City firm backs huge group action case against Google

Google will face a consumer action complaint potentially including millions of claimants, in one of the largest representative action cases to date.

The ‘Google You Owe Us’ group has alleged that Google unlawfully harvested personal information by bypassing the default privacy settings on the iPhone during a period of several months in 2011/2012. The group said around 5.4m individuals who had an iPhone in this period could be eligible for compensation.

City firm Mishcon de Reya is advising the group, which is being led by Richard Lloyd, consumer rights campaigner and former director at Which?.

Litigation funder Therium Captial Management, also currently funding the high-profile shareholder action group claim against Lloyds, is to help fund the case, reportedly to the tune of £15.5m.

James Oldnall (pictured), lead Mishcon partner on the claim, said the case would remove the need for individuals to bring an action which they would otherwise be unlikely to do. ‘In this way Google and other tech companies can be held to account in relation to any alleged breaches of UK data protection law.,’ he said. ’As data has quickly become an important new currency in the information economy and is very valuable to large corporations, it is important consumers find methods – such as this representative action – that can effectively police the rights given to them by parliament.’

Oldnall added that although the total sums made by Google from misusing data are likely to be large, the damages suffered by each individual are relatively small.

People affected will automatically be part of the claim, unless they wish to opt out and could get as much as ‘several hundred pounds each’.

Such opt-out group action cases were enabled by the Consumer Rights Act 2015. A huge case, in which 46 million MasterCard consumers claimed £14bn from the credit card company in protest at so-called excess ‘interchange fees,’ was thrown out of the Competition Appeal Tribunal earlier this year. An appeal has been filed. The Lloyds shareholder case is ongoing.

The case centres on Google’s cookies system. It is alleged that for several months Google placed ad-tracking cookies on the devices of Safari users which is set by default to block such cookies.

Peter Vicary-Smith, chief executive of Which?, said: ‘This welcome campaign should empower consumers by bringing the issue into the spotlight and enabling those affected to rightly seek collective compensation.’

A Google spokesperson said: ’This is not new – we have defended similar cases before. We don’t believe it has any merit and we will contest it.’

Commercial Litigation and ADR Mechanisms in Nigeria

Litigation is the most common form of dispute resolution in Nigeria. Its origin is entrenched in the English common law. Oftentimes, litigation is cumbersome because of ingrained culture of litigation which results in overflow of cases and delay in adjudication. This is bad for business and business relationships. The need for a more efficient dispute resolution process has contributed to the prominence of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanisms in recent years.

Nigerian courts through their rules now encourage litigants to resolve their disputes by adopting ADR mechanisms. The court may, with the cooperation and consent of the parties, refer the parties to ADR centers attached to the court system. If successful, the agreed terms of settlement is adopted as the consent judgment of the court. If unsuccessful, the matter is referred to court for adjudication. In adopting ADR processes, the parties may opt for informal tribunals which use informal mediation processes without possessing a formal structure or formal tribunals using formal mediation processes.

The most known and practiced ADR mechanisms in Nigeria are Arbitration, Mediation and Conciliation;

(a) Arbitration

Arbitration is the process of dispute resolution between parties to a submission or arbitration agreement. The parties agree on the composition of the arbitral tribunal, seat, timetable, procedural rules, substantive law of arbitration and finality of the decision of the arbitral tribunal. The key theme in arbitration is ‘party autonomy’. Arbitral proceedings avoid much of the formalities, proof and procedure required by courts. The arbitral tribunal may determine its jurisdiction under the competence-competence rule. Generally, the arbitration process is regulated by the Arbitration and Conciliation Act CAP A18, LFN 2004.

Arbitration is recommended for most businesses because of its confidentiality, speed, reduced cost compared to the cost of delay in court, specialized expertise of the arbitral tribunal and party autonomy. Both local and foreign arbitral awards are enforceable by Nigeria courts upon the winning party obtaining leave to register and enforce the award against the losing party.

