Weil Gotshal heads to court over £10m professional negligence claim

Weil Gotshal & Manges is facing a €12m (£10m) professional negligence claim brought by private equity house Bancroft over its acquisition of a Slovakian ice cream company.

The private equity firm claims that Weil’s lawyers and a Slovakian lawyer, Jozef Maly, failed to explain to Bancroft that it would not have voting control of the company despite paying €8m (£6.6m) for a 94 per cent stake in the company, Frost.

Bancroft also alleges that private equity partner Ken Schiff failed in his client duty by failing to coordinate with foreign counsel to translate and explain non-English acquisition documents and the resulting issues facing Bancroft.

Humphries Kerstetter partner Mark Humphries, Linklaters former advocacy head, is leading the case for Bancroft having instructed 4 New Square silk Nicholas Davidson QC.

Weil Gotshal has turned to Ashurst litigation head Ed Sparrow to defend the claim with Hardwicke’s Nigel Jones QC leading the advocacy.

Slovakian lawyer Maly, of Slovakian firm Detvai Ludik Maly Udvaros, has also been landed with a claim over his alleged failure to properly advise the company. Stevens & Bolton partner Andrew Quick is representing Maly.

According to the claim, which was filed at the High Court in March, Bancroft bought Frost in 2008 but quickly discovered that the company had a ‘one member, one vote’ provision, which meant that despite it owning the majority stake it had the same vote as the minority owner, Josef Stasko.

Banford also discovered that Stasko had refused to give up his directorship, meaning he had control of the company despite owning only a 6 per cent share.

Bancroft claims Weil, which advised it on the original deal, had neglected to inform it of the facts and claims it was forced to spend €2.5m to buy out the minority share in 2010, by which time it alleges it had lost the equivalent of €761,000 in management hours.

According to the claim filed on 22 May 2013: “The purchase of Bancroft’s 94.36 per cent stake in Frost for the equivalent of €8,000,000 resulted in Bancroft owning an asset of zero or negligible value to any  person other than Mr Stasko.”

The case has been listed for a three-week trial in June.

The firm has already paid Weil Gotshal £86,312.34 in fees and disbursements after an invoice was issued on 4 December 2008. Maly also issued an invoice on 24 July 2009 for €32,925.79 but the firm had realised the issues with the acquisition by that point and has not paid the lawyer.