The Claimant (“C”) was the chief executive of a division of “X Ltd”, a major international business. The Defendant, Bloomberg, is an international financial software, data and media organisation based in New York, well-known for its financial journalism and reporting.
A UK law-enforcement body (“UKLEB”) began a criminal investigation into X Ltd, investigating possible offences of corruption, bribery, offences under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 and the Fraud Act 2006, together with conspiracy to commit offences. The UKLEB sent a formal letter of request (“LoR”) to a foreign government seeking its assistance in the investigation. The LoR, which was stated on its face to be confidential, identified C as a suspect. The LoR also set out the evidence the UKLEB had so far obtained, together with its initial conclusions.
Bloomberg had previously published an article which explained that C had been interviewed by the UKLEB as part of its investigation. Although highly displeased at its publication, C had not taken any legal action over this article. Instead, acting through his solicitor, C had provided a comment for publication. The trial Judge described this as being an understandable media strategy in the circumstances.
Bloomberg obtained a copy of the LoR and published an article based largely on its contents, at a time when C had not been charged with any offence. This was the article complained of. C brought a claim for misuse of private information, breach of confidence and breach of the Data Protection Act 1998.
The information in the article which was complained of (“the Information”) is set out at paragraph 28 of the judgment of the Court of Appeal. In essence, C complained about (1) publication of the fact that in its investigations into C the UKLEB had asked the foreign state to provide certain banking and business records, and (2) publication of details of the matters that were being investigated. This included a complaint that Bloomberg had published that the UKLEB considered that C had given false information to the board of X Ltd as part of a potential conspiracy, that the UKLEB believed C had committed fraud by false representation, and that the UKLEB was seeking to trace money which it believed was the proceeds of crime carried out by C.
Bloomberg denied that C had a reasonable expectation of privacy in respect of the Information such as to engage his rights under Article 8 ECHR, and argued that any privacy interests that C could demonstrate were outweighed by Bloomberg’s Article 10 rights of freedom of expression.
Following a four-day trial, in April 2019 Mr Justice Nicklin upheld C’s claim for misuse of private information and awarded him £25,000 in damages. C had not pursued his claims for breach of confidence or breach of the Data Protection Act 1998; C accepted that, if he could not succeed with his claim for misuse of private information, he would not succeed in his breach of confidence claim and that similar considerations applied to the Data Protection Act claim.
Bloomberg appealed to the Court of Appeal.