Dorsey’s Short shrift

This week we’re running an exclusive interview (here) with Andrew Rimmington, the Dorsey & Whitney partner who was charged with insider dealing by the FSA, but who was acquitted.

It’s essential reading for anyone whose work brings them into contact with the regulatory authorities – and indeed, even those whose doesn’t, since the wheels of the FSA grind exceeding small. Rimmington is remarkably sanguine after his ­experience, but I’d like to draw your attention to one detail in the story. When the FSA launched its inquiry, Rimmington informed Dorsey, flying out to the firm’s headquarters in Minneapolis to apologise in advance for negative publicity.

The FSA began formal proceedings against Rimmington by way of a summons dated 30 April 2009, but it was only when Bloomberg made the story public on 20 May that the firm sacked him, or in the unforgiving language of its press ­statement: “Dorsey has terminated the partner”.

You can understand any law firm’s nervousness about being associated with an FSA investigation, and Dorsey was in a difficult position. But take another look at the statement, given by managing partner Marianne Short, of 20 May, which ran: “Dorsey & Whitney has clear and firm policies regarding securities trading by our lawyers. We take these policies and our other obligations to
our clients very seriously.” (The release is no longer available on the firm’s website.)

Strangely, the fact that one of Dorsey’s partners had been charged had not, up until then, posed any ethical dilemma – for at least 20 days, these apparently “clear and firm” policies did not lead to Rimmington’s dismissal. But when Bloomberg got hold of the story those policies suddenly required said partner to be sacked. I would call it inconsistency at the very least; others would call it hypocrisy.

Dorsey declined to comment on the issue of the sacking, but The Lawyer understands that Dorsey London partners have been consistently supportive of Rimmington, unlike the jittery Americans. It’s a very neat illustration of the different ways US and UK lawyers regard partnership. And in a world where transatlantic mergers are all the rage, it may be an observation worth noting.