More than a year after two High Courts found that property magnate Nic Georgiou tried to scuttle the class action application by the Highveld Syndication Action Group (HSAG), Georgiou withdrew his appeal in the Supreme Court of Appeal and tendered punitive costs.
This unfolded in the SCA in Bloemfontein on Tuesday where Georgiou withdrew the appeal against two scathing judgments in the Pretoria and Johannesburg high courts that found he acted unethically and abused the legal system in an effort to thwart the class action application.
He was granted leave to appeal against these judgments, but on Tuesday withdrew his appeal and tendered punitive costs to the HSAG after several of full bench of judges severely criticised his, as well as attorney Jeff Donnenberg’s conduct.
Georgiou did not respond to requests for comment on why the application was withdrawn before a judgment could be handed down, as well as why punitive costs were tendered without being ordered to do so.
This effectively means that Orthotouch investors will be footing the punitive legal bill without being ordered to do so.
The appeal follows a bizarre set of events when Georgiou secretly approached the six applicants who applied for certification in the class action suit on behalf of the 7 000 HSAG members to have the Section 155 Scheme of Arrangement set aside. Georgiou then settled the claims of these six applicants on the condition that they change lawyers and withdraw their applications, effectively bringing an end to the class action.
This was done without informing Jacques Theron of Theron and Partners, the six applicants’ and the HSAG attorney of record.
In a statement, Theron stated that the full bench of judges made it clear that it was a deliberate scheme to stop the class action. “This was on account of the gross abuse of the court process and because Georgiou/Orthotouch deliberately conspired to derail the class action, and in the process delayed the certification and rescission application by 18 months.”
Says Theron: “This represents yet another major victory for the HSAG. It is unheard of that an appellant withdraws an appeal and then tenders attorney client costs. The HSAG can now continue with the application for certification of the class action and the application for rescission of the Section 155 Scheme of Arrangement.”