Professional practice

The “clever and commercial” James Collins QC is “a great advocate and a great tactician”. He is instructed by UK and international clients to handle a wide range of commercial disputes, with a particular emphasis on commercial contracts, financial services, fraud, insurance, international trade, joint-ventures and shareholder and share purchase disputes.  Most of these disputes are substantial and complex; many are multi-jurisdictional and involve foreign law.

James appears regularly as lead counsel in the High Court and appellate courts of England and Wales, and in the Commercial Court and Court of Appeal in the BVI. He also acts as lead counsel, co-counsel (with foreign lawyers) or arbitrator in arbitrations around the World, including in London, Paris, New York and Singapore.

James advises and acts at all stages of the dispute resolution process, from strategy development, through pre-action and interlocutory applications (including Freezing Orders, anti-suit injunctions; protection of confidential information, restraint of conflicts and jurisdiction challenges), to trials and final hearings, appellate and review hearings, and enforcement of judgments and awards. Professional and lay clients have consistently praised James as being able to “map a course to the objective” and “excellent at anticipating how a case will unfold and positioning you for a great outcome”.

 

What others say

Since taking Silk in 2012 James has also been described as:

  • “A bright and resourceful arbitration silk” (Legal 500 2016);
  • a barrister who is “excellent at anticipating how a case will unfold and positioning you for a great outcome” (Legal 500 2016);
  • “an extremely impressive barrister with an extremely sharp mind” who is also “very easy to work with” (Chambers UK 2015);
  • a “very high-quality advocate” (Chambers UK 2014) with “great analytical skills and cross-examination technique” (Legal 500 2014);
  • “a great advocate and a great tactician” and an “excellent all-rounder for a variety of commercial matters” (Chambers Global 2013)
  • a barrister who is “able to see through the complexities of law and evidence, and map a course to the objective” (Legal 500 2013).
Examples of recent cases

Millicom Tanzania NV v. Golden Globe International (2016) BVI Commercial Court and Court of Appeal. This dispute concerns an alleged conspiracy, and corruption of court officers, to misappropriate a Tanzanian mobile telephone company. The claimant obtained a US$100m Worldwide Freezing Order in the BVI. James acted for the first defendant on its successful application to discharge the WFO and stay the BVI proceedings. The appeal is due to be heard in late 2016.

Integral Petroleum SA v. SCU-Finanz AG [2015] EWCA Civ 144. James acted for the defendant in this oil product supply/financing dispute. The successful application to set aside Default Judgment, and the claimant’s unsuccessful appeal from that decision, determined important conflict of law issues in relation to the powers of individuals to bind companies.

Ikon International v. Ikon Finance [2016] EWHC 318. This was a joint venture and shareholder dispute in relation to a substantial group of companies that provided online retail and institutional foreign exchange and financial derivatives trading services. It spawned multiple court and arbitral proceedings.

CSAV v. Hin-Pro International Logistics [2015] EWCA Civ 401. This case concerned allegedly fraudulent cargo claims in China. In breach of an English interim anti-suit injunction, Hin-Pro prosecuted a large number of such claims. Permission was given to issue writs of sequestration and Hin-Pro’s director was committed to prison for contempt. Following trial (which Hin-Pro was barred from attending) CSAV was granted a final anti-suit Injunction and damages. James acted for Hin-Pro on appeal. The Court of Appeal determined that (1) Hin-Pro was entitled to appeal notwithstanding that it had been barred from attending trial; and (2) Hin-Pro was entitled to be heard notwithstanding its serious and continuing contempt of court. On the substantive point, the Court of Appeal ruled that the jurisdiction clauses in the bills of lading were properly construed as exclusive (rather than non-exclusive) jurisdiction clauses.

SFC Swiss Forfaiting Company Ltd v. Swiss Forfaiting Ltd; IAMC v. Swiss Forfaiting Ltd (2015-2016) BVI Commercial Court and Court of Appeal. James acted for the claimants in related disputes concerning the ownership of, and services provided to, a BVI fund. These disputes resulted in a number of hearings including a jurisdiction challenge and appeal and the trial of an unfair prejudice claim.

