Appleby said that it had resolved its differences in relation to the offshore law firm’s breach of confidence claim against the Guardian and the BBC arising from the “Paradise Papers” disclosures.
The three issued a joint statement on the settlement, after Appleby launched a lawsuit against the two media organisations which it said were stolen from it in a cyberattack.
In the suit, Appleby claimed a breach of confidence by the media organisations and sought a permanent injunction against further use of the information, as well as the disclosure and return of the documents. Details of the settlement remain confidential, but the joint statement does not refer to any requirement to pay damages.
Appleby, in the joint announcement said it had publicly explained that its main objective for bringing the proceedings was to understand which of its confidential and privileged documents had been taken so that it could, for example respond meaningfully to clients, regulators and colleagues about what information, relating to them, has been taken.
“Without compromising their journalistic integrity or ability to continue to do public interest journalism, the Guardian and the BBC have assisted Appleby by explaining which of the company's documents may have been used to underpin their journalism,” the joint statement said.
“It is now clear that the vast majority of documents that were of interest in the Paradise Papers investigation related to the fiduciary business that is no longer owned by Appleby and so were not legally privileged documents,” it said.
Michael O’Connell, Group Managing Partner of Appleby, said: “From the outset we wanted to be able to explain to our clients and colleagues what information of theirs had been stolen. That was our duty. As a result of this legal action we are well on our way to achieving our objectives.”
A spokesperson for the Guardian said: “The Guardian's reporting from the Paradise Papers is investigative journalism that has raised important issues in the public interest.”
A spokesperson for the BBC said: "We welcome this settlement which preserves our ability to carry out investigative journalism in the public interest."
The Paradise Paper documents were first obtained by German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung, which passed them on to the US-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). The ICIJ then coordinated the Paradise Papers project with 380 journalists from 96 media organizations in 67 countries.
The consortium also included the New York Times, Le Monde, ABC in Australia and CBC News in Canada. Appleby only took legal action in the UK.
Appleby’s fiduciary business was divested in a management buy-out in 2015 and now trades as Estera. Its clients were affected because Estera’s data was still stored on Appleby’s computer systems at the time of the data breach.