Australian NRL legend Darren Lockyer is facing a damages lawsuit from the liquidator of One Key Workforce Pty Ltd (OKW) over an alleged breach of directors’ duties. The lawsuit, filed in Brisbane’s Supreme Court on May 31, claims that Lockyer breached his duties as a director in order to benefit another company, OKR Coal. Lockyer is one of seven defendants named in the lawsuit, with OKW seeking compensation from both Lockyer and OKR Coal. The liquidator has also requested that Grant Bernard Wechsel, Jonathan James Johnson, Stuart Andrew Hall, and Dhirendra Shantilal, who were also directors of OKW, pay compensation for the alleged breaches. Johnson and Hall are UK-based, while Shantilal is based in Singapore.
OKW, which went into liquidation in 2018 due to outstanding payments to its former casual staff, suffered losses of approximately $21 million. The majority of the company’s 2,300 employees, who worked in engineering and production roles in the coal mining industry, were employed as casual workers. However, between November 2017 and August 2018, over 900 OKW staff transitioned to employment with OKR Coal. Unfortunately, the company’s enterprise agreement was invalidated by the Construction Forestry Maritime Mining and Energy Union, arguing that it was not representative of the majority of workers. As a result, thousands of casual workers were forced to revert to the industry award, which prohibits casuals from converting to permanent staff.
The claim against Lockyer and the other directors states that the migration of OKW’s workforce to OKR Coal was not in the best interests of OKW, as it resulted in the loss of a valuable asset without receiving any compensation. The claim alleges that the directors failed to consider the interests of OKW’s creditors and acted in contravention of company law. In addition to the directors, law firm Ashurst Australia has also been sued by the liquidator for allegedly causing or contributing to OKW’s $21 million loss through breach of contract and negligence.
The $21 million in damages claimed by OKW consists of $6.3 million in market value of the workforce and $14.9 million attributed to additional staff liabilities. The latter figure is said to be the result of benefits provided for by the industry award but not covered by the invalidated enterprise agreement between OKW and its employees.