Baker McKenzie's general counsel was not told about a £140,000 settlement agreement that was being negotiated in an alleged sexual misconduct case, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal heard today.
Former London managing partner Gary Senior is accused of trying to embrace and kiss a junior associate in a hotel room in 2012, despite receiving no indication of consent. He denies misconduct.
Martin Blackburn, who was the head of human resources at the time, was asked by Andrew Tabachnik QC, for the Solicitors Regulation Authority, this morning why the GC was kept out of the decision-making circle.
Tabachnik said: 'Give or take around £140,000 is agreed to be paid to her. And all without the GC of the LLP being told that this was being negotiated or why... Can I suggest, Mr Blackburn, that not telling the person with responsibility for compliance issues is a poor reflection on matters, and confidentiality is no justification for not having brought into the circle at some stage before that settlement agreement was made because it indicates a worry about having the GC informed about these sorts of matters?'
Tabachnik said the tribunal could proceed on the basis that the GC 'can be relied on to keep matters confidential'. However, Blackburn replied: 'That was not my experience I'm afraid.'
'Are you saying you could not rely on the general counsel not to gossip?', tribunal chair Jane Martineau asked.
Blackburn replied: 'There have been some specific circumstances previously where I felt he had said things inappropriately about a confidential matter to his secretary that had got to other secretaries. Let me be 100% clear, I did not feel it was my role to be determining who was being spoken to about this matter at this stage.'
Blackburn is accused of allowing Senior to improperly influence or seek to influence the subsequent investigation following Person A's complaint.
Putting the allegations against Blackburn to him, Tabachnik said: 'The SRA's position is in conducting this investigation you failed to cause information to be appropriately shared within the firm or with the global firm's GC as to the nature of and outcome of the complaint by Person A regarding Gary Senior's conduct.'
'No, that was not the case,' said Blackburn, who vehemently denied all the allegations.
The case, which is being heard remotely, continues.