NSW Justice Arthur Emmett “set fur and feathers flying”
yesterday with his Federal Court decision that aligns the rights of
shareholders with those of unsecured creditors in the fight for the spoils of companies fallen into administration, says Elizabeth
Knight

in the SMH. It was Justice Ray Finkelstein who first
raised the possibility earlier this year that those who bought their shares in
the secondary market, rather than via a prospectus, might be able to rank with
unsecured creditors, says Stephen Bartholomeusz in the Smage. Now, in response to a
class action brought by a shareholder in Sons of Gwalia, Justice Emmett has
confirmed Finkelstein’s views – a
victory for class-action protagonists that threatens to unsettle lenders and
complicate and delay administrations.

Commonwealth Bank chief David Murray has ridden the wave of Australia’s
most prosperous years into banking history books, says Tony Boyd in the Fin Review. But as Murray
prepares to retire next week and “rest on his laurels,” former Prime Minister
Paul Keating is stepping in to claim the credit – he has told Boyd the “untold story” of how he forced his will on reluctant CBA
chairman Tim Besley to find a candidate he liked, ahead of the candidate
the board favoured, then boss of Macquarie Bank, Tony Berg.

The more that’s learned about the pre-emptive rights regime
of Coopers Brewery the more questions are raised as to whether they’re
equitable to the general body of shareholders, says Bryan Frith in The Australian. Since Lion
Nathan’s unwelcome cash bid of $260 a share – $352 million – the pre-emptive
rights have come under even closer scrutiny, with court proceedings initiated
in South Australia yesterday by a former shareholder, lawyer Andrew Short.

In the SMH,
James Chessell points to Fairfax’s proud tradition of appointing directors with experience
outside of publishing newspapers, as the rumour circulates that the Herald‘s publisher is close to making
another addition to its board – ABN Amro’s
chairman of investment banking, Peter Young.

And in The Age,
Garry Barker writes that Telstra’s broadband customers in the prosperous “barbecue
belts” of big cities will be the main beneficiaries of chief executive Sol
Trujillo’s plan to boost the revenue of his embattled empire, as he cuts costs
by reducing staff, streamlining administration and disposing of real estate and
underperforming assets.

On Wall Street, US stocks closed mixed following a barrage of
economic reports that hinted at the impact of Hurricane Katrina and sent
conflicting signals about the strength of the manufacturing sector. The Dow Jones
closed slightly higher up 13.85 points at 10,558 – MarketWatch has a full
report here.

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