VIP individuals to gamble in Australia and possibly used an illegal settlement network or other underground banking services to transfer money out of the country.
The Australian Associated Press reported that Sydney-based plaintiff law firm Maurice Blackburn Lawyers is seeking to lead the class-action lawsuit and gain compensation for the share prize drop. The practice’s Julian Schimmel told the news service that Crown Resorts Limited should have notified shareholders of the risks associated with its strategy well before the arrests.
“We have reason to believe that; one, Crown [Resorts Limited] knew the risks of its activities in China, two, it knew of the importance of VIP revenues to its business and three, it therefore knew or should have known that if the real nature of its marketing activities were revealed there would be a revenue problem that would be material to Crown [Resorts Limited’s] share price,” Schimmel told the Australian Associated Press. “This is information that the company’s shareholders should have been told so that they could factor it into the share price and buy their shares on a fully informed basis.”
Schimmel told the news service that the arrest in June of 2015 of employees from South Korean casino operators Paradise Group and Grand Korea Leisure Company Limited on similar charges had demonstrated the risks of Crown Resorts Limited’s policy and that the Australian firm should have told investors at that time “exactly what they were up to in China”.
“It’s not often that you get to beat the house but a successful class-action can do that for shareholders wanting accountability and better standards of corporate conduct from Crown,” Schimmel told the Australian Associated Press.
Schimmel reportedly explained that the Chinese VIP gambler business was important to Crown Resorts Limited’s overall company strategy as the firm had repeatedly made earlier statements about the significance of those players to its general earnings.
For its part, Crown Resorts Limited declined to comment on the potential class-action lawsuit or the ongoing case against its employees in China while its share prize closed 1.06% lower in Friday trading at $8.51.