A fresh class action has been levelled against casino giant Crown Resorts, accusing the company of misleading investors over possible anti-money laundering breaches.
Crown’s share price plummeted eight per cent on October 19 when it emerged financial watchdog AUSTRAC had initiated an investigation into potential breaches of anti-money laundering laws at its Melbourne site.
Law firm Maurice Blackburn lodged a new class action against the casino giant on Friday alleging misleading or deceptive conduct from December 11 2014 to October 19 this year.
Over that time it alleges the casino misrepresented it had robust or effective systems for ensuring compliance with its anti-money laundering obligations.
The firm also alleges Crown acted contrary to shareholders’ interests and is seeking an order that the company buy back shares from affected investors.
“We are asking the court not just to award compensation where appropriate,” the lawyer running the case, Miranda Nagy, said in a statement on Monday.
“But also to consider requiring Crown to buy back investors’ shares at a fair value and to implement a proper anti-money laundering training program delivered by an accredited professional, so this conduct never recurs.”
Ms Nagy said shareholders would have expected best-practice compliance with anti-money laundering law, especially given Crown’s repeated public assertions that it took compliance with the obligation seriously.
“Instead it appears Crown’s systems left the company potentially exposed to criminal activity happening on its premises and through its bank accounts,” she said.
Greg Lieberman, the case’s lead plaintiff, said he invested in Crown believing it was a responsible company with strong governance.
“It’s been very disappointing to learn how badly Crown has behaved,” he said.
“The company held itself out as a good corporate citizen and has let a lot of us down. I didn’t expect to be investing in a cowboy outfit.”
It follows a NSW inquiry into Crown’s suitability to run a new Sydney casino hearing evidence the company facilitated money laundering, partnered with dodgy junket operators and had a poor culture.
On the final day of the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority inquiry last month, counsel assisting Scott Aspinall said the gaming company’s long failure to investigate and admit to claims of money laundering was more concerning than the money laundering itself.
Several other revelations from the inquiry, including Crown conceding “more probable than not” that criminals laundered money through two of its bank accounts, were cited by Maurice Blackburn.
The law firm has been pursuing a separate class action against Crown since 2017 on behalf of investors after it was revealed 19 of its employees were detained in China, leading to its share price crashing.
It is yet to go to trial.