Stock market operator NZX and Australia's Ralec finally got the opportunity to face off in the Wellington High Court on day one of what's expected to be a nine-week trial that will call witnesses including embattled Mediaworks chief executive Mark Weldon.
NZX and Ralec have made claim and counterclaim over NZX's purchase of the Australian Clear Grain Exchange in 2009. NZX is suing for between A$20.7 million and A$37.6 million, and Ralec has countered with a suit totalling A$14 million plus bonuses.
NZX claims Clear's former owners, Grant Thomas and Dominic Pym, and their companies Ralec Commodities and Ralec Interactive misled NZX when it bought the commodities trading platform with "wildly inaccurate" forecasts.
Ralec subsequently filed a counterclaim against NZX, later adding the market operator's former chief executive Weldon to the list of defendants. It claims NZX, which bought the platform for A$7 million with the potential for a further A$7 million of earnouts, failed to fund the exchange sufficiently. The case pre-dates much of NZX's existing management, having first hit the courts in 2011.
The grain exchange was set up to take advantage of the break-up of the Australian Wheat Board monopoly, and was looking to capture a slice of the A$100 million to A$150 million growers spent annually on commissions to sell their products.
NZX wanted to use the exchange to expand its agricultural products offering, and use it as the basis for an agri-portal for spot market and commodity data, though that hasn't eventuated due to Clear's muted trading volumes.
Counsel for NZX Brian Latimour said opening statements for both sides would take between five and six-and-a-half days, with NZX's claim containing 6,500 documents though he would use fewer than 100 of those in his opening.
Ralec's counsel requested the proceedings be live streamed to their clients and lawyers who will be in Australia for all or part of the trial, from the point when evidence is presented. NZX's lawyers said they needed to consult with their clients but would want to be clear about who had access to the live stream if it were to occur.