Robert Johnston Partner

Robert is one of Australia's leading commercial litigation lawyers specialising in large scale, complex disputes and class actions.

Robert has been involved in many of Australia’s most high profile commercial claims and class actions including directors' and officers' liability, professional indemnity claims, trustee cases, regulatory proceedings, most of the major the multi-billion dollar infrastructure “traffic forecasting” class actions and more recently, many of the significant shareholders' class actions.

Robert has been involved in class actions in Australia since the regime was introduced and is recognised as one of Australia’s leading lawyers in that field. He defended AMP in the first ever major shareholder class action, defended Permanent Trustee in ASIC’s first ever s50 class action and has more recently been involved in the MFS,  Dick Smith, Opal Tower and Quintis class actions.  His expertise was also recognised by the judiciary with his appointment by the Full Federal Court as one of the first “contradictors” to assist the court in a ground-breaking appeal involving contingency fees.

Robert is also a recognised insurance expert not only advising on policy wordings and recoveries but having the confidence of insurers who have appointed him as defence counsel in numerous matters including class action defence work.

Additionally, Robert has dealt extensively with regulators including ASIC, APRA, the ACCC and the ASX.  He also has Royal Commission and other major enquiries experience.

Robert is endorsed by his peers as a leading expert in the areas of dispute resolution, class actions, insurance and reinsurance including in Chambers and Partners, Legal 500 Asia Pacific, Euromoney’s Expert Guides, Legal Who’s Who, Doyle’s Guide and Best Lawyers. He is regarded as “strategic and approachable”, a lawyer who “really looks after his clients” with an “outstanding level of personal service”. Clients say Robert Johnston stands out for his mastery of the class action discipline describing him as "an outstanding communicator who keeps me completely up to date and can put a legal argument into straightforward language" and with his presence being one of the key reasons for using the practice for one major client.

Experience

Class actions

Hyundai and Kia

Acting for lead plaintiffs in significant class actions concerning defective Hyundai and Kia motor engines involving over 500,000 Australian car owners. The action follows identical problems faced by Kia and Hyundai in the USA where they were fined a record $200M plus by the auto regulator admitting they had covered up for years the potentially fatal problems with their engine designs.

3M

Advising in relation to numerous filed and potential product liability and environmental damage class actions around Australia.

Facebook

Acting for the complainant in the first ever Australian Privacy group action for damages against Facebook over its data breaches involving Cambridge Analytica.

Quintis

Acting in the defence of 3 shareholder class actions involving continuous disclosure breaches and audit negligence claims.

Dick Smith Class Action

Acting for institutions in a $300M shareholder class action.

Federal Court

Personally appointed by the President of the Federal Court as an expert to assist the court in a significant class action.

RiverCity class action

Acting in defence of the $250 million IPO shareholder class action which included claims against AECOM’s traffic forecasts.

Pan Pharmaceutical

Advising on the class action against Commonwealth and company arising from the TGA’s decision to cancel Pan’s licenses including the claims resolution process.

MFS PIF Class Action

Acting for class action claimants in a $300 million collapsed property trust claim against auditors.

Aristocrat shareholders’ class action

Acting for the litigation funder in this seminal class action securities claim.

General

Former director of Sinclair Knight Merz

Acting in one of the first foreign bribery prosecutions and succeeded in a very rare No Bill application before trial.

Hayne Royal Commission

Acting for ASIC and one of its commissioners.

AIG Insurance

Seeking indemnity under a $300 million D & O policy with securities claims extension in an international arbitration in Amsterdam.

Octaviar litigation

Acting for liquidators in their $275 million claims against the auditors.

BrisConnect litigation

Acting for a party involved in ARUP’s allegedly deficient traffic forecasts in the bank lenders’ $2 billion claim.

Lane Cove Tunnel claim

Acting in defence of AMP’s $150 million claims of negligence made against the major traffic forecaster, Parsons Brinkerhoff traffic forecasting.

Jackson James Hardie Enquiry

Advising compensation fund trustees at enquiry.

Storm Financial

Representing major bank’s witnesses in ASIC enquiries and subsequent litigation.

Opes Prime

Advising insurers in relation to various claims against the stock-brokers and bankers.

GIO and AMP

Acting in defence of the then largest ever class action.

One.Tel

Advising Rich against ASIC.

Recognition

Career & qualifications

Qualifications

  • Bachelor of Economics, University of Sydney
  • Bachelor of Laws, University of Sydney

Memberships

  • Law Council of Australia - Class Action Executive Committee
  • International Bar Association - Chair IBA Class Actions Committee 2021/22
  • Australian Insurance Law Association
  • Australian Professional Indemnity Insurance Association
  • New South Wales Supreme Court Commercial List Users Group
  • Federal Court Class Action Users Group

Insights Read more insight

The Class Actions Law Review - Seventh Edition

Partners Robert Johnston, Felicity Karageorge, Rena Solomonidis, Special Counsel Nicholas Briggs and Senior Associate Sara Gaertner have written the Australian chapter in The Law Reviews 7th...

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Western Australia’s new class action regime commences

On 24 March 2023, the Civil Procedure (Representative Proceedings) Act 2022 (WA Act) commenced. The WA Act introduces an updated and more cohesive mechanism for bringing class actions in WA.

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Greenwashing: Be careful - regulator concern intensifies at home and abroad

Investors’ growing appetite for environmentally and socially conscious companies and products has been met with increased concern about the many ESG claims made by companies. Regulators the world...

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