Whitmans in frame for breach of duty

Small City firm Whitman Breed Abbott & Morgan has been found liable after a partner was discovered to have breached his duty to a former client.
At the time the firm was the London office of US firm Whitman Breed Abbot & Morgan. However, in 2000, the US operations were swallowed up by other US firms, with the London office left out in the cold.
The spat occurred over the purchase of a property with a 30-year lease by client Merrill Powell from Grosvenor Estate in 1997.
Powell initially intended to purchase the property through a company. However, Powell claimed that she specifically instructed Graeme Clark, a Whitmans partner, to find out whether on purchasing the property in the name of a company she would then be restricted by Grosvenor to sell only to another company.
She claims that Clark informed her that there was “sufficient case history and precedent that you will not have to sell in a company name”.
However, when she came to sell the property in 2000, Grosvenor indicated to Clark that it would not grant consent for an application to assign into the names of individuals.
As a result, this and other potential deals fell through, until the property was finally sold for a lower price in February 2001.
In his witness statement, Clark claimed that Powell did not seek his advice on that particular matter.
But Mr Justice Tugendhat said in his judgment: “I accept her evidence where it conflicts with that of Mr Clark.”
As a consequence Clark was found to have breached his duty. While Whitmans has not challenged the liability, it is appealing the quantum ruling.
Whitmans and its solicitors, Reynolds Porter Chamberlain, both declined to comment.