SIR Philip Green could face a legal bill of £3million after his legal action against The Daily Telegraph was formally brought to an end at the High Court.
The newspaper intends to publish the information as well as the “inside story” of the court battle on its website at 9pm on Friday and in Saturday’s edition.
The retail tycoon hit back by accusing the paper of “pursuing a vendetta” against him and his staff and said former employees whose allegations were uncovered by the newspaper were under “ongoing obligations” to honour non-disclosure agreements (NDAs).
Sir Philip obtained a court injunction preventing the Telegraph from publishing allegations of misconduct made against him by five ex-employees who had agreed to keep the details of their complaints confidential under NDAs.
But, in a statement issued last week, it was announced the Topshop owner was dropping the case because it was “pointless” after he was named in Parliament as the businessman behind an injunction against the newspaper.
In a ruling in London on Friday, Mr Justice Warby granted the Topshop owner and two of his companies permission to discontinue the proceedings – which was needed because of the injunction.
However, the judge declined to impose conditions to stop Sir Philip and the companies suing either the Telegraph or the former employees in future, as requested by the newspaper.
A statement issued after the ruling on behalf of Sir Philip and the board of Arcadia Group said: “The Telegraph has pursued a vendetta against Sir Philip Green and the employees and management of Arcadia Group for the past nine months, harassing many of its staff and their families in their homes, often at night and at weekends.
“The Telegraph and its owners must now decide whether to do the decent thing and respect the NDAs.
“If not, they will expose their sources to potential further legal actions and significant losses.
“Their fate is now in the Telegraph’s hands.”
‘CLEAR PUBLIC INTERST’
Sir Philip’s lawyers said the decision to drop the case was prompted by Lord Hain’s identification of Sir Philip in the House of Lords in October last year.
Lord Hain’s disclosure came a day after the Telegraph ran a front-page story saying it was prevented from naming a “mystery businessman”, with the headline “The British #MeToo scandal which cannot be revealed”.
The injunction was first sought after Sir Philip and an executive at his Arcadia firm were contacted by a Telegraph journalist in July last year.
The newspaper intended to publish allegations of misconduct made against Sir Philip by the ex-employees – who all received substantial payments after settling their claims.
In its defence of the claim, which was due to be tried on February 4 before Sir Philip indicated his intention to drop it, the paper said it believed the public interest in revealing the allegations outweighed that involved in maintaining the confidentiality of the NDAs.
It asserted the alleged misconduct included “unwanted conduct of a sexual nature, general sexual harassment, racist language and intimidation and bullying”.
Summarising the Telegraph’s case in his ruling, Mr Justice Warby said: “His conduct was said to be ‘gross and unlawful’, involving ‘habitual behaviour over a substantial period by an extremely wealthy and powerful man abusing his position’.”
Speaking after the ruling, the Telegraph’s editor Chris Evans said the newspaper maintains there is a “clear public interest” in telling people whether an employer has been accused of abuse and called for a change in the law.
He said in a statement: “Sir Philip has described the allegations against him as no more than banter.
“If that’s so, he should release his accusers from their NDAs and allow them to speak freely.”
The newspaper reported that Sir Philip is facing a legal bill of £3 million in relation to the case.
In August last year, Mr Justice Haddon-Cave refused to gag the newspaper, but a challenge was mounted by Sir Philip – then identified in court papers as ABC – and the two companies.
Court of Appeal judges temporarily barred the newspaper from identifying the tycoon or revealing “confidential information” relating to allegations of misconduct made against him by five employees.
But former Cabinet minister Lord Hain used parliamentary privilege to name Sir Philip in the House of Lords two days after the court’s ruling in October.
In a statement after Friday’s ruling, Lord Hain said: “The government must reform the law.
“It is entirely wrong to use NDAs to conceal abuse of victims by powerful or rich individuals.
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“That is deploying gagging orders to enforce injustice and the abuse of human rights of ordinary citizens who don’t have the money to fight back.”
Mr Justice Warby continued an existing order banning the identity of the former employees from being revealed.
He said none of the five wanted any information about their cases disclosed in conjunction with their name, four did not want it published at all, while two supported Sir Philip’s case.