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Healthcare Locums today announced that it is facing a potentially costly claim from former executive vice chairman, Kate Bleasdale, who last year lost a widely publicised unfair dismissal claim against the firm she founded.
In a message to shareholders, the recruiter said it had received a letter from Ms Bleasdale’s solicitors, alleging that her position as a shareholder of HCL had been unfairly prejudiced by virtue of the events that led to the suspension of trading in HCL's shares and the subsequent restructuring in September 2011.
Ms Bleasdale claims that the suspension of trading was unreasonable and unnecessary. She alleges that the refinancing plan favoured the larger shareholders at the expense of smaller shareholders. According to her, the HCL board acted unreasonably and contrary to the interests of the company in supporting the refinancing plan. She also says that the board failed to consider and/or pursue alternative refinancing options.
“As a result of these actions, Kate Bleasdale asserts that HCL should purchase her current shareholding at a price of £1.12 per share being the share price immediately prior to its suspension in January 2011. The cost of so doing would be approximately £2.24 million,” the company said. The firm’s share price this morning was far from this figure, reaching 0.715 pence, a decline of -66% from a year ago.
HCL said that “the account set out by the solicitors for Kate Bleasdale is not consistent with the overall findings of the employment tribunal that heard her unsuccessful claim for unfair dismissal, discrimination and whistle blowing.”
The firm added that “the issue of whether there were realistic alternatives to the refinancing proposal was subject to vigorous debate at the general meeting held on 12 September 2011. Ms Bleasdale and her associates attended that meeting and were given ample opportunity to put forward opposing arguments. Having done so, the shareholders nevertheless voted in favour of the restructuring plan.”
HCL is currently considering a response to the claim with the company's legal advisors.