Fri | Oct 18, 2019

C&WJ shareholder wants suit against company heard in US

Published:Sunday | November 11, 2018 | 12:00 AMMcPherse Thompson

Cable & Wireless Jamaica, C&WJ, is appealing the decision of the Supreme Court on a preliminary point of law that there is nothing precluding a Jamaican court from granting permission for the hearing of a claim outside of the country.

C&WJ shareholder Eric Jason Abrahams is seeking to sue the company, claiming that financial transfers to its British parent company, Cable and Wireless Communications Plc, have weakened the local telecoms over time.

Abrahams has filed an application for permission to bring a derivative action against the directors and shadow directors of C&WJ, alleging that they breached their fiduciary duties to the company.

A derivative action is a lawsuit brought by a corporation shareholder against the directors, management, and/or other shareholders of the corporation.

According to court documents, Abrahams wishes to bring the claim in the United States against C&WJ's directors, former directors, and shadow directors.

C&WJ's lawyer, Denise Kitson QC, in opposing the application, argued on a preliminary point that the local court has no jurisdiction to grant permission for the claim to be heard outside of Jamaica.

However, Justice Batts ruled that there is nothing, in the Companies Act or the principles stated in the authorities, to preclude permission being granted by a Jamaican court for commencement of a claim outside of the jurisdiction.

As a result, he held that Jamaica's Supreme Court has jurisdiction to grant permission for the case to be heard outside of Jamaica.

Whether the substantive application to grant permission for the claim to be heard overseas will go ahead is contingent on the ruling in the appeal filed by C&WJ against Justice Batts' decision on the preliminary issue.

Abrahams wants US$500 million in assets repatriated to C&WJ's books, according to his legal team, and he is seeking permission from the Supreme Court to proceed with his case.

Such a lawsuit would improve the value of the company, argued Abrahams' team from law firm Hart Muirhead and Fatta, who filed court papers in November last year.

CWC Plc, CALA Holdings, and C&WJ are all ultimately owned by Liberty Global, which acquired the British telecoms and its regional holdings in 2016.

mcpherse.thompson@gleanerjm.com