Three former senior figures at international firm Baker McKenzie will face the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal over accusations of sexual misconduct and the allegedly flawed investigation that followed, the Solicitors Regulation Authority revealed today. The firm itself is also being prosecuted.
Gary Senior, admitted in 1986 and former London managing partner, is accused of trying to embrace and kiss ‘Person A’ in 2012 despite receiving no indication of consent, and persisted despite Person A indicating that it was not appropriate. Senior, who was a partner at the time, allegedly acted knowing he was in a position of authority and responsibility.
Senior is also accused by the SRA of trying to influence the subsequent investigation and failing to report his conduct.
Thomas Kennedy Cassels and Martin Lawrence Blackburn, who were with the firm in 2012 as a partner and head of HR respectively, conducted an investigation into the complaint made by Person A. They are accused of allowing Senior to improperly influence or seek to influence the investigation by reason of his position of seniority within the firm. As a result, they allegedly failed to cause the complaint to be effectively or independently investigated.
According to the SRA, the two also failed to appropriately share information within the firm about the complaint and failed to promptly report Senior’s ‘serious misconduct’ to the regulator.
The allegations are subject to a hearing before the SDT and are as yet unproven.
In a statement this morning, a spokesperson for Baker McKenzie said:
'As we have previously disclosed, we have been co-operating fully with the SRA since the beginning of this process last year, including sharing with them in September the full findings of the report we commissioned into the 2012 incident which was carried out last year in conjunction with the law firm Simmons & Simmons. It was that report which brought to light the full extent to which our internal processes fell short of what should be expected and were undermined in a way that was unacceptable and should never have happened.
'As we said last September both publicly and privately to the SRA, we fully accept there were significant shortcomings in the procedures that we followed in 2012 and subsequently. This is something which we very much regret. We could and should have done much better in handling the issue at the time and subsequently, and we have since introduced and reinforced robust processes to ensure these shortcomings can never be repeated.
'As a result of our review of the incident from which we are determined to learn and improve, we have enhanced our internal due diligence processes, including around the way we vet candidates for promotion in the firm. We have also taken steps to encourage a "speak up" culture across the firm. We are confident that these changes will prevent something like this from ever happening again.'