Travers Smith has been hit by allegations that it is pressuring witnesses not to testify in the Houston trial of the ‘NatWest Three’.
The trio, extradited on Enron-related fraud charges brought by the US government last year, will stand trial in January for embezzling $7.3m (£3.6m) from their former employer NatWest along with ex-Enron finance head Andrew Fastow.
Lawyers for the three have claimed in publicly available court documents that Travers stated it had spoken for all prospective witnesses, when in fact it had not made it clear to these witnesses that the firm was their counsel.
Travers said it could not comment on the matter. Litigation partner Stephen Paget-Brown is leading advice for Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), which now owns NatWest.
The trio’s lawyers claim they had identified 36 potential witnesses who had worked with the NatWest Three. They wrote to the 36 via Travers, which replied that all but one of the list had declined to have anything to do with the trial.
Papers filed on 3 August allege: “Several of the individuals covered by Defendants’ requests have informed defense counsel indirectly that they were unaware that they were represented by counsel, and had never authorized the RBS and RBC [Royal Bank of Canada] lawyers to represent them.”
In the motion it claims that some of the prospective witnesses had never been contacted by Travers prior to the firm’s reply to the trio’s lawyers.
Other City partners suggested that the trio’s lawyers are using tactics to pressurise the London-based prospective witnesses to fly to the US.
According to the trio’s lawyers, at least one potential witness has said he did not want to fly to testify in the US because of fears that he, too, would be arrested.
The NatWest Three – David Bermingham, Giles Darby and Gary Mulgrew – are asking the judge to order videotaped depositions from six witnesses.