Stockman Interhold SA v. Arricano Real Estate Plc [2015] EWHC 2979 (Comm). James was lead counsel for the claimant in this claim under sections 67 and 68 of the Arbitration Act.

JSC Ukrsibbank v. Polyakov [2014] EWHC 4292 (Comm). James was leading counsel for the defendant in its successful application to discharge a US$100 million Worldwide Freezing Order granted in aid of foreign proceedings.

Vitol Bahrain v. Nasdec [2014] EWHC 984 (Comm). James acted for Vitol in this jurisdiction battle relating to two cargoes of oil worth US$120 million.

Cruz City 1 Mauritius Holdings v. Unitech Ltd & Others [2014] EWHC 3704 (Comm). James acted for the 5th Defendant, successfully challenging the jurisdiction of the English court. This case establishes important limitations on the ability of the English courts to grant post-award Freezing Orders in aid of enforcement.

Mid Essex NHS Trust v. Compass [2013] EWCA Civ 200. This dispute arose from the breakdown of a long-term contract for catering and ancillary services at a hospital. James appeared as leading counsel for the NHS Trust at trial and on its successful appeal. It is the leading modern Court of Appeal case on good faith in commercial contracts.

Arbitration & related court applications

Recognised as a “bright and resourceful arbitration silk” with “great analytical skills and cross-examination technique”, James has extensive knowledge and experience of arbitration law and practice.

He has represented clients in arbitrations in the U.K., Bermuda, Canada, France, Singapore and the U.S., under AAA, CEITAC, ICC, LCIA, LMAA and other procedural rules. These arbitrations have involved many different fields of work and have been subject to a number of different procedural and substantive laws (including the laws of Bermuda, England, France, Liechtenstein, New York and Singapore). Hearings have ranged from short interlocutory applications to trials lasting many weeks. At these hearings, James appears as lead counsel, sole counsel or co-counsel with overseas lawyers, or as arbitrator.

Recent arbitrations include:

  • Iran Sanctions Dispute. Ad Hoc James is currently acting as lead counsel for a claimant seeking payment for 2 cargoes from Iran. The Defendants allege breach of US, EU and other sanctions regimes; illegality; and fraud.
  • Construction Defects Insurance. Bermuda Form Arbitration. James is currently acting as co-counsel for a major U.S. housebuilder seeking recovery under various insurance policies. The policies are governed by New York law.
  • Pharmaceutical License Dispute. ICC Arbitration. James acted as sole counsel for a pharmaceutical company in a dispute with another company regarding royalties due under a license agreement.
  • Financial Services Joint Venture. LCIA Arbitration. James acted as lead counsel in a joint venture dispute relating to a substantial group of companies that provided online retail and institutional foreign exchange and financial derivatives trading services.
  • Shipping Joint Venture. LMAA Arbitration. James acted as lead counsel in a dispute that followed the breakdown of a substantial shipping joint venture.

James has also advised and acted in a wide range of arbitration-related court proceedings, including; applications for relief in support of arbitrations (such as anti-suit injunctions and worldwide freezing orders and witness summonses); challenges to awards (eg. under sections 67, 68 and 69); and proceedings to enforce both foreign and domestic awards.

Recent cases in include:

  • Stockman Interhold SA v. Arricano Real Estate Plc [2015] EWHC 2979 (Comm). James acted as lead counsel in these challenges under sections 67 and 68 of the 1996 Act.
  • Cruz City 1 Mauritius Holdings v. Unitech Ltd & Others [2014] EWHC 3704 (Comm). James acted as lead counsel for the 5th This case establishes important limitations on the ability of the English courts to grant post-award Freezing Orders in aid of enforcement. In particular (1) there is no jurisdiction to grant Chabra-type relief against foreign parties who were not party to the arbitration agreements or arbitrations; and (2) where Regulation 44/2001 applies, a claimant must show that the respondents have assets within the jurisdiction in order to establish a real connecting link between the subject matter of measures sought and the jurisdiction of the English court.

