Reed Smith has earned nearly $1.4 million so far for its work on one of two investigation in which it is involved focused on the British Broadcasting Corporation's handling of allegations that longtime BBC TV host Jimmy Savile was a serial sex offender, according to a BBC report released Tuesday.
Lawyers in The Am Law 100 firm's London office were hired last fall for the two assignments related to the Savile scandal, which erupted in October 2012 after BBC rival ITV aired a documentary detailing an array of sexual abuse claims—many of them involving children—against the late TV personality. The BBC came under fire in the wake of those revelations for reportedly killing a 2011 investigative report by journalists working for its Newsnight program on the abuse allegations in favor of a series of programs celebrating the eccentric and charity-minded Savile in the months after his death in October of that year.
The $1.4 million paid to Reed Smith covered the firm's work on an investigation conducted by veteran British journalist Nick Pollard into the BBC's handling of the unaired Newsnight program. The total cost of Pollard's inquiry was $3.6 million, according to the BBC's final tally.
Pollard, who once headed Sky News, concluded in December that while the series of events surrounding the shelving of Newsnight's Savile report represented one of the worst management crises in BBC history, "the decision to drop the original investigation was flawed and the way it was taken was wrong but I believe it was done in good faith." Pollard's 186-page report, backed by thousands of pages of supporting documents, highlights Reed Smith's role in the investigation and notes that its lawyers' duties in the matter included reviewing documents, arranging interviews with witnesses, and hosting those interviews at the firm's London offices.
Reed Smith's work on its second Savile-related assignment—assisting retired British judge Dame Janet Smith, whom the BBC hired to conduct an impartial review of the broadcaster's culture and practices during the Savile years—continues. Smith is expected to release a report detailing her findings later this year. The BBC said Tuesday that it had spent a combined total of $7.4 million through the end of March an its three Savile inquiries. (British attorney Dinah Rose conducted a third review on sexual harassment and bullying at the news agency.)
Reed Smith commercial disputes partner Richard Spafford, who led the team assisting Pollard, referred a call seeking comment to the firm's press team. In a statement, Reed Smith confirmed it has been advising Pollard and Dame Smith since October, including "providing legal advice to the review chairs, advising in relation to the collection and consideration of evidence and the preparation of reports."
Other Reed Smith lawyers working on the matter include disputes partners Carolyn Pepper and Ben Summerfield and associates Victoria Walker and Hyun-Jung Kim.
Reed Smith's hiring last October raised the ire of British politicians who claimed the firm wasn't an independent adviser because it has long done work for the BBC. U.K. publication The Lawyer reported at the time that Pollard defended the decision to retain Reed Smith, saying he was "aware from the outset that Reed Smith [is] one of the BBC’s legal advisers on unrelated matters."
Baker & McKenzie—the BBC Trust's primary outside counsel in connection with Pollard's investigation—earned $549,000 for its work on the matter, according to a report in U.K. publication Legal Week on the broadcaster's Savile scandal legal fees.