As its stock hovers near a record low, Slater & Gordon GC resigns after two months
Moana Weir started work on Jan. 29 as in-house legal chief and company secretary for Slater & Gordon, the Australia-based personal injury Goliath that made history by becoming the world’s first law firm to go public.
But last month, after less than 60 days on the job and after law firm announcements of a $700 million loss in the second half of 2015 and a planned reorganization in the United Kingdom, she stepped down, effective immediately.
Since then, as April began without any word from the firm on whether Slater & Gordon had reached a restructuring deal with lenders, its share price dropped to 24 cents, in Australian currency, one penny less than its record low the previous week, according to the Law Society Gazette (sub. req.) and the Motley Fool (reg. req.). That represents a nearly 97 percent drop from the highest price for law firm shares—$8 in Australian dollars.
In an written statement (PDF) provided to the Australian Stock Exchange on March 24, the law firm wished Weir the best and said chief financial officer Bryce Houghton would assume the company secretary role. However, the top in-house legal job was eliminated: The law firm wrote that it would “immediately replace the general counsel role with an external adviser while reassessing its business needs,” the Am Law Daily (sub. req.) reports.
Meanwhile, in an undated banner prominently featured on its Australian website homepage, the law firm assures clients that nothing is changing there, despite news of belt-tightening in the U.K., and they remain a No. 1 priority.
In the U.K., where a restructuring could bring layoffs, the February announcement of the planned reorganization offered an abbreviated version of the assurance:
The reorganization “is to ensure that we continue to provide our clients with world class legal services at affordable prices,” Slater & Gordon wrote. “We want to reassure all of our clients that there will be no change in the service you experience now or in the future.
“This year across the United Kingdom and Australia our staff will serve nearly 200,000 clients, more than we ever have in our history. Our success over the past 80 years is due to our commitment to our clients and our long history is built on providing the best possible outcomes for them. This is what we do best and this is what we will continue to do every single day. We have always put the interests of our clients first, and that will never change.”
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