Herbert Smith Freehills to sack senior partner after harassment claims
Global law firm Herbert Smith Freehills will remove a senior partner in Australia by the end of next week, following an internal investigation into allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct.
The firm said in a statement on Friday that an Australian partner was suspended from the partnership "with immediate effect" on March 9 and was issued with a notice of intention to remove him from the partnership on March 23.
"In the past two weeks several people have come forward to make a number of allegations about the partner's behaviour. Herbert Smith Freehills is taking them very seriously and has acted promptly," it said.
After an internal investigation found "sufficient evidence from multiple sources" to conclude the partner's behaviour contravened the firm's international standards of conduct and Australian workplace policy, it "took action to immediately suspend the partner and to remove the partner from the firm as swiftly as possible".
The misconduct contravened the "values of the firm" and was "behaviour for which Herbert Smith Freehills has no tolerance", it said.
Freehills said it was "acutely aware that it took courage and integrity for its people to come forward and speak up" and said it would provide no further details of the allegations "in order to protect and support these individuals".
It declined to name the partner involved.
As a raft of industries in Australia and overseas are hit with sexual harassment allegations following the Harvey Weinstein scandal in the US, professional services firms are cracking down on alleged impropriety.
The Australian Financial Review has previously reported (paywall) that male partners at big four accounting and consulting firms EY and KPMG left their respective firms after allegations of misconduct were raised.
Freehills' chief executive, Mark Rigotti, said it was "paramount that the individuals who have come forward feel fully supported and can have faith that the firm is taking the right action".
“We do not tolerate behaviour that contravenes our values, codes and policies and we will not accept behaviour that violates a person’s dignity or erodes their self-respect,” he said.
He said that he was "deeply disappointed to hear how the behaviour of this person has impacted others at our firm. Every one of our people deserves to be treated with respect and dignity and the action we are taking should highlight the importance of this.”