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Slater and Gordon’s long-running £637m Quindell action settles for paltry sum as office closures continue

The long-running saga around Slater and Gordon’s (S&G) invidious Quindell acquisition settled on the eve of trial this week for a slither of the initial claim.

A tough week for the national firm was then compounded by the closure of its Leeds office and consultation over a further closure at its Watford call centre.

S&G and Watchstone Group’s dispute over the former’s ill-fated Quindell acquisition in 2015 settled with S&G receiving £11m, less than 2% of the original £637m claim the firm filed in June 2017 for breach of warranty and/or fraudulent misrepresentation for the whole amount paid. The trial was due to begin in the High Court on Monday 21 October.

The settlement was agreed with no admission of liability from either party, and resulted in the release of the £50m that had been held in escrow, which has now been split between the pair. Watchstone received the lion’s share, with £39m and interest going to the group.

S&G chief executive David Whitmore commented: ‘We are pleased this matter has drawn to a conclusion.’

The meagre sum granted to S&G will come as a disappointment to the firm but marks a significant victory for Watchstone. The turning point was when Watchstone was granted permission in September to pursue a counterclaim, alleging an ‘illicit back channel’ S&G corporate finance adviser Greenhill & Co had used to access confidential information about the company from PwC, Watchstone’s restructuring adviser.

The dispute saw S&G’s representative CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang partner Jeremy Mash instruct Simon Salzedo QC of Brick Court Chambers while Tim Maloney and Matthew Blower of Dorsey & Witney, who were representing Watchstone, instructed Tim Lord QC, also of Brick Court Chambers.

However, the difficult week did not end there after S&G revealed it is shutting its Leeds office at the cost of 29 jobs, while a consultation with approximately 100 staff in its Watford office is ongoing. The closure of the Leeds office follows previous closures in Chester, Wrexham, Milton Keynes, Sheffield, Preston and Fareham. Should the Watford centre also close, S&G will be left with offices in Birmingham, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Cambridge, Liverpool, London and Manchester.

Regarding the closures, S&G commented: ‘We have introduced new technology and processes that allow us to work more efficiently and provide a better experience for our customers. Consequently, we are closing our Leeds office and relocating the work to other locations.’