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A&O Solicitor referred to Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal for NDA involving Harvey Weinstein

12nd 04 2019

 

A solicitor from magic circle firm Allen & Overy has been referred to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal over the drawing up of a non-disclosure agreement involving film producer Harvey Weinstein.

Paul Philip the solicitors Regulation Authority Chief executive stated that a decision has been made following prosecution of one unnamed individual. The decision to hear the case is now left to the SDT.

The root of this prosecution stems from an agreement which was created with Zelda Perkins, she was a former employee of Weinstein’s film company Miramax Perkins. She told the house of commons women and equalities committee last year that the settlement was “morally lacking…on every level”.

Nearly a year ago, Philip said that Allen & Overy was under investigation as a result of the creation of this NDA. Philip then showed up in court on the 2nd of April and stated that the solicitor involved in the case was referred during the last week of March. However, no details were given as to what allegations the solicitor would face.

When questioned of the delay in this prosecution, Philip defended the delay in stating that time was spent in interviewing those involved in the case. Everybody was given the chance to make representations. He then further stated that the referral followed the SRA receiving further advice from counsel.

This case is one of 13 NDA- related investigations that began following the publishing of a warning notice to solicitors who were found to be handling these arguments. Eight the thirteen NDA’s were in relation to sexual harassment cases.

In March 2018 the SRA warned that NDAs should not be used as means to stop victims from reporting sexual misconduct, amid concerns that these complainants are being discouraged from contacting the relevant authorities as a result.

The SRA then suggested to the committee last month that lawyers involved in such agreements could be breaking the law from their prevention pertaining to the course of justice.

 

On the 3rd of April, Philip stated that anecdotally he had witnessed a change in how lawyers are drafting NDAs and what messages are given to these alleged victims.

He stated:

‘There is no doubt, with the benefit of hindsight, there has been a lack of clarity [before the guidance],’ he said. ‘There is now more of a discussion and heightened awareness about this and [solicitors] are less likely to engage without thinking very carefully about it.’

He added:

‘I don’t think an ex-employee who leaves the business should be left in any doubt who they can and cannot tell.’

A&O has been approached for comment.