Insights

Foul advice?

24/04/2019

Former Chairman of Swansea AFC sues Welsh firm of family solicitors for recommending he held off reaching a settlement with his ex-wife.

Huw Jenkins, the former chairman of Swansea City Football Club, made headlines earlier this month when it was revealed that he is suing his previous solicitors for giving advice that he should not initiate divorce proceedings.

Mr Jenkins separated from his wife back in February 2011. At the time, he approached JCP Solicitors Limited in Wales in relation to potential matrimonial finance proceedings. He was advised not to initiate financial proceedings as his "level of indebtedness" would preclude a clean break. At the time, Swansea City AFC was playing in the Championship league.  

Just a few months later, Swansea City AFC was promoted to the Premier League. Mr Jenkin's financial position improved substantially, largely as a result of the significant increase in the value of his shares in Swansea City AFC. Later that year, Mr Jenkins was again told by JCP Solicitors that his finances were not sufficiently stable to reach a financial settlement with his wife.

The tables turned and in 2016, Mr Jenkin's wife started divorce proceedings. On 14 March 2017, a financial settlement was achieved between Mr Jenkins and his wife. The outcome? A hefty lump sum of £2.25m, transfer of assets and periodical payments to his wife!

Mr Jenkin's case is that he should have been advised to start proceedings before Swansea City AFC were promoted to the Premier League in June 2011 and his financial position improved. JCP solicitors argue that they did not provide any advice and, in any event, that even if Mr Jenkin's had started matrimonial proceedings in 2011, it would not have resulted in a quicker of lower financial settlement.

The case is yet to be decided, but offers some interesting food for thought. Could Mr Jenkin's have reached a lower settlement? Possibly, but not definitely. It is impossible to predict the length of the divorce process. Even when ex-spouses remain amicable and reach an agreement without going to court, the process can take months at best, and longer in some cases.  During this time, both parties are under an ongoing duty to provide full, frank and clear disclosure to one another. Swansea City AFC was promoted just 4 months after Mr Jenkin's and his wife separated. Mr Jenkin's would have had to disclose a material change in his circumstances, such as a sharp increase in his share values. It is worth noting that a failure by one party to provide full and frank disclosure might allow the other party to challenge a financial remedy order and entitle the court to set it aside.

 All in all, Mr Jenkin's case serves as a reminder to family practitioners, and advisers more generally, of the responsibility we owe to clients to clearly set out all options available to them, and to advise clients of both the merits and downfalls of their case.