Mis-grilling claims

Eversheds under fire for taking a tough line with rate swap mis-selling claimants

The involvement of Eversheds in interest rate swap mis-selling cases is becoming a sore point among claimant lawyers. The firm has been brought in by Barclays to audit claims selected for the FSA’s redress scheme.

With Matthew Arnold & Baldwin and Simmons & Simmons looking after the litigation for the bank Eversheds’ role is defined as ‘talking to affected persons about their experience in the sale of the product’, according to one lawyer.

But Hugh Jones & Co partner Eddie Dervish says he is advising his clients to be wary, claiming one was given a “four-and-a-half-hour grilling”.

He adds: “There’s a conference between firms acting for alleged victims coming up and this point will be discussed. We’re trying to work out what the banks are driving at with this tactic.”

The Eversheds team is led by financial institutions group partner James Southworth and includes senior associate Duncan Watt as a lead interviewer. The firm is not retained to give advice or opinion, but to collate information.

However, other lawyers are advising clients to be careful not to prejudice their situation in the interview, to ask for a list of questions and to ensure it is done on home turf.

One says a client reported “intimidating questioning” without a solicitor present. The source continues: “Banks must learn to deal with customers properly in a considered non-confrontational way.”

In a statement, Barclays says: “Eversheds has been employed by Barclays to conduct a fact-finding role in the review process which involves gathering information directly from customers of the bank and Barclays personnel. The feedback we have received about Eversheds from those interviewed has been very positive particularly in relation to the professional way these meetings have been conducted. All customers can have the independent reviewer present if they wish and each session is recorded, so we know exactly how each party behaves in every meeting or telephone call. If a customer has any concerns, they should raise it directly with Barclays and the recording can be reviewed.”

Eversheds declined to comment.