Row as clients ‘defect’

Mid-tier firm Chantrey Vellacott is suing former partner David Montgomery for damages after he left to join rival Kingston Smith.

According to a High Court writ, Montgomery, who worked for Chantrey Vellacott from July 1989, tried to encourage the firm’s clients to join him at his new firm. Before leaving Chantrey Vellacott last November, he asked if he could continue to act for various clients, but at a meeting partner Mike Gillett told him the firm would not consent to this, it is alleged.

Montgomery allegedly refused to give assurances he would tell each of his former clients that he would have to refuse to act for them when he moved firms, the writ says.

The accountant works primarily for commercial organisations, but also has particular experience of acting for firms of solicitors and charities.

Weeks after Montgomery left the firm, Chantrey Vellacott client Christopher Cozens said he had decided to instruct Kingston Smith as his accountants. He was followed by three other clients.

Chantrey Vellacott’s solicitors wrote to Kingston Smith, warning the firm it believed Montgomery had breached restrictions over clients, but Kingston Smith replied saying restrictive covenants in his contract were not enforceable, the court will hear.

The solicitors wrote again to Montgomery, seeking an undertaking that he would not continue to breach his restrictions.

Kingston Smith replied saying it had advised Montgomery not to give the undertakings, and claimed he was not in breach of contract, the writ claims.

Chantrey Vellacott is now asking the High Court to order Montgomery not to solicit the custom of any of his former clients until November 2003, nor to deal with them, act for them or to encourage them to leave Chantrey Vellacott. Both firms declined to comment.

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