A top City litigator has been accused of incurring excessive costs in a bitter London court battle with a corporate espionage outfit he alleges spied on him.
Last year Neil Gerrard, co-head of white collar and securities litigation at US law firm Dechert, and his wife Ann sued Diligence International, with the couple alleging the firm used camouflaged cameras and tracking devices to spy on them.
The case has put the spotlight on the opaque world of corporate espionage and is the latest to involve Mr Gerrard. The former police officer is being sued by mining group ENRC, a former client of Mr Gerrard before the company accused him of leaking confidential information to the UK’s Serious Fraud Office. Mr Gerrard denies the allegations.
ENRC, a Kazakh miner that fell out of London’s FTSE 100 index in 2013, has admitted in court filings that it hired Diligence to spy on Mr Gerrard but said it was “justified” in light of the alleged wrongdoing by Mr Gerrard.
Lawyers for Diligence called the Gerrards’ costs, understood to amount to hundreds of thousands of pounds so far, “disproportionate”, according to correspondence seen by the Financial Times. If the couple win the case, Diligence may be liable to pay their costs. Enyo Law, which represents the Gerrards, declined to comment on the scale of their costs.
In the lawsuit filed in October, the Gerrards alleged cameras were fixed to their London home and two Diligence operatives attempted to gain access to their Caribbean island holiday by posing as his nephews.
In court documents, the Gerrards claim misuse of private information, trespass, harassment and data protection breaches. At least two Diligence operatives have been questioned by British police in relation to the accusation.
Mr Gerrard has applied to put his case against Diligence on hold until the outcome of his legal battle with ENRC, which has been under investigation by the SFO on suspicion of corruption in what has become one of the longest-running cases for UK prosecutors. ENRC has denied the allegations.
ENRC had hired Mr Gerrard to investigate the corruption allegations, but later accused him of leaking information to the SFO to help prosecutors expand their investigation into the miner and generate more legal fees. Mr Gerrard and Dechert deny those claims.
Lawyers for the Gerrards said that “given the overlap with other proceedings issued by the ENRC, the Gerrards have applied for a stay to the harassment action pending the determination of the other proceedings”.
ENRC said it objected to Mr Gerrard’s approach to the litigation, adding: “Mr Gerrard launched these proceedings claiming urgency, suggesting that he wanted a speedy trial. Recently he has taken no proactive steps, elected not to file a Reply and has now applied for a stay for a number of years.”
The case against Mr Gerrard is not the only legal battle Diligence is involved in. The company issued a US lawsuit against its chief executive Nicholas Day in January in which it made various allegations including that he had racked up $2.5m in company credit card bills. Mr Day has denied any wrongdoing.
The legal spat is the latest scandal to hit the corporate intelligence world in the wake of the death of an investigator hired to spy on a former Credit Suisse executive last year, and revelations about a Burford Capital executive accused of trading confidential information for a sex tape.
Dechert and Diligence declined to comment.
This story has been updated to include a comment from ENRC.