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Cyril Amarchand allegation: Ex-Chennai team took client files, cites CCTV & Shardul WhatsApp evidence

CAM alleges evidence of departing lawyers packing up boxes of files
CAM alleges evidence of departing lawyers packing up boxes of files

Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas (CAM) had alleged in the Bombay high court application for interim relief in arbitration proceedings that team members of departing Chennai partner Dorothy Thomas had taken boxes of CAM client files from the office.

The CAM partnership has been told about the substance of the suit and allegations, which, according to several authoritative sources, includes evidence in the form of CCTV footage from the office allegedly showing Thomas’ team members packing up boxes of documents after resigning on 3 October without notice. However, it is understood that files were returned to the CAM office after several days.

The petition also alleges that Thomas and her team solicited clients to leave, in violation of CAM’s contract with them. It is understood that Thomas has in turn alleged that CAM would not honour payment of dues and bonuses in return, which was denied by CAM in its filing.

At CAM as under many other law firms’ retainer contracts with lawyers, client files are the property of the law firm rather than individual lawyers. Such provisions exist in order to safeguard the confidentiality of clients’ affairs when partners move to rival firms.

The petition also includes excerpts of messages from a WhatsApp group started by Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas (SAM) chairman Shardul Shroff with Thomas and her team members, allegedly inciting them to abort handover discussions with CAM and to leave without completing their contractual notice periods after associates’ resignations.

When contacted, Shardul Shroff commented: “You would be aware that we are not party to any proceedings and if any allegation has been made that we or I have incited anyone or anything that would be entirely false.

“You would indeed be curious to receive off the record background about why Camco came about the situation of en masse leaving, but I do not want to comment since I am not a party nor is Samco a party. You have published on your website that settlement talks between Camco and Dorothy are ongoing and my talking at this stage would not be appropriate or helpful.”

CAM managing partner Cyril Shroff and Thomas declined to comment.

CAM’s filing followed talks between CAM and Thomas about the future of the Chennai office, with suggestions that Thomas and her team should practice independently in a close relationship with CAM However, Thomas and her team members eventually accepted offers from SAM, as we reported on Sunday.

We understand that Thomas’ team member and Chennai principal associate Edward James will remain with CAM with around three other fee-earners, after having initially been slated to also join SAM; Thomas and around seven fee-earners will be joining SAM.

The petition under section 9 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996 was filed in the Bombay high court earlier this week before Justice SJ Kathawalla, by whom it was heard in camera, sanctioning both parties to proceed with settling the dispute.

We now understand that CAM’s Bombay high court petition for interim relief in the arbitration proceedings, was seeking the return of all physical, electronic and other confidential client and firm information.

In the arbitration, Thomas counterclaimed seeking payment of final dues from CAM.

Settlement talks are expected to conclude by tomorrow (15 October).

Cyril Amarchand is represented by Beri & Company; Thomas has drafted in senior advocate Soli Cooper.

Photo by Archivo-FSP

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