LINKLATERS has been forced to dump a number of clients after it was discovered that the firm had a direct conflict of interest with the UK Government on the controversial Crossrail project.
The firm won the mandate to advise the Department for Transport (DfT) as government sponsor of Crossrail, but also advised four objectors to the Crossrail Hybrid Bill.
Linklaters advised the BBC, Thornfield Properties and United Bank of Switzerland (UBS), while lodging a fourth objection jointly with Sharpe Pritchard for the owners of Centrepoint Tower. All objections relate to property.
"They can't possibly claim their advice is separate, as they have planning and property partners on their team advising the Government. One wonders if the BBC might question Linklaters' future status as an impartial adviser," said a rival firm's partner.
As first revealed on www.thelawyer.com (3 November), Linklaters assembled a multidisciplinary team headed by projects partner Fiona Hobbs to win a competitive tender to advise the DfT. "We've discussed appropriate ethical barriers [with the DfT] in relation to conflict… and we've agreed [those objections] to be at a suitable stage to be passed over," Hobbs told The Lawyer, conceding that the clients would be passed on to a separate firm.