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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

‘Major estate agent’ accused in house builder bribery claim

The Guardian is this morning reporting that “a major estate agent” has been accused of involvement in corruption with the house building firm Berkeley Group.

The accusation has since been withdrawn following an out of court settlement.

The newspaper doesn’t name the agent nor does it clarify whether it refers to one individual or, perhaps more likely, a company.

The revelation comes from papers filed in a pair of lawsuits brought against Berkeley Group by a former finance director in 2014 and 2015.

He is Nicolas Simpkin who served on the Berkeley Group board from 2009 until he was fired in 2014.

The Guardian says Berkeley paid £9.5m to Simpkin in an out-of-court settlement - a fact apparently revealed in the house builder’s annual report. 

Berkeley has told the newspaper the settlement had been reached after it had “thoroughly” investigated the allegations and found them to be “unfounded”.

The Guardian today explains: “After an acrimonious dismissal in September 2014, Simpkin filed an unfair dismissal case the following December and then a 2015 breach of contract case in the high court.

“According to court documents in the second case, Simpkin had made a series of whistleblowing allegations in his 2014 case, all of which were denied by Berkeley. The company argued that Simpkin had failed to raise and act on his claims. As the cases were settled, none of the allegations were ever tested and they remain unproven.”

The newspaper has obtained some High Court documents and goes onto outline allegations against Berkeley Group and some senior figures in the company.

In its annual report published in August, Berkeley Group said: “During the period the company settled the proceedings brought by Mr Nicolas Simpkin, its former finance director, in the employment tribunal and high court. Under the settlement Berkeley made a payment of £4.95m to Mr Simpkin and a further payment of £4.55m towards his legal fees and disbursements.”

You can read The Guardian story here.

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