Gibson Dunn and Squire Patton Boggs lead legal line-up as UK firm takes dual role on Cambridge Analytica/Facebook scandal

Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, Squire Patton Boggs and UK firm Gunnercooke are among a growing line-up of legal advisers involved in the scandal engulfing Cambridge Analytica, the under-fire political consulting firm facing intense scrutiny over Facebook data harvesting.

The London-based firm, which last week suspended CEO Alexander Nix (pictured) after he was caught on film by Channel 4 News discussing unscrupulous political campaigning tactics, is being advised by both US firm Squire Patton Boggs and ‘new model‘ UK law firm Gunnercooke, which was founded in 2010.

Facebook, meanwhile, has brought in Gibson Dunn for advice on the scandal, which broke earlier this month when ex-Cambridge Analytica employee Christopher Wylie revealed that personal information about tens of millions of Facebook users had been harvested via a personality quiz app and shared with Cambridge Analytica without proper authorisation.

Gibson Dunn litigator Orin Snyder is taking a lead role for his firm, which has longstanding ties to Facebook. The US law firm advised on its 2011 settlement with the Federal Trade Commission over its handling of user data, with a team including partner Ashlie Beringer, who is now deputy general counsel at Facebook.

Gunnercooke litigation partners David Herbert and Fergus Buckley are advising Cambridge Analytica on efforts to confirm the deletion of the Facebook data trove, which was used by Cambridge Analytica to assist Donald Trump’s US presidential election campaign.

A Gunnercooke spokesperson confirmed to Legal Week that Cambridge Analytica and Facebook are longstanding clients of Buckley, who joined the firm in 2016 from Fladgate, and that in recent years he has worked with Facebook to “address its concerns about the possible misuse of data”. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has stated that Cambridge Analytica has agreed to a forensic audit to confirm it has deleted all “improperly acquired” data.

The Gunnercooke spokesperson added that the firm is also advising Cambridge Analytica and its parent company, SCL Group, in relation to “various breaches of legal undertakings” given to SCL by Wylie, as well as working to address allegations made by media organisations including The New York Times, The Guardian, The Observer and Channel 4 News.

Squire Patton Boggs is advising Cambridge Analytica on the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) investigation into its use of data, as well as allegations made against the company by various news outlets.

London litigation director Tim Lowles is understood to have acted for the company last year in relation to stories published by The Observer which linked the company to Brexit campaign group Leave.EU, although the firm has not responded to requests for comment.

The focus of the scandal has returned to Brexit in recent days, with The Guardian publishing new allegations of Cambridge Analytica’s connections to the Vote Leave campaign, based on claims by former Brexit campaigner Shahmir Sanni. Tamsin Allen, head of media and information law at London firm Bindmans, is advising both Sanni and Wylie.

On Friday (23 March), the ICO obtained a warrant to search Cambridge Analytica’s London offices, with Ben Summers of Three Raymond Buildings putting forward the ICO’s case.

Before the warrant was granted, Damian Collins MP, chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee investigating the scandal, tweeted that lawyers acting on behalf of Facebook had been in the offices of Cambridge Analytica “until they were told to stand down by the Information Commissioner”.

In a related development, Cambridge Analytica is also facing a High Court lawsuit from US professor David Carroll, who is claiming to get his data back from Cambridge Analytica.

He is being represented by privacy and data partner Ravi Naik of London criminal defence firm ITN Solicitors, alongside Dinah Rose QC of Blackstone Chambers, Ben Jaffey QC of Blackstone Chambers and Julianne Kerr Morrison and Nikolaus Grubeck of Monckton Chambers.

Cambridge Analytica, which suspended Nix last week after Channel 4 News aired undercover footage of him discussing the company’s use of bribes, ex-spies and sex workers, has appointed Julian Malins QC of Malins Chambers to lead an independent investigation into Nix’s comments, which the company has said “do not represent the values or operations of the firm”.

Other firms connected to Cambridge Analytica in the past include US law firm Bracewell, which in 2014 advised Nix and the company’s founders, Steve Bannon and Robert Mercer, that as a foreign national, Nix would have to recuse himself “from substantive management” of any clients involved in US elections.

The firm’s role was revealed in a memo – tweeted by Wylie – which was authored by Bracewell partner Lawrence Levy, who has since followed former name partner and ex-New York mayor Rudy Giuliani to Greenberg Traurig.

Photo credit: Sam Barnes/Web Summit via Sportsfile