A former lawyer failed in his duty of care to his client, a Kazakh mining giant, while the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) acted “opportunistically in bad faith” ahead of a major criminal investigation, the High Court has ruled.
Dechert’s former attorney, Neil Gerrard, who represented Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation (ENRC) between 2011 and 2013, was negligent and committed a “reckless dereliction of duty” in his dealings with senior government officials. ‘FSO.
Judge Waksman said Mr. Gerrard “breached his contractual, tort and fiduciary duties” to the company and that he had “at least recklessly breached his duties with respect to 22 contentious contacts” with staff at the SFO.
He partially upheld ENRC’s claim against the SFO for misconduct in the performance of his public duties as well as inducing breach of contract by encouraging Mr Gerrard to divulge confidential information.
The judge noted that “the inducement claim against the SFO has been established subject to causation with respect to 15 contested contacts, but the wrongful act claim is not established.”
ENRC has been under investigation for nearly a decade over the purchase of mining assets in Africa. She alleged that Mr. Gerrard wanted to expand an internal investigation in order to increase his fees.
The SFO said: “We are considering the implications of this lengthy and complex judgment for the SFO and other law enforcement authorities.”
Mr. Gerrard said: “After more than 30 unblemished years as a lawyer, I remain confident in the propriety of my actions, my advice to my former client, and my personal and professional integrity.”
Michael Roberts, a partner of Hogan Lovells who represented ENRC, said: “Unfortunately it is now clear that ENRC has been betrayed and exploited as Dechert sought to maximize his own billings, even to the point of leaking privileged material in order to ‘incite action by the SFO. Far from the integrity and fairness one would expect of a government law enforcement agency, the SFO was itself complicit in the dishonest conduct of Dechert.