Remark: Pushing the top of the Weinstein strangulation order narrative doesn’t imply a conclusion for anybody
The whimpering conclusion of the three-year saga that drew the city charter into the middle of #MeToo could hardly have been more frustrating for everyone involved.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) said Thursday (Jan. 14) that it had decided to suspend Allen & Overy’s employment veteran Mark Mansell (aka Solicitor Z) over a nondisclosure agreement signed in 1998 for the disgraced Hollywood -Producer Harvey Weinstein was closed, suspending The Reasons – Mansell’s illness meant continuing a lawsuit would pose a significant risk to his life.
The high profile case began in October 2017 with revelations by British producer Zelda Perkins (pictured) about the questionable gag order she signed against Weinstein after allegations of sexual harassment.
What followed made it much more than a celebre. Mansell became an unwilling poster boy for ethical concerns regarding NDAs when details of the contract were revealed during a barbecue by the Women and Equalities Select Committee.
In short, the questionable clauses, according to the SRA: “In connection with a grave sexual assault allegation, an attorney acting on behalf of an employer was guilty of misconduct because the SRA’s settlement agreement on the interpretation of the relevant clauses specified the applicants’ ability Restrict reporting the alleged crime to the police, fully cooperate in criminal proceedings, and receive medical treatment. “
The select committee’s condemnation of the SRA for its relationship with city law firms as “like a kind of cozy network of old boys scratching each other’s backs and not really taking anything seriously” was crucial. It didn’t matter that the regulator was forced not only to issue strict guidelines for drafting NDAs, but also to open an investigation and ultimately recommend Mansell to the STD for prosecution.
It is sad that given its many reputations, it is unlikely that all parties involved will not have the opportunity to publicly argue about their corner and purify the air.
However, John Gould, Senior Partner at Russell Cooke, made a statement on behalf of his client Mansell: “Our client is a high level and well respected attorney with a flawless 30 year professional history. Our customer is and remains of the opinion that the procedure was misunderstood and should never have been initiated.
‘It is undisputed that our customer did not suggest the now controversial wording; His position is that it came from A and B’s lawyers. The SRA has decided not to take action against A and B’s attorneys, and none of the other attorneys involved have been disciplined by their regulators. “
While the closure is undoubtedly absent, the reason for the suspension of the case could not be more justified. A health crisis has emerged from the pandemic and any situation that contributes to it is not recommended.
But for Perkins many answers remain frustratingly inaccessible: “This decision effectively underscores that the weapon inequality I suffered 23 years ago still persists. Both the SRA and the SDT agree that there is one serious case to be answered. ‘
Richard Moorhead, Professor of Law and Professional Ethics at the University of Exeter and former director of the UCL Center for Ethics and Law, argues that this could still be seen as some kind of victory for the SRA, as the SDT has admitted to a case to answer.
“What matters now is what happens in the future and whether law firms will take NDA preparation seriously. The recommendations for regulating NDAs have fallen silent and the Law Society guidelines have not yet been reviewed. But it’s not necessarily all bad news. The SRA has reinforced its warning about the development of NDAs so that it clearly does not let go of this issue. It got people to get noticed. ‘
Perkins reiterates the point: “I’ve always said the only way to solve the problem with NDAs is to tighten and clarify the rules and get more stringent legislation in place, but it is clear that the employees are not ready to use this useful tool. “
For the SRA, an unusually pronounced statement takes on a bullish tone – the fight is not over yet: “In 2018 the SRA issued a warning about the use of nondisclosure agreements and continues to investigate a number of attorneys into allegations of violations of this warning . The SRA believes that those who regulate it will carefully consider this notice and their professional obligations in dealing with such matters. “
Let’s hope that once this case disappears from public view, labor lawyers and law firms will be as careful in drafting NDAs as they were when the shockwaves of the Weinstein drama first rocked the profession.
For more background information on the case and its impact on city law, see “Swamp Drainage – Are NDAs a #MeToo Problem for the Profession?”