blast

He'll be PM before you know it..


Dan Neidle, Clifford Chance's ex head of tax, has threatened to report Nadhim Zahawi's lawyers to the SRA after they accused him of defamation.

In the brief window between outgoing Prime Minister Liz Truss sacking Kwasi Kwarteng as chancellor and replacing him with Jeremy Hunt, Zahawi was rumoured to be in the running to retake the position.

Neidle jumped on Twitter with his assessment of that possibility: "Can't believe Liz Truss is seriously considering appointing as Chancellor someone who reportedly was investigated by the NCA [National Crime Agency] in the past and is all-but-certain to be the subject of a current investigation by HMRC".


neidle tweety


Neidle has criticised Zahawi repeatedly for not coherently explaining the donation of his 42.5% stake in YouGov to his parents, which Neidle said looked like tax avoidance. When Osborne Clarke, Zahawi's former solicitors, encouraged Neidle to retract his allegations, he drew public attention to Zahawi's strongarm tactics by publishing the firm's "threatening" and "misleading" letters.

Osborne Clarke's litigation lawyers either declined to continue to serve as Zahawi's human shields, or the chancellor decided he needed to go elsewhere for a more pugilistic approach, because a new firm is now submitting itself to a public beating by CC's former Head of UK Tax.

Susan Aslan, founder of ACK Media law, wrote to Neidle accusing him of making "false and misleading claims" in his latest tweet about Zahawi, who she said "is not aware of any investigation by the National Crime Agency of His Majesty's Revenue and Customs".

She said Neidle's claims were defamatory and would seriously damage Zahawi's reputation, and gave the ex-Magic Circle partner 48 hours to delete the tweets in order to "resolve this issue without the need for court involvement".

Neidle responded by publishing Aslan's letter, along with withering commentary on the firm's tactics.


neidle

Neidle provided a graph in his analysis.


"When I was a trainee lawyer, assisting in some long-running piece of litigation, I drafted a response to the other side. I said I was 'astonished' at some point they were asserting. The senior partner supervising me was not impressed. 'We are never surprised, astonished, perplexed, amazed, stunned or shocked', he said. Lesson learned. Well, I am surprised, astonished, perplexed, amazed, stunned and shocked at this email."

"I am not a defamation specialist", said Neidle, but "I have spoken to lawyers who are...This is one of the many reasons why making baseless legal threats to senior lawyers is not the greatest idea".

Neidle said his repetition of widely-reported claims about Zahawi "is a drop in the ocean of harm that Mr Zahawi’s reputation has suffered". and that ACK's letter was an attempt to stifle public discussion of his affairs, which made it akin to a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Protection, or SLAPP.

"It is unethical and improper for ACK Media Law LLP to write emails of this kind, making baseless legal threats", he said. "At a time when the Solicitors Regulation Authority has taken a strong stance against SLAPPs, it is also extremely unwise. I have therefore invited them to withdraw; if they do not, I will refer them to the SRA".

Neidle gave the firm three days to drop its threats - ACK did not respond to a request for comment.

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Comments

Rollseyes 21 October 22 09:42

It’s all a bit pass ag from Neidle, running off to mummy to complain he’s being picked on. 

Anon 21 October 22 09:57

Dan, you did criticise Zahawi and clearly have a bee in your bonnet about him. There is at least a potential case for defamation against you. Whether or not it would be successful depends on whether what you say is true. But it is not in breach of the SRA principles for a law firm acting for someone who feels they have been wronged by you and their reputation damaged by you (whether or not that is fair would be determined by a court), to invite you to stop making the allegations in a communication that appears polite and reasonable. It is you who then start throwing your weight around “look at me I am from CC and have mates there too and you have picked the wrong target and I will report you to SRA and I will scream and scream …how dare you…!’’
 

You cannot threaten to report someone to the regulator to try and shut them up and embarrass them, just because they send a letter that you don’t like and which you think challenges your intellect. A false threat of reporting is itself unethical. Which of the SRA principles have been breached by this firm? If none, best hush up and fight the case on its merits.

