Professional practice

James’s practice spans a broad range of commercial disputes, both in litigation and arbitration, with particular experience in the areas of civil fraud, commercial chancery and banking and finance. He is regularly instructed on large-scale and high profile cases, the majority of which have an international element.

The legal directories rank James as a leading junior in several practice areas, in particular commercial dispute resolution (Chambers UK, Chambers Global, Legal 500), civil fraud (Chambers UK, Legal 500, Who’s Who Legal), banking and finance (Legal 500), commercial chancery (Chambers UK, Chambers Global), and company and partnership (Legal 500). He has recently been described as an “absolute megastar” at the junior Bar, “absolutely brilliant, an “absolutely super junior” and “a future leader at the Bar”. In 2018 James was featured by Who’s Who Legal among a small number of ‘rising star’ juniors under 15 years’ call.

James is recognised in the directories for the maturity of his approach, including “expertise, wisdom and gravitas beyond his years”, “a very wise head”, “calm and reassuring…perfect for clients in crisis”, for his intellect and analytical ability, being described as “very industrious and extremely bright”, as “a great lawyer with a fine intellect” with “incredible mastery of the law”, and having an “ability to grasp complex factual matters” which is “particularly impressive” and an “uncanny ability to get to the heart of an issue and…a masterful command of detail,” as well as for his skills as “a very switched-on advocate” who is “very persuasive”.

Over the last 10 years James has acted in several major cases, including Tatneft v Bogolyubov, PCP v Barclays, BTA v Ablyazov, Berezovsky v Hine, and Dar Al Arkan v Al Refai. He is regularly instructed on disputes concerning civil fraud and asset tracing (particularly involving parties in Russia and the CIS, and the Middle East), banking and other financial litigation, general contractual and other commercial disputes, and company law disputes of one sort of another (including shareholder disputes or claims against directors). He is also experienced in domestic and cross-border insolvency.

James acts as a senior junior on larger cases and also has a busy practice as sole counsel, both in litigation and in arbitration. He has conducted cases under various major arbitral rules, including LCIA, ICC, UNCITRAL, as well as the LMAA Terms.

James is a contributing author to Civil Fraud: Law, Practice & Procedure, 1st Ed. (Sweet & Maxwell, 2018).

 

What Others Say

Chambers & Partners UK Bar 2021, Commercial Dispute Resolution:

“He’s absolutely brilliant, a pleasure to work with and someone who gets right to the crux of the legal issue.”

“He is user-friendly, responsive and sharp-witted.”

Chambers & Partners UK Bar 2021, Fraud: Civil:

“He is very bright, hard-working, has good insight and is good on his feet.”

“A very switched-on advocate.”

“He is briefed above the level of his call.”

Chambers & Partners UK Bar 2021, Chancery Commercial:

“An absolutely super junior – he is very, very clever. He has a great manner with clients.”

Legal 500 UK Bar 2021, Commercial Litigation:

An excellent drafter, his written work is a joy to read

Legal 500 UK Bar 2021, Fraud: Civil:

His written work is excellent; he is very thorough; he leaves no stone unturned

Legal 500 UK Bar 2021, Banking & Finance:

“Never afraid to roll up his sleeves and be fully immersed in a case, he is hard working, ferociously bright and has excellent judgement.”

Legal 500 UK Bar 2021, Company & Partnership:

“He is an outstanding junior.”

Chambers & Partners UK Bar 2020, Commercial Dispute Resolution:

Has incredible mastery of the law. He’s extremely good to work with, he’s interactive, he’s down to earth and he’s hugely reliable.

His style is really fantastic, and he prepares extremely well.”

Chambers & Partners UK Bar 2020, Chancery Commercial:

He is really excellent. His written work is fantastic and very clear. He understands where the clients are coming from and shapes the strategy accordingly. He’s terrific.

Chambers & Partners UK Bar 2020, Fraud: Civil:

He’s a great litigator who’s very calm under pressure.

A real team player and a great choice for large, complicated cases.

