Finchley lawyer sparked A&O OSS conflict probe

The complaint made to the Law Society about Allen & Overy (A&O) taking instructions from two banks working for competing bidders on the Safeway takeover battle has been withdrawn.
The Lawyer can reveal that a complaint was made to the Law Society in July by a male solicitor from a 50-fee-earner firm understood to be unconnected with A&O or the Safeway battle, who sent a letter from a private address in London, N3. He withdrew his complaint shortly afterwards.
The Law Society, through the Office for the Supervision of Solicitors (OSS), has started its own investigation and has assigned a caseworker to pursue the matter.

The caseworker will investigate whether the firm’s acceptance of instructions from Wal-Mart’s financial adviser Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein and WM Morrison’s bankers ABN Amro, was a breach of Law Society conflict of interest rules.

It is understood that the A&O partners who accepted the instructions will be the initial focus of the investigation.

The investigation could go beyond the Safeway matter if the caseworker finds evidence of any other possible breaches of Law Society conflict rules at the firm.

“This investigation is proof that the Law Society is prepared to investigate alleged misconduct in even the biggest firms,” said an OSS spokesperson.

A&O accepted the dual Safeway instruction in January. As revealed in The Lawyer in May, the firm was dropped by ABN Amro some months later when Sir Ken Morrison realised the magic circle firm was also advising Dresdner.