Clifford Chance could be facing a day in court if its former Bangkok managing partner has his way, after the firm’s attempt to settle a multimillion pound legal wrangle was rebuffed.
Clifford Chance had tried to resolve the increasingly acrimonious feud with Wirot Poonsuwan, the first-ever partner to be expelled from the partnership in March, through mediation. However, Poonsuwan snubbed Clifford Chance’s olive branch and is on the verge of filing a suit under local law.
It is believed that Clifford Chance offered a sum as settlement, but this is understood to be a fraction of the £30m pay-off Poonsuwan had demanded after being suspended from the firm in August following concerns about his contribution.
For his part, Poonsuwan made a series of allegations against Clifford Chance, alleging race discrimination and tax fraud. He also launched a criminal prosecution suit against Bangkok partner Tim Jeffares for alleged defamation.
The potential lawsuit will be a blow for Clifford Chance, which, under representation from litigation heavyweight Roy Reardon at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, was hoping to settle the matter through arbitration.
Poonsuwan was officially expelled from the firm with effect from 31 March. At the time, Peter Cornell, managing partner at Clifford Chance, said: “Poonsuwan’s actions were unacceptable and incompatible with partnership. The firm rejects his allegations and is satisfied that there is no substance to them.”
Prior to joining Clifford Chance, Poonsuwan was a banking partner at Baker & McKenzie, which he left in 1995 after 10 years. In 1999 he merged his firm Wirot International with Clifford Chance’s Bangkok practice.