Legal 500 UK Bar 2020, Banking and Finance:

“Extremely knowledgeable, hardworking, and has a very good attention to detail.”

Legal 500 UK Bar 2020, Commercial Litigation

“A calm and charming advocate to work with, he fits very well within any team we assemble.”

Legal 500 UK Bar 2020, Company & Partnership:

“Excellent manner with clients; exceptionally hardworking and committed to the cases he works on.”

Legal 500 UK Bar 2020, Fraud: Civil:

“An excellent advocate who judges and senior silks really pay attention to.”

Chambers & Partners UK Bar 2019, Commercial Dispute Resolution:

Has a very wise head and thinks of points that others haven’t. He’s extremely diligent, and his drafting is excellent.

Chambers & Partners UK Bar 2019, Chancery Commercial:

James cuts through all the madness and knows what he is talking about

Chambers & Partners UK Bar 2019, Fraud: Civil:

Extremely diligent. His drafting is excellent.”

“Very industrious and extremely bright. Has excellent attention to detail.

Legal 500 UK Bar 2019, Banking and Finance:

‘His ability to grasp complex factual matters is particularly impressive.’

Legal 500 UK Bar 2019, Commercial Litigation:

‘Bright, thorough and has great judgement, definitely a junior to watch.’

Legal 500 UK Bar 2019, Company & Partnership:

 ‘He has an uncanny ability to get to the heart of an issue and has a masterful command of detail.’

Legal 500 UK Bar 2019, Fraud: Civil:

 ‘His drafting is crystal clear; a great team player.’

Previous comments include:

Commercial Dispute Resolution: “Bright, thorough and has great judgement, definitely a junior to watch”; “His pleadings are fantastic and he is always a pleasure to deal with”; “A very able lawyer and a junior with a stellar career ahead of him

Chancery: Commercial: “Quietly persuasive, and has got gravitas beyond his years”; “He is very good – young, bright, easy to work with and energetic”; “A great lawyer with a fine intellect, who is very hard-working”;

He works like there’s no tomorrow

Civil Fraud: “Absolute megastar at the junior Bar”; “He performs very impressively and his name should be lit up in lights”; “Always handles civil fraud cases with considerable effect and great skill”; “One of the most rapidly rising stars in this field; interviewees agree he is a “future leader at the Bar””. “James works tirelessly for his clients. He is very industrious and extremely bright. Excellent attention to detail.”; “Very sensible, very persuasive.”; “James is incredibly hard-working and very pleasant to work with. He delivers well thought out and well-reasoned written products in good time.”; “His manner is calm and reassuring, so he’s perfect for clients in crisis. He is wise beyond his years of call.”; “Works very hard and is a good advocate”; “His drafting is crystal clear; a great team player”; “Expert wisdom and gravitas beyond his years – outstanding

Banking & Finance: “His ability to grasp complex factual matters is particularly impressive”; “He has a very bright future ahead of him and quickly grasps difficult points”; “Extremely bright, practical, clear and a great team player

Company & Partnership: “He has an uncanny ability to get to the heart of an issue and has a masterful command of detail”; “He has expertise, wisdom and gravitas beyond his years”; “A rising star; he is delightful to work with and charming with clients

Examples of Recent Cases

Cases on which James has acted in the last few years include:

Tatneft v Bogolyubov and ors: acting for the claimant in this US$300 million fraud claim in the Commercial Court against four Ukrainian oligarchs, in a team led by Lord Goldsmith QC and Paul McGrath QC, and subsequently by David Railton QC. The case involves allegations that monies owed for the supply of oil to a Ukrainian refinery were fraudulently diverted. The claim is governed by Russian law, and was tried remotely over 11 weeks in October-December 2020. The proceedings also involved a number of disputes over the scope and extent of freezing orders and their associated disclosure obligations (see e.g. [2018] 1 WLR 5705).

PCP v Barclays: acted for the claimants (as part of a team led by Joe Smouha QC) on various aspects of this The Lawyer Top 20 case, seeking in excess of £1 billion in damages against Barclays bank arising out of its £7 billion capital raising exercise in October 2008. Involved an important decision on the test for waiver of privilege [2020] EWHC 1393 (Comm).

