Clifford Chance paid an "enormous" sum to buy a partner's silence after he complained that the firm's Asia Pacific management fabricated comments in his appraisal report so it could dock him equity points. Global Managing Partner Matthew Layton wrote to the entire APAC partnership informing them of the firm's apology to the lawyer.

The former partner, whom RollOnFriday is not naming and will refer to as ‘Gagsy’, worked in one of the firm's APAC offices. He claimed that the report of his annual review in 2017 included a controversial comment attributed to him which he never made. He also alleged that the report included other justifications for reducing his pay which were never presented to him during his appraisal, said a source.

Gagsy is understood to have complained to the firm that he believed his appraisal report was doctored by APAC regional management, which is headed up by APAC Managing Partner Geraint Hughes.  

When Gagsy challenged the veracity of his appraisal record, APAC management suggested that the "wrong version" had been given to him due to a "secretarial error", but stood by its content, said a source. They then rebuffed Gagsy's request for a copy of the original meeting notes, only relenting when he threatened to consult Clifford Chance's partnership counsel and external lawyers.

When he got the notes, Gagsy found they supported his version of events, said a source. But the partner and the firm agreed to regard the matter as closed after Hughes' team acknowledged errors were made and apologised to him.

Shortly afterwards, however, Gagsy learned that an internal investigation into the incident led out of London was set to conclude that an innocent “secretarial error” was to blame, rather than finding that the cause was deliberate fabrication.

It triggered a year-long dispute between Gagsy and Clifford Chance management which ended with a "very significant" settlement, on the proviso that he would leave the firm and agree to be gagged by a non-disclosure agreement. The size of the pay-off was described as "huge" by sources.


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How to deal with partners, solutions #1 through #784


In an unprecedented concession, Managing Partner Matthew Layton and then-Senior Partner Malcolm Sweeting notified the entire APAC partnership that Gagsy had received an apology.

The text, seen by RollOnFriday, stated there were "shortcomings in a number of aspects of the firm's processes and failings which lead to the concerns [Gagsy] has raised" and that "accordingly, an apology has been given”. It concluded that an amicable resolution had been reached, but the firm was “reviewing lessons that can be learned from the concerns raised by [Gagsy’s] situation to ensure that our processes evolve in a manner which continues to justify the confidence of partners”.

A spokesman for Clifford Chance said, “Geraint has the full support of our global leadership team and the AsiaPac Leadership Group". He said, "Our Asia Pacific region has seen phenomenal growth and financial success over the past three years, driven by an inclusive and collaborative team culture fostered under the leadership of Geraint, the Asia Pacific Leadership Group and our partners across the region".

Gagged by its own gagging clause, Clifford Chance was limited in what it could tell RollOnFriday, but it defended the integrity of its appraisals. "Understanding and developing high quality partner performance is a critical pillar of a successful and collaborative partnership culture", said the spokesman. "To that end, we have robust processes in place to manage effective appraisals, including upward and peer feedback". 

"Like any well run business, we continually review how our approach and systems can be improved to maximise their effectiveness and value to our firm and our partners and to promote the collaborative culture that underpins our partnership ethos", he said.

Gagsy did not respond to a request for comment.

Tip Off ROF

Comments

Gobblepig 16 August 19 09:42

Well Jeez, as long as the partner got a mahoosive pay-off that's all fine, and there's aboslutely nothing here for the SRA to investigate further in relation to matters of integrity or bringing the profession into disrepute. After all, what firm hasn't engaged in a spot of potential fraud?

And before anyone says it's not with the SRA's jurisdiction, naff off and have a word with yourselves, and then boil your heads. 

Aunt Sally 16 August 19 09:56

Spot on Gobblepig.

Not the first time (and won’t be the last time) that a firm tries to “manoeuvre” it’s way out of a problem.  In my view, when a firm behaves this way it should be a matter for the SRA. Definitely not conduct becoming of a solicitor.

L 16 August 19 09:59

The reason for the huge pay off was because he uncovered that some senior managment were trying to stitch him up with a fake investigation with a pre determined outcome. He had email evidence of this after he did a data access search and the firms compliance team gave him some ammunition that was very damaging for management. That is why they worked so hard to silence him. He was asking them for an independent investigation around a number of other complaints partners had been making relating to the behaviour of some managment figures in Asia. But why agree to that when you can use your partners' money and an NDA to make it all go away?

