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Sir Phillip Green Loses Confidence in Breach of Confidence Case13th February 2019 Media Law
The Telegraph has reported details of several allegations of racial, physical and sexual abuse against retail tycoon, Sir Phillip Green.
The allegations stem from Sir Phillip’s reported treatment of certain employees, who later went on to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements (“NDAs„). Sir Phillip is said to have paid out millions of pounds in settlements for staff members to keep quiet about their matters. The Telegraph is now able to name Sir Phillip Green after the Arcadia Group Chairman discontinued his breach of confidence claim, effectively discharging the newspaper’s obligations under an injunction previously granted in September 2018.
Lawyers representing Sir Phillip Green explained in court that continuing the claim was “pointless„ after Sir Phillip Green was identified in the House of Lords as the person behind the injunction. Sir Phillip is reported to be facing a hefty legal bill after discontinuing the claim.
The case raises questions about how the Telegraph obtained the information in the first place, the effectiveness and ethics of NDAs, and the rule of law. Despite the injunction, Sir Phillip was named in the House of Lords by Lord Hain, taking advantage of parliamentary privilege to disclose information which he believed was in the public interest. Legislators using the veil of parliamentary privilege to undermine the courts raises serious issues about the interference of parliamentarians in the Court process.
In general terms, if parties freely enter into an NDA (which they appear to have done in this case), then it could be argued that the contractual agreement of the parties should be respected and upheld. It is also important to note that an NDA is not an admission of liability per se and can be entered into for a number of reasons, i.e. to avoid litigation and save costs and time.
However, following this and other recent controversies, it has been reported that the government will be conducting a review into the use of NDAs in the workplace, looking at whether they are being used by wealthy individuals to cover-up and permit workplace harassment. The government has previously pledged to tackle issues surrounding NDAs, but it will be interesting to see if any reform is actually implemented in this area.