Anontoo 21 October 22 10:07

Well said [email protected]

I am a defamation lawyer and there certainly would be a prima facie case against Dan. The fact he went public in what should have been a private communication designed to defuse and settle the situation could be an aggravating factor if he were to lose any case brought against him. The fact that he has buddies at CC is unlikely to sway the judge.
 

And the SRA won’t appreciate being brought in to try and intimidate the other side with threats of a report being made to them, they are not to be used to try and scare your opponents in a potential dispute. You better make sure you have a good and valid reason before you report to them or threaten to do so or you yourself might find yourself under investigation.

Reg lawyer 21 October 22 10:17

I would strongly advise Mr Neidle to get some regulatory advice and some defamation advice before he continues publishing these communications. It’s not like tax law, Mr Neidle.

Anon 09:57 21 October 22 10:21

Hi ACK Media trainee - hope you're having a nice Friday.

Given that mainstream news has been reporting that Zahawi's affairs were secretly reported by the NCA since at least 6 July this year, think we can be comfortable there's no case there (as I would assume that mainstream news will be all over their libel obligations they are clearly confident they have what they need to rebuff any claim).  p.s. its all over Google.

Further, on 9 July, the Independent wrote an article confirm that the Inland Revenue were investigation Zahawi's tax affairs.  Given that was some 3.5 months ago, ditto we can probably assume that there's enough evidence to conclude that Zahawi doesn't have a defamation case there either.

ACK Media/ Zahawi are simply pulling bully boy tactics against a little guy when this information is clearly out there and sufficiently robustly evidenced that Zahawi and co either haven't tried to silence mainstream media or they have told them to Foxtrott Oscar.

P.s. you'd do well to proof read your threat letters better when you know they're going to end up getting published - its really awkward when someone publishes your typos for all the world to see.

Anon 21 October 22 10:56

Don’t play the “little guy” victim Anon / Dan. You are a formidable opponent for Ack Media so no need to play the helpless victim

I miss 21 October 22 11:18

I miss lawyers being lawyers and politicians being politicians (and public interest groups being public interest groups).  Ralph Nader, whom Dan Neidle maybe uses as his model, used the law as his tool, but, to my mind, it was clear that his was a public interest mission (not a flaunting of legal connections or legal knowledge).  If Dan wants to be a politician-lawyer, be like Keir Starmer.  If he wants to be a public interest proponent-lawyer, be like Ralph Nader.  But his public displays of legal knowledge, clothed under the thin blanket of public interest, are interesting, initially, but tiresome thereafter.  It is more "look at me" than "look at the public interest".

Anon 21 October 22 11:26

Dan has got mates in CC and mates in the SRA! Don’t challenge him or he will set them onto you ! If you try and keep a letter sent in good faith on behalf of your client confidential , he could try and get you struck off. All in the public interest , of course .

Anonymous 21 October 22 11:56

It's pretty funny to see the 'tough' litigation lawyers going into a flat spin when the pressure is put back on them.

I guess they think it is fine when they send out bullying and intimidating letters threatening legal action (but more importantly to ruin someone with punitive costs) but then they run to mummy when someone comes after them. 

Also, defamation dudes, look up the 'Streisand effect' on Wikipedia. Might help you give better advice to your clients....

Anonymous 21 October 22 12:54

@11.56. Spot on.

No idea if it’s the case here but from personal experience some litigators forget that first and foremost they are officers of the court as well as having an obligation to act with honesty and integrity. 

So, while they should obviously act in the best interests of their client, that doesn’t mean they can repeat any old bollux they are told especially when it’s patently untrue and can easily be shown to be untrue.

In my case the litigator was all bluster and hot air, refusing to negotiate even though there was a clear breach of contract. That was until they received a formal letter before action from other lawyers that put them personally in the firing line. And then they folded like a deck of cards. It was very satisfying.  

 

 

bananaman 21 October 22 17:13

Lol @ the defamation dicks on here trying to suggest he is in the wrong. Talentless gimps that rely on financial intimidation to achieve anything, protecting the most vile characters in the UK and hiding behind "entitlement to representation" to take the coin of despots, thugs, murderers and philanderers. 

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