The top 20 cases of 2015: global disputes in the English courts – The Lawyer – January 2015

This year’s case line-up has an international theme running through it, underlining the English High Court’s reputation as a global litigation centre.

If there was any doubt remaining that the English High Court has become a global litigation centre, this year’s round-up of the 20 cases to watch will surely eliminate it. Because while 2015 may not be a vintage year in terms of the value or length of cases, it is one where litigants from a large number of countries will converge on the Strand.

As in the past few years, Russians feature on the list. Oil giant Rosneft is bringing the first UK challenge to the sanctions imposed on Russia by the EU in the wake of the Ukraine crisis. In the judicial review application to be heard at the end of this month Rosneft will argue that the delegated legislation introduced by the UK to implement the EU’s sanctions – as well as the underlying EU regulation – is unlawful.

Another sanctions case that will be closely watched is the claim for damages brought by Iran’s Bank Mellat against HM Treasury. The case has already been to the Supreme Court, which ruled in 2013 that financial restrictions imposed by the Treasury against Bank Mellat were unlawful. Now the bank is seeking £2.3bn in damages.

Other claims involving international litigants include two Africa-related cases. In the first, South African-owned Sabre Oil & Gas is suing Standard Bank over its acquisition of a stake in an oil field in Ghana.

The second is a class action brought by illegal prospectors to the site of the North Mara gold mine in Tanzania who were injured or killed by Tanzanian police and private security guards.

Financial services

Financial services cases feature heavily. Dexia and Banco Santander are bringing claims against public bodies in Italy and Portugal respectively, in disputes over swaps contracts. Meanwhile, the latest stage in the administration of Lehman Brothers International (Europe) (LBIE) sees the joint administrators seek clarification from the court over the distribution of the £7bn surplus left after paying off Lehman’s debts.

There are several professional negligence cases this year. Law firms Bird & Bird and Mishcon de Reya are both facing chunky claims from former clients, as is Big Four accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

Human rights

Human rights is another theme of the year and Leigh Day is cementing its reputation as a leading firm in this arena. The firm is acting for the claimants on the North Mara mine case, but is also bringing a claim over the misuse of legally privileged documents before the Investigatory Powers Tribunal for Libyan dissident Abdul-Hakim Belhaj.

Leigh Day will also appear in the landmark equal pay claim being brought by thousands of female employees of Asda against the supermarket. The group contend that they are entitled to the same pay as the predominantly male warehouse workforce.

The cases mean Leigh Day is the only firm with three appearances on the Top 20 list this year. A further six firms have two cases each in the list.

Herbert Smith Freehills is defending Standard Bank in the Sabre Oil case, and Tarek Investments in a spat with its joint venture partner Peak Hotels and Resorts.

Linklaters is acting for claimant AXA in its challenge to the Competition and Markets Authority’s stance on private healthcare, and for administrators PwC in the LBIE case.

Slaughter and May has picked up instructions for Kroll Associates on its defence on a $1bn claim brought by two Bahraini institutions, and for Banco Santander Totta in the Portuguese swaps case.

Triton Global, the specialist professional indemnity firm, is defending both Bird & Bird and Mishcon  de Reya against negligence claims. And litigation boutique Candey will appear for former partners of Dewey & LeBoeuf as Barclays Bank attempts to recoup money loaned for capital contributions, as well as for Peak Hotels in the Tarek case.

Addleshaw Goddard has taken over representation of Barclays in the Dewey case and is also representing the claimants in the Dar Al-Arkan Real Estate Development Company’s case against several defendants.

Star lawyers and top sets

Candey has instructed a counsel team led by 4 Stone Buildings’ John Brisby QC for both cases.

Brisby is one of a number of barristers to secure multiple appearances in the Top 20 cases this year. One Essex Court’s Laurence Rabinowitz QC has three cases, the most of any barrister, but several silks and juniors are involved in two cases each.