(b) Mediation

Mediation is a voluntary, non-binding and private dispute resolution process in which a neutral person helps the parties to reach a negotiated settlement. Mediation is very flexible. A mediator applies nonbinding communication techniques to enable the parties arrive at a common terms of settlement. While there are no Federal laws governing mediation, States in Nigeria have enacted laws on mediation.

In Lagos State, Lagos Multi-door Courthouse was established for the referral of ADR cases. The domestic sources of mediation law include the Lagos State Multi-Door Court Law 2007 and the accompanying Lagos State Multi-Door Court Practice Directions on Mediation, the Citizens Mediation Centre Law 2007 and the Lagos Court of Arbitration’s (LCA) Mediation Guidelines 2011. In Kano State, there is the Mediation and Arbitration Rules 2008.

(c) Conciliation

Conciliation is another legal form of resolving disputes in a less adversarial and private manner. Under this process, the parties agree to resolve their dispute through a neutral independent person known as the Conciliator. Conciliation is also regulated by Arbitration and Conciliation Act CAP. A18 LFN 2004.

The appeal process

An appeal against final judgments is brought within 90 days after delivery of judgment and 14 days for interlocutory rulings. The Court of Appeal rules allows an Appellant to bring an application before the appellate court for enlargement of time to file an appeal. An appeal does not operate as a stay of execution of judgment at the trial court; the Appellant has to file for a stay of execution of judgment pending the outcome of the appeal. An appeal is filed against questions of law of the trial court. If an Appellant wants to bring an appeal against questions of facts or mixed law and facts, it must seek and obtain leave of the appellate court.

The parties shall settle the record of appeal at the registry of the trial court and transmit it to the registry of the appellate court. The Appellant shall file its Appellant’s Brief within 45 days after transmission of the record of appeal. The Respondent shall file the Respondent’s Brief within 30 days of receipt of the Appellant’s Brief. The Appellant shall file a Reply Brief within 14 days of receipt of the Respondent’s Brief. The parties shall, at a date fixed for hearing by the appellate court, adopt their respective briefs and the appeal will be adjourned for judgment.

Advantages of resolving disputes in Nigeria

Unlike other jurisdictions in Africa, the rules of Nigerian courts encourage and provide avenues for litigants to explore amicable and less acrimonious settlement of their dispute. Nigerian courts uphold arbitration and other ADR clauses and in most instances stay court proceedings pending the outcome of arbitral proceedings. The court system support ADR proceedings by granting necessary interim orders, discovery and enforce arbitral awards in the same way as its judgments.

Assistance in commercial litigation

Commercial lawyers are interested in their Clients’ business and their business relationship with their customers. This is why they explore amicable settlement of disputes involving their Client without compromising their Clients’ interests. If amicable settlement fails and the parties do not have an arbitration agreement between them, it may be expedient to suggest to the parties to sign a submission agreement to enable them submit themselves to arbitration because of its speed and confidentiality. If litigation is inevitable and their Clients’ claim is a liquidated sum, time would be saved by commencing a summary judgment proceeding. If their Client is the defendant, genuine admissions and reasonable offer towards timeous resolution of the matter are veritable options in preventing litigation from escalating.

Cost of litigation

Litigation has the potential of resulting in high cost for parties and their businesses because of its unpredictability. Though arbitration is much more efficient in today’s business climate, there are certain disputes that can only be resolved by litigation. Disputes involving moral questions, questions of public law, criminal, matrimonial, insolvency, matters, ownership of land, dissolution of a company and testamentary matters cannot be referred to arbitration. In practice, only contractual disputes are referred to arbitration.

sedgwick

US law firm Sedgwick announces closure in early January

US law firm Sedgwick has announced that it will close down in early January, following a string of partner departures and office closures.

“We have concluded that the best way to allow our lawyers to continue providing great service to our clients is by ceasing operations and moving to other excellent law firms,” the San Francisco-based firm said in a statement. “We are pleased that most of our lawyers and staff have opportunities with very fine firms.”

