Grapevine

The Collins Stewart libel claim against the Financial Times (FT) has attracted a vast amount of interest due to its wider implications for business and the media. The case would have tested issues such as the effectiveness of the ‘Reynolds Defence’ and a newspaper’s right to qualified privilege.


Money talks as FT caves in to Collins Stewart libel action

The Collins Stewart libel claim against the Financial Times (FT) has attracted a vast amount of interest due to its wider implications for business and the media. The case would have tested issues such as the effectiveness of the ‘Reynolds Defence’ and a newspaper’s right to qualified privilege.

Commercial considerations won out over the desires of media lawyers and the case settled on 17 January, with the FT agreeing to pay £300,000 in damages plus Collins Stewart’s £2.2m legal costs. Over half of that – around £1.4m – will go to claimant solicitors Schillings, which instructed Richard Spearman QC of 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square. The FT’s legal costs are believed to be a little less, totalling around £1.8m for Farrer & Co and counsel Desmond Browne QC of 5 Raymond Buildings.

Salans runs out as a German player in World Cup year

Salans has finally got itself a German office, and in World Cup year too – talk about timing. As first reported on www.thelawyer.com (13 January), the firm has picked up the 13-partner Berlin office of Haarmann Hemmelrath.

Germany was a gaping hole in the Salans network. The firm has been looking to set up in Europe’s largest economy for a number of years and it is understood that it first approached the Haarmann lawyers a few years ago.

Senior lawyers have admitted that, for some of the deals which ran out of Central and Eastern Europe, it was excluded from bidding because it had no German office and was not considered a serious player. However, whether a Berlin office does make Salans a player is debatable.

The German market is recognised as having a strong regional focus and most firms looking to launch would pick the industrial centre of Cologne/Düsseldorf, finance-based Frankfurt or private equity mecca Munich. If Salans is really serious, its next move needs to be to one of these cities.

Simmons rocked at loss of MoD

When Simmons & Simmons was dumped from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) panel last week (as revealed on www.thelawyer.com, 20 January), it came as a shock to every projects lawyer in the City. It’s not every day a top 15 UK law firm loses its major client.

The MoD said it had no problem with Simmons’ prior work. Panel appointments were based on each firm’s pitch, and Simmons flunked the test big time. Resting on your laurels, even when you have the MoD’s three biggest projects on your books, is never a smart move.

Richard Armitage and his team have been given a painful, and rather expensive, slap in the face. Simmons has been the MoD’s adviser of choice on a series of projects and the client is worth millions in revenue annually. Simmons will continue working with the MoD on its three largest projects to date, each with an estimated two years to run, and the corporate department continues to advise on the proposed QinetiQ float.

For years the MoD and Railtrack were the firm’s biggest clients. Now that Railtrack has gone and the MoD is going, the department will need some urgent support from the business development team, or it will face a very barren outlook indeed.