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SUZANNE MCKIE QC

 

Suzanne specialises in employment, equality law and partnership. She focuses on high level discrimination and whistle-blowing claims, as well as contractual claims and injunctions in the High Court. Suzanne regularly acts for blue chip companies, LLPs, law firms, professional service firms, equity partners, LLP members and senior executives.

The 2014 edition of Chambers and Partners describes her as "an extremely capable barrister and has a lot of experience in dealing with discrimination in professional service firms." "Very forensic and detailed, she has a good robust manner and is very client-friendly."

Suzanne has also been described as "extremely accessible, commercial and clear in her advice" and "unflappable and persuasive...a fantastic cross-examiner" (Chambers & Partners 2013), many of her cases in the last few years have involved equity partners in hedge funds/private equity houses, and legal and accountancy firms in multi-million pound claims. Recently Suzanne successfully defended PwC in two lengthy discrimination cases brought by equity partners, with both claims being in excess of £15m (career loss damages being sought by the Claimants).  She is currently acting for Deloitte in relation to a multi-million pound age discrimination complaint.  Other instructions have come from the Global investment banking arm of RBS, Colt Technologies, Barchester Healthcare Homes (in relation to bonuses and share options), Sandals and Beaches Hotel Groups, Bank of Tokyo, Mitsui & Co, Worldpay and A Industries (anon) (in relation to breach of fiduciary duty/poor performance by a CEO).

Suzanne’s advocacy is a particular strength, being described recently as "works tirelessly for her clients and is incredible in cross-examination" (Chambers & Partners 2012).

Individual clients, as well as companies and LLPs, favour Suzanne as she has "practical experience of what it's like on the other side of the fence and, accordingly, understands what can be achieved", therefore she often advises and acts for senior executives both in defending injunctions and pursuing discrimination, breach of contract and whistle-blowing cases.

The legal directories recommend Suzanne as one of the leading employment specialists:

  • "Very forensic and detailed, she has a good robust manner and is very client-friendly" Chambers & Partners 2014
  • "an extremely capable barrister and has a lot of experience in dealing with discrimination in professional service firms"
    Chambers & Partners 2014
  • "fantastic cross-examiner" Chambers & Partners 2013
  • "unflappable and persuasive" Chambers & Partners 2013
  • "impressive both on paper and in person": Chambers UK 2013
  • "works tirelessly for her clients and is incredible in cross-examination.": Chambers UK 2012
  • "brings a commercial and strategic perspective to any case management; she is almost entirely unflappable and absorbs pressure like a sponge": Legal 500 2011
  • "she is not afraid to mix it with the big players" and "A tough, robust advocate with superb timing when it comes to landing the final punch”: Chambers UK 2011
  • "tells it like it is" and "really lives and breathes her cases." Solicitors find it "hard to imagine that there is anyone who gives of themselves quite so much as McKie": Chambers UK 2010

Suzanne advises in international legal cases concerning employment claims and discrimination, including by reference to the International Labour Organisation Conventions and Constitutions of other countries. Recently Suzanne has appeared in the Turks & Caicos Court of Appeal in relation to the lawfulness of payments by employees for their work permits.

Suzanne has advised very recently on matters arising from the Libor scandal and breach of fiduciary duties and FCA regulations in relation to trading. Suzanne also has extensive experience of leading internal harassment and discrimination investigations.

Suzanne chairs and conducts internal investigations as far as disciplinary matters are concerned, and has recently conducted a detailed investigation into widespread harassment within a workplace.

Suzanne is the Vice-President of the Employment Lawyers Association, formerly its Chair.

 

    Injunctions

Suzanne regularly acts for claimants and defendants in relation to injunctive action concerning employee and team moves, as well as the use of confidential information and breaches of contract, fidelity and fiduciary duties.  She also has experience of bringing and defending injunctions related to the imposition of disciplinary action. Recent cases include:

  • Gelpack v. Nexpack(2012) –acting for the former employee, resisting restrictive covenant, confidentiality and springboard injunctions. One key concern related to reasonableness of non-compete given age of contract. Final speedy trial in 2012.
  • Rabbi Lew v. Board of Trustees of the United Synagogue of Stanmore [2011] IRLR 664 – acting for the Board, resisting injunction related to proposed disciplinary action and action taken under the employer’s capability procedures.
  • Rudoe v. Ocado (2011) – acting for Ocado in relation to enforcing non-compete and non-poaching clauses in context of departure of Head of Operations and potential team move. Also concerned breach of fiduciary duties in relation to preparation (during notice period) for competition after departure.
  • Semerin v. Recall Ltd (2011) – acting for company seeking springboard and other injunctions relating to removal of confidential information and breach of fiduciary duty in context of downloading of materials.
  • Alwen Hough Johnston . John Smith Lloyd and partners (2010) – acting for company enforcing non-compete in reinsurance field.
  • SME v X - acting for tech company in team move; speedy trial Nov 2013.