Two sources familiar with Sedgwick said a large number of lawyers and staff may be hired by Clyde & Co. One source said that representatives from the UK firm will be meeting with Sedgwick in the coming weeks to assess which of the firm’s lawyers and staff it will hire. Another source said that some Sedgwick employees would be out of a job as early as 1 December.

Michael Knoerzer, Clyde & Co’s New York managing partner and a member of the firm’s global management board, said his firm would not comment about potential acquisition targets.

Sedgwick managing partner Michael Healy, who assumed leadership of the firm in early 2015, did not immediately return a request for comment about its talks with Clydes, which earlier this week expanded into Malaysia.

In its statement, Sedgwick expressed pride in its lawyers and staff. “While this news deeply saddens all of us, we are very proud and appreciative of all those who helped make Sedgwick the great firm it has been since 1933,” the firm said. “From the bottom of our hearts, we thank our clients, attorneys and staff for everything you have done for us for decades, and we wish anyone who has ever crossed paths with this wonderful law firm the best and brightest future.”

From Austin, Texas, to Washington DC, and Chicago to New York, Sedgwick has seen a number of its offices dwindle or close this year. More recently, the firm has seen departures from its San Francisco headquarters.

The latest lawyers to leave the firm in San Francisco were partners Steven Roland and Randall Block, who this month joined local firm Burke Williams & Sorensen. Both ex-Sedgwick partners declined to comment about their decision to leave the reeling firm, which The American Lawyer reported in June had lost 20% of its revenue this year due to partner defections, an exodus that quickened after the January departures of 40 lawyers in New Jersey and Texas.

Roland had served in management positions at Sedgwick for more than 15 years, including leading the firm’s commercial litigation practice.

Other recent departures include appellate litigation partner Agelo Reppas in Chicago, who recently joined local firm BatesCarey. Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani also recruited Sedgwick civil litigation partner Kendra Canape in Irvine, California, while Bullivant Houser Bailey brought on Sedgwick products liability partner Rachel Tallon Reynolds in Seattle.

UK firm Kennedys has recruited six partners from Sedgwick in New York and Chicago in recent months, including New York and Chicago managing partners John Blancett and Eric Scheiner.

Sedgwick’s Bermuda associate Sedgwick Chudleigh also recently split from the faltering US firm to join Kennedys’ global network.

The departures have slashed Sedgwick’s headcount to fewer than 160 lawyers, a 39% drop from 12 months ago, according to data compiled by ALM Legal Intelligence. That is by far the largest fall in headcount among Am Law 200 firms during that period. Sedgwick has lost at least 49 partners, 60 associates and 19 counsel within the past year.

Newcastle United FC

Freshfields & Dentons head up takeover bid for NUFC

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Dentons are playing the lead roles on PCP Capital Partners’ takeover offer for Newcastle United Football Club.

It was widely reported yesterday (20 November) that PCP had made a bid in the region of £300m for the Premier Legal club late last week, although the exact value of the offer has been disputed.

Newcastle’s owner, Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley, announced last month that he was considering a sale after 10 years of ownership.

The club, which he purchased for £133m in 2007, is currently sitting in 11th place in the Premier League after returning to English football’s top flight this summer following its relegation in 2016.

A competitive bidding process is now underway, with a number of interested parties taking part.

Dentons is advising Ashley on the bids, with real estate partner Andrew Henderson leading the firm’s team alongside corporate partners Richard Barham and Matt Tinger.

PCP, which is led by CEO Amanda Staveley, has turned to Freshfields for advice. Private equity partner Charles Hayes and corporate partner Christopher Mort are leading the magic circle firm’s team on the bid.

Mort also led the Freshfields team that advised Ashley on his takeover of the club in 2007. He was subsequently appointed as club chairman, taking a year-long sabbatical from Freshfields to fill the role.

