Professional practice

Legal 500 Leading Silk

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, Singapore and Dubai.

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

Chambers & Partners UK Bar 2022, Commercial Dispute Resolution:

“He is coherent and logical in his advice and always puts in impressive performances.”

Chambers & Partners UK Bar 2022, International Arbitration:

“He gets to the point and does it in a way that impresses tribunals.” “He is very good on his feet.”

Legal 500 UK Bar 2022, Fraud: Civil:

“A great advocate, great on the papers and generally great with everything. Very responsive.”

Chambers & Partners UK Bar 2021, Commercial Dispute Resolution:

“An excellent advocate, particularly good at cross-examination, who is very user-friendly.” “James is always ready to roll up his sleeves and get stuck in.”

Chambers & Partners UK Bar 2021, International Arbitration: General Commercial & Insurance:

“A very professional operator who conducts himself wonderfully.”

Chambers & Partners UK Bar 2021, Offshore:

“He is excellent.”

Legal 500 UK Bar 2021, International Arbitration: Counsel:

“A really impressive barrister – he is pragmatic and innovative in the strategies he comes up with.”

Chambers & Partners UK Bar 2019, Commercial Dispute Resolution:

“Has a great manner with the judge and is calm and very persuasive”

” a very hands-on silk who takes the time to learn and understand the background and details of the case”.

Legal 500 UK Bar 2019, International Arbitration:

“Outstanding – a very strong practitioner in the field of international arbitration”.

Chambers & Partners UK Bar 2019, Offshore:

“Stands out for his presentation skills; he narrows down the issues and focuses on the key points”

“He’s affable, easy to work with, very bright and dependable”.

Chambers & Partners UK Bar 2019, International Arbitration:

“An excellent cross-examiner”.

Chambers & Partners UK Bar 2018, Commercial Dispute Resolution:

“A very confident advocate with a relaxed but precise style”.

Chambers & Partners UK Bar 2018, International Arbitration:

“Very good. Tactically Savvy”.

Legal 500 UK Bar 2018:

“A very thoughtful, proactive and hands-on silk”.

Chambers Global 2018:

“Puts difficult points across simply and powerfully” “He is easy to work with and he is client-friendly”.

Chambers & Partners UK Bar 2017:

“His advocacy is really exceptional. He makes difficult concepts sound easy”.

Legal 500 UK Bar 2016:

A “bright and resourceful arbitration silk”.

A barrister who is “excellent at anticipating how a case will unfold and positioning you for a great outcome”.

 

Examples of recent cases

Advanced Multi-Technology v. Uniserve [2022] EWHC 264 (Ch). James is lead counsel for the defendant to a £35 million claim relating to the supply of Covid-19 PPE. In February 2022 the Court dismissed the claimant’s application for summary judgment (save in relation to one assigned debt of $300k).

Lenkor Energy Trading v. Puri [2021] EWCA Civ 770. James is lead counsel for a claimant seeking to enforce a Dubai judgment for about £35 million. The defendant resisted enforcement on the basis that the Dubai judgment was tainted by illegality in an underlying commodities contract. In 2021, the Court of Appeal dismissed the defendant’s appeal. This was the first appellate case of the modern era to consider the application of the illegality doctrine in this context. The defendant has applied for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Manek v. IIFL Wealth and others, [2021] EWCA Civ 264 and [2021] EWCA Civ 625. James acts as lead counsel for two defendants to this £30 million fraud claim. In 2021, jurisdiction issues were resolved in two hearings before, and two judgments of, the Court of Appeal. The first of these judgments clarifies the scope of the tort gateway.

James Kemball v. K-Line [2021] EWCA Civ 33. James acted as lead counsel for the second defendant in this £36 million tort claim. The Court of Appeal struck out the claim, providing important guidance as to the scope of the economic tort of inducing breach of contract.

Wang v. Darby [2021] EWHC 3054 (Comm). James acted as lead counsel for the defendant in this cryptocurrency fraud claim. In November 2021, the Court struck out the proprietary claims.

PCP Capital Parnters v. Barclays Bank PCL [2020] EWHC 1393 (Comm) [2021] EWHC 307 (Comm) [2021] EWHC 1852 (Comm). James acted for PCP, which sued Barclays for fraud in relation to its 2008 capital raise. The claim was for about £600m. In [2020] EWHC 1393 (Comm) the Court clarified how the doctrine of waiver operates when a party is claiming legal advice privilege and ordered Barclays to produce documents that it had been withholding on that basis. Following a 10 week trial, in [2021] EWHC 307 (Comm) the Court held that a senior executive of Barclays had made fraudulent representations to PCP in the course of the capital raise. However, the claim failed on causation. On that point, it provided guidance as to the application of the “loss of chance” principle.

