Revealed: Clyde & Co’s Outgoing Senior Partner Faced Internal Probe Into Bullying, Conduct

Clyde & Co’s senior partner, Peter Hirst, faced an internal probe into his conduct, which included allegations of bullying, at the time of his retirement announcement in December, an in-depth investigation by International has found. 

The Global 100 firm made the surprise announcement that Hirst would be stepping down from his role last month after little more than a year in charge. He is to leave the firm in April.

The news raised questions about the stability of the firm’s leadership, after he became the third senior partner in a row to exit the role without completing a full term, following the early departures of Simon Konsta in 2019 and James Burns in 2016.

According to spokespeople for both Hirst and Clyde & Co the probe into Hirst’s conduct has since concluded and the complaints against him have not been upheld. They added the investigation was not linked to his decision to depart the firm.

The process itself was triggered by an open letter to the firm’s partnership in late 2020 from a U.K.-based partner, according to three people with knowledge of the situation, who said that the letter set out allegations of bullying and “ultra vires” conduct against Hirst.

According to three people aware of the letter, one allegation was that Hirst was attempting to oust a partner without due process.

According to one of the people, the letter raised complaints about the way Hirst was planning to overhaul the firm’s remuneration system and membership agreement. These two programmes were named Project Golden and Project Merengue, according to strategy documents seen by International.

Both programmes were halted soon after the letter was sent, according to a person aware of the situation.

Clyde & Co confirmed its board subsequently established an investigation committee, which in turn instructed an independent counsel, Simon Forshaw QC of 11 Kings Bench Walk, to undertake an investigation into the allegations. Forshaw’s deliberation was presented to the board earlier this week, concluding that none of the complaints should be upheld, a spokesperson said.

In a statement to International, Hirst said: “I welcome the conclusion of this independent investigation which rejects the complaints made against me, as I was confident it would.”

He continued: “As I said in December, I chose to retire because during the COVID lockdowns I have been reflecting on my priorities. I came to the conclusion that now is the right time to retire and make the most of other opportunities.”

Meanwhile, a Clyde & Co spokesperson said: “As announced in December, Peter Hirst has decided to retire from the firm to pursue other opportunities. We wish him well.”

Hirst was originally elected to the post of senior partner in November 2019, with his term set to last until 2024. He has been at the firm for 18 years, having joined from legacy firm Beachcroft in 2002. 

Konsta vacated the post in October 2019, three years into a five-year term, while Burns also stepped down after three years in 2016. Prior to that, incumbent chairman, Michael Payton, led the firm as senior partner for nearly three decades.

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