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This year is gearing up to be one of the most lucrative ever for the UK disputes market, with a record £25bn in dispute across The Lawyer’s Top 20 Cases 2017.
The High Court will host several multibillion-pound disputes brought by a mix of UK and international litigants. The highest value claims of the year include the Law Debenture Trust’s row with Ukraine over a defaulted loan (£3bn), Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan’s class action against MasterCard over interchange fees (£14bn), the RBS rights issue litigation (£1bn), the Libyan Investment Authority’s row with Société Générale over trades (£1.7bn) and an Iranian bank’s case against HM Treasury over allegedly unlawful sanctions (£2.3bn).
By comparison, the combined sum in last year’s list was just in excess of £6bn.
What would have been the biggest case of the year, the RBS Rights Issue Litigation, which is set to be heard in April, has dropped in value by around three quarters thanks to three claimant groups settling in December. Signature Litigation is still representing 24,000 corporate and individual investors in their £1bn claim against the bank and former chief executive Fred Goodwin.
Just like last year, in 2017 the High Court will hear a mixed bag of fraud, cartel, mis-selling and negligence claims brought against a host of institutions including banking and mining giants, law firms and governments.
The claimants will be just as diverse, with claims being brought by the British public (around 46 million of us), US hedge funds, property entrepreneurs, Uber, the owners of a Russian bank and Libya’s $66bn (£54bn) sovereign wealth fund.
A surge in group claims is reflected in this year’s list, with the 20 cases featuring six group claims and one class action. It also includes two judicial reviews, two Russian and Ukranian cases, four cases that feature solely international parties on both sides and one criminal case heard in Southwark Crown Court.
In this article, we reveal cases 11 to 20 of the Top 20 Cases of 2017. The second instalment – the cases we’ve ranked 1 to 10 – will be published on The Lawyer tomorrow.
Litigators in high demand
Once again, no-conflict firms and litigation boutiques get a good inning in this year’s list. Mishcon de Reya is acting on three cases in the list, though it would have been five had it not settled with RBS in the shareholder action and stepped down from the National Bank Trust case late last year.
10-partner boutique Signature Litigation is instructed on two cases in the top 20, as is Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan (one group of claimants being 46 million British MasterCard users). Stewarts Law is also acting on two of the top 20, while Hausfeld, Peters & Peters and Enyo Law are acting on one each.
Three often overlooked firms share some of the limelight this year: JMW Solicitors, Gunnercooke, and Manchester medical negligence firm Ryan Solicitors are acting on one case apiece.
When it comes to barristers’ chambers, Brick Court barristers appear nine times in the Top 20, Fountain Court and One Essex Court appear seven times, Blackstone and 11KBW are each fielding six teams, Essex Court features four times, 4 Stone Buildings appears three times and 3 Verulam Buildings features twice.
Top cases of 2017
Director of the Serious Fraud Office v Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation
Queen’s Bench Division,
6 February, five days (first substantive hearing)
The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has launched a civil court battle against Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation (ENRC) – currently also the subject of a lengthy criminal probe – to determine what material may be covered by legal privilege ahead of disclosure in the investigation.
Both parties have agreed to have the case heard in private. It marks the latest in a series of cases in which the SFO has launched secret civil proceedings against corporates in a bid not to prejudice a criminal investigation. The SFO brought a similar claim against Barclays in 2015 in an attempt to access evidence amid the agency’s criminal probe into the bank’s £5.8bn emergency cash-call during the financial crisis and its links to Qatari investors.
ENRC initially instructed Debevoise & Plimpton on the civil claim but later switched its defence to Signature Litigation.
The mining giant is also advised by Quinn Emanuel on the criminal probe, and is engaged in a separate legal battle with its former lawyers Dechert over claims the firm overcharged it £11m in fees.
For the claimant, the SFO
Red Lion Chambers’ Jonathan Fisher QC, instructed by the Director of the SFO
For the defendant, ENRC
Fountain Court’s Richard Lissack QC and Tamara Oppenheimer, instructed by Signature Litigation partners Graham Huntley and Daniel Spendlove
Mark Holyoake v Christian Candy, Nicholas Candy & Ors
6 February, seven weeks
London entrepreneur Mark Holyoake is bringing a £132m court case against property tycoon brothers Christian and Nicholas Candy over a real estate deal gone awry.
