Hot List lawyer: Banton battles Lehman … and wins!

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Piper Alderman partner Amanda Banton led the ground-breaking case against Lehman Brothers Australia, finalising it in December last year. That put her firmly in Australasian Lawyer’s Hot List of lawyers for this year.

The resulting settlement took 69 councils, church groups and charities a major step closer to having their claims resolved for roughly $180m lost on investments in collateralised debt obligations (CDOs).

In its initial judgement, the Federal Court found that Lehman Brothers Australia, in marketing the CDOs to the claimants, had engaged in misleading conduct and negligence and had breached fiduciary duties and contracts.

“The main challenge of the case was dealing with the products themselves,” Banton told Australasian Lawyer. “The entire market didn’t really know what CDOs were – they were sold by the market as being something they weren’t and we had to explain what the products actually were.” 

“We had to get into a position where we could explain them to the court in plain English and that involved a steep learning curve.” 

Banton said that the experience was extremely satisfying as she was able to develop significant legal knowledge about novel financial products and that her finance and accounting background was particularly helpful.

The damages aspect of the Lehman Brothers case was also very difficult because some of the products had crashed while others hadn’t, meaning that complex damages theories needed to be divised.

Banton however, says she loves being a lawyer – especially getting into the challenge of complex litigation.

“I’m more attracted to that than just doing run-of-the-mill cases,” she says. “I prefer the innovative ones.”

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