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‘Inappropriate and untrue’: Linklaters defends itself in letter to MPs over BHS inquiry

Linklaters has complained to MPs over questioning during the BHS inquiry hearings and comments made by Labour’s Frank Field over the law firm’s role in the sale of BHS by Arcadia Group.

In a letter to the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee seen by Legal Business, dated 26 May, Linklaters partner Andrew Hughes details concerns about remarks made by MP Field during the committee stages and in an interview with legal press regarding the inquiry.

Hughes stated: ‘The statements attributed to Mr Field are, to say the least, inappropriate. In fact we are confident that they are actionable in that they are highly defamatory, untrue and not protected by parliamentary privilege.

‘That said, we have no intention of taking the matter further, other than respectfully requesting the committees to disregard the published statements.’

The letter from Hughes also commented on Linklaters corporate partner Owen Clay’s decision not to respond a question about the advice given to his client, during the initial hearing on 23 May.

Clay advised Arcadia Group, the then owners of BHS, on the sale. He cited client professional privilege when he declined to respond to questions from MPs.

The letter repeated Clay’s response during the committee session and stated: ‘You can see I have been helpful with what I have given. I have been as open as I can. In terms of discussions with my client and the advice I have given to my client that is something I am not able to disclose for reasons of privilege.’

Hughes’ letter said Clay had no option but to comply with client instructions relating to client privilege ‘without intending any disrespect whatsoever to the committees’. Linklaters refused to comment on the letter.

Yesterday (6 June) the minister for small business Anna Soubry delivered a statement to the House of Commons regarding the collapse of BHS, which was owned by retail tycoon Sir Philip Green before its sale to Retail Acquisitions for £1 last year.

‘A number of questions have quite properly been raised about how BHS found itself in this situation,’ said Soubry. ‘If any of the directors’ conduct fell below what is expected of them, then action will be taken.’

Yesterday was also the deadline for Olswang to release details of the fees it had charged Retail Acquisitions for the takeover, as requested by Field and the committee. A spokesperson for the committee told Legal Business Olswang had submitted a response but it had not yet been made public.