A former Paul, Weiss lawyer who is suing the firm and its London Managing Partner for £136 million for harassment, sex discrimination and bullying has failed to convince the Employment Appeal Tribunal to let her call witnesses who alleged similar mistreatment.
Anna Christie was a corporate associate in the US firm's London office until she was sacked in February 2018, for what she alleges was retaliation for raising grievances. Two other women in the London office also made complaints about the firm. Corporate associate Sonia Larsen is on maternity leave, while Saiqa Panday left the firm in December.
Christie told the EAT that she had expected both women to testify at her upcoming hearing to a toxic culture for women at the five-partner London office, and had even secured Larsen's agreement to appear as a witness.
But after Christie submitted her application to the court for Witness Orders, Larsen and Panday both settled their claims, which included signing Non-Disclosure Agreements. When Christie contacted Larsen to check she was still happy to testify, Larsen replied that she could not. "I'm unfortunately no longer at liberty to make any statement or discuss my case", she wrote. "I'm sorry". Panday's job title on LinkedIn is now listed as "NDA attorney at Paul, Weiss".
Christie's appeal sought to persuade Judge Eady QC to overturn the Employment Tribunal's decision not to allow her to make a Witness Order compelling Larsen to testify. It had ruled that doing so might force Larsen to break the NDA's confidentiality requirements and risk making her the subject of satellite litigation.
Representing herself with her father alongside her, Christie described how Paul, Weiss was intending to call seven male witnesses to testify that its London office was not a hostile working environment for women, whereas Christie's two female witnesses had been gagged by its use of the controversial instrument.
Their plan was to "attack the credibility of the claimant in a vacuum", she said, and if her appeal was not allowed, "the right to buy a witnesses' silence in a nefarious transaction" will "act as an incentive" to "pay off witnesses without fear of consequences". The firm "continue to use their power and revenue of $1.5 billion to prejudice [my] claim", she said.
Acting for Paul Weiss, Paul Epstein QC said that silencing victims with NDAs "is not the issue" and that Christie's account was "hotly contested" by the firm. Larsen and Panday were not "made to sign" NDAs, he said, and contrary to Christie's allegations there was "no witness intimidation". Christie was dismissed for poor performance, said Epstein, and for "unacceptable and egregious misconduct" by starting a PhD at Cambridge University which took her away from work. The US firm, said Epstein, "requires all hours availability".
Judge Eady QC ruled that the tribunal was “obviously troubled” by Paul, Weiss's use of NDAs, but said that "the ET was not concerned with the issue of NDAs as a whole”. Their existence was one of several factors considered, and “the ET did nothing but include a permissible step in its decision”, she said.