Gobblepig 16 August 19 10:09

At least we can take comfort that, had Clifford Chance sought to bully an associate or a trainee in this way instead of a partner. the firm would of course have made a massive payout to that much less powerful employee and absolutely would not have crushed the individual and irretrievably wrecked their career. 

Aetc 16 August 19 10:12

This is unquestionnably an SRA matter. There is evidence, it seems from the report, of a UK based law firm creating false documents and materials in order to deny a person their financial entitlements. If you are worried about the SRA's jurisdiction (and I don't see the issue, but just for the sake of argument) note that there was an investigation in London that was prepared to falsely conclude 'secretarial error' was the cause rather than foul play.  If that is not dishonesty on the part of those conducting the investigation, I don't know what is.

Anonymous 16 August 19 10:22

Hold your horses. We don't know it was fraud. It looks like CC maintained all along that it was secretarial error, and apologised around that/gave in to the partner to make him shut up and go away. There's not necessarily any wrongdoing.

Anon 16 August 19 10:30

Its a fair point you make Anon at 10.22, but why would they put that type of apology out, admitting multiple "failings" and that they had "learned lessons", if it was all just an admin mistake by  a secretary? And if L at 9.59 is correct, then the issue is not the appraisal anyway, its the attempt to stitch up and undermine a partner who has complained about bad behaviour.

Collaborative? 16 August 19 10:32

Hahahaha - this is terrible press - fabricate someone's appraisal, continue to lie about it and try to cover it up, ultimately have to pay the person off and then sweep it under the rug and claim you are collaborative?

If sticking the knife into one's fellow partners in with fake negative comments is what CC thinks is collaborative, I presume they think other firms operate more like a Russian Gulag?

anon 10:22 16 August 19 10:34

You could well be right anon 10:30. It just looks like it could have been a giant admin cock-up that escalated, and they thought that bowing to gagsy's request for an apology to be sent to the partners as a part of booting him was a price worth paying.

Agree it could be much more serious, though -  if the notes did indeed back him up, how on earth does anything controversial get added in as an 'error'?

Gobblepig 16 August 19 10:50

Anon @ 10:22 you are of course right, which is why I have been very careful not to say it was definitely fraud - merely that it is potential fraud. That is why it is so important for the SRA to investigate this further. And CC should welcome that investigation with open arms and co-operate with it as an opportunity to put this issue to rest. 

Anon 16 August 19 11:05

The partner was asking for an investigation (not necessarily SRA, but an investigation, because they were rubbishing his claims) but the firm said no. So he then later on needed the apology because management had been telling other partners that his claims were baseless. When that was shown to be untrue, it was only right that management should fess up and apologise.

Anonymous 16 August 19 11:17

This is pretty major, no? Looks like CC APAC management's shat the bed, forcing London to do a band-aid job.

Ex CC APAC 16 August 19 11:27

It was not just Gagsy who complained, there were lots of other partners too. He was the first one to take the fight to them and did a sterling job.

If you fell out with management, suddenly a piece of really bad engineered feedback would magically appear in your anon feedback reports which they would then use to attack you. 

Gobblepig 16 August 19 12:39

Another point - what sort of backwards, 1950's outfit permits anonymous feedback for appraisals?

Bob 16 August 19 13:38

pretty dodgy behaviour but, let’s face it, it goes on everywhere all the time. I’ve seen fee earners deliberately deprived of work by partners (giving it to already over worked fee earners) and bad mouthing that person because they want to manage that person out (or possibly both - seen partners boasting of their ability to do this). And they would prefer to do this than actually manage a person and deal with their perceived shortcoming. 

Clifford No Chance 16 August 19 13:51

Greedy APAC Partners tried to stifle poor Gagsy's earnings and it back-fired.  You live by the samurai sword, you die by the samurai sword! 

Anon but knowing the full story 16 August 19 14:52

The appraisal was really a bit of a side show and by itself does not explain the apology. There were other complaints which were even more serious but the article does not touch on these. 

 

Anon 16 August 19 18:57

No idea who is involved but I hope the poor ’secretary’ was kindly treated notwithstanding the ‘error’ .....For those involved, if there is any concern, when your pay check ends (appreciate may not be easy before), please consider joining fairness campaign across industries against NDA’s. Law firms need to be accountable too!

anon 17 August 19 04:16

the quote from the CC spin doctor that global leadership support APAC management to be expected. But makes me wonder if global leadership were ever told that a certain member of APAC management had made threats to partners who complained about him that their careers would suffer if they didnt shut their mouths......