Older cases include:

  • Colliers International v. Colliers Jordan Lee [2008] EWHC 1524 (Comm). James acted as sole counsel for claimants seeking to enforce an arbitration award. The case established limits on the ability of respondents to rely on technical and procedural bars to enforcement. In particular, the award could be enforced by the claimants using the name used in the award even if that name did not accurately describe a legal person and English procedure (ordinarily) required identification of legal persons.
  • Omnium de Traitement et de Valorisation S.A. v Hilmarton [1999] 2 Lloyd’s Rep 222. James acted as sole counsel for claimants seeking to enforce a Swiss arbitration award. Enforcement of the same award had already been refused in France. The case established limits on the public policy defence to enforcement in England. The award was enforced.
Banking & financial services

James has advised and acted for or against a number of banks and financial institutions (including Barclays, Goldman Sachs, HIG, Thames Capital and Yukos Capital) and HNWIs in a wide range of domestic and international banking and financial services disputes.

This has included claims by funds and corporations in relation to debt and equity investments (typically cross-border), including claims relating to the misappropriation of assets. Recent or notable cases include:

  • Eco Quest Plc v. GFI Consultants [2016] EWHC 57 (QB).
  • SFC Swiss Forfaiting Company Ltd v. Swiss Forfaiting Ltd and IAMC v. Swiss Forfaiting Ltd (2015-2016, BVI Commercial Court and Court of Appeal).
  • James acted as lead sole counsel for Yukos Capital in arbitrations that led to two US$ multi-billion awards.

James also acts in disputes between banks and hedge funds and their clients in relation to the management of funds, suitability of investments, termination of facilities, liquidation of security and guarantees. Recent cases include

  • JSC Ukrsibbank v. Polyakov [2014] EWHC 4292 (Comm).
  • Ng Su Ling v. Goldman Sachs (Commercial Court, not reported).

Many disputes in this field involve applications for injunctive or interim relief. For example, inunctions to restrain the misuse of confidential information provided to a potential investors: Ocean Capital v. HIG Capital (2013, unreported)

James also advises and acts for clients in relation to money laundering and POCA issues.

Civil fraud & asset tracing

James has advised and acted in a wide range of cases involving allegations of commercial fraud. Recent cases include:

  • Millicom Tanzania NV v. Golden Globe International (2016 and ongoing, BVI Commercial Court and Court of Appeal). In this case the claimant alleges that the first defendant (a BVI company) conspired with others and corrupted court officials in Tanzania in order to misappropriate shares in a mobile telephone company said to be worth US$192m. The claimant commenced proceedings in the BVI and obtained a US$100m Worldwide Freezing Order. James acted for the first defendant on its successful application to discharge the WFO and stay the BVI proceedings. The appeal is due to be heard in late 2016.
  • Ikon International (HK) Holdings v. Ikon Finance Ltd (2015-2016, Commercial Court and Arbitration). This dispute concerned a joint venture to provide currency trading services. It was alleged that substantial funds had been stolen by one of the parties. Several distinct actions and arbitrations were commenced prior to a settlement being concluded in 2016.
  • Accent Delight v. Bouvier (2015 and ongoing, Singapore High Court and elsewhere). In this case the claimants allege that Mr Bouvier fraudulently inflated the price of works by artists such as Van Gough, Picasso, Modigliani, Rothko, Monet and Matisse by about US$1 billion. The WFO was discharged on appeal to the Court of Appeal. The case continues.
  • Eco Quest Plc v. GFI Consultants [2016] EWHC 57 (QB). James acts for two defendants alleged to have set up a fraudulent eco-investment scheme. At the referenced hearing the Freezing Order was discharged for delay.
  • CSAV v. Hin-Pro International Logistics [2015] EWCA Civ 401. This case concerned allegedly fraudulent cargo claims in China. In breach of an English interim anti-suit injunction, Hin-Pro prosecuted a large number of such claims. Permission was given to issue writs of sequestration and Hin-Pro’s director was committed to prison for contempt. Following trial (which Hin-Pro was barred from attending) CSAV was granted a final anti-suit Injunction and damages. James acted for Hin-Pro on appeal. The Court of Appeal determined that (1) Hin-Pro was entitled to appeal notwithstanding that it had been barred from attending trial; and (2) Hin-Pro was entitled to be heard notwithstanding its serious and continuing contempt of court.
  • JSC Ukrsibbank v. Polyakov [2014] EWHC 4292 (Comm). In this case the bank alleged that the defendant and his companies had fraudulently dissipated assets in which it had a security interest so that they were no longer available for enforcement. James was leading counsel for the defendant in his successful application to discharge a US$100 million Worldwide Freezing Order.

