Osborne Clarke becomes first firm referred to tribunal over alleged ‘SLAPP’

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By Legal Cheek on


Concerns firm’s representation of ex-Tory Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi

Osborne Clarke is one of two firms to be referred to to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) for allegedly using a so-called ‘strategic lawsuit against public participation’ (SLAPP) while representing former Conservative Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi.

Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) chief Paul Philip confirmed recently that the regulator had recently decided to refer two firms to the tribunal over their alleged use of SLAPPs, but declined to confirm their identities.

Last week, however, the Financial Times reported that one of the firms referred to the SDT is Osborne Clarke. The report claims that the referral relates to the firm’s actions on behalf of Zahawi regarding an investigation into his tax affairs by Dan Neidle, a former partner at Clifford Chance.

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A spokesperson for Osborne Clarke said:

“We are disappointed with the SRA’s decision to refer this matter to the tribunal, and we disagree with the basis and reasoning for the referral. We have carefully considered and investigated the matter with external advisers and are confident that the partner acted within the established law and practice in this area, a view supported by an independent leading media law KC. We consider that the partner concerned behaved fairly and appropriately in his communications with the third party and did not seek to mislead or take unfair advantage in any way. At no time did he provide any tax planning advice. We fully support and stand behind the partner in his defence of this matter.”

The SRA has been vocal in its warnings over the use of SLAPPs, describing them as a “threat to free speech and the rule of the law”. They are typically used by wealthy individuals as a way to silence legitimate criticism from journalists, campaigners and whistleblowers.

Last year, Philip urged firms to up their efforts to guard against potentially abusive litigation, emphasising the need for lawyers to “act with integrity” and refrain from “abusing the litigation process.

1 Comment


The coolest move from the SRA in a while, onto WBD next please…

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