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Get your retaliation in first!

by on 3 Sep, 2007

Get your retaliation in first!

“Get your retaliation in first” was an old saying of Welsh Rugby Union coaches. Edward Cahill of Barclays Capital has taken this to heart. He has appointed no less than the lawyers Mischon de Reya as his libel lawyers to make sure the press do not libel him.

Cahill was one of the architects of the “sub-prime” debt scheme which seems to be unravelling and giving bankers headaches. His lawyers will probably be doing the rounds of the business press reminding them of the full rigours of the English and Welsh libel laws.

This pre-emptive shot across the bows of the press is not unusual. It happens more than we think. Years ago, investigating a rogue called John Foulston and his Atlantic Leasing Company I experienced the same. I would interview Foulston about once every six months and he would often open up with “Good to see you Richard. You do remember that we defend the good reputation of Atlantic Leasing with the full rigour of the English libel laws. Now what’s your questions?”

I can call Foulston a rogue because he is now dead. And his company, when taken over by a larger one, sucked all of the cash out of it and imploded. Foulston by then, as I recall, was long gone, sold out with a pretty package.

Not that Cahill is a rogue. Not that he was sacked. And not that Foulston’s Atlantic Leasing has anything to do with the other companies of that name now trading. I am happy to make those things clear.

The word “sacked” is always a dodgy one. People are seldom sacked, especially from high profile jobs. They leave to spend more time with their family. Or are moved to special projects. I once said a senior director of IBM UK was sacked for under performing. He did not sue, but later told me he had consulted his lawyers and could have. Indeed he could. But luckily for my publishers and me he did not.

Cahill is taking a more active strategy than the IBM UK director. Pity that he feels he has to use the libel laws in this way, it amounts to pre-publication pressure. But his reputation is at stake and reputation is at the heart of libel.

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