 

Commercial dispute resolution

James is recognised as an “excellent all-rounder for a variety of commercial matters”. These include:

  • International trade in goods and services. (See the separate section for this). Recent cases include an ongoing arbitration in which a claimant seeking payment for 2 cargoes from Iran and Vitol Bahrain v. Nasdec [2014] EWHC 984 (Comm), which concerned of 2 cargoes of oil.
  • Energy sector disputes, including rig sale and management, pipeline and supply disputes. (See the separate section for this).
  • Shareholder and share purchase disputes. (See the separate section for this). Recent cases include Independent Asset Management Company v. Swiss Forfaiting Ltd (2016, BVI Commercial Court).
  • Healthcare and pharmaceutical sector disputes. Recent work includes: advising NHS Trusts in relation to PFI contracts; advising private hospital groups in relation to outsourcing contracts; and acting for pharmaceutical companies in licensing/royalty disputes. In 2013, James acted as lead counsel for the hospital in Mid Essex NHS Trust v. Compass [2013] EWCA Civ 200. This dispute concerned a long-term catering contract. Each side alleged that the other was in repudiatory breach and claimed damages. At first instance, Compass was substantially successful. This was reversed on appeal in what is now the leading modern Court of Appeal case on good faith in commercial contracts.
  • Joint-venture, partnership, quasi-partnership disputes. Recent cases include Ikon International (HK) Holdings v. Ikon Finance Ltd (2015-2016, Commercial Court and Arbitration).
  • See, for example, Gordon v. Gordon & Others, [2002] EWCA Civ 1884 and Scheps v. Fine Art Logistics [2007] EWHC 541.
  • Conflicts of interest, protection of confidential information and professional conduct. (See the separate section for this).

James advises clients involved in commercial disputes in many jurisdictions and represents clients involved in such disputes both in arbitration and in the courts of England and Wales and the BVI.

Conflict of laws & private international law

James has extensive experience of cases focused on issues of jurisdiction and applicable law. Recent or interesting cases include:

  • Millicom Tanzania NV v. Golden Globe International (2016, BVI Court of Appeal). This case concerned stage 2 of the Spilida test and the application of the guidance in Altimo v. Kyrgyz Mobil in circumstances where the claimant alleged that the defendant had corrupted and would continue to corrupt the judiciary in Tanzania.
  • Integral Petroleum SA v. SCU-Finanz AG [2015] EWCA 144 (Court of Appeal). This appeal focused on identification of the conflicts rule that applies when seeking to establish the law that governs a dispute as to whether or not a foreign company is bound by the signature of one of its officers.
  • CSAV v. Hin-Pro International Logistics [2015] EWCA Civ 401 (Court of Appeal). One of the principal issues in this appeal was whether a standard form jurisdiction clause in a bill of lading provided for exclusive or non-exclusive jurisdiction.
  • SFC Swiss Forfaiting Company Ltd v. Swiss Forfaiting Ltd (2015-2016, BVI Court of Appeal). One of the principal issues in this case, and on appeal, was the test to be applied to the forum challenge.
  • Cruz City 1 Mauritius Holdings v. Unitech Ltd & Others [2014] EWHC 3704 (Commercial Court). This case established important limitations on the jurisdiction of the English courts to grant post-award Freezing Orders in aid of enforcement of arbitral awards. In particular, there is no jurisdiction to grant Chabra-type relief against foreign parties who were not party to the arbitration agreements or arbitrations as no service-out gateway is available.
  • Vitol Bahrain v. Nasdec [2013] EWHC 3359 and [2014] EWHC 984 (Commercial Court). The first of these cases involved an anti-suit injunction. The second involved a jurisdiction challenge.
  • Haji-Ioannou v. Frangos [2009] EWHC 2310 (QB). This case determined the law applicable to issues of succession.
  • OT Africa Line v. Magic Sportswear & Others [2005] EWCA Civ 710. The issue in this case, and on appeal, was whether an anti-suit injunction should be granted in circumstances where (1) the rival jurisdiction, Canada, had passed legislation that specifically conferred jurisdiction on the Canadian courts in the circumstances of this case; and (2) an application for a stay in Canada had been rejected. It is also notable because the anti-suit, which was granted to restrain breach of an exclusive jurisdiction clause, was granted against non-parties (as well as parties) to the relevant agreement.