Suzanne has also appeared, acting for the former traders, in the well known battle between Cantor Fitzgerald and ICAP, for example, Cantor Fitzgerald v. ICAP, Bird and others [2002] IRLR 867.

    Employment - Statutory & Contractual

Suzanne deals with all aspects of employment law, both contentious and non-contentious.  She has considerable experience in the field of whistle-blowing claims and breach of contract/fiduciary duties and bonus claims in the High Court. She regularly acts for companies, LLPs, firms and senior executives. Suzanne advises on all aspects of employment law, and in particular has recently advised on the activities of employees in relation to the Libor scandal. Suzanne also advises on terminations, disciplinary actions and on the drafting of, or impact of, employment policies. Recent cases include:

  • Francis v. Colt Technologies (2012), acting for Colt Technologies in a 3 week case, in relation to allegations of whistle-blowing made by a former regulatory specialist. Case involved cross-examination in relation to reasonableness of allegations and whether made in bad faith, which concerned claimant’s expertise in the field of Telecoms. Claimant openly withdrew her claim in second week of hearing.
  • Abboudy v. Merrill Lynch (2010) – acting for Merrill Lynch in relation to whistle-blowing claim brought by investment banker who alleged bonus reduced due to his allegations of breach of contract. Suzanne successfully defended claim after two week hearing.
  • Hammond v. Barchester Healthcare Homes (2010-2011) – acting for Barchester, defending claim by former MD whose High Court claim alleged a series of breaches of contract in relation to his bonus and rights under the company share scheme.
  • Re Network Rail (2012) – advising on TUPE transfer and implementation of t & c in context of employment status.
  • Spackman v. LMU [2007] IRLR 744, acting for University in relation to class action brought by academics in relation to industrial action and the impact on pay.

    Equality & Equal Pay

Suzanne has considerable experience of advising and acting in high level discrimination cases. Her immeasurable expertise in this particular field is well known and she has had recent involvement in all fields of equality law. As well as acting for companies, firms and LLPs, Suzanne acts for senior executives and equity partners as well as in multi-handed cases concerning impact on numerous employees. She regularly advises on policies and decision-making with equality law aspects. Suzanne advises and acts in international discrimination cases. She is a member of the EHRC Panel of Approved Counsel.

  • Pedropillai v. PwC (2010-2012) – acting for PwC defending a race discrimination claim brought by equity partner for career loss damages of approx £10 million. 6 week hearing, with allegations over a ten year period, 30 bundles and 18 witnesses. Suzanne successfully defended all the claims, which were dismissed by the tribunal in their entirety.
  • X and Y v. Deloitte (2013) - acting for Deloitte in relation to multi-million pound claims brought by claimant partners alleging age discrimination and victimisation, listed for a 3 week hearing in 2013.  Expert evidence, agency and vicarious liability are particulars issues in this case.
  • Switalski v. F & C Asset Management plc (2008 -2010) – acting for former General Counsel in £19 million claim for sex discrimination, age discrimination and whistle-blowing; 12 hearings, the matter reaching the Court of Appeal. Major hearings involving 22 bundles and cross-examination of 19 senior level witnesses and 7 experts. Suzanne won on all counts.
  • Tenner v. PwC (2010-2013) – acting for PwC in claim made by equality partner for disability discrimination, including failure to make reasonable adjustments, direct discrimination and associative discrimination, the claimant seeking career loss damages of £8m. Suzanne successfully defended all allegations. Claimant’s appeal to NICA was dismissed in 2013.

 

    Employment/Commercial Overlap

Suzanne advises and acts in cases concerning the overlap between commercial and employment law, in particular in relation to the following matters:

  • Breach of fiduciary duties as directors
  • Shareholders’ rights and restrictions on shareholders
  • Diversion of business on the part of directors
  • Forfeiture of shareholding on discovery of misconduct
  • Breaches of FSA regulations
  • Fraudulent activities on the part of senior employees, partners and consultants
  • Use of freezing and search orders.