Anonymous 17 August 19 14:10

If this was a sexual harassment complaint the regulators would look at it in an instant - it will be interesting to see if they do the same in this case should it be reported to them.

Q 18 August 19 01:35

As previous posters have said, it sounds unquestionably like an issue for the SRA and I hope they pick up on this. In fact, it also sounds that the law societies in Hong Kong and whichever other APAC jurisdiction is involved might also be interested as I cannot imagine it was all centrally controlled from London.

The use of NDAs to silence those with inconvenient information is getting to be very common these days and the SRA should rightly look into these - haven't we recently seen this? Also, I'm sure the rest of the CC partnership can not be happy that a major chunk of £ is being used for pay-offs and to protect their own, and not distributed. I wonder how CC are recognising this spend in their books - "restructuring costs" again as with Baker McKenzie/Gary Senior?

L @ 16 August 19 09:59 mentioned a "fake investigation". That sounds interesting and actually potentially explosive as well.  The article doesn't bring that out fully, but if there was manipulation/pre-determination of the internal CC investigation, that should itself be investigated.

GagsbyGate 18 August 19 09:30

some questions from me

CC Partners - ok so management want to gag Gagsby. That gag can stay on so he can’t speak to ROF, I get that (even though management clearly can give comments to ROF, as they did). Seems to me though that gag should come off so you can be told what this is all about? You may want to tell management you expect to hear from Gagsby direct, or you will get some heavily edited sickly sweet sugar coated account from management. And what about that settlement amount, if management screwed up, shouldn’t it come from their equity (which I am sure is very generous), not from yours?

CC Partnership counsel - are you all over this and if not, why not? You don’t need to sit on your hands getting off them only so you can doff your caps at management. Grow a collective pair and hold them to account. Has a partner been treated very badly and then management have tried to bully and hound him out? Doesn’t your constitution deal with this? Is this what your firm does?

Gagsby, I am sure it was very difficult fighting the CC establishment and I must congratulate you, I have never heard of management being forced to issue that type of apology before. 

 

Anon 18 August 19 09:43

Question for CC global leadership. The statement from the firm makes it clear you strongly support the APAC management. Not sure why CC spin felt the need to say that, but are you sure you have the full picture? A statement has been made clearly representing your views, I guess then you are all accountable if it turns out there has been some bad behaviour? 

In house 18 August 19 09:52

Happens all the time in-house as well. If they think they can't be caught or challenged,  they just lie.

Thought from Competition 19 August 19 06:08

CC lost a lot senior partners from the APAC office in question in the last 12 months or so, is it linked to troubles with management. Some of them were here since before I moved to Asia, 16 years ago.

the point about partnership counsel and their role is interesting. We have similar equity allocation powers given to our management as CC and our management also have a lot of discretion in deciding what the partnership counsel gets. Ask awkward questions and you are not a “team player”. Bang goes 10 units.

Ungag him 19 August 19 06:17

Ungag Gagsy! I want to hear all detail of this one year battle with CC management and how he caught them with their pants down. What’s the big secret CC?

help us with Brexit Gagsy 19 August 19 06:24

Must be pretty capable to have gotten that apology from the CC managing partner.

any thought Gagsy on how we solve the Northern Island backstop?

anon 19 August 19 06:48

hmm. lots of questions for CC. what were the failings you admit? these are either specific to Gagsy (in which case, what on earth did he do to deserve this treatment or why otherwise was he the subject of it?) or they are more institutional, in which case other partners in your firm must have been treated unfairly too.

if i was a CC partner and it seems Gagsy was indeed hounded out and silenced because he had damaging info, i would say try and get him back and put him on your partnership counsel

anon 19 August 19 17:59

agreed the partnership council of the firm should be all over this and the general counsel of the firm too

Tailor needed 19 August 19 18:10

Is it just me, or do the London management team all wear suits at least one size too big, except for you know who who always has his one size too small. Weird...

Those Cc Secretaries! 19 August 19 18:52

Didn’t the last CC Asian managing partner have a little drunken smash in his car in Hong Kong and it was all over the local press as he was arrested. Was that the Secretaries fault too CC? 

