The court can order solicitors to disclose their client's contact details to the client's litigation opponent in exceptional circumstances.
In JSC BTA Bank v Solodchenko, the court ordered the defendant's solicitors to disclose his contact details to the bank. The defendant had allegedly been involved in a substantial investment bond fraud. A worldwide freezing order (WFO) had been obtained, but the defendant was in continuing breach of that order and had been sentenced in his absence to a term of imprisonment for contempt of court.
The bank required disclosure of his contact details so that he could be located and to help trace the proceeds of the fraud. It also sought disclosure from his solicitors of information about the defendant's assets, which the defendant was obliged to provide under the WFO, and how the solicitors' fees were being paid so it could consider a third-party costs order.
The judge found that the contact information was confidential but not legally privileged and the court did have jurisdiction to order its disclosure. The right to confidentiality (not privilege) could be overridden by other considerations. Here there was a strong public interest in ensuring court orders were obeyed and this applied with particular force where a committal order was involved.
The court declined to make any order in relation to disclosure of assets as any information the solicitors held in relation to assets was overwhelmingly likely to be legally privileged and that privilege had not been waived.
The court also declined the application to provide information as to how the defendant was funding the litigation. This was because the bank had not challenged the solicitors' evidence that there was no third party funder with a financial interest in the outcome who was controlling the litigation.
Things to consider
It is unusual for the court to make such an order because of the potential for inhibiting an individual's right to seek legal advice. Indeed, the judge held here that he would probably not have made such an order had there been no committal order. However, where circumstances dictate, such as in large, international fraud cases, such an order can be made.