Linklaters moves to distance itself from charity — a year after it was placed under investigation
Exclusive: Magic circle firm’s logo removed from Human Aid’s website and name deleted from sponsorship page
Elite global law firm Linklaters has moved to distance itself from a charity which delivers aid to Syrian refugees — over a year after it was placed under investigation by the Charity Commission.
A government-led investigation into Human Aid UK over its financial controls and governance is now entering its 15th month, yet until last week Linklaters’ logo appeared on the charity’s website as a “sponsor” and as recently as June the firm’s Islamic Society was raising money on its behalf.
An investigation into a charity is not in itself a finding of wrong-doing and Human Aid is cooperating fully with the Charity Commission, yet questions will be asked as to why Linklaters allowed its name to be associated with the charity while the investigation is ongoing.
This is a screenshot from Human Aid’s website last week. Users of the website could click the firm’s logo, which took them directly to Linklaters’ official website.
When Legal Cheek alerted Linklaters to this on Thursday the logo was removed within hours. The firm says it was not a sponsor of the charity, as had been indicated, and the use of its logo was not authorised. Human Aid has not responded to Legal Cheek‘s request for comment.
Linklaters’ name also featured on a Virgin Money fundraising page set up to raise money for Human Aid via an event on 15 June this year. Linklaters’ name was removed from this page on Thursday. Human Aid’s account has been suspended on JustGiving, another online fundraising site, but remains live on Virgin Money.
Linklaters says that the page was raising funds to provide gift boxes for children at Great Ormond Street Hospital, facilitated by Human Aid as part of its ‘staff fund matching scheme’, whereby the firm matches the amount of money raised by its lawyers and other staff for charities.
The scheme raises funds for hundreds of charities each year. Matched giving staff donations tend to be varied and financially modest, compared to the firm’s centralised programmes with its official charity partners — of which Human Aid is not one.
A spokesperson from Linklaters told Legal Cheek:
Our matched giving scheme can be used by staff to support registered charities or recognised not-for-profit organisations. Human Aid fits this criteria.
Human Aid is a London-based charity whose aim is to provide relief to victims of natural or other disasters, advancing public education and promoting racial harmony. Among many projects, including in Bangladesh, Gambia, Gaza, the UK and elsewhere in the world, Human Aid has been working with Syrian refugees.
In the story reporting that Human Aid had been placed under investigation, charity industry trade publication Third Sector wrote:
Charities working in Syria and neighbouring countries have been a particular concern for the commission in recent months. In addition, the police have made several arrests this year while investigating charity fraud with potential links to terrorism in the area.
There is no suggestion that Human Aid is involved in fraud or has any links to terrorism.
Human Aid registered with the Charity Commission in September 2010 and had an income of £250,211 in the year to 31 March 2013, which was nearly five times that it generated in the previous year. This figure then quadrupled in the following financial year to £1,006,510. Human Aid says that this rapid growth is as a result of public support for its work in Syria.
Since it was placed under investigation in August last year, Human Aid has pledged to cooperate fully and expressed confidence that all issues would be addressed, adding:
We are of the view that there is an active policy to restrict the work of charities in Syria, through continuous monitoring and investigations. We are sure that our donors understand this, and would expect us to continue supporting the people of Syria.
In a statement released at the time of the launching of the investigation, the Charity Commission said:
The regulator is investigating concerns about the charity’s management, including concerns about poor financial controls and record keeping, including inadequate fundraising controls, and concerns about a lack of trustee oversight.
When contacted by Legal Cheek for this story, the Charity Commission confirmed that the inquiry into Human Aid “is still ongoing”.