A&O faces Gordon Brown con trick scrutiny as hacking row grows

Allen & Overy (A&O) has questioned aspects of allegations made by The Guardian that the law firm was ‘conned’ into handing over client files while acting for Gordon Brown, as claims continue to emerge in the phone-hacking scandal.

An article published today (11 July) on the guardian.co.uk website alleged that the law firm was tricked into handing over details from the former Prime Minister’s file by a conman working for a prominent newspaper, and also described A&O as Brown’s “London lawyers”, a claim which has since been amended.

Today’s story comes after News International last week announced the closure of the Sunday tabloid News of the World in the wake of a steady stream of phone-hacking allegations in recent weeks.

A&O declined to comment on the claims, other than saying that it has not acted for Gordon Brown.

A spokesperson for A&O said: “We can’t discuss client matters, but what we can say is that we did not advise Gordon Brown.”

The law firm has yet to properly review the scope of today’s allegations. However, it is thought that The Guardian‘s claims could be connected to A&O’s advisory role on the administration of the Maxwell Group, which saw Brown buy a flat owned by the company as it sold off assets to pay back creditors.

Brown purchased the flat in 1992 from one of the failed companies of the late media tycoon Robert Maxwell. The sale triggered claims in a Sunday newspaper in 2000 that the flat had been sold at an unusually low price, which led Brown at the time to publicly defend the circumstances of the purchase.

The Guardian has since released an audio recording of a call made to A&O in connection with the property (click here to listen to the clip).

A&O is currently one of the lead UK advisers on the BSkyB takeover attempt by News Corp, which currently faces much media scrutiny. The magic circle law firm is advising News Corp alongside US firm Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom on its bid to take full control of BSkyB.

The firm is advising the media giant on UK corporate law with a team led by City corporate partner Don McGown.

A&O has also previously acted for the UK Government, including holding a position on the centralised Catalist panel for Government legal procurement.

Click here to read the full Guardian article. For more analysis, see News Corp withdraws its undertakings: but why?