looking into it

The investigation of the review of the probe.


A former Freshfields partner has been exonerated after the Solicitors Regulation Authority dropped its marathon investigation into her handling of a review.

In 2017, a graduate trainee at UBS identified only as 'Ms A' for legal reasons, alleged that she woke up after a work drinks event in a senior colleague’s house with no memory of how she got there, and believed he had raped her. 

When Ms A claimed that UBS's subsequent investigation was a whitewash, the bank instructed Caroline Stroud, who at the time was Freshfields' Global HR Partner and head of its employment team, to conduct an independent review of its investigation. The Freshfields partner made several recommendations, but concluded that UBS hadn't made any "fundamental errors".

However, Ms A alleged that Stroud's review was also fatally flawed. She accused Stroud of misleading her, including by telling her that Freshfields wasn't acting for the bank. Stroud said that her comments, which Ms A recorded, had been taken out of context.

Stroud, who retired during the SRA's three year investigation into Freshfields' investigation into UBS's investigation, has now been cleared.

In a statement, Freshfields said, "We are pleased to confirm that following a thorough review, the Solicitors Regulation Authority has completely exonerated Caroline Stroud regarding a complaint made about her role on a client mandate in 2018 and the matter is now closed. Caroline is an outstanding employment litigator who has built a renowned reputation as one of the best in her field over her long career".  

The SRA said, "We have looked at all the available information and decided to close the matter with no further action". 

"If further information is made available, we can look again at the issues", the regulator added, leaving the door open to depthcharging the tranquility of Stroud's retirement.

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Comments

I hate the office. I hate WFH. I hate everything. 11 February 22 09:48

Caroline was a remarkable partner and I was really shocked at this turn of events - she was one of the most talented and well liked partners in the London office when I worked at FBD. 

Anonymous 11 February 22 10:08

I found this story hard to follow. I'm a bit thick being from a comprehensive school but this story definitely missed some important details.

Anonymous 11 February 22 11:30

"I'm a bit thick being from a comprehensive school"

Commiserations, you are a victim of both your background and your genetics. Double oppression is the worst kind of oppression.

 

 

 

 

Apart from triple oppression, obviously. 

Blimey 11 February 22 14:27

"Stroud, who retired during the SRA's three year investigation into Freshfields' investigation into UBS's investigation, has now been cleared."

That made me laugh, but this isn't funny. It is a form of punishment to be subject of a three year investigation that ultimately clears you. Who polices our profession's police exactly? Imagine someone complained to the SRA that their solicitor took 2.5 years to do a pretty straightforward investigation about what was said at a recorded meeting. Would the SRA criticise them (three years later) for being so unfeasibly slow or (as seems more likely) ask them for tips on how they did it so astonishingly fast? I hope she got a letter of apology from the SRA but I rather doubt it.

And no, I don't work at Freshfields before someone makes the quip.

Anonymous 11 February 22 18:20

@Blimey - if you think her treatment was bad, just imagine what would have happened if she was male!

nb1234 11 February 22 22:44

Let’s take a step back here. She is a handsomely paid equity partner at a massive firm. She decided to accept instructions from UBS to ‘independently’ investigate whether they had properly investigated somebody being raped at a works event.

She is guilty of being a complete idiot at the very least. 

Anon 12 February 22 17:19

nb1234

Am I missing something?  Why does accepting a challenging and sensitive instruction make someone an idiot?  Isn't that why some of us went into the law - to work on challenging and sensitive instructions?  

nb1234 13 February 22 19:26

Anon have a look at the Employment Tribunal judgment where UBS refused to provide the report to the employee (alleging rape) as they asserted privilege. And that was given short shrift, not least because the lawyer had persuaded the employee (alleging rape) to be interviewed by saying that she wasn’t acting as the company’s lawyer.

If she couldn’t figure out whether her work would be privileged - and it clearly wasn’t - she clearly didn’t think through taking on the work. This was utterly foreseeable.

As a lawyer it is clearly a potential problem to claim to be doing an ‘independent’ investigation for a large existing client.

In terms of accepting challenging and sensitive instructions, she is an employment lawyer not a criminal lawyer. Her job is to advise the client on carrying out the investigation or to defend any litigation arising. Not to carry out a supposedly independent investigation, only for the client then to claim privilege. Against the backdrop of a rape allegation. 

Human 15 February 22 08:20

Money can't buy independence. The commercial pressure would always be to exonerate the engaged.

Instructions like these are at an unacceptably high risk of becoming a whitewash for abuse, and indeed that is what many of them are.

It is not in the interests of the public for such engagements, purporting to be independent when a reasonable person would not believe they were, to be permitted.

Markingownhomework 18 February 22 04:53

The obvious issue is that UBS are a huge client of Freshfields. Of course FF will conclude “nothing to see here”. UBS should have instructed a firm who have no prior relationship with them, that is the only way any purported investigation will be free of bias and the appearance of bias. 

Anonymous 18 February 22 12:49

@Human - agree with much of what you say. I wouldn't go as far as not allowing such investigations, but their independence has to be viewed realistically.

The difficulty though is finding a way to genuinely independently investigate such claims without their being pressure brought to find adverse findings via personal attacks on independent investigators who clear accused people. I have seen a lot of 'independent' investigations where the person doing the investigation reaches a guilty verdict because that is what they think they're supposed to find.

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