06:33, September 26 651 0

2017-09-26 06:33:08
US firm launches London whistleblowing practice after landmark case

Constantine Cannon has expanded its whistleblowing practice into London making it the first of its kind to have a permanent base in the capital.

Constantine Cannon currently has offices in New York, Washington DC, San Francisco and London but the latter’s whistleblowing practice has now launched with the transfer of the firm’s whistleblowing head Mary Inman.

The firm was encouraged to launch the practice after a high-profile case brought by British whistleblower Andrew Patrick.

Constantine Cannon is representing Patrick, who alleges that Harrogate-based retailer Pure Collection evaded the payment of duties to US customs and border protection (CBP), giving itself an unfair advantage among US domestic and foreign retailers.

Patrick approached Richard Pike, a solicitor-advocate and partner in Constantine Cannon’s London office, after his initial attempts to contact the US authorities were unsuccessful. Patrick then filed his whistleblower suit in 2016 in the federal court in Maine.

Inman told The Lawyer that the firm’s reason for acquiring a permanent presence in London was to encourage other UK workers to blow the whistle under the US whistleblowing programme.

“Our mission statement is modest – it isn’t to make the UK adopt the US bounty programme,” Inman said. “Our goal is to encourage British citizens and EU citizens to avail themselves under American whistleblowing programmes. You don’t have to be an American citizen to be a whistleblower.”

The London office first opened in 2013 and now has 20 employees, including five partners, and five associates. The firm also specialises in art and culture property law, antitrust law and competition and counselling.

Inman cited London as a natural ally in international whistleblowing, highlighting the UK’s 2009 Bribery act as a variant of the US Foreign Corrupt Practice Act passed in 1977.

She also drew attention to the fact that the internal revenue service (IRS) whistleblowing programme, in which employees are encouraged to blow the whistle on offshore companies that attempt to evade US tax laws, has a broad application in the UK and the EU because the statute was adopted in 2015 in the wake of the Takata air bag scandal.

“London is an international port of call for whistleblowing,” added Inman. “There is no substitute for an insider. It’s a really powerful tool. It takes significant courage to come forward and the threat of retaliation and being branded the ‘scarlet W’ can mark such employees as unhireable in the future. Ninety per cent of whistleblowers have tried to help from the inside and have been shut down.”