Firm representing Super Retail Group whistleblowers hit back at ‘shakedown’ label over $30m-$50m legal claim

Adrian Lowe
The Nightly
2 Min Read
Super Retail Group chief executive Anthony Heraghty.
Super Retail Group chief executive Anthony Heraghty. Credit: Paul Harris/Supplied

An expected legal action against retail giant Super Retail Group will also extend to its chief executive, says the law firm representing head office whistleblowers, hitting back at allegations their claim is frivolous or an attempted shakedown.

Harmers Workplace Lawyers has hit back the company, the owner of Super Cheap Auto, Boating Camping Fishing, Macpac and Rebel Sport, but is yet to confirm if its claims have been formally made and submitted to a court.

Super Retail Group on Friday announced to the ASX it was expecting a legal claim for between $30 million and $50m from staffers alleging bullying and victimisation and an inappropriate relationship between chief executive Anthony Heraghty and its former human resources chief, later identified as Jane Kelly.

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It said its board had already examined the claims via an independent review but found they had no merit.

But on Monday, Harmers fired back, saying “a number” of current Super Retail Group employees had approached it with concerns about corporate governance. It said it now represents four clients who are whistleblowers and has had further approaches from current and former staff with “similar concerns”.

“A third party, not associated with Super Retail Group, has now also come forward to us with key evidence about the previously undisclosed personal relationship” between Mr Heraghty and Ms Kelly,” Harmers said in a statement.

It said the company had as recently as this month denied any relationship between its executives but that position “immediately shifted” when Harmers revealed it had “clear proof of an intimate relationship and thus a significant unreported conflict of interest”. It says one of its clients first made a complaint about the relationship in November last year — two months before the time it says SRG now concedes a relationship took place.

Harmers claims its clients offered to confidentially settle the matter the “less than one-third” of the $30m-$50m the company detailed in its announcement, and that Super Retail Group did not divulge the litigation would extend to Mr Heraghty personally.

The Harmers statement is yet to be substantiated with an official statement of claim lodged with a court but it is expected to occur.

It alleges the company’s misrepresentations, as well as an “internal campaign of suppression via fear”, are threatening the safety of the whistleblowers and other staff.

Two whistleblowers have now told the company of a need for emergency disclosure, a provision under the Corporations Act, that affords higher protection now the matter is public, Harmers said.

Super Retail Group on Monday declined to comment in response to the Harmers statement and pointed back to its Friday statement. Its shares on Monday added 2.3 per cent, recouping some of Friday’s losses of 3.4 per cent.

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