Paul O’Sullivan draws Hogan Lovells blood: “I’m a hyena onto your kudu”

The SA office of global law firm Hogan Lovells is fragmenting after a sustained assault on them by forensic investigator Paul O’Sullivan and British peer Peter Hain. The firm, accused by the activist duo of facilitating State Capture, is to shrink to a quarter of its former size, with 71 lawyers spinning off into an independent operation. But an unplacated O’Sullivan isn’t buying the re-engineering exercise, warning that until the lawyers involved pay back hefty fees generated during the Zuma era, he will keep up the pursuit “like a hyena tracking a kudu…”. On Rational Radio this week, he also provided an update on the corrupt practices in South and East Africa by Italian multinational CMC di Ravenna; and on global consultancy Bain, sharing that Lord Hain is now applying pressure on both in the UK Parliament. O’Sullivan says SA owes Hain a huge debt. The same could be said about the fearless founder of Forensics for Justice. – Alec Hogg

Paul O’Sullivan said that international warrants of arrest had been issued in Nairobi, Kenya for the group CEO of CMC di Ravenna, who was now based in Italy; he was formerly the country manager of South Africa. With the help of British House of Lord’s representative Peter Hain, Forensics for Justice was now starting what he calls an attack on an Italian bank based in London that serves Italians living in the United Kingdom. The bank had “received quite a big chunk of the money that have been swiped in Africa.”

Lord Hain wrote a letter to the Bank of England last week and CMC di Ravenna was under investigation. O’Sullivan said they had asked for the bank’s licence to be withdrawn. O’ Sullivan said apart from KPMG which had “sort of” come clean, the other companies and firms that had been targeted by his organisation and Lord Hain were Bain, McKinsey and Hogan Lovells; they “have put their heads in the sand and they‘ve claimed total ignorance or retaliated by saying we don’t know what we’re talking about.” Peter Hain had been accused of talking hogwash.

O’Sullivan said if the organisations accused by them had nothing to hide, they should open their books to them. “We know what you have been up to and we are going to punish you for it.” He vowed that his organisation and Lord Hain would not let up.

Hogan Lovells announced that they were shutting down their “big office” in Sandton which they shared with McKinsey. O’Sullivan said Lavery Modise who had also been “less than transparent” was taking some of his staff and departing from Hogan Lovells and restarting the law firm that used to be in a partnership with the international law firm. Earlier the partner of the mining division also left taking all of the people working for him.  The result is that Hogan Lovells South Africa was a shadow of its former self. O’Sullivan said that won’t deter him, if needed he would start attacking their client base.

But what is Hogan Lovells role in state capture? O’Sullivan said the issue that they were most known for is the protection of the SARS senior executives that had been appointed by Tom Moyane. Those two executives were engaged in suspicious transactions through their bank accounts. O’Sullivan said, “Hogan Lovells pretty much whitewashed that whole thing.” He said Hogan Lovell’s had also been unlawfully appointed by the then Minister of Police and their sole function system in life was to drag down the criminal justice system by going after Anwa Dramat, Shadrack Sibiya and Robert McBride among others.

O’Sullivan said he worked with the Helen Suzman Foundation to launch an application to set aside the appointment of Berning Ntlemeza as head of the Hawks. The Helen Suzman used the pro bono department of Herbert Wentzel. Hogan Lovells “who were paid millions and millions” took it on appeal to the Appeal Court and Constitutional Court and lost. O’Sullivan said Hogan Lovell’s clearly knew they were going to lose but it was not about winning or losing, it was about playing for time. He said the law firm assisted those who were architects of state capture, particularly the capture of the justice system. They assisted state capturers to stay in power for 18 months longer.

Referring to the huge costs of this lawsuit for the taxpayer, O’Sullivan said legislation for public finance management made it clear that any state owned entity that wished to litigate had to go through the state attorney’s office. Ntlemeza and the minister of Police Nkosinathi Nhleko chose to bypass the state attorney’s office and appointed Hogan Lovells who completely ignored the Public Finance Act and “made millions and millions. We don’t know how much, but it is a lot.”

The solicitor regulation authority in the United Kingdom failed to take action against Hogan Lovells as it said that the conduct took place in South Africa outside their jurisdiction. O’Sullivan said the South African Law Society had not done much to take them to task. But “the good news is that Hogan Lovells as it was, is going to vanish. “There would be a presence in South Africa, but they would become part of the London office. He said, if there were any more “hanky panky” the Solicitors Regulation Authority would have the jurisdiction to deal with them.

Hogan Lovells South Africa was a partnership of Hogan Lovells in London and Lavery Modise’s Routledge Modise. “And hopefully they will fall, suffer, vanish into obscurity.” O’Sullivan said wherever Lavery went, Forensics for Justice would follow him… he was not getting off the hook. “We are going to be like the proverbial hyena behind the kudu… every time he thinks he’s shaken them off and slows down, 10 minutes later he looks behind him and we’re on his tail.”

O’ Sullivan said he wanted them to come clean, to tell him how many millions of taxpayers money they were paid. He was looking for the evidence that he could use to “nail the criminals they were protecting.” Regarding the client-privilege position of law firms, O’ Sullivan said it did not apply as the law was broken and they should never have been appointed in the first place; it was in breach of the act and they should  be held accountable. O’Sullivan said he believed the partners were laughing all the way to the bank.

Hogan Lovells restructures in South Africa

Hogan Lovells media statement:

Law firm Hogan Lovells is restructuring its legal practice in South Africa following a strategic review of its business in the country. 

Hogan Lovells began its involvement in South Africa in 2013 with a combination with the then Johannesburg based law firm Routledge Modise (established c.1892) which adopted the Hogan Lovells South Africa name but remained operationally and financially separate.

With the restructuring, Hogan Lovells will establish its own fully-integrated law firm in Johannesburg focused on corporate, finance, and natural resources while the current Hogan Lovells South Africa will continue as an independent law firm operating under a new name and providing a wider full suite of legal services. A group of five partners and approximately 15 other lawyers will make up the new Hogan Lovells, joining from the current one. The current Hogan Lovells South Africa will then comprise 21 partners and 50 other lawyers. 

There will be a transition period of approximately two months as the new Hogan Lovells is set up and the current Hogan Lovells South Africa positions itself to continue operating independently under its new name in the market. Both firms will continue to work from separate offices in the landmark 140 West Street building in Sandton.

According to a Hogan Lovells spokesperson:

“This is a successful outcome for everyone involved. Although the last six years have worked very well, we all agreed that the previous arrangement where the firm in South Africa was operationally and financially separate and offered a wider range of services was not what we wanted for the future. Having a new smaller and more focused Hogan Lovells office in Johannesburg combined with the current larger firm being able to set its own strategic direction, name, and practice made a lot of sense to both firms.

“The discussions have been very amicable and there will be a transition period from now for approximately two months while we set everything up and make the necessary arrangements. We are talking to our clients about our plans and have made it clear that there will be a seamless transition and no disruption to their work as we make these changes. It is very much business as usual.”

The Hogan Lovells Global Business Services Center (GBSC), which also operates in Johannesburg and has around 200 employees providing support to Hogan Lovells in areas such as finance, technology, marketing and human resources, is unaffected by this decision. It is already a fully integrated part of Hogan Lovells.

According to a spokesperson for the firm:

“Our GBSC represents a significant commitment to the South African economy and we will continue to expand the services it provides to the rest of Hogan Lovells around the world.”