White & Case hit with record £250k fine for 'reckless' conflict of interest and confidentiality failures

White & Case has been fined a record £250,000 by the Solicitors Disciplinary Authority (SDT) for failings around confidentiality and conflicts of interest, with one London partner fined an additional £50,000.

The fine, which is the largest ever made by the SDT against a single firm, relates to a 2014 High Court case that saw the firm blocked from acting for Ukrainian client Victor Pinchuk, after it failed to identify a conflict of interest.

White & Case was referred to the SDT by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), with the SDT today confirming the £250,000 fine for the firm as well as a £50,000 fine for arbitration partner David Goldberg, who splits his time between London and Moscow.

An SDT statement said White & Case admitted acting “recklessly” by allowing work to be carried out without taking adequate steps to ensure there were no conflicts or risks of conflicts, and by agreeing to to take on further work without properly protecting the confidentiality of client information given to the firm.

Goldberg also admitted acting recklessly with regard to conflict and confidentiality issues.

He also admitted he had provided confidential information concerning work being undertaken on behalf of a client in one matter to a partner in the firm involved in a matter that gave rise to a significant risk of a conflict of interest between clients.

The SRA did not allege that the firm or Goldberg acted dishonestly and did not pursue allegations of lack of integrity against either Goldberg or White & Case.

A spokesperson for White & Case said: “While it would not be appropriate to comment until the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal has published its judgment, we have been cooperating fully with the SRA and accept the orders which will be made by the SDT. We are committed to upholding the legal industry’s highest standards at all times, in all of the jurisdictions where we operate.”

Insurance leader Clyde & Co and West End firm Fulgers jointly held the previous record for the largest fine received by a law firm from the SDT, at £50,000.

Clydes was fined in April for breaching money laundering rules by allowing the firm’s client account to be used as a banking facility. Three of the firm’s partners each received £10,000 fines.