Salaried Partner (Worker Bee) 19 August 19 19:14

I like the concept that screw ups and payoffs arising out of piss poor management by MPs/Management Committees should come out of the equity of the MPs themselves. They generally don’t fee earn and are generally overpaid and incompetent and should be directly accountable. At least Dick Turpin had the decency to wear a mask!

haha 20 August 19 03:19

that is so true Tailor needed @ 1810!

in fact i reckon for one of them it is three sizes too big. i worry as i see him furtively exiting Upper Bank Street at 545 pm every day his big baggy suit is gonna get caught up in the escalator and there will be another incident making ROF. must have been a "secretrial error", she gave the wrong measurements to the saville row guy. or does he just like the baggy fashion look?

Dapper guy 20 August 19 04:37

was once behind tight suit management guy in a queue for the lift at Upper Bank. I think he fancies himself as a bit of a 007 city lawyer about town, you know a real dapper guy. Suddenly he peels off his suit jacket (it’s oretty close fitting so that took a minute), tiptoes himself up, puffs up his shoulders, gets into a weightlifter style pose with his arms and screams “Let em through for I am Beefcake. Beefcake! BEEFCAKE!” *

• none of this really happened, it was all a typo, by my secretary

Anon 20 August 19 06:50

I suspect the general counsel is already all over it anon at 17.59, he probably did the NDA etc

Gagsy p council minutes 20 August 19 07:26

Council member: There are lots of questions to answer here management. Whats this about there being two versions of the appraisal, one which was given to him but a different one with lots of bad stuff added that went to the review committee he never even saw. And I am sure he never said he was actually a demon sent from hell to destroy earth as the second version said, that just can’t be what he said. And then I know you apologised to him when he finally got the notes, but why after that were lots of messages being sent internally by management that he did actually say he was a demon...they even sent these messages to the appeal committee and it must have unfairly influenced them...No wonder Gagsy was upset, we would all be, wouldn’t we? And what is this anonymous feedback you have highlighted where someone says they saw him kicking a puppy, are you sure that’s right, everyone he knows says he has always been very kind to animals, especially puppies.. 

Management: you are new here, aren’t you?

Council member: And this report from YourManInAsia and his deputy that says Gagsy was seen poking a kitten in the eye, doesn’t sound right.....and the CCTV shows neither Gagsy nor any kittens were in the vicinity at the alleged time...And these other things that we can’t  even mention,....

Management: My General, which NDA option did we use for Gagsy? General, General, wake up! For crying out loud...General, which NDA for Gagsy?

General: Uh....the payoff with perpetual silencer, hide from partnership forever, trash reputation option...

Council Menber: But this is wrong! And didnt other partners also come forward with similar complaints? Didn’t he just say he wanted an investigation? What about our values, our standards, this is not the way CC partners expect management to behave.....what about the SR...

Suddenly a trap door opens under Council Member, he slides down a tube into the CC Swimming pool. Which now has sharks in it. With lasers on their heads.

Management: NDAs all around my General. My Chief, share out his units with the surviving members.  Any other thoughts? Good, good. What Gagsy forgot is I like cats. 

A white cat appears which Management strokes. Everyone starts laughing, Dr Evil style.

etc etc

 

 

 

Other partnership council members looks nervous. Suddenly a trap door opens 

Investigation 20 August 19 10:55

CC internal investigation if it might look bad for management = BURN THE WITCH!!!!

burn the witch 20 August 19 15:32

Management: We are here as part of the investigation, but we will remain open minded. You witch.

Gagsy: Come again?

Management: You were seen talking to a black goat, do you admit it?

Gagsy: Thats not a goat, its a labrador. Its my pet.

Management: But you were talking to it....they saw you...were you talking about your unspeakable devotion to the devil? 

Gagsy: I may have said "walkies" but nothing more

Management: That sandwich - does it have eye of a newt and toe of a frog filling?

Gagsy: Its chicken

Managament: Ah, so you admit killing the chicken and drinking its warm bloooooood?! 

Gagsy: No, its from Marks and Spencer

Management: Is that a devils dumpling?

Gagsy: Its a muffin. Walnut and banana. Its good

Management: Frog spawn in that cup?

Gagsy: Skinny latte

Management: What about trial by swim. We take you down to the CC pool. If you swim, you are a Witch, if you sink, we believe you.

Gagsy: No thanks, there are sharks in that pool

Management: Do you like to dance?

Gagsy: I do sometimes but you know, not young anymore

Management: Did you see the football last night

Gagsy: Yeah, good game, good game

Management: Ah, he admits dancing naked under the moon and praising the lord of darkness!! We heard you earlier, we all heard you.....its in the notes! hahahaha

Gagsy: the notes don't say that at all. It just says Gagsy likes to dance....

