Media-Targeting Law Firm Lied to Journalists About Phone-Selling Scandal

Journalists have long been familiar with the experience of an email from the Schillings law firm landing in their inbox threatening them not to publish a story about various celebrity clients, from footballers like John Terry and Cristiano Ronaldo to controversial oligarchs like Oleg Deripaska and charming businessmen like Philip Greene. Only the most distinguished clients…

So when Schillings themselves came under the spotlight earlier this year after the press got wind that their former Operations Director Martin Flowers had been illicitly selling on company phones, Schillings naturally came down like a tonne of bricks on papers attempting to run the story. One national publication received an aggressive letter from Schillings point blank denying the story:

“There is no proper basis for such serious allegations to be made. There has been no data breach. If you have any evidence to support your allegation, you should put this to us. You will not be able to do so, as no such evidence exists. You are not the first media outlet seeking to publish this serious allegation, which derives from a malicious source who has express knowledge of the falsity of the allegation and has an axe to grind against this firm, evident from his attempts to have other newspapers publish his false allegation when others realise this would be unlawful.”

It turns out that the evidence very much did exist – the Solicitors Regulation Authority this week found that Flowers had indeed taken 95 handsets belonging to Schillings and then sold them to a phone recycler over five years, pocketing £13,547 for himself. Flowers was fined the same amount by the SRA and disqualified from working in the legal profession or being employed by any licensed body. Schillings’ clients like Deripaska will no doubt be delighted that corporate phones from their legal representatives made their way onto the black market. Whoever sent the misleading letter from Schillings is lucky they didn’t sign it with their own name, otherwise they might well be facing an inquiry from the SRA themselves now…

UPDATE: A co-conspirator notes that according to the SRA’s report, Schillings were first “alerted by Vodafone after it had identified unusual activity on the account”. For Vodafone to notice the unusual activity this suggests that the phones were still connected to the network when they were sold on. Could potentially turn into an even stickier situation for Schillings…


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