Last Thursday, as you were rushing about buying Easter eggs, the beleaguered staff at Slater & Gordon were more worried about their Easter pay cheque.
They were due to be paid on the morning of the 25th, Friday, but that being a bank holiday, they had been promised the money would be in their bank on Thursday. Midday came and went, no sign of the money, by afternoon there was panic amongst the normally rational legal beagles. They started to contact social media to express their fears:
Eventually, everyone had been paid by midnight – of the eve of a bank holiday. No chance of drawing your wages in a lump sum then; ATMs only.
Last October, as Slater & Gordon’s problems began to emerge in select parts of the media; the Australian Securities and Investment Commission poking around in their woodshed, not to mention the Serious Fraud Office in the UK lumbering over the horizon to add their ten pen’orth, they parted company with Wayne Brown, their UK financial director, and sent to Victoria for a really sound legal advisor. The world’s largest publicly listed law firm apparently didn’t contain anyone matching that description, so Moana Weir was poached from Seek Ltd; Australia’s largest employment agency for ‘not for profit’ businesses.
Moana is an experienced barrister; legal counsel to a major employer; a stable, reassuring, solid presence. I imply no mirth regarding Moana’s girth, merely that she is not the sort of Sheila to jump up on a chair should a mouse run out of the S & G woodpile, a rat even.
Her job would have been to ensure that everything Slaters did was strictly legal, not merely the day to day activities, but to ensure there was nothing unpleasant in that woodshed, should the threatened possibility of a visit by Fraud investigators or regulators turn out to be not ‘just rumour’.
It was Moana who had the difficult task of announcing to the world that Slater’s shares were to be suspended whilst the bean counters continued to work out precisely how much of a thumping loss they were admitting to…
Thursday was an auspicious day for Slater & Gordon, not only were the staff panicking that they wouldn’t get paid, but in the higher echelons, a more devastating event was taking place.
Something in that woodpile had so spooked Ms Moana Weir, that this solid Aussie Sheila had took frit – and made a run for it.
She handed in her notice – with immediate effect; no nonsense about hanging around to work out her notice.
Slater & Gordon have until the end of this week to come up with a plausible tale that will prevent their bankers pulling the plug on them. A plausible tale that Ms Weir obviously doesn’t want her name on.
Not that ‘pulling the plug’ will make much of a gurgle. The shares lurched down to a new low of AUS 24c – around half a crown each – as the market heard the splash as Ms Weir’s jumped ship…
Edited to change currency conversion. Maths is not my strong point, but then neither is it Slater & Gordon’s.