Ex-Clydes partner turns to Matrix silk for employment dispute

Leading public law silk Richard Hermer QC of Matrix Chambers will lead the fight against Clyde & Co over whistleblowing claims launched by former partner Krista Bates van Winkelhof.

Richard Hermer QC
Richard Hermer QC

The former partner claims she was expelled by the firm after she raised money laundering allegations against the managing partner of AKO Law, Kibuta Ongwamuhana. Clydes had formed an association with the Tanzanian-based firm through its acquisition of Shadbolt in November 2009 (19 November 2009).

Mishcon de Reya partner Joanna Blackburn is leading the claim for Bates van Winkelhof on a pro-bono basis. The firm has instructed Hermer to lead an Employment Tribunal hearing following an Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) decision to reject Clydes’ contention that Bates van Winkelhof had no jurisdiction on which to bring the claim.

The EAT ruled that as a ‘limb (b) worker’ for whom Clydes paid National Insurance contributions Bates van Winkelhof was entitled to pursue her action against the firm.

Clydes has vowed to challenge the EAT decision at the Court of Appeal, instructing Littleton Chambers’ Chris Quinn. Partner John Morris, who leads the firm’s international projects and construction group, has also been named as defendant.

The case has been referred back to the Employment Tribunal for a full hearing, which is scheduled to go ahead on 18 June pending the appeal bid by Clydes. As well as bringing the whistleblowing claim, Bates van Winkelhof has also issued a claim alleging discrimination on the grounds of sex and/or pregnancy.

As Judge Clark put it in his EAT judgment: “It’s her case that her expulsion was a detriment on the grounds that she had made protected disclosures in respect of Kibuta and/or amounted to unlawful sex discrimination on the grounds that (a) a male partner would not have been treated in that way and/or (b) was pregnancy-related, she having recently informed the first respondent [Clydes] that she was pregnant.”

Last year Clydes attempted to have the action stamped out, telling the High Court that it should be stayed because the firm’s partnership deed stipulated any dispute should be settled by alternative dispute resolution means.

Mrs Justice Slade rejected the application, stating that the partnership clause is unenforceable because it seeks to preclude or limit the continuation of claims, something that contradicts employment legislation (23 March 2011).

Hermer, who moved from Doughty Street to Matrix in March (14 March 2012), last year represented four Mau Mau Kenyans in their bid to win compensation from the UK Government over allegations that they were victims of British atrocities committed during the Mau Mau uprising in the 1950s (21 July 2011). The case was ultimately unsuccessful, but Hermer was credited with getting it heard by the High Court.

He was called to the bar in 1993 and took silk in 2009.