Baker McKenzie's general counsel was not told about an alleged incident of sexual harassment even though the firm's rules required them to be informed, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal has heard.
The firm was investigating the conduct of Gary Senior, who was London managing partner, over an alleged incident in a hotel room involving a junior associate in February 2012. Andrew Tabachnik QC, for the Solicitors Regulation Authority, told the tribunal yesterday that the global GC was not informed of the investigation or its findings.
Tabachnik was cross-examining Peter Strivens, a former member of the firm's management committee.
Referring to an email headed 'risk management alert' issued by the global GC days before the alleged incident, Tabachnik asked: 'The direction here is the allegation of harassment against a partner has to be reported to the GC?' Strivens agreed.
'If you had read this direction at the time can I suggest you would most certainly have adhered to its clear requirements and ensured this matter was reported to the global GC. Is that fair?' Strivens replied: 'Not necessarily. I would have seen this as an exercise ensuring the global firm was made aware and local officers were not concealing these sorts of matters at a local level.'
The tribunal heard that the London GC was responsible for ensuring the firm complied with SRA obligations.
Tabachnik said: 'One of his roles had he been brought into the process would have been to ensure the firm complied with its own proper governance process and notified people in the global firm that needed to know.' Strivens agreed.
Asked why the London GC was not informed, Strivens said: 'Tom [Cassels] told me he did not believe it was appropriate or correct to deal with it, to let him know. This was something that needed to be dealt with by partner members of the management committee.'
Richard Coleman QC, for Cassels, asked Strivens about 'processes' carried out in 2018 by a special committee of the executive committee, and the professional responsibility and practice committee (PRPC).
Coleman said: 'You referred to findings made against you. You made your position clear, "My view was and remains I conducted myself properly". You regarded the adverse findings against you as being unfair... The lines of questioning were hostile towards you? Was there an atmosphere of recrimination and blame?'
'The special committee not so much,' Strivens replied. 'In relation to the second process before the PRPC, the line of questioning was hostile?' Coleman asked. 'Extremely hostile,' Strivens said. 'I was frankly surprised by the way in which the meeting was conducted. I was informed it was to be an information-gathering exercise. It turned into, very quickly, hostile cross examination led by a US lawyer who adopted US courtroom tactics.'
'You were not represented at that?' Coleman asked. 'No,' Strivens replied.
Gary Senior, admitted in 1986, is accused of trying to embrace and kiss a former colleague identified as Person A in 2012 despite receiving no indication of consent, and persisting despite Person A indicating that it was not appropriate. Senior, who last year left Baker McKenzie, allegedly acted knowing he was in a position of authority and responsibility. He denies the allegation.
Thomas Kennedy Cassels and Martin Lawrence Blackburn, who were with Baker McKenzie in 2012 as a partner and head of HR respectively, are being prosecuted by the SRA in relation to the investigation that began when Person A made a complaint. The firm is also being prosecuted.
The hearing continues.