Sothebys v. Mark Weiss Ltd [2020] EWCA Civ 1570. James acted as lead counsel for the appellant in this dispute about liability to Sotheby’s, following Sotheby’s decision to refund the purchaser of a painting that was said to be Frans Hals.

Otello Corp ASA v. Moore Freres and Co LLC [2020] EWHC 3261 (Ch). James acted as lead counsel for a minority shareholder (Otello) in a claim against the majority shareholder (Moore  Freres) arising from the blocked sale of the minority interest to a third party. An injunction was granted following an expedited trial. When that failed to secure the sale to the third party, a second trial resulted in an order that Moore Freres buy Otello’s shares for $48 million and a loan note for $5 million.

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.

James has also acted as arbitrator in institutional and ad hoc arbitrations seated in England, Paris and Dubai.

Recent arbitrations include:

  • KLS v. Sri Lanka (2021-2022). ICSID. James acts for Sri Lanka in this BIT arbitration, defending a $100 million claim in relation to a wind project in the Jafna Peninsula. The seat of the arbitration is in Singapore.
  • A yacht sale dispute (2022). LMAA. James acted for a buyer seeking to terminate a contract, relying on force majeure resulting from Covid-19.
  • US Homebuilder v. Bermuda Insurers (2021). Bermuda Form. James acted for a U.S. homebuilder on its claims against two Bermuda-based insurers to recover part of an approximately $230 million loss suffered as a result of water intrusion claims. The substantive law was the law of New York.
  • Oil Exploration and Production Sharing Dispute (2020). UNCITRAL. James was a party-appointed arbitrator in this dispute between a state and an oil exploration and production company. The arbitration had its seat in Dubai.
  • Iran Sanctions Dispute. Ad Hoc. James acted as lead counsel for a claimant seeking payment of about $70 million for 2 cargoes of petroleum from Iran. The Defendants alleged breach of US, EU and other sanction regimes; illegality; forgery; and fraud. The Arbitration (and the related court challenges) were resolved in favour of the claimant.

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.

Cases in include:

  • Stockman Interhold SA v. Arricano Real Estate Plc[2017] EWHC 2909 (Comm)and [2015] EWHC 2979 (Comm). James acted as lead counsel on a number of challenges under sections 67 and 68 of the 1996 Act, including a trial at which it was established that an award was procured by fraud.
  • Cruz City 1 Mauritius Holdings v. Unitech Ltd & Others [2014] EWHC 3704 (Comm). James acted as lead counsel for the 5th defendant. This case establishes important limitations on the ability of the English courts to grant post-award Freezing Orders in aid of enforcement.
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 or against funds and corporations in relation to debt and equity investments (typically cross-border), including claims relating to the misappropriation of assets.

Recent cases include:

  • Cayman and BVI Funds (2022). James is advising and acting for an investor who invested $500m in four funds and is now seeking to have those funds wound up.
  • UCITS Fund (2021). James is advising and acting for an investor who invested $100m in a UCITS fund. That investment was then used to support other funds run by the same managers.
  • PCP Capital Parnters v. Barclays Bank PCL [2020] EWHC 1393 (Comm) [2021] EWHC 307 (Comm) [2021] EWHC 1852 (Comm). James acted for PCP, which sued Barclays for fraud in relation to its 2008 capital raise.
  • TMF Trustee Ltd v. Fire Navigation [2019] EWHC 2918 (Comm). James acted for a guarantor. It is the only case where the prevention principal has been successfully deployed to defeat a claim for summary judgment on a guarantee.
Civil fraud & asset recovery

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

Recent cases include:

  • Manek v. IIFL Wealth and others, [2021] EWCA Civ 264 and [2021] EWCA Civ 625. James acts as lead counsel for two defendants to this £30 million fraud claim. In 2021, jurisdiction issues were resolved in two hearings before, and two judgments of, the Court of Appeal. The first of these judgments clarifies the scope of the tort gateway.
  • PCP Capital Parnters v. Barclays Bank PCL [2020] EWHC 1393 (Comm) [2021] EWHC 307 (Comm) [2021] EWHC 1852 (Comm). James acted for PCP, which sued Barclays for fraud in relation to its 2008 capital raise. The claim was valued at £600 million.
  • UCITS Fund. James is advising and acting for an investor who invested $100m in a UCITS fund. That investment was then used to support other funds run by the same managers. The investor says that it was induced to invest by fraudulent representations as to the nature of the fund.
  • PJSC Tatneft v. Bogolyubov & Others [2018] EWHC 3249 (Comm) (and other refs). James acts for the second defendant in this substantial claim under Article 1064 of the Russian Civil Code. The claim arises from the alleged misappropriation of payments made by a Ukrainian refinery.
  • Accent Delight v. Bouvier. In this case the claimants allege that Mr Bouvier fraudulently inflated the price of works by artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Van Gough, Picasso, Modigliani, Rothko, Monet and Matisse by about US$1 billion. To date it has involved litigation in Singapore, Hong Kong, Monaco, France, New York and Switzerland, and threatened proceedings in England. James acts for and advises the defendant in relation to global strategy; and jurisdictional issues in in common law and convention territories.
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 a dispute concerning the supply of Covid PPE in 2022.
  • Energy sector disputes, including rig sale and management, pipeline and supply disputes. (See the separate section for this). Recent cases include a dispute in relation to wind farm project in 2022.
  • Shareholder and share purchase disputes. (See the separate section for this). Recent cases include Otello Corp ASA v. Moore Freres and Co LLC [2020] EWHC 3261 (Ch).
  • Healthcare and pharmaceutical sector disputes. Recent work includes acting for a Caribbean Island in a dispute with the supplier of its hospital services (2022). Over the past 10 years, this has included 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 and Mid Essex NHS Trust v. Compass [2013] EWCA Civ 200.
  • Joint-venture, partnership, quasi-partnership disputes.
  • 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:

