Former ;Hammonds partners embroiled in a £3m profit litigation with the firm have spoken publicly for the first time to accuse their former ;partnership ;of allowing the case to drag on three years longer than they believe was necessary.
As the war of words between the two sides escalates ahead of a hearing next month, seven former partners said if Hammonds had disclosed documents at an earlier stage then litigation may not have been necessary.
Watson Farley & Williams partner Stephen Tupper, the spokesman for seven of the eight former partners named in the litigation, said: “If [Hammonds’] tone and style had been different I’m sure we wouldn’t be having this conversation. After three years of discussion we’ve got to the point where what we’ve being saying from the beginning has been fully endorsed by the court.”
Hammonds Leeds chief Simon Miller told The Lawyer that 23 former partners were originally asked to repay overdrawings from the 2003-04 and 2004-05 financial years. After nine had repaid the sums the firm sued the remaining 14. There are now eight remaining who are yet to reach an agreement.
Tupper said his group did not repay the money because the firm refused to disclose documents supporting its claims until February 2008’s case management conference hearing.
But Miller said his firm provided all the partners with more information than required once directed to do so by the court.
Miller explained that the delay was to allow appropriate undertakings to be negotiated to prevent the release of confidential information to the press.
Although the former partners now have the documents, they are still refusing to pay because they want the court to assess any debts independently.
Miller defended the need for litigation, saying: “This claim, from the Hammonds perspective, is about the obligation of partners to stand together, not just in the good times, but also in difficult times.”
Tupper said: “[Hammonds says] you can stand shoulder to shoulder with us from the point of view of paying back money, not shoulder to shoulder with us to see the documents as to why you should pay.”