19:10, July 19 421 0 law.com

2017-07-19 19:10:04
UK Regulator Hits White & Case With Record Fine

White & Case has been fined a record £250,000 ($325,700) by the U.K.’s Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal for failing to identify a conflict of interest and protect confidential financial information in a $2.6 billion dispute involving Ukrainian oligarch Victor Pinchuk.

The SDT also levied an additional £50,000 ($65,140) fine against White & Case arbitration partner David Goldberg, who splits his time between the firm’s offices in London and Moscow.

The fine, the largest ever by the SDT against a single law firm, relates to a 2014 High Court case that saw White & Case blocked on conflict of interest grounds from acting on behalf of Pinchuk, one of the wealthiest individuals in Ukraine. White & Case was referred to the SDT by the U.K.’s Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

A statement by the SDT said that White & Case admitted acting “recklessly” by allowing work to be carried out without taking adequate steps to ensure there were no conflicts or risks of conflicts, as well as by agreeing to take on further work without properly protecting the confidentiality of client information given to the firm.

Goldberg also admitted acting recklessly with regard to conflict and confidentiality issues. The former Russia practice leader and arbitration co-head at now-defunct SJ Berwin—Goldberg joined White & Case in late 2009—also admitted that he had provided confidential information concerning work being undertaken on behalf of a client in one matter to another White & Case partner. That gave rise to a significant risk of a conflict of interest between clients, according to the SDT, which has not yet published its judgment.

The SRA, which recently made news stateside for an unrelated investigation involving Clifford Chance, did not allege that White & Case or Goldberg acted dishonestly and did not pursue allegations about a lack of integrity against either Goldberg or the firm. A White & Case spokesman said it would be inappropriate to comment on the SDT’s ruling until its release.

“[We] have been cooperating fully with the SRA and accept the orders which will be made by the SDT,” the firm said. “We are committed to upholding the legal industry’s highest standards at all times, in all of the jurisdictions where we operate.”

British firm Clyde & Co and London’s Fulgers jointly held the previous record for the largest fine received by a law firm from the SDT at £50,000 ($65,140). Clyde & co was fined in April for breaching money laundering rules by allowing a firm’s client account to be used as a banking facility. Three partners each received £10,000 ($13,200) fines for their actions.

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