  • Manek v. IIFL Wealth and others, [2021] EWCA Civ 264 and [2021] EWCA Civ 625. James acts as lead counsel for two defendants to this £30 million fraud claim. In 2021, jurisdiction issues were resolved in two hearings before, and two judgments of, the Court of Appeal. The first of these judgments clarifies the scope of the tort gateway.
  • Hoteles Pinero Canarias SL v. Keefe C-419/17 (Supreme Court). James acted for the appellant in the Supreme Court and the CJEU. The dispute concerned the scope of Article 11.3 of the Judgments Regulation (44/2001).
  • Millicom Tanzania NV v. Golden Globe International (2016, E.C. 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. 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. 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. 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.
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, oil and gas trading and wind farm disputes.
  • As arbitrator, disputes concerning exploration and production sharing agreements, and piping systems.

 

Insurance & reinsurance

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

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 homebuilders 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 accounting firms.

 

International trade, transport & commodities

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

  • Advanced Multi-Technology v. Uniserve [2022] EWHC 264 (Ch). James is lead counsel for the defendant to a £35 million claim relating to the supply of Covid-19 PPE. In February 2022 the Court dismissed the claimant’s application for summary judgment (save in relation to one assigned debt of $300k).
  • An arbitration involving cargoes of petroleum product from Iran.
  • An arbitration involving an oil production sharing agreement.
Media, art, entertainment

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

  • Sothebys v. Mark Weiss Ltd [2020] EWCA Civ 1570. James acted as lead counsel for the appellant in this dispute about liability to Sotheby’s, following Sotheby’s decision to refund the purchaser of a painting that was said to be Frans Hals.
  • Accent Delight v. Bouvier. In this case the claimants allege that Mr Bouvier fraudulently inflated the price of works by artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Van Gough, Picasso, Modigliani, Rothko, Monet and Matisse by about US$1 billion. To date it has involved litigation in Singapore, Hong Kong, Monaco, France, New York and Switzerland, and threatened proceedings in England. James acts for and advises the defendant in relation to global strategy; and jurisdictional issues in in common law and convention territories.
  • 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.
Offshore litigation

James frequently represents clients in offshore disputes, including in the B.V.I. Commercial Court and Court of Appeal and in the Cayman Islands. Recent cases have included:

  • Cayman and BVI Funds (2022). James is advising and acting for an investor who invested $500m in four funds and is now seeking to have those funds wound up.
  • Cayman Fund. James is advised the independent directors of a limited partner in relation to a dispute between the ultimate investors in, and the general partner of, a Cayman fund.
  • Millicom Tanzania NV v. Golden Globe International (2016 and ongoing, BVI Commercial Court and E.C. 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, and on appeal.
  • 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.
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 the following:

  • Otello Corp ASA v. Moore Freres and Co LLC [2020] EWHC 3261 (Ch). James acted as lead counsel for a minority shareholder (Otello) in a claim against the majority shareholder (Moore  Freres) arising from the blocked sale of the minority interest to a third party. An injunction was granted following an expedited trial. When that failed to secure the sale to the third party, a second trial resulted in an order that Moore Freres buy Otello’s shares for $48 million and a loan note for $5 million.
  • Independent Asset Management Company v. Swiss Forfaiting Ltd (2016 trial, BVI Commercial Court). In this claim, an investment manager complained that its shareholding in a BVI fund had been unfair diluted.
  • David v. Infinite Renewables (2017). James was instructed on the appeal from the judgment in this case about the management of wind generation company.

Derivative claims. A recent example is Sonara Limited v. Akolyn & Others (2015-2016, BVI Commercial Court). James acted for minority shareholders making 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 has included, representing a defendant to a claim that certain warranties in the SPA were made fraudulently.

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:

  • Yacht sale and purchase.
  • 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