Stelios attacks Norton Rose over alleged Stelmar conflict

Norton Rose over alleged Stelmar conflict” />Norton Rose last week denied conflict allegations levelled by easyGroup chairman and Norton Rose client Stelios Haji-Ioannou over work the firm has done for shipping company Stelmar.

Norton Rose has been acting for Stelmar’s management in an investigation into allegations of improper conduct by members of the board relating to the repair of a Stelmar tanker named Keymar. It has simultaneously been advising management on an insurance claim made over Keymar’s repair.

Stelmar was founded by Stelios (the easyGroup chairman who goes simply by his first name Stelios, which has been registered as a trademark) in 1992, and until its sale last week was a major shareholder in Stelmar. He said: “The ‘investigation’ announced by the non-executives using the conflicted law firm Norton Rose, appears to have been a mere whitewash.”

In an earlier statement on 5 January, Stelios called the appointment of Norton Rose “a lack of judgment on the part of the non-execs” and said the time the firm spent investigating the Keymar allegations had been wasted.

Last week, a Greek judge granted an injunction freezing chief executive Peter Goodfellow’s share options in Stelmar. This was despite last Thursday’s (20 January) sale of Stelmar to the Overseas Shipping Group.

Norton Rose’s Greek managing partner Chris Hobbs said that the firm had acted for Stelmar since the company’s formation. It was engaged by Stelmar to deal with the salvage and insurance claim after Keymar ran aground off Algeria and was later instructed to investigate the mismanagement allegations.

Hobbs said: “There’s not a conflict. It’s part and parcel of casualty instructions.” He added that the firm was asked to carry out the investigation because of its knowledge of the Keymar case.
Stelmar was unavailable for comment.