dutch bakers

The Dutch will sort it out.


Morne van der Merwe, the former managing partner of Baker McKenzie's Johannesburg office, is leaving the firm following the mysterious episode in which he quietly stepped down from his management roles, with Dutch partners taking over the running of the South Africa operation.

Baker McKenzie's Joburg office has been in the news after RollOnFriday's bombshell report in which numerous former lawyers spoke of the disturbing treatment they said they had endured during van der Merwe's tenure.

Former trainees, associates and several partners gave examples of being screamed at, scapegoated for management missteps, pushed to resign, and humiliated. 

Several said they had attempted to alert global management to the issues over the years to no avail, and spoke of their fears that the latest internal investigation, prompted by another whistleblower's complaint, would result in a whitewash.

However, when RollOnFriday presented the firm with excerpts of the lawyers' accounts it was explicit in its recognition that something was amiss, and expressed its determination to take action.

Esteban Raventos, an Executive Committee member at Baker McKenzie, said, "We are deeply concerned about the workplace and cultural issues in our Johannesburg office and are resolute as a global team to put this right".

Now Bakers has confirmed that van der Merwe is departing the firm, although it would not be drawn on the reasons why.

“Morne van der Merwe has stepped down as a Principal of Baker McKenzie and, with effect from 01 September 2021, as a director and shareholder of Baker McKenzie Inc in Johannesburg. He will leave the Firm on 14 September 2021", the firm said in a statement.

RollOnFriday previously revealed that the Johannesburg office was being led by partners from Amsterdam while van der Morne was off duty, and Bakers has confirmed that Dutch partners Erik Scheer and Mirjam de Blecourt are 'supporting' the Johannesburg Management Committee as part of a "transitional leadership team".

A former BMSA lawyer told RollOnFriday that, "I, like many others, left BMSA as a direct result" of "bullying and abuse", and that while the firm in her opinion "ought to have taken steps" a long time ago, the overhaul "presents an opportunity for the firm to rebuild".

Tip Off ROF

Comments

Anonymous 10 September 21 10:02

Incredible that it had to take ROF’s expose for Bakers to do anything.  Again.

WFW survivor 10 September 21 10:34

Guess WFW is getting HR prepped for its Hong Kong office’s moment in the sun. Keep ‘em coming ROF!

Question Man 10 September 21 13:30

But can we be sure that he left as a result of these allegations? Is there proof or is that just speculation?

Indeed, do we really know that he left at all? How can we truly know that this is not all an elaborate ruse staged using a lookalike van der Merwe and an empty cardboard box? 

Is the cat in the empty box alive or dead? Prove it.

Question Woman 10 September 21 15:28

@13.30 - you're coming along well, and we'll make an open-minded individual of you yet. You're now starting to grasp the importance of evidence and realising that there are a large amount of false allegations relating to sexual harassment. These will stand you in good stead for your A-level law exam.

Attention to detail is still lacking unfortunately. You ask how we know he left at all? The answer is that we don't. Because he hasn't left. As the article tells us.

You ask if he left because of the allegations. While indeed we don't know why he will be leaving, he hasnt left yet. As the article tells us.

So good improvement but still a tendency towards false allegations. More work needed!

Anonymous 10 September 21 15:44

@11.41 - always a mistake to pretend to think the person arguing against must be the subject of the criticism. It makes it look as if you have no counter to their comment.

Anon 12 September 21 21:20

What happened to the local partner who went on an ‘anger management’ course?

Anon 12 September 21 21:21

And all Morne’s co-accused?

Have they all been rehabilitated, and MANCOM grown some???

Anonymous 13 September 21 14:47

10th @ 15.56 - wait until the pharmaceuticals really kick in and she starts saying its wrong to ask for evidence...

Anon 13 September 21 21:52

This goes to a deeper issue of many other large corporate law firms where abuse is rampant especially of female juniors who are being preyed upon by senior directors and management  hopefully this will lead to more firms being exposed

anon 16 September 21 14:51

would be good to have investigations into other firms. some horrible characters over at HL

Anonymous 16 September 21 18:19

13th @ 21.52 - we see a deeper issue of false accusations of abuse being rampant, especially allegations of female juniors who are being preyed upon by senior directors and management. Hopefully this will continue to be exposed.

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