One and a half years after RollOnFriday broke the story, the Solicitors Regulation Authority is prosecuting Gary Senior, the former London Managing Partner of Baker McKenzie, for "attempting to embrace and kiss" a woman in 2012 against her will, and then sweeping it under the carpet.

It is also prosecuting Martin Blackburn, Baker McKenzie's ex-head of HR, and Tom Cassels, Baker McKenzie's former head of litigation, for participating in the flawed investigation, along with the firm itself.

Senior was not named in RollOnFriday's original report at the request of his alleged victim, who worked at the firm and feared people might be able to identify her by 'jigsawing' the information together if Senior's identity was revealed. The SRA's decision to prosecute means his name is now in the public domain.

The SRA has alleged that Senior, who left Baker McKenzie in 2018 and is now a consultant at a recruitment agency, behaved "in an inappropriate manner" with 'Person A' while he was in a position of authority over her as London Managing Partner. He told her he was "attracted to her" and "attempted to embrace and kiss her", then "persisted, despite her protestations".

Instead of coming clean at the time, Bakers packed her off with a cash payment after she agreed to enter an NDA, and promoted Senior to the firm's Global Executive Committee.

As a result, the SRA is prosecuting Senior for sweeping the incident under the carpet. Senior, it says, "improperly sought" to use his position within Bakers to influence the investigation into his conduct. That included preventing relevant information from being shared within the firm about her complaint, and influencing the outcome of the investigation, and not reporting the matter to the SRA.

Bakers is being prosecuted for allowing all this to happen. So is Cassels, who is now a dispute resolution partner at Linklaters, and Blackburn, who is the UK People Director at KPMG.


gaz

To the wider benefit of the profession, if not Gary Senior, RollOnFriday blew this open.


This would all have come to light years earlier, but for a sustained effort by the firm to cover it up. In 2016, two years before enough other sources approached RollOnFriday to enable the story to be published, RollOnFriday asked Baker McKenzie about a line in the firm’s accounts which an insider said comprised the pay-off to Person A. Baker McKenzie insisted that it was down to restructuring costs in various departments. But that was a lie. It later transpired that the person who responded to Bakers' press team (which had no knowledge of the 2012 incident) about the query was, according to inside sources...Gary Senior.

Senior disputes that account, and told RollOnFriday via a spokesman that he maintains it was Jonathan Westwell, the firm's general counsel and partnership secretary, who spoke to the press team.


Anatomy of a cover-up. RollOnFriday, 2016:

assa

Baker McKenzie response:

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In a statement addressing the prosecution, Bakers pointed to its belated internal review, which it said it had shared with the SRA.

"We fully accept there were significant shortcomings in the procedures that we followed in 2012 and subsequently", said a spokesman for Baker McKenzie. "This is something which we very much regret. We could and should have done much better in handling the issue at the time and subsequently, and we have since introduced and reinforced robust processes to ensure these shortcomings can never be repeated".

He said the firm had enhanced its internal due diligence processes, "including around the way we vet candidates for promotion in the Firm", and had "taken steps to encourage a 'speak up ' culture". 

Linklaters is standing by Cassels. A spokesman said he “has the firm’s full support". He added, "Tom is a hugely respected and distinguished lawyer who, since joining us in 2016, has become a trusted and valued partner. He has a long track record of championing diversity initiatives, including our own internal ‘He for She’ campaign and as a mentor for the 30% Club”.

Senior denied the claims and said he will defend against the allegations. His spokesman said that Senior "strongly maintains that he had no input into the form of the sanctions or process" undertaken by the firm.

Tip Off ROF

Comments

Anonymous 02 August 19 09:13

Oh well.  I'm sure that they've learned lessons and are deeply remorseful for being caught.

DiddlyDum 02 August 19 10:57

that was not a 'pay off' figure in 2012.

the entire support function staff were offered around 30k to leave in the restructuring process in 2012 and obviously lots of them took the offer, i went to the leaving do's...

oops now the truth comes out 02 August 19 11:34

sure if the SRA dug a bit further they'd find a lot more dirt...some people think their **** don't stink

DiddlyDum 02 August 19 12:21

... mind you, I worked there for a decade myself.

