Barclays faces court over £40m breast implant scandal
Barclays today faced claims it helped a private healthcare company avoid paying compensation to women given faulty breast implants by a private healthcare firm.
The bank is accused of working with Midlands law firm The Wilkes Partnership to restructure Hospital Medical Group (HMG), in order to help it avoid paying compensation to women given faulty breast implants.
The silicone gel implants, manufactured by French firm Poly Implant Prothèse (PIP), were given to an estimated 47,000 British women, before it was revealed they were made using sub-medical grade silicon.
Lawyers acting on behalf of the affected women claim Barclays and The Wilkes Partnership abused bankruptcy laws to help HMG avoid paying compensation, by helping the private healthcare provider restructure its business to transfer assets away from the firm.
The £40m lawsuit is seeking £35m in compensation plus 10 years’ worth of interest for thousands of women given the faulty PIP breast implants by HMG.
Lawyers acting on behalf of the women have claimed a series of emails, exchanged between one of HMG’s directors and a director at Barclay’s Business Support Unit on 26 October 2012, show the bank knowingly helped restructure the private healthcare company to avoid making payouts.
Gwilym Jones, director of Henderson & Jones – the litigation funder which purchased the claim from HMG’s liquidators – told City A.M.: “We believe the restructure was plainly illegal and that the professionals involved should be held to account”.
Email exchanges seen by City A.M. show one of HMG’s directors told Barclays and others that paying a dividend to a holdings company would reduce HMG’s assets “should it come under attack”.
Lawyers acting on behalf of Barclays are instead set to argue the bank’s restructuring of HMG was “lawful and for proper purposes” in claiming the bank had “no reason to want [HMG’s] creditors to go unpaid, and every reason not to,” according to skeleton arguments seen by City A.M.
A Barclays spokesperson said: “We are defending the case as we believe it is without merit but, as it is subject to legal proceedings, we are unable to comment further.”
The Wilkes Partnership has been approached by City A.M. for comment.