They arrived angry, upset – and most importantly – short of millions of dollars they say they are owed.
Two hours later, many were posing for “selfies” with Erin Brockovich, one of the most famous legal activists in the world, and had renewed hope they would see some of their lost savings again.
About 80 Queensland retirees who lost money with failed investment fund Wickham Securities gathered at the Shine Lawyers Brisbane office on Tuesday to discuss plans for a class action against Wickham’s trustee company, Sandhurst Trustees.
In February last year, Wickham was put into liquidation with $27 million owing to investors. The investors are yet to see a cent.
Ms Brockovich, who was portrayed by Julia Roberts in the 2000 film Erin Brockovich, encouraged the investors to form a class action so they could draw strength from one another.
Ms Brockovich said she could relate to the retirees’ plight, after seeing her own grandmother lose her home after being scammed in the United States 30 years ago.
“She felt absolutely violated,” Ms Brockovich said.
“When we’ve been deceived…it damages your self esteem. It damages how you believe in yourself and your decisions. Part of healing from that is going to speak up,” she said.
“You can find your voice again by being together.”
Frustrated retirees spoke about how they had trusted Wickham chairman Brad Sherwin, who personally visited many investors at their homes, sometimes accompanied by his own mother.
After Wickham collapsed, they never heard from him again. Mr Sherwin was eventually banned from operating in financial services by the Australian Securities and and Investments Commission.
“We sort of feel we’ve been taken for fools,” one investor said. “The lies that were told to us – it was never ending.”
Another said the saga had been “a huge emotional drain” on their family.
Shine Lawyers manager of professional negligence Jan Saddler said it was unclear how much investors could win back if a class action succeeded, but it would be “in the millions”.
Lawyers acting for two applicants, Graham and Marion Clarke, have applied to access documents held by Sandhurst which could show that it failed in its trustee obligations under the Corporations Act.
If the Federal Court grants the lawyers access to the documents, it could pave the way for a class action.
The hearing is on March 19.
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