Fountain Court has secured the largest number of appearances of any set, with 15 across the 20 cases including two appearances apiece for Michael Brindle QC, Bankim Thanki QC and Patrick Goodall QC.

Brick Court Chambers is just behind with 14 appearances, including eight by silks. Meanwhile, South Square has 12 barristers filling all the counsel spots in one case, the LBIE application.

Will they get to court?

The question mark hanging over this year’s Top 20 cases is just how many of them will get to court.

Of last year’s case selection, more than half settled. Another five are ongoing – including a claim brought by Bahraini bank Bank Alkhair and its client Dar Al-Arkan Real Estate Development Company against defendants including Kroll Associates and FTI Consulting, which was rescheduled for 2015 and appears again in this year’s Top 20.

Just two judgments were handed down from 2014’s Top 20 cases, with judgment awaited in the final case. The pattern is an about-turn from 2013, when seven of the Top 20 cases settled and eight received judgment.

By the end of this year it should be clearer if there is a tendency towards settlement or whether clients still want to fight their court battles to the bitter end.

Kate’s casebook: six cases to watch this year – The Lawyer

Oligarchs, banking battles and commercial fights – it’s all going on in the courts next year

Last year was dominated by some major credit crunch litigation, with cases concerning compensation to Northern Rock shareholders taking centre stage.

This year, banking battles are still big business for London’s litigators, for example the Royal Bank of Scotland investors’ claim against a 2008 £12bn rights issue coming to a head.

Elsewhere the conspiracy allegations surrounding former Bahraini bank executive Majed Al Refai continue to swirl, with Addleshaw Goddard partner Mark Hastings taking on the case. It is the latest high-profile dispute for the partner, who represented the late Boris Berezovksy in his mammoth battle with Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich.

Meanwhile, the private healthcare kickback against the new regulator, the Competition and Markets Authority is keeping Monckton Chambers’ barristers occupied and will prove a major fight in 2015.

Here are some of the key cases to keep an eye on…

Dar Al Arkan Real Estate Development Company and Bank Alkhair BSC v Al Refai, Kroll Associates UK Ltd, Alex Richardson and FTI Consulting Group Ltd

This $1bn conspiracy battle waged between Saudi-based property development company Dar Al Arkan Real Estate Development Company (DARR) and former bank chief executive Al Refai is set to be one of the largest to hit the courts in 2015.

It was due to be heard in 2014 and has been split over two phases in order to break down and deal with the slew of allegations made, which include computer hacking and theft of information.

The fight began in 2010 when Majed Al Refai, a senior executive of Bahraini investment bank Bank Alkhair, was dismissed following the alleged discovery of money laundering.

The claimants launched claims of $1bn against the banker, accusing him of conspiring with the other defendants to extort money from the claimants.

DARR and Bank Alkhair argue that Al Refai, chartered accountant Kroll Associates and FTI Consulting Group attempted to ruin the bank’s commercial relationships.

They claim that, among other things, the defendants were spreading damaging rumours in meetings with investors and ratings agencies and published damaging and untrue allegations about the claimants in an email circulated to analysts.

The defendants deny any wrongdoing.

The legal line-up

For the claimants (1) Dar Al Arkan Real Estate Development Company & (2) Bank Alkhair BSC

Maitland Chambers’ Anthony Trace QC and Jonathan Russen QC, Fountain Court’s Charles Béar QC and Paul Casey along with 5RB’s Mark Warby QC, instructed by Addleshaw Goddard partners Mark Hastings, Kambiz Larizadeh and David Engel

For the defendant Al Refai

Littleton Chambers’ Stuart Ritchie QC, instructed by PCB Litigation partner Steven Philippsohn

For the defendants Kroll Associates UK Ltd

One Essex Court’s Craig Orr QC, instructed by Slaughter and May partner Jonathan Cotton

For the defendants FTI Consulting Group Ltd

39 Essex Street’s Richard Spearman QC leading 5RB’s Godwin Busuttil, instructed by Stephenson Harwood partner John Fordham

Trustees Of The Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme Ltd & Ors v the Royal Bank of Scotland Group plc / John Greenwood & Ors v Frederick Goodwin & Ors

This £4bn fight brought by Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) shareholders over a 2008 £12bn rights issue has swelled to a battle involving four groups of investors lining up against the bank.

