Dechert accused of leaking confidential information to The Sunday Times in long-running ENRC dispute

Dechert has been accused by former client, Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation (ENRC), of leaking confidential information to The Sunday Times in the long-running dispute over the firm’s investigation into allegations of corruption at the mining company.

The former FTSE 100 company has been granted permission by a US court to subpoena Sunday Times US West Coast correspondent Danny Fortson to produce all documents “describing, reflecting or constituting communications” between Dechert and ENRC.

ENRC claims that Fortson – who wrote a 2013 article about evidence of corruption contained within a letter sent by Dechert to ENRC – was leaked “highly confidential” information by the US law firm.

Dechert took a lead role on the investigation into claims of wrongdoing by an ENRC subsidiary in 2011, with global white-collar co-head Neil Gerrard bringing over the mandate when he joined from DLA Piper earlier that year.

The court documents granting the subpoena – filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California late last month – describe the investigation as “extremely sensitive” and state that Dechert was fired by ENRC in March 2013 in an “acrimonious” split.

Dechert followed up the split by writing to ENRC, alleging misconduct by the natural resources company based on confidential information provided to the firm by ENRC while it was a client.

ENRC, which denies the claims in the letter, alleges that it was leaked by Dechert based on the fact that it was “highly confidential” and “only a limited number of people had access to it”. ENRC also claims that Dechert “had an apparent motive to leak the letter after it was terminated” by the company.

A spokesperson for Dechert said: “We emphatically reject any allegations about a leak from Dechert.”

Charles Harder and Dilan Esper of US law firm Harder are representing ENRC, while Dechert’s lead lawyer is the firm’s San Francisco managing partner Joseph Escher.

The latest development comes after ENRC last year accused Dechert of “systematic and gross overcharging” in relation to the firm’s £16.3m bill for 23 months of work relating to the Serious Fraud Office (SFO)’s criminal investigation into the company, which began in 2013. In a High Court ruling, the judge said Dechert’s fee estimates were based on “highly unrealistic” assumptions.

Earlier this week, The Law Society appointed Reed Smith to represent it as it seeks to intervene in the SFO’s ongoing investigation into ENRC. The Law Society is considering an intervention due to fears that legal privilege is being eroded after the High Court ruled in May that ENRC must hand over documents to the SFO that had been shared between the company and Dechert while it was a client of the firm.

The Sunday Times is not commenting at this stage.

Photo credit: Howard Lake