Jefferies v Cantor: acting (with Daniel Oudkerk QC) in a claim for inducement of breach of contract, arising out of a team move from one investment bank to another. A jurisdiction challenge based on an alleged FINRA arbitration agreement and forum arguments was dismissed in June 2020 [2020] EWHC 1381 (QB) (currently subject to an application for permission to appeal).

Acting in proceedings in the Chancery Division involving an alleged unlawful means conspiracy and related claims arising out of a team move from a start-up company to its proposed acquirer. The company was engaged in development of platforms for cryptocurrency trading using blockchain technology, a business which the proposed acquirer is alleged to have appropriated.

Mastermelt v Siegfried: acted unled for a Swiss pharmaceuticals company which challenged the jurisdiction of the English court in a Commercial Court claim brought against it for negative declarations, on the basis of an exclusive jurisdiction agreement in favour of the Swiss courts which was held to satisfy the requirements of the Lugano Convention. See [2020] EWHC 927 (QB).

Gruber and ors v AIG: acted (with Daniel Oudkerk QC) in this claim by a group of former AIG employees working in AIG’s financial products division, seeking recovery of over US$100 million of unpaid deferred remuneration which was withheld in light of the unprecedented losses suffered by AIG following the financial crash in 2008 and the impact on its portfolio of credit default swaps and other derivatives. See e.g. [2019] EWHC 1676 (Comm) and [2020] EWCA Civ 31.

ACP v Sacyr: acted (with David Foxton QC) for the defendant guarantors in a US$280 million claim by the Panama Canal Authority, which was the employer under a US$3 billion construction contract for the widening of the Panama canal. The claim involved a stay application under s.9 of the Arbitration Act 1996 and on case management grounds, and an issue as to whether guarantees were to be characterised as “demand bonds” ([2018] 1 All ER (Comm) 916).

BTA Bank v Shalabayev: acted unled in a Commercial Court trial of a dispute as to ownership of a London property against which the claimant bank was seeking to enforce judgments which it had obtained against the Kazakh banker Mukhtar Ablyazov in this major long-running litigation. James also recently acted on a separate aspect of the wider litigation (with Peter Knox QC), in which the Court of Appeal examined the purpose test under s.423 of the Insolvency Act 1986 (reported at [2018] BPIR 898).

Simetra v Ikon: acted (with Paul McGrath QC) for the defendant financial services firms and individuals in accessory claims arising out of an alleged fraud involving FX trading in Greece and London and the alleged misappropriation of hundreds of millions of dollars. The claim was dismissed after 3-week trial in 2018 ([2018] EWHC 2624 (Comm)) and led to an important decision of the Court of Appeal on a judge’s duty to give reasons: [2019] 4 WLR 112.

Yedina v Yedin: 3-week trial in the Chancery Division in which James acted for the claimant in a claim against her husband, a Ukrainian politician and businessman, for the payment of monies due under a separation agreement. The trial involved extensive cross-examination and issues over a post-judgment freezing order against a third party.

Acted unled in an LCIA arbitration involving claims for breach of contract, fraudulent misrepresentation and restitution in respect of an agreement for the sale of timber reserves in Russia. Involved cross-examination of witnesses of fact and forestry experts.

Publications

Civil Fraud: Law, Practice & Procedure”, 1st Ed. (2018), Sweet & Maxwell.

Arbitration & related court applications

James is regularly instructed in arbitration claims and related court applications. He has conducted cases under various major arbitral rules, including LCIA, ICC, UNCITRAL, as well as the LMAA Terms.

Jefferies v Cantor: jurisdiction challenge in a claim for inducement of breach of contract, relying principally on an alleged arbitration agreement and s.9 of the Arbitration Act 1996. The Court determined in June 2020 that the question of whether there is an “arbitration agreement” under s.9 is a question of English law, and dismissed a contention that an obligation to arbitrate under the US FINRA regulatory regime met that test. See [2020] EWHC 1381 (QB) (currently subject to an application for permission to appeal).

