A procession of 30 witnesses, including former customers and investors, investigators from the corporate regulator and the Australian Securities Exchange, will line up to give evidence against embattled logistics software company GetSwift when the Australian Securities and Investments Commission‘s trial begins.
The long list of witnesses is partly to blame for Federal Court judge Michael Lee’s decision to push the start of the ASIC trial out to June 2020 to give GetSwift more time to prepare.
Justice Lee said he was “surprised by that number of witnesses” when ASIC’s barrister Michael Borsky QC broke the news in court on Thursday.
ASIC alleges GetSwift breached the Corporations Act by making a series of misleading announcements on the ASX relating to clients it had secured between February and December 2017, uncovered by an investigation by The Australian Financial Review in January 2018. GetSwift‘s executive director, former Melbourne AFL player and Young Rich Lister Joel McDonald, chief executive Bane Hunter, and former director Brett Eagle are also defendants in ASIC’s case.
GetSwift is also facing a class action from investors with shares in the company when the 2017 announcements were made. One of three actions filed, run by Melbourne law firm Phi Finney McDonald, was originally to start in October. Mr McDonald is also a defendant in that case.
Judge Lee had originally proposed to run the two cases at the same time in October, in front of the same judge, to save court resources.
Debate became heated between Justice Lee and GetSwift‘s barrister Matthew Darke SC when Mr Darke suggested that forcing Mr McDonald to give evidence in both cases at the same time could muddy his chances of a fair trial.
“There’s no point raising your voice at me Mr Darke. I can see the point you are making,” Justice Lee said.
Tensions seemed to ease between the two when Justice Lee ruled the two cases would run separately.
The decision means GetSwift shareholders in the class action will have to wait until August 2020 for their case to begin. “While it is disappointing that trial of the class action has been delayed as this may delay any return to group members, we consider it is important that the court has the opportunity to properly manage both the class action and the ASIC case” said Tim Finney, principal lawyer at Phi Finney McDonald.
GetSwift said it was pleased the two cases would not be heard concurrently.