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Dutch investor group sues Deloitte over Steinhoff

Dutch investor rights group VEB on June 13 filed a lawsuit against an arm of accounting firm Deloitte seeking damages on behalf of Steinhoff International Holdings NV shareholders who suffered losses following an accounting scandal at the South African retailer.

In a suit filed with the Rotterdam district court, VEB accuses Deloitte Accountants BV of failures in its statutory tasks.

VEB said Deloitte gave Steinhoff an unqualified audit before the retailer, which is incorporated in the Netherlands, on Dec. 6, 2017, revealed irregularities in its accounts.

The disclosure sparked a collapse in Steinhoff's shares, which have fallen by more than 95% and erased over €12 billion of market value.

Steinhoff, whose retail brands include Sleepy's in the U.S., Poundland in the U.K., and Conforama in continental Europe, has shares that are listed in Frankfurt, Germany, and in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Deloitte withdrew its unqualified audit on Dec. 13, 2017, the same day Steinhoff declared its 2016 financial statement needed to be revised.

In a statement emailed to S&P Global Market Intelligence, Deloitte said its Netherlands office confirmed the receipt of "a writ of summons from the VEB and are currently reviewing that document." It did not comment further.

On April 20, Steinhoff reappointed Deloitte as its external auditor for 2018.