ACP v Sacyr: acted (with David Foxton QC) for the defendant guarantors in a US$280 million claim by the Panama Canal Authority, which was the employer under a US$3 billion construction contract for the widening of the Panama canal. The claim involved a stay application under s.9 of the Arbitration Act 1996 and on case management grounds, in the context of parallel ICC arbitration proceedings concerning the same issues in the USA ([2018] 1 All ER (Comm) 916).

Acted unled in an LCIA arbitration involving claims for breach of contract, fraudulent misrepresentation and restitution in respect of an agreement for the sale of timber reserves in Russia.

ICC arbitration involving a dispute over alleged contractual repudiation causing disruption to the activities of a gold mine in Guinea, West Africa.

Advised a Russian bank in relation to enforcement of an LCIA award by a Russian bank against assets in Cyprus and elsewhere in Europe, and ancillary relief to preserve assets.

Acted unled in an UNCITRAL arbitration between US and Greek parties in relation to a currency exchange franchise.

LMAA arbitration involving a dispute over control of English ship-owning companies operated as vehicles for a joint venture between Greek parties, plus related Court applications for interim relief under s.44 of the Arbitration Act 1996.

Banking & financial services

James is recommended by Legal 500 as a Tier 1 leading junior in banking & finance. He has experience of banking & financial services disputes of a varied nature, including LMA facility agreements, letters of credit and demand guarantees (including application of the Uniform Rules for Demand Guarantees 758), mortgage disputes, prime brokerage, hedge funds, derivatives, Islamic finance, and claims in relation to “vishing” scams and for recovery of mistaken bank payments (commercial and retail banking). James spoke at the inaugural Legal Business Financial Services Regulation & Disputes Summit in London in February 2019.

Recent cases include:

PCP v Barclays: acted for the claimants (as part of a team led by Joe Smouha QC) on various aspects of this The Lawyer Top 20 case, seeking in excess of £1 billion in damages against Barclays bank arising out of its £7 billion capital raising exercise in October 2008.

Gruber and ors v AIG: acted (with Daniel Oudkerk QC) in this claim by a group of former AIG employees working in AIG’s financial products division, seeking recovery of over US$100 million of unpaid deferred remuneration which was withheld in light of the unprecedented losses suffered by AIG following the financial crash in 2008 and the impact on its portfolio of credit default swaps and other derivatives. See e.g. [2019] EWHC 1676 (Comm) and [2020] EWCA Civ 31.

WPB Capital v Llanfair: acted unled for a Czech credit union in a Commercial Court claim concerning the disputed assignment of a retail customer loan book worth US$100 million.

Chickombe v Financial Conduct Authority: acted unled for a number of loan customers challenging the FCA’s decision to validate approximately £50 million of loans made by a finance company and administered by an unregulated credit broker which would otherwise have been unenforceable (see decision at [2018] UKUT 0258 (TCC)).

Banco Nacional Ultramarino v Bank of India: acted unled for the claimant Macau bank in claims under a facility agreement and against the issuing bank under a demand guarantee governed by the URDG 758.

Lycalopex (Dubai) Ltd v Merrill Lynch International (with John Nicholls QC): acted for a defendant bank and prime broker in a claim brought by a hedge fund vehicle, seeking damages in relation to alleged profit and other commitments given by the bank/prime broker in relation to equities and derivatives trading.

ICICI Bank Ltd v GVK Power and Infrastructure Limited (with Bankim Thanki QC): acted for a borrower in a Commercial Court dispute with the Singapore branch of an Indian bank (acting as facility agent) under a US$1 billion loan facility, regarding the proper scope of restrictions on the sale of assets under the facility agreement.

Advised a corporate banking customer in respect of a dispute over the permissibility of the bank’s transfer of its loan book to a third party hedge fund under the terms of the facility agreement.

