Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) has confirmed that it has suspended one of its senior lawyers in Australia for harassment, with the intention to axe him from the partnership this week.
The firm said that an Australian partner was suspended on 9 March and has received a notice of the firm’s intention to remove him from the partnership this Friday, 23 March. The Sydney Morning Herald and the Australian Financial Review say sources have confirmed that the partner is Peter Paradise, who leads the firm’s projects team in the Asia-Pacific region.
Several people have come forward to make a number of allegations about the partner’s behaviour, the Anglo-Australian firm said, adding that it has acted promptly and is taking them very seriously.
“The firm conducted an investigation which found sufficient evidence from multiple sources to conclude that the partner's behaviour contravenes Herbert Smith Freehills' International Standards of Conduct, the regional Australian Workplace Behaviour Policy, and the values of the firm. The misconduct is behaviour for which Herbert Smith Freehills has no tolerance,” it said.
Due to the findings of its internal investigation, the firm is moving to remove the partner as quickly as possible, in accordance with its global partnership agreement. The move is endorsed by its global council, the highest oversight body of the firm.
“Herbert Smith Freehills is acutely aware that it took courage and integrity for its people to come forward and speak up. In order to protect and support these individuals, no further details of the circumstances will be made public by the firm,” the firm said.
CEO Mark Rigotti said that the main priority of the firm is to support the affected individuals.
“It is paramount that the individuals who have come forward feel fully supported and can have faith that the firm is taking the right action. We do not tolerate behaviour that contravenes our values, codes and policies and we will not accept behaviour that violates a person’s dignity or erodes their self-respect,” he said.
Rigotti said that “as custodians of the business, the partnership in particular must live and breathe our values and do all they can to ensure that all our team members enjoy an open, inclusive and supportive working environment that encourages them to thrive and enables them to be their whole, true selves at work and outside work.”
He said that on a personal level, he is deeply disappointed to hear how the behaviour of the senior lawyer has impacted others at the firm.
“Every one of our people deserves to be treated with respect and dignity and the action we are taking should highlight the importance of this,” Rigotti said.