Freshfields is one of the largest law firms in the world. Barry O’Brien, former head of corporate finance, is regarded as a legal heavyweight and one of the leading corporate lawyers of his generation. But a UK disciplinary committee has fined him and his firm for conflict of interest.

Barry O’Brien, a former head of corporate finance at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, has been fined £9,000 and has agreed to pay a further £50,000 in costs over his conflicted role in Philip Green’s aborted takeover of Marks & Spencer.

The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal announced the fine this afternoon after it emerged that Mr O’Brien, one of the most respected corporate lawyers in the City of London, would not contest the Law Society’s allegations against him.

He was fined £5,000 for breaching his duty to a client and £4,000 for bringing his profession into disrepute.

Mr O’Brien, who has retired from Freshfields’ partnership but remains employed by the firm as a consultant, volunteered to pay a further £50,000 to cover the Law Society’s costs in bringing the case.

The case centred on Mr O’Brien’s decision to advise a consortium run by Philip Green on a proposed £9 billion takeover of Marks & Spencer, a longstanding Freshfields client, in 2004.

Mr O’Brien admitted that accepting the mandate was an error of judgment for which he and the firm “apologised unreservedly”.

Mr O’Brien and Freshfields were subsequently banned from advising Mr Green’s consortium after the High Court agreed with M&S that there was a conflict of interest because of the firm’s relationship with the retailer.

Mr O’Brien was referred to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal following an investigation by the Law Society, the profession’s governing body.

In a statement, Freshfields said: “Barry O’Brien has reached an agreement with the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) to end the long-running investigation into the firm’s acceptance of instructions in early 2004 to advise [Philip Green’s] Revival Consortium on its possible offer for Marks and Spencer.

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