Holyoake has levied charges of conspiracy and intimidation against the pair over a £12m loan he secured from Christian Candy’s company CPC. In return for the cash, which he would use to develop Grosvenor Gardens House, a prime site in central London, Holyoake agreed to hand the Candys 20 per cent interest plus a hefty share in any profits from the project.
The brothers say Holyoake defaulted on the loan almost immediately and accuse him of dragging them through the courts to extract money from them. Meanwhile, Holyoake says
the Candys threatened to pass on his debt to Russian businessmen who would harm him and his family.
The dispute has lifted the lid on the Candy brothers’ wealth and celebrity personal lives. It has also reignited discussions about the collapse of British Seafood, of which Holyoake was chief executive.
For the claimant, Mark Holyoake
Wilberforce Chambers’ Ian Croxford QC, 4 New Square’s Roger Stewart QC, Maitland Chambers’ Richard Fowler and Hardwicke Chambers’ John Beresford, instructed by Gunnercooke partners Harvey Stringfellow and David Herbert
For the defendants, Christian and Nicholas Candy & Ors
Brick Court’s Tim Lord QC and Thomas Plewman QC, instructed by Gowling WLG partner Andrew Smith
Uber London Ltd, Mr Balogh, Mr Dimitrov and Mr Khan v Transport for London
28 February, three days
Uber is no stranger to the London courts. This three-day judicial review hearing will see the taxi app challenge Transport for London (TfL) over rules that would force its drivers to pass English tests.
TfL decided last year all private-hire drivers should undergo reading, writing and listening tests, with the rules coming into force last October. Uber applied for permission to review the guidelines last summer claiming they unfairly limit business in the capital, with its application approved in September.
TfL set out the regulations for taxis and minicabs following a consultation prompted by numerous rows between Uber and the black cab trade.
Now, Uber says the rules have become too strict, and is also challenging rules it must locate its customer service call centre in London, extend insurance for drivers, and alert TfL of changes to its business model.
Uber instructed Hogan Lovells on the case after the firm successfully defended it in a headline battle in 2015, when TfL asked the High Court to decide whether Uber’s fare calculate app was a taximeter – a device restricted to black cabs.
For the claimant, Uber
Blackstone Chambers’ Tom de la Mare QC and Hanif Mussa, instructed by Hogan Lovells partners Paul Dacam and Charles Brasted, and associate Dervia Simm
For the defendant, TfL
Brick Court’s Martin Chamberlain QC, Tim Johnston and David Heaton, instructed by TfL Legal solicitor Jake Stafford
The Queen, on the application of Liverpool City Council & Ors v Secretary of State for Health
15 March, two days
Four English councils have launched a legal challenge to the Government on the grounds it has slashed local funding to the point that vulnerable people are at risk.
This landmark public law case will likely become a test case for a wave of similar claims related to council budgets for Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards. The funding shortfall estimated at close to £700m.
At its heart the judicial review will centre on the showdown between central and local government and a continued reduction in funding at the same time as a ramping up of local council statutory obligations.
It will also focus on a novel constitutional problem following a Supreme Court ruling in 2014 redefining the law in relation to Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards and the Mental Capacity Act.
The change resulted in a 1,000 per cent rise in the number of cases councils have to handle regarding authorising a citizen’s deprivation of liberty and increased tensions in the provision of adult and social care.
For the claimants, Liverpool, Nottinghamshire, Richmond and Shropshire councils
11KBW’s James Goudie QC and Hannah Slarks, instructed by Liverpool City Council solicitor Bob Code, Shropshire Council solicitor Tim Collard, Nottinghamshire County Council solicitor Kram Kasbia, and Richmond Council solicitor Pamela Clark
For the defendant, Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt
11KBW’s Jason Coppel QC and Joanne Clement, instructed by the Government Legal Service (GLS)
National Bank Trust v Ilya Yurov, Sergey Belyaev, Nikolay Fetisov, Nataliya Yurova, Irina Belyaeva, Elena Pischulina
Easter term, nine weeks
The new owners of Russia’s National Bank Trust are suing the former shareholders for $830m in damages related to the bank’s collapse in 2014 in this major dispute tipped to be one of the biggest Russian court actions this year.
National Bank Trust, now owned by Otkritie Holding, claims the six defendants improperly used the bank’s cash to fund around $1bn of loans to their own companies. Then, when the bank was reorganised, took out further bank funds to repay earlier loans. The collapse of National Bank Trust prompted the second largest state-funded bailout of a bank in Russian history.
