Dechert has failed to convince a court that a client's accusations of overcharging should be heard in open court.

In 2011 Dechert was instructed by Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation (ENRC) to investigate a whistleblower's claim that the mining company was rife with corruption. So Dechert racked up £16.3 million in fees, in return for which it furnished ENRC with a smartly-bound report detailing how it had bribed politicians, forged contracts and was 'missing' over £22 million. Dechert also informed the Serious Fraud Office, which had commenced a criminal investigation into ENRC, that ENRC staff hampered its efforts by palming if off with fake documents, giving it the wrong computers and even setting up an entire "false office".

ENRC promptly fired the firm, but claims that was because Dechert's bills were astronomical and not because it was served a very large turd and then invoiced for it. And in the latest twist ENRC has sued Dechert in the High Court for a refund, but has applied for the case to be heard in private. Apparently it's worried that Dechert's narrative might not just say "Call: 6mins, Toilet: 40mins", but be rather more damning about ENRC and, if the SFO can listen in, prejudicial to any criminal trial.

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Dechert opposed the application, arguing that ENRC's claim that it was "overcharging by millions of pounds" was damaging its reputation and that only open court would allow it to "clear its name" of the "gross and deliberate" allegation. As evidence, Dechert presented Mr Justice Roth with a bundle of 11 press articles which it said repeated the scurrilous lies. However Roth actually read the clippings, pointed out that only one was relevant and granted ENRC's application, forcing Dechert to fight the next round in private.

An ENRC spokesperson declared that a victory for Dechert would have "effectively destroyed the concept of confidentiality for anyone who challenged their lawyers’ fees" and made it "difficult to see how trusting relationships between London law firms and their clients could be maintained".

Dechert did not respond to RollOnFriday's request for comment, but will stick this article in its media clippings book to present to the court next time round. Hello judge!
 
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