25 Feb 2018

New allegations over inappropriate sexual conduct at law firm

6:40 pm on 25 February 2018

Fresh allegations have been made of inappropriate sexual conduct between university students and senior lawyers at the leading law firm Russell McVeagh.

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The Facebook post described an evening where students and lawyers were drinking heavily. Photo: 123RF

An AUT law lecturer Khylee Quince said she spoke to the firm after students complained but the law firm told her it was none of her business.

In a Facebook post, Ms Quince said the Auckland University students described an evening where there was heavy drinking between students and lawyers, leading to sex on the boardroom table.

Russell McVeagh, in a statement, said there was no formal complaint about the evening more than 10 years ago, but the firm investigated and "those involved were reprimanded."

Ms Quince said Russell McVeagh told her the students were adults, had consented and it was up to them to manage their drinking.

She said although she believed the students consented she said the incident affected them for years and she has not engaged with Russell McVeagh since.

The university told her it was not anything to do with them because the events had not taken place on the university's premises, she said.

An Auckland University spokesperson said in a statement she was not aware of any complaint of this nature being made to the Dean of the Law School or the Vice-Chancellor in the past 10 years so could not comment.

A Russell McVeagh statement said there had been a "limited number" of allegations of poor behaviour involving consensual sex, including on company premises.

The social media post referred to more than a decade ago, the statement said.

"Due to the consensual nature of the event, a formal complaint was never made. However, it was investigated fully and those involved were reprimanded.

"For a full formal investigation to be initiated we require a formal complaint to be made so that privacy laws are not breached. This has limited our ability to prove the alleged misconduct.

"When allegations of any sort have been made we have taken action. If proven, we have taken action appropriate to the severity of the misconduct. In some cases, this has resulted in termination of employment or a partner departing, regardless of their seniority.

"There will no doubt be rumours or online chat about other supposed events in the past that either weren't known about at the time by management or were alleged and not proven or were not the subject of formal complaints."

The firm's statement said Russell McVeagh has a zero tolerance of any sexual harassment.

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