Freshfields secures Guardian gag for Barclays

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has secured a gagging order against The Guardian on behalf of Barclays Bank, forcing the newspaper to remove some of the bank’s internal documents from its website.

Paul Lomas

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has secured a temporary gagging order against The Guardian on behalf of Barclays Bank, forcing the newspaper to remove some of the bank’s internal documents from its website.

The newspaper published the documents, which are alleged to show that Barclays avoided UK tax bills worth millions of pounds, in its print edition on Tuesday.

Mr Justice Ouseley granted the injunction on Tuesday after Freshfields partner Paul Lomas (pictured) complained on behalf of Barclays that seven documents revealing details of ‘Project Knight’ were the property of the banking giant. In addition, Lomas argued, the documents would have been obtained wrongfully and the whistleblower who had leaked them was in breach of confidentiality.

At a High Court hearing today, Hugh Tomlinson QC of Matrix Chambers argued that The Guardian should be allowed to put the documents back on its website. Brick Court’s Charles Hollander QC represented Barclays.

The newspaper will find out tomorrow morning whether it can publish the seven disputed documents.

The Guardian argued that Project Knight was a codename given by Barclays to a tax scheme put together in a $4bn deal with US bank Branch Banking & Trust Co.

The newspaper alleged that Barclays’ structured capital markets (SCM) division sought approval for the 2007 plan, which would have seen its Luxembourg operation Barlux invest $16bn (£11.4bn) in US loans.

The scheme, which Slaughter & May advised Barclays on, would have created significant tax benefits through a complex structure that spanned Cayman Isle companies, Delaware in the US and Luxembourg subsidiaries, The Guardian reported.

The documents published by The Guardian showed that Barclays was advised by US firm Sullivan & Cromwell that it would not need to disclose the scheme to the US authorities, although the bank said it voluntarily disclosed the scheme to HM Revenue & Customs.

The newspaper obtained the memos from Liberal Democrat deputy leader Vince Cable after they had been leaked by a Barclays insider.

It is understood that The Guardian, represented by Olswang head of media litigation Geraldine Proudler, plans to appeal the injunction.