A group of claimants, which include pension scheme trustees, local authorities and investment funds, filed a High Court claim in March last year, alleging that the prospectus for RBS’s April 2008 rights issue was defective and contained “material mis-statements and omissions”.

They are also claiming the prospectus portrayed the bank as being in good financial health but the reality was different and the take-up of shares would have been limited “had the truth been known”.

Since Stewarts Law brought the first claim against the bank in 2013, the claims have swelled and the groups of claimants have grown from two to four.

Bird & Bird, Stewarts Law, Quinn Emanuel and Leon Kaye are now all representing groups of claimants. Stewarts Law’s group alone has expanded from 80 to 313 instutional investors and pension funds.

The case is one of the first to be brought under section 90 of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000, and if it is fought all the way could set important case law.

The legal line-up

For claimants the 2Birds Action group

Serle Court’s Philip Marshall QC, 20 Essex Street’s Thomas Raphael, Luke Pearce instructed by Bird & Bird partner Steven Baker

For claimants the Stewarts Law group

3 Verulam Buildings’ Andrew Onslow QC, Adam Kramer instructed by Stewarts Law partners Clive Zietman, Keith Thomas and Fiona Gillett

For the Leon Kaye group

3 Verulam Buildings’ Michael Lazarus instructed by Leon Kaye partner Leon Kaye

For the Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan group

Erskine Chambers’ Richard Snowden QC, Alex Barden instructed by Quinn Emanuel partner Sue Prevezer QC  

For the defendants, RBS

7KBW Jonathan Gaisman QC, Serle Court’s David Blayney QC; Simon Hattan and Fountain Court’s James McClelland instructed by Herbert Smith Freehills partners Simon Clarke, Adam Johnson, Kirsten Massey

Barclays Bank Plc v Lester Charles Landgraf, Londell McMillan and Elias Farrah

The 2012 collapse of law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf was one of the most dramatic to hit the profession and this case concerning partner debts has been watched closely by the profession.

Barclays has been pursuing more than 100 of the firm’s former partners for repayment of loans it granted them before Dewey’s collapse. It has issued proceedings against 50 of those partners, including Lester Charles Landgraf and Londel McMillan.

Now three former Dewey & LeBoeuf partners have joined together against Barclays in an attempt to prove that the bank and defunct firm induced them to take on individual debts to keep Dewey afloat.

The legal line-up

For the claimant, Barclays Bank Plc

Fountain Court’s Guy Philipps QC and Adam Zellick instructed by TLT partner Richard Clayton

For the defendants Lester Charles Landgraf and Londell McMillan

4 Stone Buildings’ John Brisby QC and Alexander Cook instructed by Candey partner Andrew Dunn

For the defendant Elias Farrah

4 New Square’s Daniel Saoul, instructed by Signature Litigation partner Graham Huntley

Apex Global Management Ltd v FI Call Ltd, Global Torch Ltd, HRH Prince Abdulaziz Bin Mishal Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Emad Mahmoud Ahmed Abu-Ayshih and HRH Prince Mishal Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud 

This case concerns two Saudi princes, allegations of money laundering for Hezbollah and a disputed signature.

HRH Prince Abdulaziz Bin Mishal Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has so far lost the fights to have his case against fellow investor Faisal Almhairat’s company Apex Global
Management heard in private and cited sovereign immunity to avoid complying with court orders (15 January 2014).

Now the prince has been given leave to appeal to the Supreme Court. The October battle will centre on whether the prince will have to comply with a series of orders made by Mr Justice Vos, Mr Justice Norris and Mr Justice Mann last year.

