One mistake business people often assure us they won’t make is a “breach of confidence”. They are professionals, with years of experience – why on earth would they break a confidence, whether that confidence is client or market sensitive information?
Sadly, as we have seen recently with David Cameron talking about a private conversation with the Queen in front of the cameras, it can be all too easy – not to mention highly embarrassing.
While you might have the utmost confidence in what you do or say personally, how can you be so sure of your employees? Unless you monitor every email before it is sent, every telephone call, and every conversation your employees have it’s impossible to prevent inadvertent, accidental mistakes.
Who amongst us has not “talked shop” on the train with a colleague or discussed work with our partner over dinner?
Which brings me to another famous example of breach of confidence. You may remember when JK Rowling was outed as the author Robert Galbraith. A solicitor working at the firm looking after her affairs had mentioned it “in confidence” to his wife’s best friend, who subsequently tweeted it.
Of course, for a claim to succeed the claimant would usually need to prove financial loss. But what’s interesting about the JK Rowling instance is that she did not suffer financial loss – indeed, quite the reverse. She sold more books as a result of the breach, not fewer. However, as the substantial payout she received shows, it was a clear breach of the trust from her legal advisors.
So, to bring it back to business: think about this:
- Have you ever used “reply all” on an email, hit “send” – and then regretted it?
- Have you ever accidentally left papers on a photocopier, or on a train?
- Do you ever discuss work outside your business premises?
- Do you have employees?
If you answered yes to any of the above, then there’s a real risk of breach of confidence – especially in this day and age where it only takes an email landing in the wrong inbox for the information to go viral. It’s embarrassing if it’s a personal email but potentially damaging if it contains confidential information and financial loss can be shown, as this example from across the Atlantic neatly shows.
Before that happens, it’s best to check your professional indemnity insurance covers you for breach of confidence – you may save yourself distress and financial hardship in the long-run.
To learn more about indemnity, visit our article on what is professional indemnity insurance.