Copper miner Sandfire Resources launched legal action in Federal court yesterday in relation to last year’s resource portfolio divestment by Australian National University (ANU).
Last year Sandfire CEO Karl Simich accused the investment consultancy firm CAER (Centre for Australian Ethical Research) of “misleading and deceptive conduct” over advice given to ANU which characterised Sandfire and six other resources companies as “not socially responsible and doing harm”.
According to Sandfire, CAER had said that the copper miner was operating in a Major nuclear and was “involved in the nuclear power industry”, a statement which Sandfire immediately rejected.
Sandfire has demanded a published retraction from CAER as well as undertaking not to make “representations to similar effect in the future”, and filed proceedings over the matter in November 2014.
Sandfire has argued that CAER did not follow their own standards in arriving at environmental, social and governance ratings, as they had not contacted Sandfire to review publically available information and their own profile within the past year from the announcement.
EIRIS research processes refer to engaging in “focussed dialogue” with companies on the basis of targeted questionnaires.
Sandfire contended they never received such a questionnaire from CAER.
CAER removed press releases from their website immediately at Sandfire’s request, but refused to publish any retraction or corrective statement, and denied any wrongdoing in their dealings with ANU.
Sandfire claimed they have suffered loss and damage as a result of the consultant’s recommendations, which were announced by ANU in October 2014; however the company has not sought compensation or financial damages from CAER.
Justice Anna Katzmann has granted Sandfire discovery to internal correspondence between the CAER, their partner firm in the UK EIRIS and the ANU which occurred during the drafting of the advice.
ANU divested itself of $16 million worth of shares in Sandfire Resources as part of their ethical divestment decision in October.