 

Conflicts of interest & confidential information

James acted for the claimant in what became the leading House of Lords authority on the protection of confidential information: Prince Jefri Bolkiah v. KPMG (a firm) [1999] 2 WLR 215. Since then, he has advised and acted in numerous cases involving conflicts of interest, protection of confidential information and professional conduct rules.

 

Energy & natural resources

James has advised and acted in a large number of energy sector disputes (involving oil & gas, electricity, coal, uranium and wind farms) in cases involving the oil majors, Glencore, Kinder Morgan, National Grid, Odebrecht, Petrobras, Stena Drilling, Vitol and many others. This work has included:

  • As counsel, disputes (typically in arbitration) relating to rig quality, rig management, pipelines, offtake agreements, supply agreements and oil and gas trading and transport disputes
  • As arbitrator, a dispute concerning a piping system installed at the petroleum jetties at Apapa, Nigeria.

 

Insurance & reinsurance

“He is an extremely impressive barrister with an extremely sharp mind, who has extensive knowledge of the Bermuda Form” (Chambers UK 2015).

James has advised and acted in wide range of insurance and reinsurance disputes. This work has included:

  • A substantial number of Bermuda form arbitrations and other arbitrations where the substantive law of the insurance contracts has been the law of New York. This has involved hearings in London, New York, Toronto and Montreal. Underlying subject matter has included the liability of drug manufacturers, chemical companies, hospitals, a restaurant chain and house-builders for a range of liabilities, including personal injury, property damage, discrimination and commercial disparagement.
  • Insurance and reinsurance arbitrations in England and abroad, including reinsurance claims arising from substantial audit and tax advice liabilities incurred by the Big 4 (formerly Big 5) accounting firms.

 

 

International trade, transport & commodities

James has advised and acted in a large number of cases involving many different aspects of international trade. This has included:

  • An ongoing arbitration in which a claimant seeking payment for 2 cargoes from Iran. The Defendants allege breach of US, EU and other sanctions regimes; illegality; and fraud.
  • Vitol Bahrain v. Nasdec [2014] EWHC 984 (Comm). This dispute concerned the purchase and storage of 2 cargoes of oil.
  • Disputes in relation to documentary credits.

International distribution, franchise and licensing agreements.

 

Media, art, entertainment

James has advised and acted in a number of cases involving art, antiques and antiquities, including:

  • Accent Delight v. Bouvier (2015 – ongoing, Singapore High Court and elsewhere). This dispute arises out of the sale a large number of work by artists such as Van Gough, Picasso, Modigliani, Rothko, Monet and Matisse. The claimants allege that Mr Bouvier fraudulently inflated the price of the artworks by about US$1 billion. James is advising Mr Bouvier on various aspects of the dispute.
  • Scheps v. Fine Art Logistics [2007] EWHC 541. This dispute resulted from the loss of a sculpture by Anish Kapoor. James acted for the defendants.

Advising leading auction houses in relation to their potential liabilities.

Offshore litigation

James frequently represents clients in the B.V.I. Commercial Court and Court of Appeal. Recent cases have included:

