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Royal Bank Libor Briefing Privileged, Judge Rules

By Chloe Smith » Documents prepared by magic circle firm Clifford Chance for Royal Bank of Scotland dealing with the fallout from the Libor scandal are protected by legal privilege, a High Court judge has ruled, asserting that lawyers should be able to give ‘candid factual briefings’. As part of a claim RBS is facing from the Property Alliance Group over its alleged involvement in the rate-rigging scandal, the bank was asked to disclose high-level documents prepared for a special committee at RBS. The bank claimed these were privileged. At a previous hearing Mr Justice Birss ordered that a set of these documents, which included meeting minutes and confidential memoranda, be inspected by another judge to determine whether the bank’s claim should be upheld. Ruling in Property Alliance Group v Royal Bank of Scotland, Mr Justice Snowden said: ‘Lawyers must be able to give their client candid factual briefings as well as legal advice, secure in the knowledge that any such communications and any record of their discussions and the decisions taken will not subsequently be disclosed without the client’s consent.’ He ruled that the high-level documents in question ‘fall squarely within that policy’. The issue arose out of a claim from the Property Alliance Group that RBS had induced it to enter into four interest-rate swap agreements between 2004 and 2008. Lawyers for the Property Alliance Group argued that Clifford Chance’s role was not confined to providing legal advice, referencing a witness statement by Paul de Gruchy, a senior legal counsel at RBS, that the magic circle firm was ‘also acting as the secretariat for the meetings’. Tim Lord QC argued that legal privilege should not be given simply because the briefing papers, agendas and minutes were prepared by a law firm.


[Courtesy: The Law Society Gazette].