M&S returns to haunt Freshfields

As we reveal today on TheLawyer.com, former corporate head Barry O’Brien and current London corporate head Tim Jones are to face the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal over their role in Philip Green’s unsuccessful takeover bid of Marks & Spencer (M&S) two years ago.


This is Freshfields’ worst nightmare.

As we reveal today on TheLawyer.com, former corporate head Barry O’Brien and current London corporate head Tim Jones are to face the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal over their role in Philip Green’s unsuccessful takeover bid of Marks & Spencer (M&S) two years ago.

Freshfields’ representation of the Green-led consortium was one of the most controversial moments in the firm’s history.

Prior to taking instructions on the takeover attempt, the firm had advised George Davies on its contract with M&S – something deemed material to the bid.

(If you want to remind yourselves of how Slaughter and May, on behalf of client M&S, got Freshfields thrown off the deal, CLICK HERE.)

Intriguingly, however, former chief executive Hugh Crisp and corporate partner Gavin Darlington (now retired from the partnership) are not going to be facing the tribunal. This is despite the fact that Crisp led the management team’s decision-making on the issue.

And that decision-making process is the only thing that has not yet been made public. Everything else apart from the internal paper trail was laid out in open court two years ago.

But why has this Law Society probe taken so long?

The Lawyer first revealed the investigation in December 2005. Since then the entire conflicts regime has been rewritten. The new rules can not be applied retrospectively, so it’s hardly a test case.

It might just – perish the thought – have a little more to do with the Law Society wanting to be big and hairy.