LONDON (Reuters) – A lawyer who blew JK Rowling’s cover when she wrote a detective novel under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith has been fined 1,000 pounds ($1,650) and received a written warning from a British legal watchdog.
Chris Gossage, a partner at Russells Solicitors, which represented the Harry Potter author, leaked one of the publishing world’s biggest secrets to his wife’s best friend – who then tweeted Galbraith’s real identity to a journalist.
Rowling, Britain’s best-selling author, was furious when she found out that a partner at her London-based law firm had revealed she was the author of “The Cuckoo’s Calling”.
Publicity material for the book had described it as the debut novel of retired military policeman Galbraith.
After taking legal action against Gossage and his friend Judith Callegari, Rowling accepted an apology from the law firm which paid her legal costs and made a substantial, undisclosed donation to a charity of her choice, the Soldiers’ Charity.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority said in a ruling released this week that Gossage had also received a written rebuke and was ordered to pay a 1,000 pound fine for disclosing confidential information about a client to a third party.
No one from Russells Solicitors was immediately available to comment. Gossage was still listed as a partner at the firm that made it clear that unmasking Rowling was an error and not a marketing stunt.
At the time, Rowling, 48, said it had been “wonderful” to publish without hype or expectation and to get feedback under a different name even if that meant some publishers rejected her work as they had when she first touted her Harry Potter books.
The novel was released last April to strong reviews but minimal sales. Once her involvement was known, sales rocketed, sending the novel to the top of best-seller lists.
“I feel very angry that my trust turned out to be misplaced,” Rowling said in a statement in July. “To say that I am disappointed is an understatement.”
The novel, about a war veteran turned private eye investigating the death of a model, was published by Little, Brown, which in 2012 published Rowling’s first adult novel “The Casual Vacancy”.
(Editing by Catherine Evans)