Highways England’s or Kier Highways Lawyers?

‘Law firm Shakespeare Martineau has been appointed by Highways England to help recover damages for repairs to roadside assets caused by allegedly negligent motorists.  After a competitive tender process …’ source – HighwaysMagazine.

  • Just how competitive and why has this only just been subject to tender?

Shakespeare Martineau who also trade as Corclaim is well known to drivers, fleets, haulier and/or their insurers.  Not only do they appear to have no moral dilemma pursuing inflated claims (the law firms comment upon ‘Coles’), they have been working for the Authority and/or Kier Highways Ltd. since at least 2017.  Kier Highways operate in multiple Authority Areas, were ‘gifted’ highway Areas 6&8 and recently appointed to Area 4.

  • Was there a ‘competitive tender process’ or was this a one-horse race and the law firm appointed because Kier Highways Ltd directed it?

The Authority has struggled to understand who Shakespeare Martineau work for; Highways England or Kier.  Whilst the ultimate master would appear to be the Authority, it appears they had no control over ‘their’ lawyers.

21/06/2017, we met with the Authority’s former Head of Claims, Recovery and Dart Charge Service manager, Sarah Green, to present evidence of exaggeration and fraud associated with Kier Highways claims presented by lawyers, Shakespeare Martineau.  These claims were being presented to the Courts in the name of Highways England. We were subsequently asked to liaise with KPMG (project Verde) and did so – the conversation/disclosures can be read here.

The following day Mrs Green telephoned, explaining that, after pondering, she was thinking about appointing the Highways England counter fraud team to do a full investigation.  We suggested that this may be excessive – we believed Mrs green was someone of integrity and would resolve the issues which, it appeared could easily be achieved; direct Kier Highways and Corclaim to charge in accordance with the contract, and not fraudulently seek costs they dd not incur. 

We asked that whilst the investigation was ongoing, matters were placed on hold, that proceedings be stayed. 

14/09/2017 @ 16:02 Mrs Green wrote:

I can confirm that all CMA cases have been put on hold.
We won’t share the terms of reference with you but Grant Thornton* will talk you through these when they meet with you.

RE: Your Ref: TBA Our Ref: S07B451/PBS complaint & T02A444

*we were later informed there was a ‘problem’ with Grant Thornton and that KPMG were appointed – we suspect KPMG were utilized as they were more ‘flexible’; would do as they were told with regard to the enquiry.  

27/09/2017 we informed Mrs Green that our emails to Shakespeare Martineau were still blocked, Sarah’s email response that same day:

Unbelievable – I have forwarded on your emails.
I am not holding my breath about receiving a phone call !!

However, Shakespeare Martineau was ignoring Highways England, in whose name they were issuing proceedings and we returned to Mrs Green writing:

Further to the email below, I am still being advised by clients that matters are NOT on hold – proceedings are being issued and those where they have been issued, are progressing to Court.
Could you advise who at Kier and Corclaim have been informed and if known, explain why they are not to be adhering to your instruction … or confirm the direction has been reinforced?
I’m going to sound like a stuck record but proceedings are being issued in the name of Highways England, you are the claimant …

We suspect Mrs Green was not in control, that she had been appointed to undertake an enquiry that was destined to go nowhere, that others were controlling matters, directing the lawyers to continue.  It appeared no one had any respect for Mrs Green:

28/09/2017, Mrs Green telephoned explaining Kier Highways, Sophie Granville had got wind they were being audited.  Mrs Green informed us she had ‘the most abusive phone call off Sophie’.  Mrs Green, referring to Sophie as ‘the stupid girl’ added that Ms Granville then followed the call up with abusive text messages.

We were also informed that coincidentally, CorClaims, who were not corresponding with Mrs Green had, that morning been trying to get Sarah’s attention at a conference call.  Mrs Green explained informing Shakespeare Martineau they had ample opportunity to come and speak to her and resolve some issues, they had not done that so Highways England would go through the audit.

Proceedings continued to be issued by Shakespeare Martineau contrary to Mrs Green assurances.

20/10/2017 we raised this with Mrs green asking ‘Could you advise who at Kier and Corclaim have been informed and if known, explain why they are not to be adhering to your instruction … or confirm the direction has been reinforced?’ Mrs green responded that day by email:

Any claims that are being processed and where costs would be incurred by Highways England to put them on hold will proceed.
All new claims or claims where proceedings haven’t been issued are on hold

But they were not placed on hold. Shakespeare Martineau continued to issue proceedings.

18/01/2018, we again spoke with Mrs Green and explained, with regard to the matters on hold,  two had been the subject of proceedings in the past couple of weeks.  Mrs Green was aware and whilst advising us she had given clear instruction to lawyers, she did not know what to say … other than she required the KPMG report.

12/02/2018, we asked Mrs Green whether Shakespeare Martineau acted on behalf of Highways England.  The response was ‘no’.  We were informed Corclaim act for Kier, not for the Authority.

However … that was incorrect.

28/02/2020, we again spoke with Mrs Green of the Authority to again explain that despite being told all Kier highways matters were on hold, proceedings had been issued by CorClaim in the name of Highways England. We asked why.

We were informed that although the lawyers had issued (against the Authority’s stated instruction) in the name of Highways England, the Authority could not withdraw the claim; Highways England seemingly had no control over proceedings issued in their name! 

Mrs Green explained she could have a word with ‘him’ to say, “Don’t do any more” but we pointed out the obvious; Shakespeare Martineau were not doing so they were told.  Mrs Green’s response to this was ” I’m fully aware of that” and when we asked ‘why?’, the response was

“If you can give me an answer, then I’d be… I don’t know.”

We put it to the Authority that when we spoke last time we were informed the lawyers were NOT acting for Highways England. Mrs Green’s response; ‘I was wrong. I’ve had legal check it out.’

03/2018, it appears Mrs Green was removed from the enquiry with Tim Reardon (Highways England’s General Counsel) progressing the ‘audit’ possibly with Ms Sharon McCarthy of Highways England.  A dismissive update about the audit was received in later 2018 and to date, the Authority has refused to disclose the KMPG findings. 


Summary:

  • In 2017 Shakespeare Martineau was acting for Kier Highways Ltd, progressing exaggerated claims some of which had a fraudulent element
  • It appears at the same time they were acting for Highways England albeit the Authority was unsure of this.
  • However, Corclaims were not responding to Authority requests for a discussion about claims and this, in part, gave rise to a full audit by KPMG
  • Highways England had no control over the lawyers who did as they pleased not as Mrs green was directing. 

in 202, Shakespeare Martineau was invited to tender for Authority work and ‘won’, were appointed.


Associated Information:

08/2020 – New Rates and Lawyers – an FOIA request which can be read here