In a judgement published today JK Rowling’s former PA, Amanda Donaldson, was ordered to repay Rowling £18,734 after Sheriff Derek O’Carroll ruled she had obtained the money fraudulently by stating it was for Rowling’s personal or business use.
The £18,734 is made up of point-of-sale transactions including £3,000 in Molton Brown, £2,139 in Paper Tiger and more than £1,619 in Starbucks and Costa. A further £1,160 was made up of cash withdrawals and £7,742 on foreign currency.
Donaldson was able to make the transactions using a business credit card given to her by Rowling; however, Donaldson knew the card was strictly for business purposes and, only occasionally, to purchase items for Rowling’s personal use. The unauthorised transactions came to light around the beginning of 2017, when unusual activity was identified on the card and, on further investigation, additional irregularities were discovered. Donaldson was subsequently dismissed in April 2017.
The basis of Rowling’s claim is the common law delict of fraudulent misrepresentation. The authority for fraudulent misrepresentation is Derry v Peek (1889) 14 App Cas 337, where it was found that fraud is proved where it is shown that a false representation has been made knowingly or without belief in its truth or at least recklessly or careless whether the representation be true or false. If a fraud is proven, the motive is immaterial. During Donaldson’s employment, it was submitted she made false representations to the pursuer and other individuals.
Evidence for the case was heard over 5 days between October and December 2018. On conclusion of the evidence, Sheriff O’Carroll described the evidence of Donaldson, when attempting to explain and account for expenditures, as “incredible”, stating she had “persistently lied”, accused others of lying, was not honest with the court and was “capable of persistent brazen dishonesty”. In other words, you’re lying Donaldson and one mustn’t tell lies (we couldn’t not).
In contrast, the evidence of Rowling and her witnesses were found to be credible and reliable.
Rowling has confirmed the money, once repaid, will be donated to her charity, Lumos.
 It should be added that the test for fraudulent misrepresentation is incredibly high and there can be no finding of fraud if the individual making the statement believes it to be true. Any claimant bringing an action for fraudulent misrepresentation must prove the absence of honest belief to succeed in their case.