Herbies gets court order for extra disclosure on Equitable

Herbert Smith last week found itself directed to carry out a further search of potentially disclosable documents relating to the Equitable Life case, as defence counsel called for a significant part of the claim to be thrown out.

As revealed by The Lawyer last week (9 May), Ernst & Young (E&Y) has mounted a campaign against the way in which the firm has carried out disclosure exercises in the case. That campaign bore fruit on Tuesday (10 May) when trial judge Mr Justice Langley directed that Herbert Smith had to go through 16 lever-arch files of board documents in search of any disclosable papers.

The existence of the documents was revealed by Equitable counsel Robert Miles QC of 4 Stone Buildings following a query from E&Y.

Calling the number of files “peanuts” in comparison with the roomful of bundles already in court, Judge Langley said: “What I’m giving you is a very strong steer that the court is likely to take the view that the 16 files should be looked at… by somebody who knows what the issues are in this case, so that a hit-you-in-the-teeth document on another issue should plainly be disclosed as material.”

Equitable also faced a series of calls, led by One Essex Court’s Laurence Rabinowitz QC on behalf of several former directors, that the mutual should drop the claim that these directors had missold pensions policies.

Rabinowitz said that, as Herbert Smith had not fully disclosed documents from Equitable’s former legal advisers Denton Hall (now Denton Wilde Sapte), there was not enough evidence to support the misselling claim. He was supported by several other parties, including litigants-in-person Peter Martin and Christopher Headdon.

The trial continues.