Dorsey in disarray as M&S tax team jumps ship to DLA

DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary has made an audacious raid on Dorsey & Whitney, splitting the triumphant tax team in the very same week that it won Marks & Spencer’s (M&S) landmark case against the Inland Revenue.

DLA Piper is taking four of the seven-lawyer team that won the landmark case at the European Court of Justice (ECJ) last week, throwing the related group litigation, involving more than 50 Dorsey clients, into chaos.

The case found that UK tax legislation does not comply with European law and could cost the Revenue millions of pounds in tax repayments. There are more than 75 companies preparing cases for the High Court group action, including Dorsey clients BT, Ford, PepsiCo and Sony, which will now have to decide whether to stick with Dorsey or take advice from DLA Piper.

The departures are a body blow to Dorsey’s tax team, leaving the London office with partner Simon Whitehead, who led the M&S action, and two junior associates.

The group moving to DLA Piper includes barrister Simon Airey, who joins the firm as a partner equivalent. The highly rated Michael Anderson joins as an associate, as does Waseem Khokhar. It is understood that all three were up for partnership this year, but failed to gain the backing of group head Whitehead. Aaron Stephens is moving to DLA Piper as a solicitor.

It is understood the DLA Piper board voted in the new hires on Friday morning (16 December), with the lawyers handing in their resignations at the US firm a few hours later.

Airey’s group will become part of DLA Piper’s fast-growing regulations practice, which is headed by Neil Gerrard. The Dorsey team will be a natural fit into the firm’s tax investigation group, which has made a name for itself carrying out Hansard investigations. 

Both Gerrard and Dorsey & Whitney declined to comment.