Restaurant owner slams Ince’s investigation into management team’s ‘abhorrent behaviour’

The restaurant owner who exposed the behavior of senior Ince Group executives towards one of his employees last month has criticized the company’s handling of the ensuing investigation.

Lee Skeet, owner of The Cora restaurant in Cardiff, has spoken of what it sees as a “token effort” by the company.

Skeet emailed the company in May claiming that a 22-year-old household employee had been “treated with contempt, disrespect and unwanted touching by members of [the] group” at a dinner on May 4.

He added that the group, which was made up of six people including Ince board members, was: “loud, obnoxious, rude and disrespectful” during the evening.

Skeet said the party included John Biles, head of finance and administration at Ince, Adrian Biles, the firm’s chief executive, and Donald Brown, CEO of Arden Partners, the corporate adviser recently acquired by Inc. The company declined to comment on those present.

Skeet said he received a response to his email 12 days after that night from someone who introduced himself via email as “the independent investigator hired by the Ince Group to investigate allegations of inappropriate behavior”, but did not provide a name.

After Skeet asks who he was talking to, the person identified herself as Carol Ashton, non-executive director of the Ince Group board.

Skeet said that made him question the independence of the company’s investigation and that the company’s internal investigation seemed like a “token effort” to him.

He said: “It felt like a really unprofessional email. My wife is a lawyer and she was shocked that they thought this was acceptable.

A person close to Ince said Ashton’s investigation was being overseen externally by law firm CM Murray.

They also claimed 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 he was not told when the investigation was complete or given details of any action taken.

He said he would have liked to see a public apology to the house employee, but no apology has been issued by Ince so far.

Instead, Skeet said “many other law firms” have been in touch with him “to apologize on behalf of the profession.”

Skeet added that the band’s £1,000 bill had been given to his employee.

Ince Group is one of the largest listed law firms in the UK with a turnover of around £100m. Year-to-date, the firm’s share price has halved and stood at 17p as of 5.30pm on Tuesday. Since the group listed in 2020, its share price has fallen from a high of 83p to 16p.

About Walter Bartholomew

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