Some of the partners at the time were banned from 'friday night drinks' due to risque behaviour.... ie : following secretaries to the toilet and asking them for 'golden showers' amongst other things...

Some of the partners at the time were rewarded with 'older' secretaries once they had spanked their previous younger version...

The list goes on...

It was always either 'Head of Department' or 'Managing or Ex Managing Partner' or something similar that was fully 'involved'...

Lots of tears and payoffs to be had, never worked anywhere so scandalous....

Gonna write a book one day ................

 

 

 

 

Anonymous 02 August 19 12:35

This man was well known for being one of the ones to watch at Bakers, not to be left alone with in an office or meeting room, insisting on celebrating deal closings at lap dancing clubs, even when the client wasn't interested, talking to your breasts rather than your face... Having to work for people (men) like that is not only depressing, but scary - you know if you don't play along it could affect your career. I told Bakers about it when I left. Tried again with the legal press when this story broke originally (it was easy to guess who it was about) but no-one wanted to talk. I'll keep going on about in the hope that something changes... But really it's not that hard to treat everyone in the workplace with a bit of respect, to stop and think about whether something is inappropriate or coercive, particularly if you're the boss. These men need to grow a pair and grow up. And think about whether they'd want their daughters to be treated like that... 

Anonymous 02 August 19 16:46

Well said, 12.35.  Keep fighting the good fight.  Unacceptable is always unacceptable.  Never back down.  Yours, a middle aged man.

Anonymous 02 August 19 17:03

The problem, anon @12.35, is that there are a lot of false accusations made about this type of thing. I don't know what happened here, hopefully the investigation will look at the evidence and consider the defence as well as the accusation fairly. Anyone involved in inappropriate behaviour ought to consider their actions, and women acting inappropriately should consider whether they'd want their sons to be treated like that...

Respectable gent 02 August 19 17:17

It is utterly unacceptable behaviour and should not be tolerated at all. Many firms have a resident lunger or sweaty octopus prowling the corridors and firms have a duty to deal with these tossers but instead many prefer the insidious and disgusting cover up approach by the partners and management. The only comfort is that this type of sh!t usually comes out eventually and sometimes at very appropriate times.

Anonymous 02 August 19 17:40

Oh yes Diddlydum, you've brought it all flooding back!  The Bakers partner who followed his secretary into the ladies and said he wanted to be drenched by her golden streams.  The partner who was banned from student events for fear of his drunk lecherous behaviour with female undergraduates.  The partner who spread the entirely fictitious rumour that his gay colleague had AIDS.  What a lovely place this was.  But l course they take allegations of blah blag blah very seriously blah blah blah.

Anon 12.35 02 August 19 21:12

To anonymous 17.03. Yes a fair hearing is imperative of course. But a lot of false accusations, really? I know so many young women in law firms (and elsewhere for that matter) that this has happened to. And not one has ever made any accusation whatsoever. They just quietly suffer or move on. Never known any blokes that have suffered a false accusation though. And it’s a very male heavy industry. But maybe that’s just me. Happy to hear others’ experience... Thank goodness I’m out of there and now also too old! (And by the way I do have personal experience here.)

Anonymous 03 August 19 08:08

Anonymous 2nd August 21.12 - my experience is that false accusations are very common. If young women have told you something like what is alleged here has happened to them then they have made an accusation. Not necessarily false, but possibly so, and certainly unproven. Not sure law is a male heavy industry anymore - I thought there were more female lawyers. There are certainly more females in HR. Would be interesting to hear others experience, both male and female.

Another ex B&M 03 August 19 08:51

Anon 17.03 You're living in a bit of a fantasy world, aren't you? Lots of false accusations? What on earth would be the point? There's enough real sexual harassment in law firms without bothering to make it up, and everyone knows that anyone who speaks up about it is going to end up pushed out of the firm -- as Person A clearly was.

SecularJurist 03 August 19 15:13

Most of those toxic males seem only good at having sex with inanimate objects on account of the toxic billing hours culture at SC and MC firms.

