Equitable settles; A&O, Simmons get costs

Equitable Life has settled its outstanding litigation against nine former directors, with Allen & Overy (A&O) and Simmons & Simmons recovering costs from the insurance firm, The Lawyer can reveal.

The agreement was reached this morning and brings to an end an extraordinary saga of litigation lasting four years.

A&O and Simmons were both acting on conditional fee arrangements (CFA), and had held out despite six other directors settling on a “drop-hands” basis during the past months. One Essex Court’s Peter Leaver QC, instructed by Simmons for former non-executive director Jennifer Paige, was also acting on a CFA and has recovered costs too.

The defendants filed closing submissions with the High Court on Monday (28 November) and Mr Justice Langley’s judgment would have been delivered in the New Year.

Simmons’ litigation partner Philip Vaughan said: “It’s a great waste of policy-holders’ money that there was no judgment.”

A&O litigation partner Tim House instructed Laurence Rabinowitz QC of One Essex Court for six former non-executives. Gavin Foggo of Fox Williams, instructing 3 Verulam Buildings’ Christopher Symons QC, represented former executive David Thomas.

Litigant in person Christopher Headdon also settled his case this morning, and was successful in recovering costs.

Herbert Smith partner Julian Copeman instructed Iain Milligan QC of 20 Essex Street for Equitable.

In a statement, Equitable chairman Vanni Treves said: “Having setted out claim against our former auditors, Ernst& Young, the cost effectiveness of carrying on against the former directors alone was reviewed.

“Following further consideration with our legal team, our conclusion was that we should end the litigation on the best terms available. This is what we have done.”

A&O and Fox Williams could not be reached for comment.