Dentons also played a role on the 2007 deal, advising Newcastle United president Sir John Hall on the sale of his stake to Ashley, with corporate partner and current UK CEO Jeremy Cohen heading up the firm’s team.

Real estate partner Henderson has acted for Ashley’s company Sports Direct on a series of property deals, including its acquisition of 161-167 Oxford Street and 36 Poland Street for £108m and its £44m disposal of an office block to the University of Westminster.

In a statement, Dentons said: “We are delighted to be engaged on such an important and high-profile instruction, which demonstrates our multidisciplinary strengths, our expertise in the sporting sector and our role as key business advisers to our clients.” Freshfields declined to comment.

Ashley also regularly turns to City firm RPC, which advised him on his recent High Court win against investment banker Jeffrey Blue. The case hinged on the allegation that during a night of heavy drinking, Ashley had promised Blue £15m if he could boost Sports Direct’s share price from £4 to £8.

PCP, meanwhile, is currently embroiled in a legal dispute with Barclays over a controversial $3bn capital-raising exercise by the bank at the height of the 2008 financial crisis.

At the time, Barclays held discussions with both PCP and Qatar Holding, then the bank’s largest shareholder. PCP alleges that Barclays acted dishonestly with regards to the different terms offered to Qatar Holding for participation in the capital raising and is claiming hundreds of millions of pounds in damages.

US firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan is acting for PCP on the dispute, while Simmons & Simmons is representing Barclays.

QATAR

Quinn Emanuel secures licence to launch an office in Qatar

Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan has secured a licence to launch an office in Qatar,  a move that will give the firm its first base in the Middle East.

The firm received approval from the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) earlier this month (7 November), allowing it to practise both international and local law in Doha.

Quinn construction partner James Bremen, who also chairs the firm’s construction and engineering practice, is named on the filing as its representative. He joined the US litigation powerhouse in December 2016 from Herbert Smith Freehills, to launch a UK construction disputes group.

It is understood the firm plans to find office space in the QFC early next year. The office will be led by Bremen and will include about five associates, all recruited locally in Doha. Bremen is expected to be the only partner in the office, dividing his time between London and Qatar. While at HSF, he also split his time between both these locations.

It will not be a full-service office but will serve Bremen’s practice, which is focused on construction projects and disputes.

Until 2006, international firms were restricted from launching in Doha without an association with a locally trained lawyer. Since then, the QFC has allowed firms to move in through its own separate regulatory framework.

The office opening will be the first for the firm in the Middle East and bucks a trend of international firms scaling back in the region.

In April, King & Wood Mallesons (KWM) cut ties with local firm Majed Almarshad, leaving the firm with just one base in the Middle East.

Keystone Law to be listed on the London Stock Exchange

Keystone Law is set to become the third UK law firm to list on the London Stock Exchange after announcing its intention to float.

The firm said in a statement that it planned to join London’s Alternative Investment Market (AIM) later this month, with the new trading entity to be known as Keystone Law Group plc.

The firm said shares will begin trading on 27 November, with Keystone hoping to raise £15m in total, based on a placing price of 160 pence per share that values Keystone at £50m.

Keystone founder James Knight, who will become chief executive of the listed company, said: “The entire team has worked hard to establish our position as one of the leading UK mid-market challenger law firms. Our decision to list on the London Stock Exchange will provide us with the most resilient and stable platform to support our ambitious growth plans long into the future.

“The UK legal services market is the second largest in the world and we believe the Keystone model is well placed to take advantage of this significant opportunity. ”

Squire Patton Boggs corporate partner Adam Hastings is serving as legal adviser to Keystone Law on the IPO.
Keystone Law Keystone Law, which was established in 2002 and converted into an Alternative Business Structure in 2013, has its roots as a virtual law firm, with its lawyers using technology to work from their own offices or homes before opening a string of offices across the UK as well as the Channel Islands and Australia.

In 2014 private equity firm Root Capital injected £3.15m into the business, with the firm subsequently achieving annual revenue growth of more than 20%. Turnover in 2016-17 stood at £26m.

