You’d be forgiven for thinking, in light of three recent events, that investors’ rights have been dispensed with altogether, and the deck is heavily stacked in favour of powerful executives who’ve run their companies into the ground.First, two weeks ago judge David Unterhalter dismissed a bid to certify a class action lawsuit by investors against Steinhoff, its auditors and directors. It would have been precedent-setting, the first such class action against errant directors.That hope has now likely been scotched. In his ruling Unterhalter said that while a "class action would be appropriate", this particular route wouldn’t work. Rather, "it is for the Steinhoff companies to hold the Steinhoff directors and Deloitte liable for any breach of duty to the company that caused loss".In other words, shareholders can’t sue directors or auditors directly — even in the case of SA’s largest fraud, where profits were inflated by R106bn. Unterhalter relied, in part, on the definitive British cas...

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