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SRA draws line under probe into ex-Freshfields partner handling of UBS alleged rape case

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has closed its investigation into the conduct of former Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer partner Caroline Stroud in her handling of an internal inquiry into a rape allegation at UBS.

The move will be a welcome development for Freshfields after an investigation was launched back in August 2020 into whether Stroud misled the alleged victim, referred to as ‘Ms A’, during an internal review of the investment bank’s response to the rape allegation by not making it clear that she had been drafted in by UBS.

An SRA spokesperson on Friday (4 February) confirmed: ‘We have looked at all the available information and decided to close the matter with no further action. If further information is made available, we can look again at the issues.’

The regulator’s conclusion follows the publication last year of the 2019 employment tribunal decision which asserted that the report resulting from Stroud’s probe into the bank’s conduct was not covered by legal advice privilege.

While this could be another lesson of restraint in the court of public opinion where misconduct investigations are concerned, the high-profile case has also served as an important reminder around privilege in the context of internal investigations and transparency around ‘independent’ inquiries.

In a statement, Freshfields said: ‘We are pleased to confirm that following a thorough review, the Solicitors Regulation Authority has completely exonerated Caroline Stroud regarding a complaint made about her role on a client mandate in 2018 and the matter is now closed.’

The firm described Stroud, who retired from the firm in May 2021 in a move unrelated to the investigation, as ‘an outstanding employment litigator who has built a renowned reputation as one of the best in her field over her long career.’