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11 Apr 2002

Statement on the Supreme Court of Victoria ruling in McCabe v British American Tobacco Services

Melbourne, 11 April 2002: Mr David Fagan, Chief Executive Partner of Clayton Utz, today issued the following statement:

"As one of Australia's pre eminent law firms Clayton Utz is resolutely committed to upholding our reputation[1] for providing clients with the highest standards of professional and ethical advice.

"We have a national reputation for the quality of our advice to the corporate and government sectors. At the core of our values is the integrity of that advice. Our partners and staff have been, and are, committed to these values.

"The ruling by Justice Eames on 22 March 2002 in McCabe v BATAS raises many complex and contentious issues of a legal, factual and ethical nature.

"In light of His Honour's comments and with a view to ensuring we maintain the highest quality of advice, our Board of Directors is currently reviewing the judgment and its implications.

"On behalf of our client we will seek leave to appeal to the Victorian Court of Appeal. Senior Counsel consider that there are strong grounds of appeal and our client will seek an expedited hearing of the issues.

"In his ruling, Justice Eames commented on the advice given to the client by three partners within Clayton Utz. We regard his comments with the utmost concern and wish to make the following points:

  • Our firm was not the architect of BATAS, or its predecessor WD & HO Wills (Australia) Limited's, document management policy;
  • Our firm did not advise Wills in relation to its document management policies after 1992;
  • Our firm has never advised Wills or BATAS to dispose of prejudicial documents so that their production could be avoided in tobacco litigation;
  • Our firm has not disposed of any documents of Wills or BATAS.

"Given the upcoming appeal, it is not appropriate for us to comment further on the detail of the judgment".

[1] The notice of appeal was filed with the Supreme Court of Victoria at Melbourne Court of Appeal on Friday 5 April.

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Clayton Utz communications are intended to provide commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular transactions or on matters of interest arising from this communication. Persons listed may not be admitted in all States and Territories.