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Slater and Gordon board cops flak at AGM

AAP logoAAP 4/11/2016 Trevor Chappell

Angry Slater and Gordon shareholders have called for the board of the troubled legal firm to resign and delivered a first strike against their remuneration.

Fronting the company's annual general meeting, chairman John Skippen again apologised for the financial losses shareholders suffered in the wake of the disastrous performance of the company's operations in the UK.

Slater and Gordon made a $1 billion loss in 2015/16 after writedowns of $880 million, mostly related to its troubled UK unit.

In just 12 months Slater and Gordon shares have plummeted from $3.17 to their current value of 35 cents.

One shareholder said the board had failed in its governance role and had not been sufficiently accountable, while shareholder value had been "absolutely trashed".

"Not one board member has yet gone out and put their hand up and accepted accountability for this," the shareholder said.

"In reality this board has no credibility in my view, and I think all positions should be declared vacant."

More than 40 per cent of shareholders rejected the company's remuneration report, easily surpassing the 25 per cent needed to deliver a so-called first strike, with a similar result next year potentially leading to a board spill.

One shareholder who urged others to vote against the remuneration report said the Slater and Gordon board and executives had failed investors.

Mr Skippen said some board members, managing director Andrew Grech and other key management personnel were very significant shareholders in the company and had been substantially hurt by the fall in the share price

Also, performance rights awarded to Mr Grech at the 2015 annual general meeting were cancelled, and he will again miss out on performance-related bonuses if he fails to clear certain hurdles, Mr Skippen said.

"In February, I offered shareholders an apology on behalf of the board, and I reiterate that apology today," he said.

"We are sorry for the financial losses you have suffered, and as a board we are doing everything we can to ensure the group's financial performance is restored to sustainable levels as quickly as possible."

Australian Shareholders' Association representative David Parkinson said he had lost "a car's value" from the plunge in Slater and Gordon's share price.

But he said that was now in the past and urged shareholders to focus on the company's efforts to restore value.

Slater and Gordon did not provide any profit guidance for the current financial year, but Mr Grech said first quarter earnings in the UK had tracked slightly ahead of budget, with the performance improvement program there starting to deliver results and cost savings.

Group cash flow remains challenging, and liquidity remains finely balanced, he said.

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