  • Millicom Tanzania NV v. Golden Globe International (2016 and ongoing, BVI Commercial Court and Court of Appeal). In this case the claimant alleges that the first defendant (a BVI company) conspired with others and corrupted court officials in Tanzania in order to misappropriate shares in a mobile telephone company said to be worth US$192m. The claimant commenced proceedings in the BVI and obtained a US$100m Worldwide Freezing Order. James acted for the first defendant on its successful application to discharge the WFO and stay the BVI proceedings. The appeal is due to be heard in late 2016.
  • Sonara Limited v. Akolyn & Others (2015-2016, BVI Commercial Court). In this case James acted for minority shareholders bringing a derivative action on behalf of a Russian company in relation to a series of related-party transactions that had resulted in the company loosing approximately US$200m. The defendants successfully applied to have the claim stayed on forum non conveniens
  • SFC Swiss Forfaiting Company Ltd v. Swiss Forfaiting Ltd (2015-2016, BVI Commercial Court and Court of Appeal). This dispute concerned fees alleged due for forfaiting services provided by a Swiss company to a BVI fund. The Commercial Court stayed the BVI proceedings in favour of Switzerland. This decision was upheld on appeal.
  • Independent Asset Management Company v. Swiss Forfaiting Ltd (2015-2016, BVI Commercial Court). In this action, the BVI fund’s investment manager brought an unfair prejudice claim in which it complained about the dilution of its shareholding. James acted for the claimant at the injunction return date and trial.
  • Itum v. Kteili & Others (2014-2015, Commercial Court and Court of Appeal). This was an unfair prejudice claim. James acted for various defendants at a jurisdiction hearing (leading to a decision that established that there is no “necessary or proper” party jurisdiction where the claims against the anchor defendants have been stayed in favour of arbitration) and in the Court of Appeal.

In Singapore:

  • James is registered with (and therefore entitled to represent clients in) the Singapore International Commercial Court (“SICC”), which is a division of the High Court of Singapore. James also advises clients in connection with multi-jurisdictional disputes that include non-SICC High Court proceedings (eg. Accent Delight v. Bouvier [2015] SGCA 45) but would only be entitled to represent clients in non-SICC cases if granted ad hoc
  • James has also acted for clients in arbitrations in Singapore.

James has also advised in relation to, and provided expert testimony for, cases in a number of other common law jurisdictions.

 

Professional negligence

James has advised and acted for numerous clients in cases involving allegations of professional negligence and misconduct. For example:

  • James acted for the claimant in what became the leading House of Lords case on the protection of confidential information: Prince Jefri Bolkiah v. KPMG (a firm) [1999] 2 WLR 215. Since then, he has advised and acted in numerous cases involving conflicts of interest, protection of confidential information and professional conduct rules.
  • He has also advised and acting in cases involving allegations of negligence and fraud against international and national law firms. In this context he has helped law firms to develop and implement strategies to dispose of claims.

 

Regulatory law & investigations

James has advised Magic Circle law firms in connection with a number of regulatory investigations concerning alleged breaches of conduct rules, conflicts of interest and confidential information.

Shareholder disputes

James frequently acts for shareholders or former shareholders in disputes with managers, other shareholders, buyers or sellers, and related parties. Recent work has included:

  • Unfair prejudice claims. For example, in Independent Asset Management Company v. Swiss Forfaiting Ltd (2016 trial, BVI Commercial Court) an investment manager complained that its shareholding in a BVI fund had been unfair diluted.
  • Derivative claims. For example, in Sonara Limited v. Akolyn & Others (2015-2016, BVI Commercial Court) minority shareholders made a claim on behalf of a Russian company in relation to a series of related-party transactions that had resulted in the company loosing approximately US$200m.
  • Claims on warranties in SPAs. Recent work includes concluded disputes in relation to sales of a waste management business and an outsourcing business and an ongoing claim in relation to the sale of vehicle manufacturing business.
  • Other SPA disputes. For example, in Play LA v. Swiss Science & Others (2015, BVI Commercial Court) a seller asserted that buyers had repudiated a share purchase agreement.
Shipping & admiralty

James has advised and acted in large number of disputes before the English courts and arbitral tribunals involving shipping, shipbuilding, ship repair contracts and ship sale and purchase. This work has included:

  • Numerous charterparty, BL and COA disputes involving diverse subject matter including short delivery, cargo damage, hire, speed and consumption, safe port, drydocking, demurrage and bunkers.
  • Shipping partnership, agency, management and supply disputes.

Shipbuilding, ship repair and ship sale and purchase, including technical disputes (eg. in relation to tank coatings, paint, wiring, piping, cranes etc.).

 

Career

2012  Silk

1995  Call: Gray’s Inn

1994  Essex Court Chambers

Education

1994    BVC, Inns of Court School of Law

1993    BA, Downing College, Cambridge