SecularJurist 03 August 19 15:31

Diddlydum, write that book. You'll also make more money and enjoy life more than working at an MC/SC for long hours trying to meet billing targets and dealing with 'demanding' clients.

Anonymous 03 August 19 23:58

There are many reasons for false accusations, Another ex B&M. That's why they're so common.

Jonathan Peacock 04 August 19 20:08

A few ‘anonymous’ on here prepared to suggest that victims make this stuff up. Lots of ‘likes’ for those who say so and lots of ‘dislikes’ for those recognising the problem. That’s very sad and indicates how far our profession has yet to go in dealing with discrimination and predation. 

oops now the truth comes out 05 August 19 14:58

Diddlydum...that book would be a best seller. 12.39 19/8 a very accurate account. Anons I doubt very much this is a made up claim and the hearing will hopefully determine this not anybody else.

Another ex B&M 05 August 19 16:36

Anonymous 23:58 You keep claiming that false accusations are common, but not putting forward a shred of evidence to that effect. During my time at B&M I was aware of at least two clear-cut cases of harassment where the women in question decided (almost certainly correctly) that they had to let it go because of the threat to their careers if they complained. That's the reality around why people don't make nearly as many complaints as would be justified.

Anonymous 05 August 19 17:46

Victims don't make stuff up. Alleged victims (and they're not the same thing Jonathan!) sometimes do. Until this is properly admitted there will always be a long way to in tackling discrimination.

Another anon 06 August 19 06:25

While I am sure this behaviour is not restricted to B&M, I definitely had first hand opportunity to see B&M in action in another of their offices (an office that London B&M employees love getting seconded to for a few years).  Anyway, the offenders were always partners, always married.  One partner was not allowed to have females in his office alone with the door closed.

Anonymous 06 August 19 06:34

What's his defence - is he denying the alleged events took place at all or is he saying the events were different from what has been alleged? If he is being accused of sexual assault this is not a matter for the SRA at this stage.

Anonymous 06 August 19 11:01

False accusations are extremely common, and not just in the area of 'sexual harassment', Another ex B&M, but it is for the person making the orginal accusation to provide evidence and not the other way around. What are the 'at least two cases of harassment' you refer to? Why 'at least two' - were there maybe more but you're not sure? How were they clear cut?

Another ex B&M 06 August 19 12:15

Anonymous 11.01 Your statement that "False accusations are extremely common" is an unsupported assertion. As for the two incidents I referred to, they were clear cut in that in the first case I heard the harassing behaviour myself, and in the second case I saw the bruises.

Dearie 06 August 19 13:19

The state of these comments.... I find it incredible that men would like to believe all these complaints are made up. Women have far too much to get on with to spend time fawning over and lying about men, particularly when such "lies" have an incredibly detrimental impact on the women brave enough to put their hands up. Many of these men alleging the lying complainants also seem to forget that a lot of women leave private practice to go inhouse and then they determine who to instruct. I am so glad I left private practice.

Oopsnowthetruthcomesout 06 August 19 15:17

anon 5/8 17.28. Why as a young associate would you jeopardize a promising career in the law to make false allegations, possibly risking being unable to find another job or have your name muddied in the process.  The payoff was probably nothing more than 6 to 9 months pay, not the £s suggested.  Accused has never denied...nobody has denied. Hearing is about how it was handled and hushed up, why would they want hush something up that never happened? ...Apart from the allegation itself, how it was handled is equally as serious esp when  people like HR Directors are in office to ensure fair policies are in place for employees as well as being there to protect the interests of the  'business'. So yes oops the truth is out now..No doubt its true 

Anonymous 06 August 19 20:19

As I say, it is for accusers to support their assertions and provide evidence Another ex B&M, not those who are accused. What 'harassing behaviour' did you hear? How do you know what the bruises related to and how do you think that harassment causes bruises? Your own accusations don't sound very credible!

Anonymous 06 August 19 23:55

Why do you have no doubts that its true oops? The accused has denied the accusations, it is not true that he hasn't. This just goes to show how frequently false accusations are made.

