28 February 2018

Russell McVeagh responds to sex on boardroom table allegations

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Claims that law students and lawyers had sex on the boardroom table after a seminar and an evening of heavy drinking at Russell McVeagh have caused furore with the Prime Minister wading in.

According to media website RNZ, a law lecturer has spoken out about an event she claimed occured at the law firm 'some years ago'. Auckland University of Technology senior law lecturer Khylee Quince claims she was approached by a student attending the event who was shocked by the evening's activities. However, the police were not informed as those taking part consented and no formal complaint was made. The lecturer had decided to raise the matter 'of some years ago' because she was incensed at Russell McVeagh's response to the recent claims of sexual harassment and assault of young women by their staff "as if it was unusual.' She was referring to the claims around the 2016 intern programme which saw two lawyers leave Russell McVeagh and a police investigation, as reported in the Global Legal Post last week. 

Consensual sex

The law firm responded to the latest allegations, saying they took place more that a decade ago and that that over the past 20 years there had been 'a limited number of allegations of poor behaviour involving consensual sexual events including on its premises.' It added that 'Due to the consensual nature of the event, a formal complaint was never made. However, it was investigated fully and those involved were reprimanded.' It added that it had a culture of zero tolerance of any sexual harassment and had commissioned an external review 'of the serious events of two years ago, which would include an examination of Russell McVeagh's culture and how it dealt with complaints.'

Entirely appropriate

The firm is facing more questions as politicans questioned whether it should be awarded work from the government. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has commented on the scandal after questions were raised about the firm's suitability for government work. She said it was entirely appropriate that law firm Russell McVeagh had announced an external review. 'I think every member of the public would have an expectation after seeing some of those stories that those firms undertake their own internal processes to respond to what are some significant allegations.'