A partner at RPC has left the City firm after she was accused of concealing information and falsifying a court document in order to fool her own client, Christopher Steele, the ex-MI6 agent who compiled the infamous ‘Trump dossier‘.
The stunning allegations about Nicola Cain, who until recently was a partner in RPC's media team, were made by her former colleagues at the High Court, where Steele is being sued for defamation.
Cain began acting for the former spy after a Russian businessman, Aleksej Gubarev, and his company sued Steele for naming them in his 2016 dossier on Russian leverage over Donald Trump. The dossier became public when it was published in 2017 by BuzzFeed.
During the hearing, the claimants accused Steele of failing to properly disclose information to them over the course of the proceedings. But Steele's defence team countered the accusations by stating that Cain was to blame.
The lawyer who outfoxed a superspy, briefly.
In closing submissions in July, Steele's barrister, Gavin Millar QC of Matrix Chambers, said that Steele and his company, Orbis Business Intelligence, were "the blameless victims of serious professional failures by the partner at RPC who had responsibility for this matter until very recently".
Keith Mathieson, one of the UK's top defamation lawyers and the head of RPC's media team, said in a witness statement that the partner, who was not referred to by name, “actively, seriously and repeatedly misled the Defendants about these proceedings”. He said she was pulled from the case in February after her actions came to light.
According to Steele’s defence, Cain failed "for months" to disclose documents which were meant to be provided to the claimants, in breach of a court order and without telling Steele. She then concealed the claimants' repeated complaints about her failure to provide them, and concealed the fact that they had applied for a court order to strike out Steele's defence if he did not hand them over.
When Cain eventually disclosed a list of documents to the claimants, she did not show the list to Steele and instead signed it on his behalf, said Millar QC.
Cain also concealed the fact that the court had made an indemnity costs order against Steele, and the fact that she had given a witness statement which attempted to explain why the court’s earlier disclosure order had been breached, said the barrister. In one of the most serious incidents, Cain gave Steele a falsified court order "in order to conceal the true orders made by the court", he said.
Steele's defence team told the court that it had to bear in mind "this important – indeed quite extraordinary – background" when addressing the claimants' criticisms of Steele's disclosure.
Steele, back when he only had to worry about Russians, Trump and pee tapes.
Steele was "shocked and dismayed" when he was informed for the first time in March 2020 about Cain's "many serious lapses", said the defence, and "remains extremely upset and distressed".
Cain, who was a senior barrister at the BBC before she moved to RPC's highly regarded media practice three years ago, has now left the firm. In a statement provided to RollOnFriday, she apologised for her conduct, but said her time at RPC had caused her to suffer mental health issues, and provided a letter she received from the firm regarding her situation.
"Since January of this year, I have been in receipt of treatment to address mental health issues I sustained during and as a consequence of my time at the firm", she said.
Cain said she had not seen the court submissions, so was not in a position to comment on their content. "In any event", she said, "I am not at liberty to discuss confidential client matters. Nor am I at liberty to discuss with you the treatment I received at RPC, the matters which led to my resignation, or the terms upon which I resigned as a Partner of the firm with effect from 30 April 2020".
"With respect to my failure to comply with certain of my professional obligations, I apologise profusely for my conduct, which let down my client, colleagues, fellow Partners, the firm and the profession. I can confirm that I am not practising as a provider of reserved legal activities, and that I self-referred to relevant regulators", said Cain.
James Miller, RPC's Managing Partner, said, "We won't comment on the specifics of this individual case. However, it goes without saying that we always insist on the highest levels of professional integrity at RPC. We also place the utmost value on health and wellbeing, and have many programmes in place to support our people at all levels of seniority. We will continue to invest in making sure we build on the resources we already have available".