Hambros and law firm await legal move

Hambros Bank and the City law firm Travers Smith Braithwaite should learn this week whether they face the prospect of legal action over their role in Andrew Regan's bid for the Co-op.

The liquidator of Galileo, the vehicle used for the abortive bid, is actively considering the possibility. Jason Elles, the liquidator for Ernst & Young, said he was still considering whether Galileo had received misleading advice, and whether losses to its shareholders had been the fault of the advisers.

An Ernst & Young spokesman said yesterday: "The review is taking place. The liquidator and his advisers are looking at the whole circumstances and the review will take some little time and until it is complete there will be no decisions.

"Wilde Sapte, the solicitors, are advising the liquidator as part of the overall review. "When the review is completed and if there is evidence legal action should be taken, then we will pursue that matter."

Galileo went into solvent liquidation on Wednesday after a meeting of the Galileo board to wind up the company with the agreement of the shareholders.

The spokesman confirmed that Andrew Regan and his adviser, David Lyons, were co-operating with the inquiry.

Hambros and Travers Smith Braithwaite last week sent letters of apology to the Co-operative Wholesale Society, and paid the CWS an undisclosed sum. The CWS accepted the apology and subsequently dropped its planned legal claims.

Hambros' letter admitted that its judgement had been "below standard". Confidential CWS documents had been used in preparing the bid, and had circulated widely around the City.

Wilde Sapte is examining the papers for Ernst & Young to determine whether or not Galileo's shareholders, including Jupiter Asset management, Schroders and Killik & Co, would have a case.

Mr Justice Lightman last week described the use of the confidential information as a "gross, wilful and disgraceful breach of confidence". Hambros' part in circulating the CWS material was described in the High Court.

Hambros has suspended one executive, Peter Large, subject to an investigation. News of his fate and that of others on the finance team advising Galileo could also emerge this week.

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