By Paul McBeth
March 7 (BusinessDesk) - Russell McVeagh, the law firm that counts some of New Zealand's biggest listed companies as clients, has hired former public servant Margaret Bazley to probe sexual harassment claims.
The firm committed to an external review after Newsroom reported sexual harassment of summer interns in 2015, prompting law schools around the country to sever ties with the firm while an investigation takes place. Russell McVeagh today announced Bazley would lead the probe, and would be assisted by a yet to be announced woman lawyer.
"We are extremely grateful to Dame Margaret for agreeing to conduct this review," senior partner Pip Greenwood said in a statement. "We have been conscious, in making this appointment, to appoint a person who is truly independent as well as who has experience in such work."
Bazley has been a safe pair of hands for successive governments, who have called on her to head high profile and controversial investigations, such as heading the Commission of Inquiry into police conduct following the Louise Nicholas rape trial, and chairing Environment Canterbury when elected officials were dumped by central government and a commission installed for six years.
The review's scope includes sexual harassment claims in the summer of 2015/16 and the firm's response; to consider any other claims brought to Bazley's attention; to look at the firm's policies and systems to protect staff; assess the culture of the firm, and to provide advice.
Bazley's report will be made available to stakeholders including Russell McVeagh staff, clients, the New Zealand Law Society and law schools.
Companies including Spark New Zealand, Auckland International Airport and Meridian Energy retain the firm for legal services.