The prince has refused to sign a witness statement due to his royal status and failed to pay $7.7m to the other side, resulting in his defence being struck out last year.

He will fight the multiple orders on 13 October.

The legal line-up

For the appellant HRH Prince Abdulaziz Bin Mishal Bin Abdulaziz al Saud

4 New Square’s Justin Fenwick QC and Daniel Saoul instructed by Mishcon de Reya partner Jarret Brown

For the respondent Apex Global Management & Anors

Serle Court’s Daniel Lightman instructed by Teacher Stern partner Jack Rabinowitz

Sabre Oil & Gas v Standard Bank Plc

This is a multimillion-pound claim arising out of the sale of an oil company investing in the Jubilee offshore oil field in Ghana.

The field was discovered in 2007 and commercial pumping began three years later.

PetroSA, South Africa’s national oil company, purchased Sabre Oil & Gas Holdings in 2012, giving the company a stake in the oil field. PetroSA also bought out Sabre’s interest in the Deepwater Tano and Ghana’s West Cape Three Points blocks.

The deal has proved contentious, with PetroSA hit with corruption allegations and put under investigation by the country’s anti-corruption police unit.

The case is listed for 3rd June 2015 for five weeks in the Commercial Court.

The legal line-up

For the claimant Sabre Oil & Gas

One Essex Court’s Laurence Rabinowitz QC instructed by King & Spalding partner Sarah Walker

For the defendant Standard Bank plc

Brick Court Chambers’ Mark Howard QC and Roger Masefield QC instructed by Herbert Smith Freehills partner Damien Byrne-Hillrt

AXA & Others v Competition & Markets Authority (CMA)

This case constitutes the first substantive challenge to the newly formed Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) decision regarding the UK’s private healthcare market.

The CMA decided the various players needed to divest assets to ensure fair competition.

It follows a two-year investigation by a group of independent panel members at the Competition Commission (CC), which became part of the new CMA.

Measures included a crackdown on benefits and incentive schemes provided to referring clinicians by private hospital operators and measures to increase the availability of information to patients on private fees and hospital performance.

The new regulator argued that many private hospitals faced little competition in local areas across the UK and there were high barriers to entry.

It concluded this led to higher prices for self-pay patients in many local areas – and for both self-pay and insured patients in Central London, where HCA, a for-profit operator of healthcare facilities that owns more than half of the available overnight bed capacity, charges significantly higher prices to insured patients than its closest competitor.

The case is listed for a two-week trial from 19th January.

The legal line-up

For the claimant AXA PPP Healthcare Limited.

Brick Court Chambers’ Kelyn Bacon QC and Ms Sarah Love instructed by Linklaters partner Simon Pritchard

For HCA International Ltd

Blackstone Chambers’ Dinah Rose QC, Jessica Boyd and Monckton Chambers’ Josh Holmes instructed by Nabarro partner Cyrus Mehta

For the Federation of Independent Practitioner Organisations.

Blackstone Chambers’ Brian Kennelly and Emily Neill instructed by Watson Farley & Williams partner Emanuela Lecchi

For the Competition and Markets Authority

Monckton Chambers’ Kassie Smith QC, Rob Williams and Ligia Osepciu instructed by the Treasury Solicitor

For The London Clinic

Monckton Chambers’ Ronit Kreisberger instructed by Eversheds partner Stephen Rose

For the British Medical Association

Brick Court Chambers’ Aidan Robertson QC instructed by in-house lawyer Emma Mason-Fornazaric

For BUPA Insurance Limited

Monckton Chambers’ Tim Ward QC instructed by Slaughter and May partner Isabelle Taylor

For the Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland.

Monckton Chambers’ Anneli Howard instructed by Hogan Lovells partner Suyong Kim

On behalf of Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust.

Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co partner Bernardine Adkins