The High Court has already handed down an $800m freezing order on the assets in dispute, with the defendants’ previous lawyers Mishcon de Reya applying to set aside the order last autumn. The resulting judgment prompted some harsh words from the judge, who deemed the shareholders’ “balance sheet management” as a “Ponzi scheme with a fancy name”.
Mishcon came off the case following the ruling with the defendants now represented by Byrne & Partners Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson and Gresham Legal.
For the claimant, National Bank Trust
Essex Court Chambers’ Nathan Pillow QC, David Davies and Anton Dudnikov, instructed by Steptoe & Johnson partner Neil Dooley
For the first and fourth defendants, Ilya and Nataliya Yurov
3 Hare Court’s Simon Davenport QC, instructed by Gresham Legal partner Smeetesh Kakkad
For the second and fifth defendants, Sergey Belyaev and Irina Belyaeva
Wilberforce Chambers’ Alan Gourgey QC, instructed by Fried Frank partner Justin Michaelson
For the third and sixth defendants, Nikolay Fetisov and Elena Pischulina
Essex Court Chambers’ James Willan, instructed by Byrne & Partners partner Nicola Boulton
VB Football Assets v Segesta Ltd
June, five weeks
Clifford Chance is acting for the part owners of Blackpool FC to bring an unfair prejudice and breach of contract petition against the majority shareholders, claiming in excess of £10m.
The magic circle firm’s client, football club president and Latvian millionaire Valeri Belokon claims that when Blackpool FC was promoted to the Premier League, the majority owners took tens of millions of pounds out of the club and paid the money to themselves and their companies.
The club’s owners, the Oyston family, refute the claims, instructing Manchester firm HHB Law on its defence.
Other allegations concern the amendments of club articles, improper sharing of information at board level, payments made to board directors, and the owners’ handling of parachute payments when the club was relegated.
The action follows a related High Court case that went to trial in December related to claims that cash from money laundering may have found its way into Blackpool FC through its Latvia connections. Final arguments are expected to be heard next month.
For the petitioner, VB Football Assets
Blackstone Chambers’ Andrew Green QC and Fraser Campbell, instructed by Clifford Chance partner Chris Yates and associates James Cranston and Emma Mack
For the respondent, Segesta Ltd
XXIV Old Buildings’ Alan Steinfeld QC, instructed by HHB Law solicitor and managing director Richard Bell
SFO v Carl Rogberg, Christopher Bush and John Scouler
Southwark Crown Court,
4 September, 12 weeks
This headline criminal trial will see the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) prosecute three former senior directors at Tesco over allegations of fraud in relation to the retail giant’s £263m accounting scandal.
The SFO charged the trio in September, alleging the accounting fraud occurred over a nine-month period in 2014. Former finance director of Tesco UK Carl Rogberg, former managing director of Tesco UK Christopher Bush, and former commercial director for food John Scouler have all been charged with one count of fraud by abuse of position and one count of false accounting.
The three men could face up to 10 years in jail if found guilty of fraud by abuse and seven years for false accounting. Their trial will run amid the SFO’s wider ongoing criminal investigation into accounting practices at Tesco, which launched in October 2014 when the company admitted the mammoth profits overstatement due to incorrectly booked payments from suppliers.
The scandal wiped £2bn off Tesco’s share price, which has now sparked a separate £100m claim from investors brought by Stewarts Law.
For the prosecutor, the SFO
6KBW’s Sasha Wass QC instructed by the director of the SFO
For the first defendant, Carl Rogberg
Nick Purnell QC and Jonathan Barnard, instructed by Norton Rose Fulbright partners Neil O’May and Ruth Cowley
For the second defendant, Christopher Bush
QEB Hollis Whiteman Chambers’ Adrian Darbishire QC and Tom Doble, instructed by Hickman & Rose partner Ross Dixon
For the third defendant, John Scouler
Cloth Fair Chambers’ Ian Winter QC and QEB Hollis Whiteman Chambers’ Jocelyn Ledward, instructed by BCL Burton Copeland partner Richard Sallybanks
Fortress & Ors v BNP Paribas & Ors, ‘Golden Belt’ litigation
October, six weeks
BNP Paribas is being sued by a group of US hedge funds and deal trustee Golden Belt 1 Sukuk Company over claims a $650m Islamic finance transaction was rendered worthless because the bank failed to get a proper signature from the Saudi billionaire businessman behind the deal.