NYC

Clifford Chance New York partner Ed O’Callaghan departs

Clifford Chance New York white collar partner Ed O’Callaghan has left the firm to join the US Department of Justice.

O’Callaghan started his new role – as principal deputy assistant attorney general – today (13 November) in the DOJ’s National Security Division. He will responsible for helping to shape US national security and enforcement priorities.

He exits after six years, having joined in 2011 as a partner in the firm’s government investigations and white collar criminal defence practice.

Previously, O’Callaghan worked for US firm Nixon Peabody for just over two and half years, where he headed up the firm’s government investigations and white collar defence group.

Before that, he worked for the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, where he was co-chief of the terrorism and national security unit.

During his time with CC, he represented senior executives and officials of JP Morgan in connection with $6.2bn (£4.7bn) of trading losses in 2012; O’Callaghan acted for Achilles Macris, who was head of the London branch of JP Morgan’s chief investment office, where the trader nicknamed the “London Whale,” Bruno Iksil, worked.

He also acted for former top FIFA official Jeffrey Webb who was arrested for corruption charges in 2015. Webb, who pleaded guilty later that year, was among several officials arrested in 2015 on corruption charges following an inquiry by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

In addition, he helped secure a major win in Washington, DC for Dutch aerospace firm Fokker Services in 2014 in a case relating to alleged US sanctions violations.

A CC press spokesperson said: “Although he will be missed by our firm, this is a great opportunity for Ed as he returns to government service…We want to thank Ed for his many substantive contributions to our firm, notably in connection with high-profile global investigations.”

Freshfields and Slaughters advising on the merger of energy giants

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Slaughter and May are advising on the merger of energy giants Npower and SSE’s domestic retail operations.

The deal will create a new independent British retail energy company, listed on the London Stock Exchange. Npower parent company Innogy will own 34.4%, with SSE shareholders holding the other 65.6%.

Freshfields, which was appointed to SSE’s inaugural legal panel in 2014, is advising the Scotland-based company with a team led by London corporate partner Simon Marchant, alongside fellow corporate partners Julian Pritchard and Andrew Craig, and competition partners Deidre Trapp and  James Aitken.

Slaughters and Hengeler Mueller are advising Innogy, working with the Germany company’s in-house legal team.

Slaughters corporate partners Richard Smith and Tim Boxell are leading the magic circle firm’s team alongside competition partner Lisa Wright, financing partner Ed Fife and pensions and employment partners Charles Cameron, Padraig Cronin and Daniel Schaffer.

The Slaughters team also includes intellectual property partner Rob Sumroy, tax partner Gareth Miles and financial regulation partner Nick Bonsall, while the Hengeler team is being led by corporate partners Andreas Austmann and Thomas Meurer.

Innogy’s in-house team includes Innogy GC Claudia Mayfeld, head of legal M&A Tobias Bage and head of legal antitrust and energy Malte Abel.

Other firms appointed to SSE’s panel in 2014 alongside Freshfields included Addleshaw Goddard, Osborne Clarke, CMS and Kennedys.

In 2015, Freshfields’ Trapp advised SSE over market reforms following a damning report by the Competition and Markets Authority, which found that energy companies were overcharging customers who failed to switch suppliers.

Appleby defends business model in leaked documents probe

Offshore giant Appleby has admitted that some of its clients’ data was “compromised” in a data security incident last year, but insists its practices and clients’ businesses are legitimate.

The fourth largest offshore law firm Appleby has come under the spotlight as the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) launched an investigation into the business of the firm’s clients via leaked documents.

The ICIJ enquiries come following a data security breach in the Bermuda-based firm’s IT system in 2016 and concern the firm’s business and the activities conducted by some of its clients.

It is reported that a number of media organisations are preparing to release details of the leaks over the coming days.

Appleby issued a statement last night in response to the ICIJ allegations, although it did not specify what the allegations were.

