Freshfields report into bank rape allegations not covered by privilege



A report prepared by magic circle firm Freshfields into the alleged rape of a bank employee was not covered by legal privilege, according to an employment tribunal ruling that has now been made public. 

Investment bank UBS had claimed that it was not obliged to disclose the Freshfields report into the alleged incident from 2017, but Employment Judge Grewal ruled that privilege did not apply because Freshfields had not been engaged to provide legal advice.

In a judgment from November 2019, the claimant (referred to as Ms A) accuses those behind the report into ‘tricking’ her into co-operating with an investigation where she was not going to be provided with the outcome.

Her case is that she was constructively dismissed in June 2018 after she was compelled to work near her alleged attacker for two weeks and her grievance was not properly investigated. The judgment names Caroline Stroud, a partner with the firm, as the person who conducted the review. The Gazette understands that the Solicitors Regulation Authority is investigating the matter.

The ET ruling says that Stroud was retained by UBS to carry out a review of the concerns raised by Ms A. When the claimant objected to Stroud being present at a meeting with her employer, Ms A was told Stroud would not be there as a lawyer.

The judgment states that Stroud had told Ms A that ‘we’re doing the independent review… and then telling [UBS] what we think should be done better. We’re not advising them on the sort of… legal position or anything like that… because we’re independent’.

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At a later meeting following the investigation process, Stroud told Ms A she would be given an two-page summary report setting out key findings, but that four other findings were for a confidential report for UBS. Stroud said she could not include certain elements in the summary because of the ‘ongoing police investigation and data protection’.

Employment Judge Grewal said the evidence indicated that UBS did not select Freshfields because it wanted a law firm or Stroud because it wanted a lawyer. Instead the bank selected her because she was reputed to have the skills required to conduct the review.

The judge added: ‘She was not being asked to review it as a lawyer or to do it using her ‘legal spectacles’.

Neither Freshfields nor UBS have chosen to comment.

The law firm was not a party to the employment tribunal proceedings and so was not in a position to correct anything that came up in the judgment. It is understood that Stroud has contested Ms A’s account, arguing that Ms A had taken quotes out of context which were capable of being misinterpreted.  

 



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