The claimants are suing the French lender for negligence and breach of contract during its role as arranger, manager and sole bookrunner for the transaction, which fell apart when Saad Group Chairman Maan al-Sanea defaulted in 2009. It became clear soon after the transaction wasn’t properly executed under Saudi law because the paperwork didn’t have a “wet ink” signature from al-Sanea.
The funds claim the error means legal proceedings brought against al-Sanea – the 62nd richest person in the world in 2009 – in Saudi Arabia are unlikely to provide a remedy, so have brought the action in the London courts to attempt to force BNP Paribas to pay for their losses.
Al-Sanea’s Saad Group and other businesses defaulted on around $15.7bn of debt in 2009 as the global financial crisis froze credit markets. The family holding companies have been locked in legal disputes ever since.
For the claimants, Fortress Group & Ors
4 Pump Court’s Nigel Tozzi QC and Essex Court Chambers’ Jeremy Brier, instructed by Stewarts Law partner Marc Jones
For the defendant, BNP Paribas
One Essex Court’s Sonia Tolaney QC and James MacDonald, instructed by Clifford Chance partner Kelwin Nicholls
Bank Mellat v HM Treasury
20 November, four weeks
The long-running dispute between Iran’s largest private bank and the UK Government will finally reach a crux in 2017 with Bank Mellat’s £2.3bn damages claim against HM Treasury slated for November.
The sanctions litigation started in 2009 when the bank instructed Stephenson Harwood to challenge a restrictions order prohibiting UK financial institutions from having a business relationship with Bank Mellat. It lost a series of challenges in the UK courts, taking its case all the way to the ECJ, which held that Mellat was not a state-owned bank, allowing the dispute to head back to the UK Supreme Court.
The case has now been remitted to the High Court for the assessment of damages caused to Bank Mellat as a result of the 2009 order, with Supreme Court justices ruling the Treasury was obligated to provide prior notice for representations on its order, and that the elimination of the bank’s business in London was a disproportionate response to the Treasury’s stated goals.
Chancery Lane firm Zaiwalla & Co took over the case for the Iranian bank prior to its first Supreme Court challenge.
For the claimant, Bank Mellat
Fountain Court’s Michael Brindle QC, Blackstone Chambers Timothy Otty QC and 11KBW’s Amy Rogers, instructed by Zaiwalla & Co senior partner Sarosh Zaiwalla
For the defendant, HM Treasury
39 Essex Chambers’ Steven Kovats QC, Fountain Court’s Patrick Goodall QC, 4 Stone Buildings’ Nicholas Cox and 11KBW’s Julian Blake, instructed by Government Legal Department solicitors Catherine Turtle and Mark Perry
Various v Ian Paterson, Spire Healthcare Ltd and Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust
Queen’s Bench Division,
Michaelmas term, four weeks
Former consultant surgeon Ian Paterson is being sued by around 700 women over claims of botched, unauthorised or unnecessary mastectomies over a 20-year period in and around the Midlands.
The most controversial of the claims include the allegation he conducted as many as 450 unauthorised “cleavage sparing” mastectomies which left breast tissue behind and increased the risk of cancer recurring. Other allegations include failure to obtain patient consent, and performing surgery that he was not qualified to perform.
The case will likely be one of the biggest clinical negligence group claims in recent history, and also sees the NHS Trust which employed Paterson and Spire Healthcare, which owns two private hospitals where he worked, in the dock.
The litigation has been complicated by questions of Paterson’s mental health in the last 18 months and consequently his capacity to respond to the claims, as well as a concurrent criminal prosecution with charges of assault.
For the claimants, Various
1 Crown Office Row’s Elizabeth-Anne Gumbel QC and Robert Kellar, instructed by Slater & Gordon partner Emma Doughty and Thompsons’ senior clinical negligence solicitor Tony Mikhael. (Slater & Gordon and Thompsons are the lead solicitors in the case which features a large number of claimant groups)
For the first defendant, Ian Paterson
39 Essex Chambers’ Neil Block QC and Judith Ayling, instructed by Ryan Solicitors partner Michael Ryan
For the second defendant, Spire Healthcare Ltd
Hailsham Chambers’ David Pittaway QC and Catherine Ewins, instructed by RPC partner Dorothy Flower
For the third defendant, The Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust
2 Temple Gardens’ Michael de Navarro QC and Will Wraight, instructed by DAC Beachcroft partner Clare Humphrys-Smith
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