AMSTERDAM, Sept 26 – Litigation by shareholders against South African retailer Steinhoff will proceed in the Netherlands, a Dutch court said on Wednesday.
The court said it would hear complaints by shareholders who say that Steinhoff, registered in the Netherlands, misled them by stating false information in its 2015 and 2016 accounts.
Steinhoff late last year uncovered accounting irregularities that sent its shares crashing and nearly tipped the company into bankruptcy.
The class action suit was brought on by the Dutch shareholders association VEB in February, and is aimed at compensating Steinhoff investors worldwide for the more than 14 billion euros ($16.5 billion) in market value that disappeared after the accounting irregularities surfaced in December 2017.
The court dismissed claims by Steinhoff that a German court case started earlier this year should take precedence over the Dutch case. The German case deals with the complaints of one shareholder, while the VEB represents a broad base of investors from the Netherlands and beyond, the court said.
Steinhoff has until Nov. 7 to respond to the court’s decision.
The VEB has also taken legal action against accountants Deloitte & Touche for alleged failures in the vetting of the books of Steinhoff. ($1 = 0.8503 euros) (Reporting by Bart Meijer, editing by Louise Heavens and Jane Merriman)