High Court refuses permission for collateral use of disclosed documents and witness statements to respond to US grand jury subpoena

In a decision illustrating the court’s strict approach to the rule prohibiting the use of disclosed documents and witness statements for a collateral purpose, the High Court has refused a party permission to provide disclosed documents and witness statements to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for the purpose of complying with a US Grand Jury subpoena: ACL Netherlands BV v Lynch [2019] EWHC 249 (Ch).

The court’s permission was required because under CPR 31.22 (in relation to disclosed documents generally) and 32.12 (in relation to witness statements), a party may only use disclosed material for the purpose of the proceedings in which it is disclosed, subject to certain exceptions including where the court gives permission.

On the facts of the case, the court held that the applicant had not established cogent and persuasive reasons in favour of granting permission, as it was required to do. The court also considered that the grant of permission might have occasioned injustice, particularly given that the trial in the civil proceedings was imminent.

The decision highlights that the fact that a party may be facing legal compulsion to produce documents is not a “trump card” leading necessarily to the grant of permission (although in any event the court was not satisfied here that compulsion had been established). Courts considering such applications will not apply a mechanistic approach and will consider all the circumstances in weighing the competing public interests involved. That is the case even if refusing permission may result in a party finding itself effectively stuck between a rock and a hard place, unable to comply with a legal demand from an enforcement or regulatory agency – though that will be a relevant factor. Continue reading

Corporate Crime autumn update 2018

Welcome to the autumn 2018 edition of our corporate crime update – our round up of developments in relation to corruption, money laundering, fraud, sanctions and related matters. Our update now covers a number of jurisdictions.

For the full update on each jurisdiction, please click on the name of the jurisdiction below where we provide a brief overview of what is covered. Continue reading

PRIVILEGE NO DEFENCE TO NOTICE REQUIRING PRODUCTION OF CLIENT’S PRIVILEGED DOCUMENTS TO REGULATOR

The High Court has held that an audit client could not withhold documents on grounds of privilege when responding to a notice requiring the production of documents in connection with an investigation into the auditor’s conduct: The Financial Reporting Council Ltd v Sports Direct International Plc [2018] EWHC 2284 (Ch).

The decision suggests that, where privileged documents are provided to a regulator for the purposes of an investigation into the conduct of a regulated person, and the privilege belongs to a client of the regulated person, there is no infringement of the client’s privilege. Accordingly, the fact that documents are subject to a client’s privilege will not justify a refusal to provide the documents to a regulator in response to a demand under its statutory powers, whether or not the statute can be taken to override legal professional privilege.

The decision also confirms (though it was not actually in doubt) that non-privileged documents do not become privileged merely by being attached to privileged lawyer/client communications for the purpose of giving or obtaining legal advice.

For our full briefing on the decision, please click here.

COURT OF APPEAL DECISION IN ENRC: ORTHODOXY RESTORED ON LITIGATION PRIVILEGE, BUT NARROW INTERPRETATION OF “CLIENT” REMAINS FOR NOW

The Court of Appeal has today handed down its eagerly awaited decision in the ENRC appeal: The Director of the Serious Fraud Office v Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation Ltd [2018] EWCA Civ 2006. At first instance, the High Court took a restrictive approach to both litigation privilege and legal advice privilege (see our summary of the decision here). The Court of Appeal has allowed the appeal on the question of litigation privilege but has, with apparent reluctance, dismissed the appeal on legal advice privilege, concluding it is a matter for the Supreme Court. Continue reading

Corporate Crime update – February 2018

Welcome to the February 2018 edition of our corporate crime update – our round up of developments in relation to corruption, money laundering, fraud, sanctions and related matters. Our update now covers a number of jurisdictions. For the full update on each jurisdiction, please click on the name of the jurisdiction below.  Continue reading

High Court decision supports orthodox view of litigation privilege in an investigations context

The High Court has found that documents prepared by a defendant in the course of an investigation into allegations by HMRC were protected by litigation privilege: Bilta (UK) Ltd (in liquidation) & ors v Royal Bank of Scotland Plc & anor [2017] EWHC 3535 (Ch).  The decision arguably departs from the reasoning in the controversial decision in SFO v ENRC [2017] EWHC 1017 (considered here), where the court took a very strict approach to the question of whether documents prepared in the course of an investigation were for the dominant purpose of litigation.     Continue reading

Managing risk: a disputes perspective (2017)

Herbert Smith Freehills recently held its annual disputes client conference exploring some key legal and compliance risks facing major corporates. Following opening remarks by Mark Shillito, head of dispute resolution for the UK and US, there were presentations on cyber security, Brexit, insurance, class actions, decision analysis, privilege and internal investigations.

A summary of the conference from our Litigation team is below – if reading the full version of this post, you can jump down to read more detail on any of the sessions by clicking on the relevant heading.

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Herbert Smith Freehills Singapore hosts round table discussion on “preserving privilege: practical issues in the context of disputes and investigations”

On Wednesday 13 January 2016, a cross section of our clients based in Singapore joined our Disputes and Corporate Crime & Investigations teams and Bankim Thanki QC, a leading commercial advocate and litigator who has practised extensively in the region and the editor of The Law of Privilege (Oxford), for a roundtable discussion on the preservation of privilege.  To read more from our team in Singapore, click here.

UK: High Court confirms legal advice privilege can include lawyer’s summary of facts

In a decision handed down earlier today, the High Court has upheld RBS's claim to privilege over certain documents which the bank had been ordered to produce to the court for inspection: Property Alliance Group Limited v The Royal Bank of Scotland Plc [2015] EWHC 3187 (Ch).

The decision confirms that the protection of legal advice privilege is not restricted to actual legal advice. The privilege will protect other information communicated from the lawyer to the client (or vice versa) to enable the lawyer to advise and the client to make informed decisions in a relevant legal context. This may include references to matters in the public domain or to meetings and correspondence that would not, in themselves, be privileged.

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