Ernst & Young QC attacks Herbert Smith disclosure in Equitable Life case

Herbert Smith yesterday (3 May) found itself on the receiving end of claims that it has not made full disclosure of vital documents in the Equitable Life case.

The claims were made by Mark Hapgood QC of Brick Court Chambers, acting for Equitable’s auditors Ernst & Young and instructed by Barlow Lyde & Gilbert (BLG).

In court 76 yesterday, Hapgood said that minutes of an Equitable board meeting held on 2 July 2001 had not been disclosed despite a request made to Herbert Smith by BLG in November last year. Hapgood told Mr Justice Langley that following BLG’s request, Herbert Smith sent a letter saying that the 2 July minutes were not relevant to the case.

Additionally other documents were not disclosed until last week, to former director Christopher Headdon. This, Hapgood claimed, raised concerns about the amount of disclosure work Herbert Smith had done on Equitable’s documents from 2001 and 2002.

“Our concern is there has never been a proper review by Herbert Smith of the 2001 and 2002 documents starting from the correct position that everything must be looked at to see what is relevant and it is not for the defendant to identify relevant areas and then try and second guess what documents there may be, but that it is for Herbert Smith to go through those documents and ascertain what is relevant,” Hapgood told the court.

He added: “And above all, has the Society ever, or have Herbert Smith ever conducted a proper review of the Society’s 2001 and 2002 documents applying the correct test [of standard disclosure]?”

Hapgood called for the individual who sent the letter saying disclosure was not relevant to be examined in the witness box, or for Herbert Smith to be directed to carry out the disclosure exercise again.

Head of chambers at 20 Essex Street and lead counsel for Equitable Life, Iain Milligan QC, will respond to Hapgood’s claims this morning.