Anonymous 07 August 19 06:22

I wouldn’t bother engaging with the plonker who questions every single allegation. He’s clearly a troll who will try to discredit even the most ironclad accusations of wrongdoing. Return thyself to 8chan, trollboy!

Anonymous 07 August 19 07:10

Surely questioning every single allegation is the right thing to do, @6.22? And if an accusation was 'ironclad' it wouldn't be possible to discredit it. If all that you can do is call names and suggest refusing to engage then all that does is make you look shifty and suggest that you know many accusations are false but don't want them examined too closely. Which is ultimately a shame for those whose allegations aren't false.

Retired Partner 07 August 19 07:43

This has been brewing for a long time.   Too many young women at Bakers, and at least one male associate who then reported to me, have found themselves harassed by letching senior colleagues. If it got a bit too awkward for management, the usual answer was a posting to another office for a while, often on attractive ex-pat terms. Hardly a disincentive for offending partners. The difference here is the allegation of a structured suppression of the allegations by a junior colleague and perhaps of the then findings by the two reviewers, both of whom I recall as very competent folk. That puts the allegations against Gary Senior into a class of their own which, if proven, merit resolute consequences from the SRA.  

Retired Partner 07 August 19 07:44

This has been brewing for a long time.   Too many young women at Bakers, and at least one male associate who then reported to me, have found themselves harassed by letching senior colleagues. If it got a bit too awkward for management, the usual answer was a posting to another office for a while, often on attractive ex-pat terms. Hardly a disincentive for offending partners. The difference here is the allegation of a structured suppression of the allegations by a junior colleague and perhaps of the then findings by the two reviewers, both of whom I recall as very competent folk. That puts the allegations against Gary Senior into a class of their own which, if proven, merit resolute consequences from the SRA.  

Another ex B&M 07 August 19 09:54

Couldn't agree more, Anon 6.22. The problem we're seeing is an example of the well-known "Loch Ness Monster" problem relation to sexual harassment. That is, the Anon or Anons who invariably show up to cast doubts on every case of sexual harassment mentioned here either genuinely believe or choose to pretend to believe that sexual harassers in law firms are mythical creatures akin to the Loch Ness Monster, or Bigfoot. Therefore, anyone claiming to have seen one of these beasts in the wild, or even its tracks, is automatically considered to be slightly kooky, in exactly the same basis that someone insisting that they met the Loch Ness Monster when on holiday would be considered.

Anonymous 07 August 19 10:43

There are plenty of people with time on their hands to make false accusation Dearie, otherwise they wouldn't be so common. Inhouse lawyers aren't permitted by their employers to discriminate on the basis of gender when choising external counsel or to sexually harass men by abusing their positions and using them as a platform to make false allegations.

Oopsnowthetruthcomesout 07 August 19 11:12

Read again anon doubter (troll) ..Mr Senior disputes that any coercion from him resulted in the outcome of the internal investigation and the non-reporting to the SRA, which is the subject of the SRA hearing ..the actual incident is not in question here. He disputes he spoke to ROF about the accounts issue, indicating another individual spoke to them. Nowhere does it say he disputes claim by Person A. End off...

6.22 07 August 19 11:42

7.10, that is a perfect example of your counterfactual trollery and whataboutery. Let's take one by one:

You: "Surely questioning every single allegation is the right thing to do, @6.22?"

Me: Yes, except I didn't say one shouldn't question every single allegation. I said "I wouldn’t bother engaging with the plonker who questions every single allegation". My point, which you are too stupid or disingenuous to take, was not that allegations shouldn't be questioned, but that people shouldn't bother engaging with you, specifically.

You: "And if an accusation was 'ironclad' it wouldn't be possible to discredit it."

Me: And this is why they shouldn't bother with you. I didn't say you would succeed, I said you would try. What a grubby attempt at point-scoring it is, too. You give yourself away with it. You're not about protecting due process. You're about throwing as many smoke bombs as you can, however weak. Maybe because you don't want to believe it ever happens. Maybe because you just hate pesky complaining women. Either way, you are tedious.