Recently Suzanne has acted for Barchester Healthcare Homes in relation to a claim against its former MD relating to stripping of shareholding and breach of fiduciary duty. Suzanne also acted this year for a former director being pursued for an account of profits in relation to his new business. Suzanne is appearing in the High Court in January 2013 in relation to fraud allegations made against a former director of an international company.

    Partnership

Suzanne advises and acts for LLPs, firms and equity partners in relation to all aspects of partnership law, including claims concerning remuneration, expulsion, retirement, breach of fiduciary duties and discrimination. Her most recent high profile cases have involved her acting for PwC in relation to claims by equity partners. Member of Association of Partnership Practitioners. Her recent cases include:

  • Pedropillai v. PwC (2010-2012) – acting for PwC defending a race discrimination claim brought by equity partner for career loss damages of approx £10 million. 6 week hearing, with allegations over a ten year period, 30 bundles and 18 witnesses. Suzanne successfully defended all the claims, which were dismissed by the tribunal in their entirety.
  • A v. ABC (2012) (anonymised for confidentiality reasons) – acting for law firm in relation to duties of fidelity and breach of retirement provisions relating to outgoing partners.
  • Tenner v. PwC (2010-2013) – acting for PwC in claim made by equality partner for disability discrimination, including failure to make reasonable adjustments, direct discrimination and associative discrimination, the claimant seeking career loss damages of £8m. Suzanne successfully defended all allegations. Claimant’s appeal to NICA was dismissed in 2013.
  • Re X firm (2012) – ongoing dispute acting for equity partner re breach of expulsion provisions in the context of allegations of failure to perform.
  • Gray v. AB (2011-2012) – acting for equity partner in context of confidential "off the record discussions” in relation to his departure and their admissibility.
  • T v. BC (2012) – acting for private equity house in relation to ousting of one of the founding partners.

    Whistleblowing

  • C v. D (2013) - acting for law firm in relation to multiple complaints regarding remuneration system.
  • Francis v. Colt Technologies (2012) – defending Employer in relation to whistle-blowing and discrimination claim brought by in-house regulatory and legal expert, heard over 3 weeks in July 2012
  • Dr Zamar v. The Priory – (2009-2010) – acing for Claimant in relation to whistle-blowing complaint arising from his demotion and from detriments caused by defamatory actions of colleagues. 2 week hearingComplex matter concerning rights or wrongs of assertions about nature of treatments used at The Priory
  • A v. AB (anonymised for confidentiality reasons) – (2010-2011) – acting for law firm against claimant who was PA of senior lawyer. Claimant alleged she was dismissed for making protected disclosures concerning nature of service provided to and billing of household name clients. Case concerned use of private hearings to protect third party client information
  • Maroun Abboudy v. Merrill Lynch - (2009-2010) - acting for Merrill Lynch defending claim by banker that his bonus was reduced due to allegations relating to FSA regulations
  • Weekes v. Lloyds Bank - (2010) – acting for Bank, successfully defending (in 2 week hearing) all allegations of whistle-blowing arising from claims by former employee of inadequate auditing processes
  • Gula and Willis v. Tenon PLC – (2009-2011) – acting for Tenon plc defending claims of constructive dismissal and whistle-blowing brought by former senior managers. The protected disclosures concerned obligations and duties of chartered accountants. 3 week hearing settled close to trial

    Internal Investigations

A v B – acting for an International Law firm in 2014 in relation to a complaint by a senior member of discrimination and financial irregularity. This involved Suzanne undertaking a week long investigation by meeting the alleged perpetrators, as well as the complainant and other witnesses, and reporting on the findings.

X v Z - Suzanne has been instructed in an ongoing matter by a Hedge Fund related to financial irregularity and breaches of fiduciary duty in relation to FCA approved individuals. Suzanne has undertaken an investigation and will report.

C v D acting for a Private Equity House in 2013 following complaints of harassment and breaches of confidentiality. Suzanne produced a report on a privileged basis having met all the relevant people involved in the alleged acts and other witnesses to the misconduct.

E v F - Instructed in 2013by both sides following whistle-blowing by 2 senior members of staff in an International accountancy firm, to conduct investigation into the disclosures and report on the evidence supporting and refuting the truth related to the disclosures.

G v H - Instructed in2012/13 by a Brokerage House to undertake an internal investigation following a series of allegations related to trading irregularities.

The above matters are anonymised on the basis that they are extremely confidential.
Silk: 2012  |  Call: 1991
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