Ex Hogan Lovells partner Grierson admits £1.27m expenses fraud

Former Hogan Lovells partner Chris Grierson pleaded guilty to four counts of fraud totalling £1.27m at a plea hearing at Southwark Crown Court this morning.

Grierson showed little emotion as he answered charges that he had falsely claimed £1.27m over the course of four years while practising as a top-ranked litigation partner at Hogan Lovells.

Judge John Price said prison was “inevitable” despite Grierson’s counsel, QEB Hollis Whiteman’s Mark Ellison QC, telling the court that his client had suffered a long-standing psychiatric illness.

Grierson was ordered to surrender his passport as part of bail conditions ahead of the sentencing hearing, despite pleas to allow him to travel to France to settle personal affairs.

Grierson was dismissed from the firm last May (17 May 2011) after the fraud, which spanned four years, was discovered. The litigator admitted the fraud to his partners shortly after the firm’s internal investigation was launched.

The court heard this morning that Grierson falsified expenses dating back to January 2008.

In 2008 Grierson made false claims totalling £167,000, a year later this escalated to £526,785 and in 2010 he took £516,785. Last year, before the theft was uncovered, he took £63,611 between January and May. The false expenses were transferred to a dormant account, meaning that client money had not been affected.

The firm reported Grierson, a former equity partner on an annual profit share of more than £700,000, to the police in June 2011 after it recovered the stolen money (3 June 2011).

Grierson built his reputation as a respected litigator after representing BCCI liquidators Deloitte & Touche for over a decade. That work came to an end after Deloitte’s controversial £850m claim against the Bank of England sensationally collapsed in November 2005 (7 November 2005).

More recently he was instructed to advise accountants Grant Thornton on the unwinding of Bernard Madoff’s assets in Europe, acting for the US trustee in bankruptcy. He also advised the FSA on the collapse of Lehman Brothers.

The maximum sentence for false accounting is seven years. MP David Chaytor (10 November 2010) was jailed for 18 months for three counts of false accounting of £20,000 on his expenses.

The full hearing has been adjourned to 3 May.

The Lawyer asked Grierson to comment, but he declined. Hogan Lovells declined to comment.

Sue Patten, head of the CPS central fraud group, said: “Christopher Kenneth Grierson has today pleaded guilty to the full extent of his criminality. He has been convicted on all four charges against him covering 57 fraudulent travel claims worth £1.2m, over just four years.

“In pleading guilty, Mr Grierson has admitted to providing his former employers, Hogen Lovells, with misleading, false and deceptive documents.

“He was charged under the Theft Act last December. Today’s conviction is a clear example of speedy justice in a fraud case in action.

“Today’s message is clear: fraud is always a serious matter. Defrauding your employer or otherwise abusing a position of trust, especially over a long period of time, makes it particularly serious.”