Hello and welcome back to the Fides Weekly Update. Here you’ll find a summary of what’s been happening in your industry this week.
For a brief round-up of the key developments, scroll down to take a look our regular ‘Movers & Shakers of the Week’ feature.
1). Linklaters granted interim injunction to prevent disclosure of ‘cultural concerns’
Magic circle firm Linklaters has been granted a temporary injunction against a former executive committee member looking to expose the firm’s ‘ongoing struggle with women in the workplace’.
The injunction prevents Frank Mellish, the firm’s former director of business development and marketing, from publishing 11 documents that he had intended to send to ‘unidentified organisations’ which would ‘demonstrate the Linklaters culture’.
The Magic Circle firm sought an injunction on the basis that the disclosures would be a breach of confidence, and Mellish’s contract included an obligation of confidentiality over the information obtained during his work.
According to the judgment, Mellish intended to disclose details around three specific events, called the ‘Munich incident, the NY Settlement and the London Settlement’.
A further hearing on whether to continue with the injunction will take place next week.
Linklaters hired Mellish from Deloitte Australia in March 2017, but he was given six months’ notice that his contract would be terminated in June 2018.The contract termination included a ‘substantial additional sum…ex gratia’, according to the ruling.
After receiving his final payment last month, he emailed Linklaters senior partner Charlie Jacobs and managing partner Gideon Moore to express his concern that given his age, the termination of his employment was effectively the end of his career, despite acknowledging that the terms on which his employment had been ended were lawful.
The email then said he intended to ‘share my impressions of the current culture at Linklaters’ and the firm’s struggle with women in the workplace in interviews during the first two weeks of February.
Linklaters then applied to prevent the disclosure of this information, including the identity of a former partner who was the subject of complaints by another staff member. The decision also refers to an unspecified number of other people against whom complaints were made, and prevents the disclosure of the identity of the female complainant in the Munich incident and a complainant in the NY settlement.
It is unclear whether the Munich incident is connected to the case of Thomas Elser, a tax lawyer based in Germany who was sentenced to three years three months in prison last year for a sexual assault on a junior worker at a Linklaters event during Oktoberfest in 2014. Following the denial of his appeal by the Munich Regional Court this week, his prison sentence is set to start imminently.
In granting the interim injunction, Mr Justice Warby noted that the law firm accepted there was a legitimate public interest in the performance by large firms such as Linklaters of their social and moral duties towards their staff.
“But the existence of such an interest cannot justify indiscriminate disclosure of otherwise sensitive confidential information which others have a legitimate interest in keeping confidential.” the judge said. “A general desire to talk publicly about the ‘culture’ of a large firm is not enough to justify the disclosure of such details.”
This is another development in the wake of the #MeToo movement that we will observe with interest.
2). FCA reveals dissatisfaction with Mifid II implementation
Absence of enforcement regarding the implementation of Mifid II should not be interpreted as the regulator being “totally happy” with how firms are implementing the cost and charges rules, warned Stephen Hanks, Head of Markets Policy at the FCA.
Speaking at a Tax Incentivised Savings Association event on Thursday, he cautioned firms against reasoning that the FCA’s current meant that the regulator was “entirely happy with what is going and are taking no action.”
Rather, the regulator is yet to find anything that meets the requirements for taking an enforcement case, which is complicated and time and resource consuming.
Mifid II, which was introduced at the start of last year, requires fund firms to publish total investments costs to investors in a single percentage fee.
On the plus side, Mr Hanks said the quality of the reporting on the legislation had largely improved over the course of the past 12 months, although some errors in the reports continue to be seen.
“So it’s important for firms to be monitoring the nature of their reports, checking them and send us any errors and omissions – with particular focus on getting the fundamental economics of transactions correctly reported to us” he reiterated.
This comes as news emerged at the start of the week that the FCA is investigating 48 fund firms as to their compliance with the Mifid cost rules, as revealed by a freedom of information request submitted by The Times.
Although in a statement the regulator said ‘no intention of taking enforcement action against firms for not meeting all the requirements straight away’ it echoed the fact that if it finds evidence that firms have been dragging their feet, it will be forced to take action to police the rules more effectively.
Given the scale of the reforms, the FCA has been relatively relaxed in its enforcement of the rules, taking a more supervisory approach in wanting to see that firms having made efforts to deploy resources to rectify issues.
3). Movers & Shakers
Fieldfisher has elected corporate partner David Wilkinson as its new senior partner to replace current post-holder Michael Lohn, where Browne Jacobson has elected Caroline Green to be the firm’s first female senior partner.
Pinsent Masons has re-appointed John Cleland as its managing partner for a second term.
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has appointed Andrew Hart as global head of dispute resolution and named Sarah Parkes as London dispute resolution head in a newly created role.
Funke Abimbola MBE, former GC of Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche, has joined Mishcon de Reya in a new role as director of operations for dispute resolution.
Technology guru and professor Richard Susskind brought in to review the second stage of DLA’s ‘radical change’ strategy.
Latham & Watkins banking co-head and heavyweight partner Christopher Kandel has left the firm to join US rival Morrison & Foerster.
After revealing a delay in the lateral hiring process last month, White & Case have confirmed that their hire of Weil Gotshal & Manges banking head Mark Donald is not to take place. This is understood to be due to an incident involving a Weil Gotshal secondee at JP Morgan, which left the bank threatening not to instruct White & Case if Donald moved there, as reported in The Lawyer.
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer head of contentious insurance regulation Chris Chapman has joined Mayer Brown as a partner.
London partner Sherri Snelson has left the firm after 10 years to join the banking practice of White & Case in New York.
Finance lawyer Myles Mantle is set to join Haynes and Boone.
The Stockholm office of the UK firm has been hit by a four-partner defection 18 months after the base opened. Bjorn Rustare and Mikael Moreira have left to join DLA Piper, where Bjorn Bjuggren and Nimrod Badur moved to local outfit Morris Law.
Chairman of the London management committee Camille Abousleiman has stepped down to become Minister of Labour in the Lebanese government.
Mergers & Alliances
US firm Clark Hill is expanding its presence in Dublin though a merger with Irish firm O’Gradys Solicitors.
Office Openings & Closings
Inclusion and Diversity
Innovation and Technology