Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s review of how UBS responded to a complaint of serious sexual misconduct has been described as a “whitewash” by the woman who made the allegations.
The former graduate trainee, who alleged she was raped by a senior colleague at the bank, told Legal Week, Law.com’s London affiliate, that the Magic Circle firm had “overlooked many pieces of evidence” and “chosen to shut their eyes to UBS’s flawed misconduct processes.”
The woman last week met with Freshfields employment litigation and investigations partner Caroline Stroud, who led the firm’s review, to discuss the report, which found that UBS made “no fundamental errors” in its investigation into her claim.
“It strikes me as a whitewash,” she told Legal Week. “Freshfields overlooked many pieces of evidence that I personally gave to both the bank and the law firm.”
“I worry that the bank, and its shareholders, have paid a lot of money to a law firm which, for all intents and purposes, has added weight to excuses and chosen to shut their eyes to UBS’s flawed misconduct processes.”
UBS global investigations head Ursula La Roche was also present at the meeting, which was held at Freshfields’ London headquarters office on Nov. 1.
The woman was given a two-page summary of the review, which stated that Freshfields had concluded there were no “fundamental” errors in the investigation process, and set out nine recommendations for UBS to “improve its investigation and response to such matters in the future.”
“I would encourage Freshfields and the bank to be clear on their definition of ‘fundamental,’” the woman said. “I was told in a meeting with both parties that it meant no illegal error. The review wasn’t focused on the legalities, so that is a redundant statement.
“They spoke to me like a child and refused to answer many of my questions,” she continued. “Either they were unprepared, or I—not represented by a lawyer—was more prepared than they expected.”
The woman also claims she raised concerns over the independence of the report, given that Freshfields was paid to carry it out.
Freshfields’ recommendations included minimizing delays in conducting interviews with individuals raising concerns; ensuring a “strong tone from the top of zero tolerance of sexual misconduct”; the creation of a confidential hotline for complaints; and the appointment of a specialist sexual misconduct champion.
Freshfields declined to comment.
UBS said: “We have no further comment beyond the confirmation last week that we provided the independent report to our regulator and that this report concluded that there were no fundamental errors in the investigation process and that the investigation team sought to conduct the investigation fairly.”