“These enquiries have arisen from documents that journalists claim to have seen and involve allegations made against our business and the business conducted by some of our clients,” said the firm.

The firm said it took any allegation of wrongdoing “extremely seriously”, and found “there is no evidence of any wrongdoing, either on the part of ourselves or our clients” having investigated the allegations itself.

“We are a law firm which advises clients on legitimate and lawful ways to conduct their business. We do not tolerate illegal behaviour,” said the statement.

“It is true that we are not infallible. Where we find that mistakes have happened we act quickly to put things right and we make the necessary notifications to the relevant authorities.”

In light of intensifying scrutiny on law firms’ cyber security and data protection systems, Appleby added that: “We are committed to protecting our clients’ data and we have reviewed our cyber security and data access arrangements following a data security incident last year which involved some of our data being compromised. These arrangements were reviewed and tested by a leading IT forensics team and we are confident that our data integrity is secure.”

The firm expressed the view that it was “disappointed” that the media may choose to publish material “obtained illegally” and said this may result in “exposing innocent parties to data protection breaches”.

“Having researched the ICIJ’s allegations we believe they are unfounded and based on a lack of understanding of the legitimate and lawful structures used in the offshore sector,” it concluded.

According to The Lawyer’s 2017 Offshore Top 30 report, Appleby is the fourth largest offshore law firm by number of lawyers. In 2016, it had 464 staff, including 223 fee-earners, 60 of whom are partners.

The firm has adjusted to being a stand­alone law firm following the disposal of its fiduciary business in December 2015. Following the sale, Michael O’Connell was re-elected to managing partner in January 2016 for a three-year term.

Bryan Cave and Proskauer increase London promotions for 2017

Bryan Cave and Proskauer Rose have promoted one and three lawyers to partner respectively in London.

Bryan Cave has made up corporate lawyer Andrew Hart, who joined the firm from legacy Finers Stephens Innocent in 2008.

After three years, Hart left to become a senior associate at Clayton Utz in Australia. He returned to Bryan Cave’s London office in 2013.

Hart is one of 13 lawyers promoted to Bryan Cave’s partnership this year. The other promotions are across the firm’s US offices.

Bryan Cave’s partner announcements comes at an important time for the firm, as it continues its merger talks with UK-headquartered Berwin Leighton Paisner.

The firm has not promoted a London lawyer since 2014, when commercial litigator Robert Dougans was made up.

Meanwhile, Proskauer Rose has announced a global promotions round of 14, with three making the cut in the City.

Funds lawyers Edward Lee and Andrew Shore have been made partner, along with corporate lawyer Liam Arthur.

Proskauer Rose last made a promotion in London two years ago when funds and tax partner Catherine Sear was elected.

Partner promotions in full

Bryan Cave

Andrew Hart, London, corporate
Kenneth Achenbach, Atlanta, regulatory
Amy Taylor Wilson, Atlanta, corporate
Karl Marschel, Chicago, real estate
Amy Simpson, Dallas, real estate
Desmonne Bennett, Denver, litigation
Julie Westcott O’Dell, Irvine, employment
Kamao Shaw, Irvine, finance
Alexander Walden, New York, IP
Jessica Edwards, St Louis, tax
Stefan Mallen St Louis, litigation
Michael Schwartz, St Louis, corporate
Megan Gajewski Barnhill, Washington, regulatory

Proskauer Rose

Camille Higonnet, Boston, funds
Matthew McBride, Boston private equity
Ehud Barak, New York, restructuring
Frank Saviano, New York, corporate
Chantel Febus, New York, investigations
Malcolm Hochenberg, New York, tax
Vincent Indelicato, New York, restructuring
Christopher Ahn, LA, corporate
Christopher Wu, LA< corporate

Liam Arthur, London, corporate
Edward Lee, London, funds
Andrew Shore, London, funds

Cedric Jacquelet, Paris, employment
Nicolas Léger, Paris, employment