Questions raised as law firm advising Haringey Council on HDV redevelopment plan counts developer as client
- Credit: Archant
A call for reassurance over a possible conflict of interest has been made following the discovery the law firm acting for Haringey Council on multi-million pound regeneration plans counts the scheme’s developer as a client.
In July, Haringey signed off on plans to fund its property development ambitions by partnering with Lendlease to form a company called the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV).
Under the scheme council-owned property in Haringey will be transferred into the HDV in what critics say is an assets “sell off”.
last week it emerged law firm Pinsent Masons is advising Haringey on the deal whilst also counting Lendlease as a client leading to concerns about a possible conflict of interest.
Liberal Democrat councillor Clive Carter said: “As a Haringey councillor, I have every confidence in the professionalism of Pinsent Masons and its ability to keep its work for Lendlease completely separate from its work for Haringey.
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“However, given the council has now placed approximately £3billion worth of HDV and other regeneration business to a single company, I suspect the public may like to see some reassurance there is no hint of any conflict.”
According to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) firms should avert conflicts of interest for example by setting up controls to ensure lawyers advise clients without being influenced by prior knowledge of others.
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In response, a Pinsent Masons spokeswoman confirmed Lendlease is a client but not in relation to the HDV. “It is not unusual for a firm of our size to advise a number of clients. We ensure we comply with all Law Society regulations relating to conflicts of interest.
“One of the reasons clients instruct us is because we operate across the real estate sector globally, and that expertise and experience is a pre-requisite for them. Were our clients to use advisers without this level of expertise in what is a complex area, that in itself could potentially put them at a disadvantage and increase their level of risk. In common with other major law firms, we are open with our clients and their procurement teams about our approach to potential conflicts and the compliance systems we have in place because it is imperative commercially as well as from a regulatory perspective.”
A Lendlease spokesman said: “Pinsent Masons has not provided us with legal advice on the HDV. We use a variety of law firms to provide advice. Lendlease has instructed a separate law firm to advise us on the HDV.”
A council spokesman said: “Pinsent Masons is a leading law firm specialising in regeneration and advises a number of local authorities and developers. It has clear measures in place to ensure there is no conflict of interest between clients.
“There is no conflict of interest with the advice it offers the council,” he added.