There’s no such thing as a free lunch, says Deacons

The two partners at the centre of the ongoing litigation between Deacons and White & Case used a lunch paid for by their old firm to lure key client Standard Chartered to White & Case, the Hong Kong High Court has been told.

The court was told that, on 5 March 2002, partners Mark Fairbairn and Edward Cairns charged a HK$2,300 (£187) lunch at the Grand Hyatt, with Standard Chartered’s global and area heads of special asset management Jake Williams and Guy Isherwood, to Deacons.

Deacons silk Alistair McGregor QC alleged in court that the lunch was part of a scheme to persuade the bank, a key client, to transfer its work to White & Case.

Johnson Stokes & Master partner Nick Hunsworth, who leads the defence team for White & Case, refuted such claims. He argued that the cross-examination of Fairbairn and Cairns was based on “wild and exaggerated conspiracy theories”.

Hunsworth said that during Williams’ cross-examination last Friday (5 September), the Standard Chartered employee had strongly denied any suggestion that the bank’s business could be bought in exchange for favours.

Deacons alleged that the purpose of the lunch was to solicit Standard Chartered’s business on behalf of White & Case. It said that Fairbairn deliberately withheld details of the lunch in his witness statement. The firm also alleged that the former partners also attended a lunch on 15 April 2002 with Williams, during which they informed him of their move to White & Case and asked whether he was willing to provide a reference.

White & Case is vigorously defending the claim.

The trial continues and closing submissions are expected to be heard this week.