The restaurant owner who hit out at the behaviour of senior Ince Group executives towards one of his employees last month has criticised the firm’s handling of the subsequent investigation.
Lee Skeet, the owner of Cora restaurant in Cardiff, has spoken out about what he perceives to be a “token effort” by the firm.
Skeet emailed the firm in May to claim that a 22-year-old front of house employee had been “talked down to, disrespected, and touched unwantedly by members of [the] group” at a dinner on May 4.
He added that the group, which consisted of six people including members of Ince’s management board, were: “loud, obnoxious, rude and disrespectful” during the evening.
Skeet said the party included John Biles, Ince’s head of finance and administration, Adrian Biles, the firm’s chief executive, and Donald Brown, the CEO of Arden Partners, Ince’s recently acquired corporate adviser. The firm declined to comment on which individuals were in attendance.
Skeet said he received a reply to his email 12 days after that night from someone who introduced themselves on email as the “independent investigator who has been engaged by the Ince Group to investigate the allegations of inappropriate behaviour”, but did not provide a name.
After Skeet requested to know who he was speaking to, the individual identified herself as Carol Ashton, a non-executive director on the board of the Ince Group.
Skeet said this led him to question the independence of the firm’s investigation, and that the firm’s internal inquiry seemed to him like a “token effort”.
He said: “It just felt like a really unprofessional email. My wife is a lawyer, and she was shocked that they thought that was acceptable.”
A person close to Ince said that the investigation undertaken by Ashton was externally overseen by the law firm CM Murray.
They also asserted that Ashton sent a second email on May 17 offering an in-person meeting with Skeet and his employee, but did not receive a response from Skeet until June 13.
The person added that Ince’s internal investigation into the investigation concluded at the end of May.
Skeet said that he had not been informed that the investigation had finished, or been provided with any details as to what action had been taken.
He said that he would have liked to see a public apology to the front of house employee, but no apology has been issued by Ince so far.
Instead, Skeet said that “lots of other law firms” have been in touch with him “to apologise on behalf of the profession”.
Skeet added that the group’s bill of £1,000 had been given to his employee.
Ince Group is one of the U.K.’s largest listed law firms with revenues of around £100 million. Since the start of the year the firm’s share price has halved and stood at 17p on Tuesday at 17.30. Since the group’s 2020 listing its share price has dropped from an 83p high to as low as 16p.