Russell McVeagh partner resigns over inappropriate comments

A partner at a top law firm has resigned following an investigation into complaints about inappropriate comments made while drunk.

Russell McVeagh board chairman Malcolm Crotty made the announcement today.

"A thorough investigation substantiates the complaints and the partner concerned has apologised and tendered his resignation," Crotty said.

"We are deeply disappointed in the partner at the centre of the investigation.

"The partner concerned let the firm down and we have now lost trust and confidence in him. The Board determined that his conduct has fallen below our expected standards and we have accepted his resignation."

Crotty said there was no place for inappropriate conduct at the firm but he was encouraged that staff had spoken up despite the circumstances.

The firm was committed to changing the culture of the organisation, he said.

"We all recognise that change requires collective and long-term commitment. All partners in the firm agreed to uphold and lead the change."

He said the firm had arranged to meet with the New Zealand Law Society.

Dame Margaret Bazley released a damning report in July after a "work hard, play hard" culture of excessive drinking was exposed at the law firm amongst alleged incidents of sexual harrassment.

Dame Margaret interviewed 250 people from the firm to get to the bottom of allegations that five summer clerks were sexually harassed over the summer of 2015/2016.

The 89-page report found junior lawyers and young staff were encouraged to "drink to excess" in a culture where crude, drunken and sexually inappropriate behaviour was rife throughout the firm.

At the time Crotty acknowledged they made "serious mistakes" in how the 2015/16 allegations were handled.

"The board and partners of Russell McVeagh are deeply sorry for the impact that the incidents of 2015/16 have had on the young women involved and our people.

"We have apologised to the young women for the hurt and damage we caused. We recognise that they have shown great courage and applaud them for this.

"Their actions will result in meaningful change," Crotty said.

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