A solicitor from magic circle firm Allen & Overy has been referred to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal over the drawing up of a non-disclosure agreement involving film producer Harvey Weinstein.
Solicitors Regulation Authority chief executive Paul Philip confirmed today that a decision has been taken to prosecute one unnamed individual. The SDT will now decide whether to hear the case.
The prosecution relates to an agreement made with Zelda Perkins, a former employee of Weinstein’s film company Miramax. Last year, Perkins told the House of Commons women and equalities committee that the settlement was ‘morally lacking… on every level’.
Philip said almost a year ago that Allen & Overy was being investigated over its role in creating the NDA. Today he appeared before the committee and confirmed the solicitor involved in the case was referred last week. No details were given about what allegations the solicitor may face.
Philip defended the SRA for taking so long to bring forward a prosecution, saying this time was spent interviewing everybody involved in the case and giving everybody the chance to make representations. He said last week’s referral followed the SRA receiving further advice from counsel.
The case is one of 13 NDA-related investigations that have started since the SRA published a warning notice to solicitors handling these agreements. Eight of these relate to sexual harassment cases.
In March 2018 the SRA warned that NDAs should not be used to stop victims reporting sexual misconduct, amid concerns complainants are being discouraged from contacting the police or regulators. It was suggested to the committee last month that lawyers involved in such agreements could be breaking the law by perverting the course of justice.
Philip said today that anecdotally he had seen a change in how lawyers are drawing up NDAs and what messages are being given to alleged victims.
‘There is no doubt, with the benefit of hindsight, there has been a lack of clarity [before the guidance],’ he said. ‘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.’
A&O has been approached for comment.