Sir Philip Green has abandoned his highly publicised action against the Daily Telegraph aimed at preventing publication of damaging allegations against him. His legal costs (including most of the newspaper’s for which the court has ruled he is liable) are said to be in the region of £3million.
In bringing the case the tycoon had hoped to make a temporary injunction issued in 2018 permanent.
That interim measure had prevented the Telegraph from publishing details of:
Now that the injunction has effectively been lifted, the Telegraph has published – in painstaking detail – allegations of sexually and racially inappropriate behaviour by Sir Philip and details of payments of up to £1million to former employees.
Sir Philip maintains that his behavior was never unlawful. Essentially he argued that the allegations against him were defamatory and would cause irreparable harm to his business. Hard to put a price on that of course. But many believe that in hindsight – and from an objective, hard-headed business perspective – it’s difficult to justify the time and expense incurred by Sir Philip and his company Arcadia in taking the action against the newspaper. The cost – in monetary and reputational damage – is hard to underestimate.
The term ‘gagging order’ isn’t a strictly legal one. It’s been coined in recent years by the media to refer to a court order that restricts what one party can say or publish about another.
Often used by celebrities and high profile business people, they have been criticised for their potential to restrict free speech, for their cost and for their ineffectiveness in the age of social media sites such as Twitter and Instagram.
Sir Philip Green’s case also put the spotlight on another type of legal tool that restricts or ‘gags’ what an individual can say about a particular matter – the NDA. Several of these agreements were signed by Arcadia employees. Let’s look at both in turn.
The type of injunction sought by Sir Philip Green is a common, legitimate legal mechanism used in a wide variety of circumstances. Few are as high profile as the Green v Telegraph case. At Nath Solicitors in London for example we are increasingly instructed by individuals who need urgent injunctive relief because of the threat of something damaging being published on social media. These cases touch on a range of legal issues including misuse of private information and harassment and confidentiality.
Employees who made allegations about Sir Philip’s behaviour in internal grievance procedures were compensated for any distress. But the money they received (reportedly up to 1 million in some cases) would have to be repaid if they ever spoke about that behaviour to a journalist. Individuals could also be sued by the company. NDAs like these are regularly used as part of a settlement agreement reached between an employer and an employee at the end of a period of employment.
While they are appropriate in many employment law scenarios, calls for the abolition of NDAs in the wake of the Sir Philip Green case have become almost deafening. Critics believe NDAs are being forced on victims of harassment and bullying by powerful companies backed by high-powered legal teams. Calls for a review of the law on NDAs are likely to grow louder in the wake of revelations that, in the wake of the Telegraph’s victory, Sir Philip’s company has threatened the NDA signatories with legal action if they now disclose information covered by the NDA. Indeed the judge in the case has warned that such action could be seen as an abuse of process.
Injunctions or gagging orders are a complex and costly legal area. It’s estimated that Sir Philip had incurred half a million in legal costs by last summer. As we’ve mentioned, Nath Solicitors regularly acts in this type of case. The firm is flexible enough to act and advise urgently when necessary. Our high profile and high net worth client base means we understand the need for discretion at all times.
We also offer real value for money as specialist solicitors providing City-calibre advice at a reduced cost. For more information please call us on +44 (0) 203 670 5540 or contact us online .
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