Sir Philip Green and his business empire Arcadia have ended their legal claim against the Telegraph after the newspaper reported allegations of sexual and racial harassment against him.
Judges at the court of appeal temporarily barred the newspaper from identifying the Topshop tycoon or revealing “confidential information” relating to allegations of misconduct made by five employees.
The Telegraph responded by running a front page story about an anonymous “prominent businessman”, shortly before the former cabinet minister Peter Hain used parliamentary privilege to name Green in the House of Lords two days after the court’s ruling in October, resulting in the widespread reporting of the allegations.
Arcadia said on Monday that they would drop the case, which had been due to go to trial next month: “After careful reflection, Arcadia and Sir Philip have therefore reluctantly concluded that it is pointless to continue with the litigation which has already been undermined by the deliberate and irresponsible actions of Lord Peter Hain, the paid consultant of the Telegraph’s lawyers Gordon Dadds, and risks causing further distress to Arcadia’s employees.
“Consequently, Arcadia and Sir Philip will be seeking the court’s permission to discontinue these proceedings on Monday.”
Despite ending the legal action, Arcadia accused the Telegraph of conducting a campaign to “knowingly facilitate the breach” of confidentiality agreements, exposing individuals who signed them and causing “untold disruption” to 20,000 staff.
“The Telegraph has repeatedly contacted and harassed staff and former staff of Arcadia and BHS. Its reporters have doorstepped many individuals, often at night, causing distress and concern to their families, even as recently as last weekend,” the company said, confirming that a complaint had been made to press regulator IPSO.
Green was represented by libel firm Schillings, whose lawyers were criticised in a pre-trial hearing at the high court last week for charging up to £690 an hour for their work on the case. Justice Warby ordered the lawyers to reduce their costs, noting that Schillings had already run up a bill of £470,000 for work on witness statements alone, compared to just £80,000 spent by the Telegraph for the same part of the work.
Green could now be left with a substantial legal bill running into the millions of pounds, having said he had already spent £500,000 on the case by last October.
The businessman’s lawyers last week told the judge they would be seeking damages from the Telegraph resulting from Hain’s decision to name Green in parliament, arguing that the newspaper was “directly or indirectly responsible” for supplying the information to the Labour peer.
The move, which could have posed a threat to the principle of parliamentary privilege, prompted the judge to write to Lords Speaker Lord Fowler amid concerns it could impact on the 1689 Bill of Rights guaranteeing the free reporting of parliamentary proceedings.
Hain is thought to be being investigated by the Lords commissioner for standards over his conduct because he worked as a consultant to the Telegraph’s lawyers Gordon Dadds.
At the time of his statement, the politician said he had been contacted by someone “intimately involved” in the case and felt it was his duty to use parliamentary privilege to identify Green, insisting he was completely unaware” that Gordon Dadds were working on the case.