'Chinese walls' ruling could help MDPs

A High Court ruling that “Chinese walls” are not enough to protect client confidentiality could “assist” the move towards multidisciplinary partnerships (MDPs) between law firms and accountants, according to the Law Society.

Mr Justice Pumfrey made the ruling last week while granting Prince Jefri Bolkiah of Brunei an injunction stopping his former accountants KPMG from investigating the Brunei Investment Agency, which the Prince had previously headed.

The Prince's legal adviser Allen & Overy, which had also previously advised the Brunei Investment Agency, has stepped down “voluntarily” to be replaced by Lovell White Durrant.

Chinese walls are common within banks and accountancy firms and “fairly prevalent” among City law firms, according to Law Society head of ethics Alison Crawley.

She said the ruling brought accountants in line with the legal profession, where Chinese walls are legal but “not encouraged” by the Law Society.

Crawley said: “The increasing commonality between the rules that apply for accountancy firms and law firms will assist the development of multidisciplinary practices.”

KPMG has lodged an appeal against the decision, due to be heard by the Court of Appeal this week.