Ex-DPP reported for breaching appointment rules with US law firm job


Hill: Sorry and upset

The former Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Max Hill KC, failed to follow government rules when he joined US law firm King & Spalding last month, the committee that vets such appointments has said.

Lord Eric Pickles, chair of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA), this week wrote to Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden to report Sir Max’s conduct, saying the barrister “chose to blatantly disregard the process” set out by ACOBA.

He continued: “This is an unambiguous breach of the rules. The government owns both the rules and their enforcement. It is now a matter for you to decide what appropriate action to take.”

ACOBA considers applications under the government’s business appointment rules for former ministers and the most senior Crown servants.

The rules state that new appointments or employment must not be taken up or announced before ACOBA provides advice.

Sir Max’s time at the Crown Prosecution Service ended last October and he joined King & Spalding on 1 February as a consultant in its London office “to advise clients on legal issues relating to complex international investigations and litigation”.

The appointment was announced on 5 February. ACOBA had not provided advice.

Lord Pickles recounted that Sir Max said he had abided by the enforced three-month waiting period “to the letter”, undertaking neither paid nor unpaid work between 1 November and 31 January.

Sir Max said he “clearly indicated” that his employment with King & Spalding would commence on 1 February 2024, giving ACOBA more than six weeks to consider his application.

Sir Max also noted that he had submitted a ‘test/speculative’ application. Lord Pickles said: “This was considered by ACOBA, though this was withdrawn at the provisional advice stage as he had decided not to take it up.”

Lord Pickles told Mr Dowden that “ACOBA and Sir Max exchanged several emails whereby he was made aware of the process required of him under the rules between August 2023 and January 2024. It is disappointing he chose to blatantly disregard the process as detailed to him.”

It was not, he went on, for applicants to “second guess the likely advice and conditions that ACOBA will impose” – the fact that Sir Max had received so-called ‘test’ advice on a different position did not remove the requirement to seek and wait for advice in relation to a new role.

“When a former Director of Public Prosecutions is leaving office to return to private practice, there is a reasonable concern that their recent time in government could provide insight and influence for potential commercial gain.

“Managing the government’s interest in such moves, and ensuring the public is aware of steps taken to manage the risks, is the reason for the existence of rules and the business appointments process.”

Lord Pickles noted Sir Max’s unpaid role with the DriveForward Foundation – which helps young people leaving care into the workforce – was announced as of 1 February, again before advice had been finalised.

“Whilst the risks associated with unpaid cases are limited, this is also a breach of the rules. This seems to illustrate that not all Crown servants are sufficiently clear of the standards of behaviour and rules that are incumbent on them.”

ACOBA published in full Sir Max’s response to being told last month that he was in breach of the rules, from which Lord Pickles had quoted.

In it, the silk said he was “sorry and upset”, explaining that he left the Crown Prosecution Service without a full pension “or anything approaching that”. With his CPS salary ending on 31 January, “it was imperative that I return to paid employment as soon as possible”.

He submitted the “test/speculative application in respect of future employment in the legal sector” at the end of August. “The principles espoused in that application remain true” and he “engaged in draft correspondence” with ACOBA.

He then submitted the King & Spalding application on 18 December, saying this was when the offer of employment had crystallised.

“In the circumstances I am aggrieved at any suggestion that I have either taken the committee by surprise, or have acted in breach of the principles of maintaining a separation between my former service and my current employment.

“On the contrary, my new firm is actively considering the latest draft received from the committee last week, in fact we are convening later today for further discussion with a view to affirming to the committee my/our adherence to the rules.”

We have approached Sir Max and King & Spalding for further comment.




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