Freshfields promises full disclosure

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer

has committed itself to full disclosure in its forthcoming report on corporate social responsibility (CSR).

The magic circle firm has vowed for the first time that it will publish all pending lawsuits and claims against it in the report, which is due before the end of the year. Once complete, the report will be audited by independent body the Corporate Citizenship Company.

Despite a dedicated section to conflicts, Freshfields’ previous CSR report, published in January 2006, made no mention of the firm’s conflict of interest investigation by the Law Society, which was ongoing at the time. That probe concluded this summer, with corporate finance head Barry O’Brien admitting two breaches of the Solicitors’ Code of Conduct.

Since Freshfields’ last report several claims have been levelled against the firm by former partners as a result of its controversial pension reforms.

The firm is still awaiting a judgment on an age discrim-ination case filed by Peter Bloxham, while corporate partner Lois Moore’s claim will be heard in December. Her Shearman & Sterling colleague Jo Rickard is currently in arbitration against Freshfields. In addition, finance star David Ereira, now at Linklaters, filed a suit against Freshfields earlier in 2007, which he has subsequently withdrawn.

Freshfields’ move to transparency comes as it is reinvigorating its CSR initiatives. The firm hired a dedicated, non-fee-earning head of CSR, Bea Malleson, last year to spearhead the plan.

Malleson told The Lawyer: “The report won’t simply be a corporate brochure. There’ll be similar benchmarks as for other companies that the Corporate Citizenship Company audits, so lawsuits must be mentioned.”