- Lessons to be learned in maintaining confidential and privileged information in criminal investigations (Eurasian Natural Resources Corp Ltd v Dechert; Eurasian Natural Resources Corp Ltd v SFO)
- What are the practical implications of this case?
- What was the background?
- What did the court decide?
- Case details
Corporate Crime analysis: In this high profile Serious Fraud Office (SFO) case, the court held that a solicitor retained by a mining company to advise on internal investigations and regulatory compliance, following allegations of corruption by a whistleblower, acted in breach of contractual and fiduciary duties when he disclosed confidential and/or privileged information to the SFO through lines of communication he had with SFO officers. He further acted in breach of the same duties in expanding the internal investigations to enhance the fees claimed by his firm, and in leaking information to the press. While the SFO officers had induced the breaches of contract, this did not amount to misfeasance in public office as they had no knowledge of the losses the company would incur from the solicitor’s actions. This case will be of particular interest to corporate crime and regulatory compliance advisors, highlighting the civil liability practitioners may assume personally when handling instructions, especially in their interaction with investigators and prosecuting agencies. Advisors should understand the risk to which they are exposed and the action necessary to mitigate such risk. Advisors must recognise and moderate the clear potential for conflict between fulfilling instructions efficiently and effectively, thereby restricting a firm’s revenue, and managing internal investigations or engaging with regulatory and prosecutorial agencies in a way which expands the scope of or prolongs their involvement in that investigation. Written by Giles Bedloe, barrister at 9 Gough Chambers.
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