High Court holds auditor must form its own view on client’s claim to privilege when responding to its regulator’s notice to produce documents

The High Court has held that an auditor required to produce documents to its regulator, the Financial Reporting Council (“FRC”), must form its own view on whether documents are privileged and can therefore be withheld on that ground, regardless of whether the privilege is that of the auditor or its underlying client: A v B and another [2020] EWHC 1491 (Ch). Continue reading

High Court takes expansive view of when reference to legal advice may result in broader waiver

The High Court has held that a bank waived privilege in all contemporaneous communications with its lawyers relating to particular transactions that were alleged to be a sham, as the bank had deployed the lawyers’ advice that the transactions were lawful in order to support its case on the merits. That was regardless of whether the particular documents relied on had already lost privilege by the time the bank had deployed them: PCP Capital Partners LLP v Barclays Bank Plc [2020] EWHC 1393 (Comm). Continue reading

High Court finds privilege not lost despite document being referred to in open court

The High Court has recently held that privilege was not lost in a solicitor’s note of a client interview in circumstances where the note had been disclosed to the SFO under a limited waiver and then referred to in the course of argument during a criminal trial held in public: SL Claimants v Tesco plc; MLB Claimants v Tesco plc [2019] EWHC 3315 (Ch).

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Launch of Asia Pacific Guide to Privilege 2019

Please click here to access a preview of the Guide.

We are pleased to launch the 2019 edition of our Asia Pacific Guide to Privilege.

Businesses are increasingly faced with multi-jurisdictional disputes where evidence rarely falls within the borders of a single country and complex legal privilege issues often surface when dealing with communications across multiple jurisdictions.

Compiled by our network of Herbert Smith Freehills lawyers and trusted local counsel, the updated Guide takes account of the latest developments across Asia Pacific and covers 21 jurisdictions.

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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