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SRA attempts to prosecute A&O lawyer over controversial Weinstein gagging deal

An Allen & Overy (A&O) solicitor has been recommended for prosecution by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) over a controversial non-disclosure agreement (NDA) drafted for film producer Harvey Weinstein.

SRA chief executive Paul Philip confirmed today (3 April) that it aims to prosecute an unnamed lawyer from the firm, and is awaiting confirmation from the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) as to whether the prosecution will proceed. Such considerations from the SDT tend to not take longer than six months.

A&O was dragged into the spotlight a year ago, after it was revealed the City firm had drafted an NDA for Weinstein in 1998 after Zelda Perkins (pictured), who worked at the producer’s company Miramax, alleged Weinstein had sexually harassed a colleague.

Last April, A&O employment partner Mark Mansell (who was involved in drafting the agreement) was grilled by a Women and Equalities select committee as part of a probe into the ethics of NDAs. The SRA announced it was investigating A&O shortly after.

The case against the unnamed lawyer is one of 13 NDA-related investigations the SRA is currently pursuing. In March 2018, the SRA issued a warning notice reminding lawyers of their responsibility to ensure that such agreements are not used to prevent the signatory from reporting to the regulator or police in the event of alleged sexual misconduct.

Philip today (3 April) commented: ‘There is no doubt, with the benefit of hindsight, there has been a lack of clarity [before the guidance]. There is now more of a discussion and heightened awareness about this and [solicitors] are less likely to engage without thinking very carefully about it.’

He added: ‘I don’t think an ex-employee who leaves the business should be left in any doubt who they can and cannot tell.’

An A&O spokesperson said: ‘We cannot comment on an ongoing investigation.’

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’ (£)