Former Dechert partner cites global amnesia, COVID-19 in UK High Court defence

The ex-head of white-collar crime at the firm was on trial for a negligence case involving the Serious Fraud Office

Former Dechert partner cites global amnesia, COVID-19 in UK High Court defence

A former partner at Dechert has cited “global amnesia” and COVID-19 in his defence before the UK High Court in a trial for a negligence case involving the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).

The Law Society Gazette reported on Friday that Neil Gerrard, who once headed up the white-collar crime team at the global firm, was accused of being “knowingly untruthful” regarding the SFO’s intent to interview Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation’s (ENRC) former global compliance head Cary Depel. Gerrard had been retained by the Kazakh mining company to investigate wrongdoing claims at one of its subsidiaries in 2010.

However, the company later took Gerrard and Dechert to court for negligence, claiming that Gerrard had regarded its matter as a “cash cow” by which he could justify his massive million-dollar salary. ENRC also alleged that Gerrard disclosed information to the SFO that he was not authorised to reveal.

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The SFO has denied wrongdoing.

Gerrard had told the court that he was not aware of the SFO’s plan to compel Depel to answer its questions via a “section 2” interview. The reveal of a text message to Gerrard from Depel later on in the trial, however, indicated that Gerrard was one of the few who did know about the interview.

Clare Montgomery QC, who acted for ENRC, pressed Gerrard on the implications of the text message and his role in arranging the interview. However, Gerrard insisted that he had “absolutely no memory” of the text exchange, even though he acknowledged that “it demonstrates I am on notice.”

Gerrard said that he had been battling COVID-19, and that he had a poor memory.

“I was reminded by my wife in the break I suffered from several bouts of something described as global amnesia,” he told the court. Mr Justice Waksman, who is the judge in charge of the London Mercantile Court, responded by warning Gerrard against discussing his evidence outside of court.

Gerrard acknowledged that leaving the ENRC in the dark about Depel’s interview was a failure of his duty.

Gerrard and Dechert continue to deny the ENRC’s claims, saying that they had not breached confidence of either contract or of fiduciary duty towards the company. They also rejected the allegation that they had acted in negligence or with recklessness.

The trial for the case is ongoing.

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