Scandal-hit Yorkshire tech firm urged to hand over 12,000 emails about ex-CEO's wife

A scandal-hit Yorkshire tech firm is being urged to hand over more than 12,000 emails relating to the wife of its former CEO that were sent in a five-month period around his departure from the business.

Jane Richards, the wife of David Richards, has made a Subject Access Request to his former firm WANdisco, which is now called Cirata. The Sheffield-based data migration company is said to have 12,000 emails pertaining to her from between March and July this year – an average of around 115 per working day.

However it is yet to hand over the information and high-profile lawyer Mark Stephens CBE, who is representing her, has now written to the firm to demand the emails are produced.

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Mr Richards left the company in April in the wake of a scandal which saw expected revenues and sales bookings overstated by millions of pounds. A subsequent investigation ordered by the company said the issue had been caused by a “sophisticated” fraud conducted by an unnamed single senior sales employee.

David and Jane Richards pictured in 2020. Picture: Bruce RollinsonDavid and Jane Richards pictured in 2020. Picture: Bruce Rollinson
David and Jane Richards pictured in 2020. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

Mr Stephens said: “It is unclear why WANdisco would have many, if any, emails about David’s wife. That in my experience of doing data protection law for the last decade or so is pretty unprecedented.

“We asked for the material and they have not given over the material. The obligation is to hand it over. It is an absolute right – if you have got data on me you have to tell me what you have got.”

Mr Stephens said Mrs Richards had made her SAR request in July which was initially refused in September. He wrote to the company on October 13 to state they had “no right” to refuse it.

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He said the company subsequently admitted holding more than 12,000 emails in which Jane Richards is mentioned from the period March 1 to July 31.

He said in November after draft legal proceedings were sent to them, the company said they would answer some of it. “Either they fully comply or there will be legal proceedings,” he said.

Mr Stephens accepted that some of the emails could pertain to the David and Jane Richards Family Foundation, which runs a Laptop for Kids initiative that WANdisco had previously paid invoices for. The money was subsequently repaid by the foundation.

He said: “Of course that is possible but 12,000 emails is a ludicrous number for someone not directly involved in the business and after her husband has left the business.

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Mr Stephens said the situation is part of broader questions about some actions of the company following Mr Richards’s departure. He has been the subject of criticism by Cirata’s board since his departure, with a public call made for him to return a bonus payment and concerns raised about a shirt sponsorship deal with Sheffield Wednesday funded by WANdisco on behalf of EyUp, a tech training organisation run by Mr and Mrs Richards.

“I think there are grounds to suspect what is going on here needs closer scrutiny,” said Mr Stephens.

A spokesperson for Cirata stated that “the company is aware of the request” and that “Cirata complies with all its responsibilities and regulatory requirements.”