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Steinhoff’s Dutch shareholders file lawsuit against Deloitte

Dutch shareholders want Deloitte, its directors, accountants and banks involved in the scandal to take responsibility for damages.

Dutch shareholders on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against Deloitte seeking damages for alleged failures in the accounting firm’s vetting of the books of retailer Steinhoff International NV, the Netherlands’ association of retail investors said.

Steinhoff, which expanded from a small local furniture retailer in South Africa into an international group, reported holes in its accounts six months ago, sending its shares tumbling and leaving it scrambling to pay its debts.

The association said it had filed a suit against Deloitte at the District Court of Rotterdam.

Deloitte was not immediately available to comment.

The case is the Dutch legal equivalent of a class action suit under which it will try to hold the company, its directors, accountants, and possibly the banks that assisted in its stock market listing responsible for damages.

Shares in Steinhoff lost more than 13 billion euros ($15.3 billion) in market value after the accounting irregularities surfaced in December.

On Tuesday, its creditors agreed to give it more time to restructure 9 billion euros ($11 billion) in debt. Holders of 2.7 billion euros in three convertible bonds backed a debt standstill agreement, the company said.

The South African retailer is listed in Johannesburg and Frankfurt but its parent is incorporated in the Netherlands.

The retail shareholders association, known as VEB, has 42 000 members.

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This is excellent news. Actions have consequences. If you, as an entity in a position of trust, conspire with management against the interests of shareholders you must be held accountable. We must not just talk about accountability but we must see it in action.

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