Five former footballers have withdrawn “pension mis-selling” claims against a business consultant, a High Court judge has been told.
A lawyer on Wednesday told Mr Justice Johnson that Robert Lee, Steve Stone, Warren Barton, John Beresford and Paul Kitson had withdrawn claims against Kevin Neal after he sued for libel.
Solicitor Hugo Mason told the judge how Mr Neal had taken legal action following a newspaper report about the former players’ claims.
He said retired businessman George Glenister, a friend of the former footballers, had also withdrawn claims against Mr Neal.
The judge, who is based in London, was told, at a virtual High Court hearing, that Mr Neal’s libel claim against the six men should be “considered closed”.
Mr Neal has been embroiled in separate litigation with ex-England striker Alan Shearer.
Nearly four years ago, Mr Shearer agreed a settlement with Mr Neal after claiming that he was given “negligent” advice and launching a £9 million damages claim.
Lawyers told a judge, who had begun overseeing a High Court trial in London in June 2017, that the terms of the settlement between Mr Shearer and Mr Neal, were confidential.
Mr Mason told Mr Justice Johnson on Wednesday that the five former footballers, and Mr Glenister, had instructed a law firm to act for them and to publish statements about Mr Neal on their behalf.
He said the six men were therefore liable for “publications” made by High Street Solicitors, a firm based in Liverpool, on their behalf.
The six men had, through their solicitors, communicated, to a Daily Mail journalist, allegations that Mr Neal had “defrauded” them and “acted negligently” and in “breach of fiduciary duty”, said Mr Mason.
He said the Daily Mail had published an article, on November 26 2020, headlined: “Football stars sue in £2m pensions mis-selling case…”
Mr Mason said a “claim form and particulars of claim” had never been served on Mr Neal.
He said a “default judgment” had been “irregularly obtained” against Mr Neal but not served on him.
Mr Mason said the six men had “now consented to the setting aside of the default judgment” and had “withdrawn their claims against Mr Neal”.
A lawyer representing the six men confirmed what Mr Mason had said, and said his clients had agreed to withdraw their claims against Mr Neal.
Mr Lee, Mr Barton, Mr Beresford, Mr Kitson and Mr Shearer played for Newcastle United.
Mr Stone played for Nottingham Forest.
Mr Mason told the judge that the claimant, Mr Neal, was a self-employed business development and distribution consultant who worked with various investment fund managers situated in Luxembourg, Switzerland, the Middle East and the Far East.
He said five of the six defendants were “well-known former Premier League footballers”.
“The defendants have each instructed High Street Solicitors … to act for them and to publish statements about the claimant to third parties on their behalf,” he said.
“The defendants are accordingly liable for the publications made by High Street Solicitors on their behalf.”
He said as a result of the six men’s “publications”, the Daily Mail had published an article dated November 26 2020, entitled “Football stars sue in £2m pensions mis-selling case: Ex-Newcastle players lost life savings”.
“This article contained the wording that the defendants ‘claim former insurance salesman Kevin Neal provided fraudulent and negligent advice, which left their retirement plans in tatters.
“Neal did not file a defence and a default judgment means he will have to pay a sum to the claimants as decided by the High Court.
“The defendants have now consented to the setting aside of the default judgment and withdrawn their claims against Mr Neal.”
He said the six men had agreed not to bring “any other claims” against Mr Neal “in relation to the matters complained of in those proceedings”.