Dechert lost his legal battle with mining company ENRC, a case that gripped the legal market for more than a decade.
Delivering judgment on Monday, the High Court in London found that Dechert and his former white-collar crime boss Neil Gerrard and the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) committed willful wrongdoing and acted dishonestly in their relationship with ENRC.
According to the judgment and a subsequent statement by ENRC, the court concluded that Gerrard deliberately acted illegally.
The court said that Gerrard “was indeed the instigator of the three leaks to the press” and gave “the wrong advice on ENRC’s potential criminal liability”, the judgment reads. Gerrard was accused of leaking disclosure documents to the Sunday Times in 2011 and the Financial Times in 2013, as well as a third leak of the criminal investigation decision itself.
The long-running court case between Gerrard and members of senior management at ENRC and the SFO dates back to 2011, when Gerrard was commissioned by the mining company to lead an internal investigation into fraud and corruption. But in the years that followed, Gerrard was variously accused of prolonging the investigation in order to extract the maximum fee from the case and of using the company as a “cash cow”.
The case took several unexpected turns during its more than 10-year run. “lie in court”.
Documents that emerged in 2020 showed Dechert and his white-collar boss Neil Gerrard could face costs estimated at around £40m.
After Monday’s judgment, a spokesperson for Dechert said in a statement, “We fully recognize the seriousness of the judge’s findings regarding Mr. Gerrard’s conduct. We are looking at the judgment to see what we should learn from it. Trust between partners is an integral part of any partnership, and throughout this litigation, Dechert has always acted in good faith by relying on the assurances given to us by our former partner.
“The court has now found that Mr. Gerrard engaged in conduct, which is completely inconsistent, not only with our values, ethics and culture as a company, but also with the high ethical and professional standards to which daily by our lawyers around the world.
Neil Gerrard said in his own statement: “My family and I are devastated by today’s judgment. After more than 30 unblemished years as a lawyer, I remain confident in the relevance of my actions, my advice to my former client, and my personal and professional integrity. I testified to the best of my ability and always believed I was telling the truth. I would like to thank Dechert for their support. That’s my only comment at the moment.”
Meanwhile, an SFO spokesman said the organization is “reviewing the implications of this lengthy and complex judgment for the SFO and other law enforcement authorities”.