William Fry instructs Willkie Farr to fight Thema Fund class action

Irish firm William Fry has turned to Willkie Farr & Gallagher’s joint litigation head Mitchell Auslander to defend it against a $700m (£434.2m) negligence claim over advice relating to Bernard Madoff.

The firm is named among a number of defendants in the class action complaint brought by shareholders in the Thema Fund, a feeder fund for the Ponzi scheme operated by Madoff.

The complaint alleges that William Fry is jointly and severably liable for net losses of up to $700m sustained by the fund. The firm, along with other defendants, including ­PricewaterhouseCoopers and JPMorgan, is expected to file a motion to dismiss the claim by 29 June.

Also named in the ­complaint is William Fry partner Daniel Morrissey, who heads the firm’s asset management department.

The instruction of litigation big-hitter Auslander indicates the seriousness with which William Fry is treating the claim.

The litigation, in the Southern District of New York, alleges that William Fry’s and the other defendants’ “wrongful conduct permitted Madoff to perpetuate the Ponzi scheme”. It claims the firm specifically failed to disclose Madoff’s agreements with Thema when it drafted prospectuses and agreements.

The claimants, represented by New York’s Chaplin Fitzgerald Sullivan & Bottini, recently settled a claim for $62.5m with HSBC.