Signing a contract

Virginia Giuffre and Prince Andrew - what can we learn from the settlement?

It is not a major surprise the litigation between Virginia Giuffre and Prince Andrew has settled. In my article published on 14th January I outlined the risks they each faced and why those risks might persuade them both to compromise, despite their bullish public statements. However the nature of the settlement is fascinating.

It is not clear whether settlement was achieved with the help of a mediator (cases can of course be compromised without mediators being involved). However it does highlight the benefits mediation can bring, namely saving money, saving time, allowing both sides to save at least some face, enabling publicity to be managed, and providing the catalyst for thinking creatively and commercially to find terms of settlement which would not be available to a court at trial.

Settlement terms

  • The lawyers for both parties have written to the presiding judge informing him that the case has settled, asking that all deadlines and actions be suspended, and saying they will be making a joint application for the dismissal of the case.
  • The letter from the lawyers has exhibited to it a one page statement. The precise nature and status of that document is not explained, but it looks very much like a very carefully drafted joint statement agreed by both parties, summarising the basis upon which the settlement has been agreed.
  • Behind those short published documents will be a detailed settlement agreement, setting out all the terms which have been agreed. That agreement will be strictly private and confidential; it is unlikely that it or its contents will ever be published. Prince Andrew has already said that he will not be making any further comment about the matter, beyond what is said in these published documents.
  • However the joint statement makes it clear that Prince Andrew is paying to settle the case. It says he is to make a “substantial donation to Ms Giuffre’s charity”. It also refers to the fact that the case will be dismissed “upon Ms Giuffre receipt of the settlement”. It is not clear COMMediate Commercially focused dispute resolution whether that reference to a “settlement” is the same as the donation to charity, or a separate payment to Ms Giuffre.
  • There is no admission of liability from Prince Andrew and there is no apology from him. However he acknowledges that Ms Giuffre was a victim of abuse, states he regrets his association with Jeffrey Epstein, and pledges to support the fight against sex trafficking.

Key points

  • As I highlighted in my previous article, both parties have managed to save some face. Ms Giuffre will point to the financial settlement and the acknowledgement that she is a victim, as vindication of her position. Prince Andrew will point to the fact that he has not admitted liability as vindication of his denials. He will hope that this, together with his stated intention to support the fight against sex trafficking, may in time allow him to achieve some rehabilitation in relation to his royal status. Mediation allows the parties to position carefully manage any publicity regarding the case and its settlement.
  • This compromise has been achieved quickly, less than one month since the court refused Prince Andrews application to dismiss the case. Mediation can achieve settlement very speedily, saving time, money and the stress associated with litigation, which can last years.
  • The lid has been slammed shut on the detail of the case and the settlement. All the gory details which would have come out in court (to the detriment of potentially both parties) will not now come out (at least not in this case), and the terms of the settlement are unlikely ever to be known. In contrast the courts judgment following a trial would have been published. Mediation is private and provides a safe environment in which parties can compromise, whereas court proceedings take place within the full glare of the public (as we have seen).