Absa has denied that it received any notice from VEB, the Dutch nonprofit organisation that has launched a class action against Steinhoff to recover money lost by shareholders in the retail group’s collapse in December.
“We’ve reached out to VEB to get the notice they are referring to. We’re yet to hear from them,” an Absa spokesperson told City Press.
But a VEB spokesperson said that the bank certainly had a digital copy, sent by Thursday afternoon.
“I can confirm. A copy was sent via the Dutch bailiff (which could take some time as it comes from The Hague to South Africa) and a digital copy is now in the possession of the company,” said VEB spokesperson Pieter Hanson.
VEB announced yesterday that it had given three banks – Absa, Barclays and Commerzbank – notice that they would be targets for damages in the Steinhoff affair.
According to VEB, the three banks were responsible for producing the prospectuses given to prospective shareholders in 2015 when Steinhoff listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.
The financial information in these prospectuses was false, hence those who produced it and vouched for it were liable, VEB argues.
The group said it had invited the banks to “consult with VEB about an amicable settlement, failing which VEB may file a class action lawsuit under Dutch process law against the banks”.
However, Absa on Thursday responded by saying it never received the alleged notice.
More importantly, Absa also denied that it could conceivably be held liable for Steinhoff investors’ losses because it had no hand in the financials.
“Absa’s role was limited to ensuring that the JSE’s listing rules were complied with by Steinhoff SA, the relevant JSE-listed company. Absa’s mandate specifically did not include the compilation or review of the financial statements of Steinhoff South Africa or any other Steinhoff company,” it said in a statement.
VEB had previously said that the damage of up to R200 billion suffered by Steinhoff shareholders since early December could be, in part, recouped from service providers, such as auditors and banks, that worked for the company.