Legal Business Blogs

Olswang silent as inquiry reveals Linklaters billed £1.2m to Arcadia in BHS sale

After MPs in the BHS inquiry called on the law firms involved to disclose further details of their dealings, Olswang has failed to provide details of its fees, while Linklaters and Nabarro have released what they billed.

The Work & Pensions Committee, along with the Business, Innovation and Skills, is jointly taking evidence on BHS as part of their inquiries into the Pension Protection Fund and the sale and acquisition of BHS.

MPs led by Labour MP Frank Field called on Olswang, which advised Retail Acquisitions in its takeover of BHS, to reveal its fees relating to the sale. The firm said it could not reveal details of payments due to client privilege.

In a letter to Field dated 3 June, Olswang said: ‘We are bound by professional obligations regarding legal professional privilege and client confidentiality, which have not been waived by our clients.’

The firm did, however, respond to other questions from the committee. Olswang said it was required to conduct customer due diligence checks under its legal obligations imposed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. ‘As a result, if we identify monies from a source other than a client of their agent…we determine why the funds have come from an alternative source.’

However it said: ‘If we receive payment of our fees from a client, we are unable to trace where a client has obtained that money.’

Olswang was previously questioned on its due diligence over the sale of BHS to Retail Acquisitions. Retail Acquisitions director Dominic Chappell had previously been declared bankrupt twice prior to the purchase of BHS for £1 last year.

Other firms also responded with evidence that was released by the Work and Pensions Committee today (8 June).

Linklaters partner Owen Clay responded, detailing fees charged to Arcadia in relation to the sale of BHS and after, with Clay stating the firm had billed Arcadia £1.2m as of February 2016. The letter, which noted the firm has continued since that date, added the firm did not charge ‘success fees’.

Clay added: ‘We do not have in place any other forms of incentive arrangements.’

Nabarro partner Ian Greenstreet also responded to the committee’s call for evidence. Nabarro advised Sir Philip Green’s firm Taveta Group, charging £217,000 in relation to a rescue plan for the BHS pension scheme – dubbed ‘Project Thor’. The firm also billed a smaller amount for advice on the sale itself.

Eversheds partner Emma King, who advised the trustees of the BHS pension scheme, also provided evidence of when the firm first learned of the planned purchase of BHS.

Chappell has appeared before the committee of MPs today (8 June) to give evidence on his part in the sale. Chappell told the inquiry he was considering legal action against Sir Philip Green. He added: ‘I think Philip genuinely thought that we would fail. He sold it to us nevertheless.’