AllAboutLaw blog: Non-Disclosure Agreements, an unusual rooster and more

This week’s blog looks at the continued use of non-disclosure agreements and the resulting discontent surrounding these settlements; the decision taken by ministers to set aside the Saudi Arabia arms sale ruling; and the rooster that is polarising France.

  • Last updated Jul 10, 2019 9:31:09 AM
  • Tuula Petersen
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#MeToo: controversy surrounding NDAs is still relevant

Following the #MeToo movement and the Harvey Weinstein sexual misconduct allegations, Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) have come under intense scrutiny. NDAs enable individuals to silence their accusers in return for large sums of financial compensation. Due to the nature of NDAs, their use is generally limited to the wealthy and powerful. But many accusers have disregarded the terms laid down in their NDAs and have publicly denounced their alleged aggressors.

Last year, allegations surfaced against Topshop owner Sir Phillip Green, prompting prime minister Theresa May to promise reforms on NDAs. Only last month, MPs expressed their contempt with the government's efforts to limit the use of NDAs. However, the majority are settled by private bodies, making their regulation rather more complicated.

Most recently, one of Britain’s richest and most powerful figures was granted the right to remain anonymous following a lengthy court case with The Times. The newspaper sought to reveal the identity of the high-profile multimillionaire in the context of the public debate about the use of NDAs to silence alleged victims. The individual had settled considerable financial agreements with two women, forcing them to withdraw their claims of sexual harassment and forbidding the women from publically discussing their allegations.  

The accused’s bid to remain anonymous coincides with Sir Cliff Richard’s decision to launch a legal anonymity reform petition. If successful, individuals accused of sexual harassment would only have their identities revealed once they are charged. The move comes after the BBC covered a police raid on Sir Richard’s home following a child sex assault allegation. It took two years for prosecutors to drop the allegations and clear his name.

The chair of the Women and Equalities Select Committee, Maria Miller, sums up the controversy surrounding NDAs in relation to sexual harassment allegations as “at best murky and at worst a convenient vehicle for covering up unlawful activity with legally-sanctioned secrecy”. 

NDAs are not exclusively used to cover up sexual-harassment cases. There are also cases where they may have been used to mask cases of discrimination. Labour party members have allegedly attempted to use non-disclosure agreements to silence former employees from talking about antisemitism within the party, as revealed a BBC documentary expected to air today.

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“No organic law can ever be framed with a provision specifically applicable to every question which may occur in practical administration. No foresight can anticipate nor any document of reasonable length contain express provisions for all possible questions.”

Abraham Lincoln, first inaugural address, March 4, 1861.

 

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Ministers have asked for the Court of Appeal’s ruling on the Saudi Arabia arms trade to be set aside

Last month, the court of appeal ruled that British arms sales to Saudi Arabia are unlawful and accused ministers of ignoring whether civilian deaths as a result of airstrikes constituted a breach of humanitarian law. Government lawyers have asked to set aside the existing judgement until the appeal process is exhausted, which has been criticised by various groups, such as the Campaign Against Arms Trade, as a complete disregard for civilian lives. 

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The case of a rooster—and its wider implications

A French rooster is being sued by neighbours in the rural town of Saint-Pierre-d’Oléron due to the bird’s early morning call. However, what may come across as an inconsequential legal case has become a symbol of a greater socio-political divide in France; a rift between urban holidaymakers and the rural inhabitants. 130,000 people have signed a petition supporting the bird and its owner.

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Firm news

- Withers plays an important role in the US Supreme Court’s decision on the taxation of trusts.

- A new lead partner, Tom Chiffers, has been appointed at Medipts division of the local law firm Mogers Drewett.

- Nestle SA and Cargill Inc., represented by Hogan Lovells, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher and Mayer Brown, are stuck with a Ninth Circuit decision reviving a class action filed by six former child slaves from Mali.

- The Treasury has spent £3 million hiring the law firm Hogan Lovells to help with Brexit preparations.

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Further reading

A report published on Monday by LexisNexis highlights the growing importance of the small law firm sector. This is partly because the number of solicitors leaving larger practices to work in smaller firms has increased from 53% in 2016 to 64% in 2019.

More than 400,000 companies located in the British Virgin Islands due to its tax exemptions are desperately relying on a group of lawyers to protect them from the transparency movement.

Professional negligence has been expanded following a ruling by the High Court in relation to the hypothetical action of a third party.

Airports are gradually increasing their use of facial recognition technology instead of traditional passport scanners, but most travellers are unaware of their right to opt out of it.

A Detroit minister has tackled drug-related crime by using community policing.

The Botswana government seeks to appeal a ruling decriminalising homosexuality. 

A civil case has been dropped against Kevin Spacey over the alleged Nantucket groping incident, but the actor still faces a criminal charge of indecent assault and battery.

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