The high-profile, billion dollar securities class action against Centro Properties Group has been thrown into chaos because the presiding judge, Justice Ray Finkelstein, has stepped down from the case due to his own losses of more than $19,000 from shares he owned in Centro. Justice Finkelstein agreed to recuse himself from the case yesterday after initially declining to do so.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that a fund that Justice Finkelstein and his wife run spent $19,608 last year to buy 2,400 shares of Centro at $8.17 apiece. On October 10 this year, the day he informed parties to the class action that his fund held the securities, Centro was trading at 6.8c and his investment was worth $163.
Slater & Gordon and Maurice Blackburn, the lawyers representing the class in the cases against Centro, argued in court on October 30 that Justice Finkelstein should excuse himself from presiding over the litigation because it could appear to an observer that he was no longer impartial. He refused to do so at that time but acquiesced yesterday. The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the loss of Justice Finkelstein will delay the case until at least February, while a new judge is appointed and gets up to speed on the case.