One of the top private equity lawyers in London has been accused of ordering sensitive information to be destroyed.
The story began when Jonathan Fairman, one of the founders of Ocado, left to set up rival grocers TDP. Ocado claimed that TPD had made inappropriate use of confidential information. TPD denied this, said that Ocado’s allegation had forced the collapse of a lucrative tie-up with Waitrose and announced that it would be coming after Ocado for a fortune as a result. An unholy mess, and one which will undoubtedly prove very lucrative to the many lawyers involved.
One of whom is Raymond McKeeve, Jones Day’s leading private equity man and one of the best-known corporate lawyers in the City, who is acting for TPD. And who, The Times reports, has now been accused by Ocado of contempt of court.
Ocado claims that when it asked for files on TPD’s secret communications service to be preserved, McKeeve told his client to destroy the evidence “initially with a message that read ‘burn it’ or ‘burn all’ and promptly thereafter over a telephone call… It is to be inferred that the communications platform contained information relevant to the defendant’s unlawful conduct”.
How it might have looked
TPD is having none of it, saying that no evidence was deleted, the communications system was simply a device to provide cheap phone calls, and that McKeeve asked for it to be deleted “for personal reasons”. It may well be right – this could be an entirely baseless allegation and nothing more than a tactic by Ocado. But readers will have to make up their own minds, because Jones Day refused to defend their man and provide RoF with any comment.