Anon 07 August 19 11:43

Oopsnowthetruthcomesout is absolutely correct. He is not disputing the incident took place. He did it and was allowed to stay working at BM. How he found another job is incredible. 

 

Anonymous 07 August 19 16:29

The article says that Senior denies the allegations and will defend the claims, Oops and 11.43.

European partner, elsewhere now 07 August 19 17:40

I am sad to read this as I had hoped that the firm had learnt from the M&M issue in the US in the 90s when former partner Greenstein badly crossed the line.  That cost the firm a fortune and is still easily found on Google. 

Apparently not.  It seems London, then a much smaller office, did not think ahead carefully enough when it had the curious coincidence, also in that decade, of Senior (then a young lawyer) and a female lawyer both going down with chicken pox.  News of that travelled beyond London then, but was of course a matter for London office to think about.

It seems that patters of office behaviour do not change over time, just become easier to hide from the management floor.  Good reputations are hard to build and easily lost.  If the allegations against Senior turn out to be true he will forever be remembered for having been a very sleezy Managing Partner. 

Anonymous 07 August 19 23:55

Its because (as 6.22 knows), false allegations are so common, Another ex B&M. Even you yourself have made a couple of iffy accusations which you seem to have suddenly gone quiet on...

Anonymous 08 August 19 07:55

As long as you agree that it is right to investigate every allegation, and as long as you agree that it isn't possible to discredit ironclad allegations, then no further engagement from you is needed 6.22. Your name-calling just makes you appear childish and shows that you know that there are a huge number if false allegations but don't like it being mentioned.

Dearie 08 August 19 09:20

Hi, me again. To the above: "Inhouse lawyers aren't permitted by their employers to discriminate on the basis of gender when choising external counsel or to sexually harass men by abusing their positions and using them as a platform to make false allegations."     All terribly correct, except it's not about appointing solicitors or counsel based on gender - it's the fact I can now choose not to instruct a d*ck who behaves badly towards their colleagues. I choose the person who is competent and treats their colleagues well. We see and hear more than private practice partners realise (or perhaps they do realise but just don't care because they can claim that it's all made up...). I've also yet to meet anyone with enough time to pursue a false allegation - you must work in a very strange place.

Anonymous 08 August 19 09:46

Another Anon - it is false that a partner at B&M isn't allowed to have females in his office with the doors closed. Nobody at B&M has the authority to not allow that. 

Anonymous 08 August 19 09:53

Retired Partner - did you raise any concerns at the time, or do anything to ascertain if the allegations you heard were true?

Retired Partner 08 August 19 13:00

To anonymous 09.53. Yes, but it did little more than put me in the camp of those who were seen as not necessarily towing the management line on certain issues.   Happily both victims have crafted excellent careers for themselves elsewhere. 

Anonymous 08 August 19 13:51

Your job as an inhouse, Dearie, is to use the best counsel for the job, regardless of your personal feelings about them, not to choose based on office gossip or unsupported allegations, nor to discriminate based on gender. That's it. And its false to say that you've never met anyone with the time to pursue false allegations, you definitely will have. Where I work is irrelevant.

Anonymous 08 August 19 19:00

Does that mean that B&M found the allegations not to be true Retired Partner? Alleged victims at this stage, remember.

Anonymous 08 August 19 19:11

Can’t get anymore classier than that! These lawyers never learn...it’s not okay to abuse your power of position when you clearly weren’t or never will be an oil painting.  It doesn’t mean when you have money and power...you can prey on the vulnerable.

Anonymous 09 August 19 00:04

Sounds like another if your false accusations Another B&M. You're racking them up here! As you keep showing, false accusations are extremely common.

Anonymous 09 August 19 00:05

If it happened, 8th August at 19.11! Are you saying if someone is good-looking they can do what they like?

Anonymous 09 August 19 06:11

Google evidence Another B&M. Then start doing it.

You were asked for details about unsubstantiated allegations you made about B&M staff, at which point you went mysteriously quiet on them.

People like you are bad news for those whose accusations are genuine, as you give the impression that there are B&M or ex-B&M staff who are involved in making false accusations.