Russell McVeagh abuse report due out today

Hints of “shocking abusive bullying” and “abuses of power” seem to have leaked out in advance of the review of alleged sexual abuse and abuse of power at Russell McVeagh.

RNZ: Russell McVeagh review details to be released today

RNZ understands the review details incidents of “shocking abusive bullying” and “abuses of power”.

Partners at the firm have been walked through the findings in a fraught meeting with Dame Margaret Bazely, with some left in tears.

The review is looking into the sexual harassment claims of 2015/2016 and the firm’s response, any other sexual harassment claims or any other improper conduct and the firm’s response to those claims, the firm’s standards, systems and policies relating to the management of staff, the firm’s implementation of those policies and whether they adequately safeguard staff from sexual harassment and the culture of the firm.

The review will be made public at 10am. Following the release, Dame Margaret Bazely will brief Russell McVeagh staff.

RNZ details the background to revelations being released:

  • On 14 February, Newsroom published a story detailing three sexual assault complaints involving interns and two older male lawyers at leading law firm Russell McVeagh. It was reported the incidents took place two years ago. That summer there were ten clerks on the summer intern programme. Five of the clerks were female and they declined full-time job offers from the firm after the programme.
  • In the following days, Victoria University confirmed several of its students on internships at Russell McVeagh reported being sexually assaulted by lawyers. The police were involved but no charges resulted.
  • At the time, Russell McVeagh senior partner Pip Greenwood said the firm’s board was aware of the allegationsand conducted an internal investigation. The men involved no longer work at the company, she said.
  • Just over a week after the initial story broke, new allegations were made of inappropriate sexual conduct between university students and senior lawyers at Russell McVeagh. In a social media post, AUT law lecturer Khylee Quince said the Auckland University students described an evening where there was heavy drinking between students and lawyers, leading to sex on a boardroom table.
  • At the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s annual review in late February, National MP Melissa Lee raised questions over the government’s continued use of Russell McVeagh.

If the pre-release reports are accurate it sounds like tough times for Russell McVeagh.

At least it appears to be being addressed, so some good may come out of this if it is dealt with properly by the law firm.

Newsroom also pre-empt the release of the report: Four things the Russell McVeagh review must address

Questions have been raised about when Russell McVeagh knew and responded to allegations ranging from sexual assault to rape by five summer interns. The claims relate to at least two incidents and involved two lawyers employed by the firm at the time. Bazley has been tasked with reviewing and giving recommendations relating to the allegations, plus Russell McVeagh’s policies around sexual harassment and the wider culture of the firm.

The main things Bazley’s report must address:

  1. How Russell McVeagh handled the complaints
    Russell McVeagh has ensured the review is independent, but there is no indication whether Bazley has been given full and complete access to all of the firm’s records.
  2. Reference for one of the men involved
    One of the lawyers went on to work at Duncan Cotterill, the other went on to share an office with other lawyers.Duncan Cotterill said it had no idea of the allegations at the time the man was hired. Duncan Cotterill said it was led to believe by a reference check that the incident was minor.
  3. Continuing to use one of the men for legal work 
    One of the men was receiving Russell McVeagh work once he left the firm. Russell McVeagh told Newsroom it was ethically obliged to keep him on a case, even though the law firm had to ban female staff from working on that account and bar the former senior staffer from attending meetings at its office.
  4. Why Russell McVeagh did not inform the Law Society 
    The Law Society was first informed of the claims in October 2016 when one of the women told the society, almost 10 months after the incidents. The firm’s partners may have breached their legal obligations under the Lawyers Conduct and Client Care Rules by failing to report the alleged misconduct immediately.

We may or may not get answers to these questions today.

Leave a comment

18 Comments

  1. Blazer

     /  July 5, 2018

    No surprise that in their own words ‘NZ’s foremost law firm’ regards themselves as exempt from the behaviour expected of mere mortals.
    Go back to the Winebox and also read Tony Molloys ‘Fifty pieces of Silver’,and you will appreciate the arrogance and entitlement and the disdain for conventions that are embedded in this firm.

    Reply
    • Corky

       /  July 5, 2018

      Blazer. You must accept with privilege comes advantages. That has always been the way of the world. You are either on the corporate ladder… or you are underneath getting piddled on.

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  July 5, 2018

        Well, except that along comes #metoo, & now all of a sudden you’re up the ladder, & that stuff has started raining down on you.

        Reply
      • MaureenW

         /  July 5, 2018

        Privilege? You mean trying to entrap subordinates for sexual favours and making their time in the workplace hell if they don’t play along.

        Reply
        • Corky

           /  July 5, 2018

          Did you think the corporate world was all about board meetings and bottom lines?

          Reply
          • MaureenW

             /  July 5, 2018

            No, I’ve been in it – seen it, experienced it – it’s downright ugly. Creepy old men with withered dicks trying to get a bit on the side they wouldn’t otherwise get voluntarily, short of paying for it.

            Reply
          • MaureenW

             /  July 5, 2018

            I’ve had the pleasure of laughing in the face of an MD of a multi-national – lost my job of course and worth every second of it.

            Reply
          • Corky

             /  July 5, 2018

            ”Creepy old men with withered dicks ”

            Damn fine wordage. However, let’s not forget the gentlemen who grace boardrooms across the globe..

            Reply
            • MaureenW

               /  July 5, 2018

              What is your point?

            • Corky

               /  July 5, 2018

              You generalised too much. Not all corporates are filled with withered weasels looking for an outing.

            • MaureenW

               /  July 5, 2018

              Nowhere did I say “all” or “everyone”. It was though an entrenched behaviour that is now being outed for the grottiness that it is.

      • Blazer

         /  July 7, 2018

        take this off the bludgers they’d be outta business…like the dole for big wigs…

        ‘Information released to RNZ under the Official Information Act shows Russell McVeagh provides legal services to 22 government agencies – earning $3.1 million in the last financial year.’

        Reply
  2. sorethumb

     /  July 5, 2018

    I keep a wary eye on all this stuff. I wouldn’t mind betting there are a few “bad actors” here.
    The thing to do may be complain immediately not years after.

    Reply
  3. Gezza

     /  July 5, 2018

    Catriona McClennan, in commentary on the Herald’s live feed, said it was disappointing, basically a whitewash. Of course, it’s good to see that the names of the perpetrators have been kept out of it to protect the identities of the female complainants. But to be fair, with the circles Dame Margaret probably moves in, she needs to tread carefully.

    Reply
  4. PDB

     /  July 5, 2018

    ‘Felt intimidated, confused and uncomfortable’, ‘drinking culture’, ‘young people urged to drink in excess’, ‘people in high positions did nothing’, ‘victims thought they should have been safe’, ‘victims not being listened to’, ‘an internal investigation launched which appeared to do little to address the concerns’, ‘attempts made by the organisation to bury the story’.

    Anyhow enough about the Labour party youth camp, what about Russell McVeagh then?

    Reply
    • Blazer

       /  July 6, 2018

      ’30 Pieces of Silver’ A.Molloy Q.C ..read it and…weep.

      Reply

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