Freshfields’ Jones escapes M&S conflict hearing

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer corporate partner Barry O’Brien will face the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) alone tomorrow after head of corporate Tim Jones was dropped from the conflict of interest hearing.

It is understood that Jones earned the reprieve following a last-minute decision by the Solicitors Regulation Authority to withdraw its complaint.

O’Brien and Jones were slated to appear in front of the tribunal for their part in a 2004 deal that saw Freshfields advise entrepreneur Philip Green on his £9bn approach for Marks & Spencer (M&S), despite having already advised the high-street chain.

The then-regulatory arm of the Law Society began an investigation into the conflict of interest after a complaint from M&S advisers Slaughter and May, resulting in Jones and O’Brien being referred to the SDT.

O’Brien led on the deal before the firm was thrown off it. Jones did not take part in the deal but as the head of the London corporate group took ultimate responsibility.

Originally, the pair were alleged to have accepted instructions from Philip Green’s Revival vehicle while in possession of confidential information from M&S. They are also alleged to have failed to carry out proper conflict checks.

The SDT has the ability to reprimand, fine and strike off solicitors. O’Brien will be represented tomorrow by Ashurst litigation head Edward Sparrow, while Jones was advised by litigation partner David Mayhew at Herbert Smith.