Friday 16 November 2018

Fashion tycoon is named as man in #MeToo gag case

Injunction: Topshop’s Philip Green was named in parliament
Injunction: Topshop’s Philip Green was named in parliament

Claire Newell

Fashion tycoon Philip Green was named yesterday as the businessman at the centre of a new #MeToo scandal in Britain.

The Topshop magnate's identity was exposed under parliamentary privilege in the House of Lords after a judge banned 'The Daily Telegraph' from revealing his non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) with alleged abuse victims.

Peter Hain, the former Leader of the House of Commons, said that he felt a "duty" to reveal the name.

He told the Lords he had been contacted by "someone intimately involved in the case of a powerful businessman using non-disclosure agreements and substantial payments to conceal the truth about serious and repeated sexual harassment, racist abuse and bullying, which is compulsively continuing".

Mr Hain went on: " I feel it's my duty under parliamentary privilege to name Philip Green as the individual in question given that the media have been subject to an injunction preventing publication of the full details of this story, which is clearly in the public interest."

'The Daily Telegraph' had spent the past eight months investigating allegations of bullying, intimidation and sexual harassment made against the businessman.

However, on Tuesday the newspaper was prevented from revealing details of the non-disclosure deals by Terence Etherton, the Master of the Rolls, the second most senior judge in England and Wales.

His intervention made it illegal to reveal the businessman's identity or to identify the companies, as well as what he is accused of doing or how much the payments to his alleged victims were.

In a 20-page ruling, the Court of Appeal called the businessman "ABC" and described the allegations as "discreditable conduct".

The interim injunction order states that in five cases "substantial payments" were made to five people as part of "settlement agreements" or NDAs.

The gagging of the newspaper has renewed controversy about the use of injunctions to limit British press freedom.

Unlike his alleged victims, the newspaper had not signed any kind of NDA with the businessman. It has argued there is a clear public interest in publishing the claims, not least to alert those who might be applying to work for him.

The accused man has hired a team of at least seven lawyers and spent close to £500,000 (€565,000) in legal fees to persuade the Court of Appeal to injunct 'The Daily Telegraph'.

He is represented by legal firm Schillings, which worked with Cristiano Ronaldo, Lance Armstrong and Ryan Giggs, individuals who have controversially made use of NDAs or injunctions to silence accusations of wrongdoing against them.

On Tuesday, in the latest twist in a legal fight which began in July, the court ruled that the confidentiality of contracts was more important than freedom of speech.

It overturned a previous High Court ruling - which can now be reported for the first time - which found that publication of the allegations would be overwhelmingly in the public interest and would significantly contribute to debate in a democratic society.

In the High Court case, Mr Justice Haddon-Cave concluded that "in all the circumstances, the public interest in publication outweighs any confidentiality attaching to the information".

Irish Independent

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