Who predicted regulators would one day be analysing the yawn/arm manoeuvre.
A former Clyde & Co partner has been rebuked and fined £600 for putting his arm around a trainee in a strip club.
Pete Walmsley was head of the large loss and catastrophic claims team at the firm when he attended a work-related event in November 2017.
After drinks in a local Christmas market and several bars, several attendees called it a night at 10pm and peeled off to the hotel. The trainee, identified as 'AB', Walmsley, two male senior associates (one of whom had supervised AB) and two clients, one male and one female, decided to carry on at another bar instead.
The venue they picked turned out to be a strip club, staffed by women in underwear who were "available to customers for private dances".
The Solicitors Regulation Authority agreed that neither AB nor Walmsley appreciated it was a strip joint until they got inside, and that the partner didn't even know AB was there until he spotted her.
AB felt "uncomfortable" when she realised where she was, but "felt obliged to stay for a short period, primarily because she did not want to embarrass the clients". Then, in the booth where they all sat, the partner placed his arm round her waist. "This was unwanted by AB and it compounded her discomfort, particularly in view of the environment they were in", said the SRA.
Feeling unable to challenge Walmsley’s "unwanted behaviour" because of his seniority and the presence of clients, AB moved away as she "felt uncomfortable with his arm around her". But when she returned, he did it again. After having another drink, she left the club.
Walmsley's embrace in both instances "was done openly, and without any improper or sexual motivation on his part", said the SRA, which also found that Walmsley "did not ask or encourage” AB to go to the club, and that “he had not visited the Club before, and it was not his choice of venue".
However, the partner accepted that he ought to have taken steps to ensure AB was not discomforted "by the nature of the venue", or placed at risk by being there, and that he should have checked whether putting his arm round her would exacerbate her feelings of discomfort.
Walmsley apologised to the trainee when he discovered how she had felt, and the SRA also took into account his subsequent efforts to "prevent his behaviour from being detrimentally impacted by alcohol when in the presence of colleagues or staff".
Clyde & Co sacked him after its own investigation, which was prompted by reports from two junior members of staff. At the time of his dismissal, the firm told RollOnFriday, "We hold ourselves to the highest standards of behaviour and expect all of our partners and staff to act with integrity, maintain high ethical standards and to respect local and global regulatory environments at all times", explaining, "We do not tolerate inappropriate behaviour".
Walmsley has overcome the setback with a new phase of his career at Horwich Farrelly, another insurance specialist. A Horwich Farrelly spokeswoman said, “This incident occurred over five years ago and Peter Walmsley now manages a very successful team at Horwich Farrelly. During his time here he has performed with impeccable conduct and with the full support of his team and clients who were made fully aware of the facts".
The firm said it took "issues of this nature very seriously and agree with the SRA findings that Peter should not have put himself or others in this position", but it emphasised that the SRA noted "there was absolutely no intent from Peter on the evening in question to attend a club of that nature, and there was no sexual or inappropriate motive or intent behind his actions".
"Immediately after the event, and in the years since, Peter has shown that he has taken the matter extremely seriously and regrets the incident wholeheartedly", said the spokesperson. "He has focused on his personal development to ensure he always puts the wellbeing of every team member first, in every situation. It is due to his constructive approach since the event that Horwich Farrelly believed he deserved the chance to further his career".
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