Legal Business Blogs

A&O’s Mansell to appear before SDT in December as #MeToo fallout promises busy winter

Allen & Overy (A&O) employment partner Mark Mansell is to face his first Solicitor Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) hearing on Wednesday 5 December following an investigation into his role drafting a controversial non-disclosure agreement (NDA) for disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein.

A spokesperson for the SDT confirmed to Legal Business yesterday (9 September) the new date for Mansell’s hearing, which had originally been scheduled for 3 June.

It comes after the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) referred the employment veteran for prosecution on 3 April over the NDA drafted in 1998 when Zelda Perkins (pictured), who worked at Weinstein’s company Miramax, alleged the producer had sexually harassed a colleague.

Mansell instructed A&O partner and general counsel Andrew Clark, while the SRA drafted in Capsticks partner Daniel Purcell. A spokesperson for A&O said the firm was ‘unable to comment on SDT proceedings’.

The SRA announced it was investigating the City firm shortly after Mansell was grilled by a Women and Equalities select committee as part of a probe into the ethics of NDAs in March 2018.

The new date for Mansell’s case management hearing means he will face the SDT three days after Baker McKenzie and its former London head Gary Senior, whose substantive hearings will start on Monday 2 December.

Bakers and Senior had originally been due for a case management hearing on 12 August after the SRA referred them for prosecution over allegations that the latter ‘sought to initiate intimate activity’ with a junior member of staff in 2012 and improperly sought to influence the initial investigation launched into the episode seven years ago.

The case management hearing was later vacated since all parties ‘agreed directions and process’, according to a Bakers spokesperson.

The hearings, which also see Bakers’ former litigation partner Tom Cassels and former HR director Martin Blackburn face prosecution for their roles in leading the initial investigation into Senior’s misconduct, are estimated to last for 15 days.

Bakers, Cassels and Blackburn are accused of allowing Senior to ‘improperly influence’ the investigation launched into the episode and failing to report the matter to the SRA until February last year despite being aware of the facts.

The struggles of BigLaw with sexual misconduct in the wake of the #MeToo movement will also take centre stage at the end of this month, as Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer partner Ryan Beckwith faces his next SDT hearing on 30 September.

Beckwith is alleged to have attempted to engage in sexual activity with an intoxicated junior member of staff in an abuse of seniority at an event organised by the firm.

The allegations, published following a case management hearing in the spring, focus on two instances: that Beckwith kissed or attempted to kiss the junior member of staff (the SDT has imposed reporting restrictions on their identity), over whom he was in a position of seniority, and that he initiated and/or engaged in sexual activity with the same person.

The SRA referred the case to the SDT in late June 2018.

For in-depth coverage of the Weinstein NDA and the controversy over the profession’s role in concealing harassment, see last year’s piece ‘Draining the swamp’ (£)