LONDON, February 18, 2022 — The U.K. Supreme Court upheld the trial court decision and a unanimous Court of Appeal decision in favor of “ZXC,” a client of David Byrne of Larson, in the high-profile case against the news publisher Bloomberg.
Seasoned litigator David Byrne, who recently joined the London office of U.S.-based litigation firm Larson as Of Counsel, achieved a landmark ruling by the U.K. Supreme Court on Feb. 16 for his client, known only as “ZXC,” against Bloomberg in a high-profile media rights case. The significant decision confirms for the first time at the highest level in the U.K. that suspects of crime have, as a “legitimate starting point,” a reasonable expectation of privacy. The decision will have profound implications for media reporting in the U.K., as well as for individuals subject to criminal investigation.
Byrne instructed Tim Owen QC, Sara Mansoori, and Edward Craven of Matrix Chambers in the long-running claim that arose when details about a criminal investigation by a law enforcement agency into an executive, “ZXC,” were published by Bloomberg News in 2016. In the November 2018 trial of ZXC v. Bloomberg LP, the court rejected Bloomberg’s argument that publishing the impugned article, lifted from a confidential Letter of Request, was in the public interest. In fact, the court found, there was a very clear public interest that the contents of the Letter of Request should not be published based on the importance of maintaining the confidentiality of a live criminal investigation.
The trial court ordered Bloomberg to take down the article and pay compensation for violating the privacy rights of the executive by exposing the law enforcement agency’s suspicions that he may have engaged in fraud, which decision the Court of Appeal later affirmed. Bloomberg appealed to the U.K. Supreme Court in November 2021.
In the unanimous dismissal of Bloomberg’s appeal, the U.K. Supreme Court held that the “reputational” dimension of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights can apply to the tort of misuse of private information and protect an individual’s right to a private life. Because “ZXC” was a businessman of a large company, he would need to endure greater scrutiny and criticism from the contents of the article than a private individual, however he would also be likely to incur greater damages as a result of the confidential investigation and suspicions against him being made public.
Following the Court of Appeal decision in ZXC v. Bloomberg LP in 2020, the media became more cautious about reporting the details of individuals who are suspected of criminal activities or have been arrested. The fact that this principle is now confirmed by the U.K. Supreme Court means that such reports cannot lawfully be made unless the media can point to some good reason why this new legal principle should not apply or there is some other reason why the information should be published.
Inga Ludewig, a solicitor of England and Wales formerly with Amsterdam & Partners in London and Hogan Lovells in Berlin, worked with Byrne on the appeal and has also joined the Larson London office, operating as Larson UK Ltd, as Of Counsel to work exclusively on the firm’s international matters. Byrne, Ludewig, and Larson founding partner Stephen G. Larson, a former U.S. District Judge, have worked together for years on high-profile client matters.
Byrne has over 40 years of experience serving as counsel to corporate and institutional clients in commercial, regulatory, and criminal investigations and litigation. He is well-recognized in the U.K. for representing companies and individuals in fraud cases and regulatory investigations. A former head of the litigation and investigations practice at Dechert LLP in London, Byrne previously co-founded the boutique litigation and regulatory firm Byrne & Partners (now PCB Byrne).