Management: They do, its just....ummm...the secretary got the notes wrong or something....she is a witch too! Burn them both! You converted her! 

Gagsy: That doesn't even make sense

Management: The notes don't lie!

Gagsy: I agree, here they are. And there is this too....

Management: He has a magic talkie box....with voices of the demon!

Gagsy: Its an iphone...turns out there was a recording all along.....

Management: Is that the voice of .....that is coming from the magic talkie box. 

Gagsy: Sounds like

Management: we never knew about that

Gagsy: Figures

Management: Get the NDAs. And a box of cash.

 

Also Anon 20 August 19 23:06

£7m pay-off I heard...and meanwhile management are completely unaccountable to the partnership! The several members of management who’ve hidden this from wider management, the Partnership Council and the wider partnership to protect themselves should be investigated. From what I’ve heard they are clearly guilty of dishonesty offences and should be disbarred by the SRA. At the very least, they should be investigated by an independent and impartial body. Someone’s career has been unfairly cut short and his reputation potentially tarnished through no fault of his own whilst management can behave with impunity, use the partnership’s cash to pay him off whilst having him sign an NDA and try to sweep the whole thing under the carpet. 

Aunt Sally 21 August 19 06:07

”He has a magic talkie box....with voices of the demon!”

An excellent idea to record meetings with the MP and/or management; keeps them honest - eventually! I’ve been doing it for a few years because my management never take notes of meetings - presumably so they can draft them later to suit their needs at the material time.

struandirk 21 August 19 11:30

Hahaha, "burn the witch" deserves applause for this. And should come and join the discussion forum if s/he isn't on already. 

Cautious Karpov 21 August 19 18:39

Burn the Witch and Aunt Sally have the right idea - record those awkward discussions with the MP/management to ensure everyone stays honest.

Burn the witch 21 August 19 19:46

Management: We have concluded our trial, I mean investigation, do you know what we have concluded?

Gagsy: Yes

Management: What sorcery is this!!! He can read our minds! Only an agent of the dark lord can read minds and know what conclusion we have reached before we speaketh it! We told you all, burn him now!! Burn all those who challenge! Hahaha

Gagsy: Actually it was in the data access, I read it last week - showed the conclusion of the investigation was already in place.

Management: Fair comment. Here, have some more money.

ex CC 22 August 19 03:56

everyone in CC Asia knows that if you crossed management in Asia you would get whacked in the next equity review. it is often anon feedback  they would quote as part of the justification even if that was rogue and there were justified suspicions someone in management was planting the feedback. they would then label that partner with the feedback even where it was damaging and present it as if it reflected widely held views. pretty nasty behaviour. i dont know the detail around the appraisal but if i was one of the partners who had openly criticised management as Gagsy did i would be checking mine carefully.

on the other hand if you are part of the preferred inner circle your equity was going to go up. all the APAC leaders did astonishingly well. some deserved good results but not all. you had these partners who were considered pretty average internally and were not top of their markets getting more equity than partners who had double  their businesses and they were getting even more than the firms London based private equity superstars. this despite the fact that management had screwed up on a number of big initiatives in Asia, such as the Indonesia office.

really divisive behaviour. Gagsy took a stand but i guess the firm has sent a suitable message they will not back you up even if you are treated in a shocking manner and about about the consequences of trying to change things

Which is it? 22 August 19 05:44

Amazing that all those very highly paid CC management guys let this get out of control and did not to the right things early on

Either there has been some shady behaviour and a clumsy attempt to cover up that spun out of control, or they are a bunch of chumps.

CC partners, what do you reckon? A bit of both?

Java Joe 22 August 19 09:46

Also Anon at 23.06

whats so wrong with management being unaccountable to the partnership? Seems like it’s actually a good thing so they can be truly independent.

Aunt Sally at 0607

as for recording conversations without consent that’s just wrong.

The Rational Peasant 22 August 19 10:15

Salaried Partner (Worker Bee) 19 August 19 19:14

A great idea that MPs/Management pay for their incompetence/bad behaviour out of their own pockets.As far as I can tell, the established concept of risk and reward doesn't really apply to MPs/Management as they appear to get all the reward but take little risk. I'm sure that the three dislikes will be from MPs/management.

Resignations looming? 23 August 19 08:41

I personally don’t see how there would not have to be resignations at a high level in CC if CC tried to silence a partner with a pretend investigation. Absolutely shocking behaviour and makes a mockery of the spin and PR they put out. If this can happen to a partner, what about the Secretaries, trainees, associates?