Acted for a major international bank resisting applications by the liquidator of its former corporate customer for disclosure in insolvency proceedings as a precursor to claims against the bank in dishonest assistance and negligence

Acted (with Robert Miles QC and Mark Howard QC) in various overlapping claims arising out of the operation of a Cayman investment fund of hedge funds.

Acted in a dispute between a banker and an English plc customer over responsibility for losses from fraudulent payments brought about by a “vishing” scam.

Acted in a claim against a high street bank for recovery of payment made by mistake.

Acted for a corporate banking customer in a dispute with the bank over the bank’s right to freeze the customer’s accounts on the grounds of suspected money laundering.

James is the author of an article published in the Journal of International Banking and Financial Law in 2019 entitled Make-whole payments in English financial law: an insolvency perspective (2019) 6 JIBFL 374.

Civil fraud & asset recovery

James is a highly sought-after junior for civil fraud and asset tracing disputes. He is recommended as a leading junior by each of Chambers & Partners, Legal 500, and Who’s Who Legal, which described him in 2017 as “One of the most rapidly rising stars in this field” and a “future leader at the Bar.” In 2018 Who’s Who Legal ranked James as one of three most highly regarded juniors at the Bar in this field, describing him as an “absolute megastar”, and listed him among a small pool of “rising stars” at the junior bar under 15 years’ call. Most recently he is described as “a very switched-on advocate” who is “briefed above the level of his call” (Chambers UK 2021).

James has acted in a number of major disputes in this area (including the seminal and long-running Ablyazov litigation), in particular involving Russia and the CIS as well as the Middle East. He is experienced in the whole range of issues which arise in fraud cases, such as freezing orders, pre- and post-judgment receivers, Norwich Pharmacal and other disclosure orders in the asset-tracing context, and committal applications.

James is a contributing author to Civil Fraud: Law, Practice & Procedure, first edition published by Sweet & Maxwell in 2018.

Recent cases include:

Tatneft v Bogolyubov and ors: acting for the claimant in this US$300 million fraud claim in the Commercial Court against four Ukrainian oligarchs, in a team led initially by Lord Goldsmith QC and Paul McGrath QC, and more recently by David Railton QC. The case involves allegations that monies owed for the supply of oil to a Ukrainian refinery were fraudulently diverted. The claim is governed by Russian law, and was tried remotely over 11 weeks in October-December 2020. The proceedings also involved a number of disputes over the scope and extent of freezing orders and their associated disclosure obligations (see e.g. [2018] 1 WLR 5705).

PCP v Barclays: acted for the claimants (as part of a team led by Joe Smouha QC) on various aspects of this The Lawyer Top 20 case, seeking in excess of £1 billion in damages for fraudulent misrepresentation against Barclays bank arising out of its £7 billion capital raising exercise in October 2008.

VTB v Antipinsky: acted unled for individual respondents to a committal application alleging breaches of the disclosure obligations in a freezing order made in support of arbitral proceedings.

Acted unled in an LCIA arbitration involving claims for breach of contract, fraudulent misrepresentation and restitution in respect of an agreement for the sale of timber reserves in Russia.

Acted unled in a Norwich Pharmacal application against a UK bank seeking disclosure of the movement of funds following a misdirected payment made by a global foods company to its supplier as a result of an email hacking fraud.

BTA Bank v Ablyazov: James acted more or less continuously on various aspects of this litigation between 2010 and 2018. Most recently, he acted unled in a Commercial Court trial in a dispute as to ownership of a London property against which the claimant bank was seeking to enforce judgments it had obtained against Mr Ablyazov (BTA v Shalabayev [2017] EWHC 2906 (Comm)), and (led by Peter Knox QC) in separate proceedings against a relative of Mr Ablyazov which went to the Court of Appeal on an issue as to the “purpose” test in s.423 of the Insolvency Act 1986 (reported at [2018] BPIR 898).

Simetra v Ikon: acted (with Paul McGrath QC) for the defendant financial services firms and individuals in accessory claims arising out of an alleged fraud involving FX trading in Greece and London and the alleged misappropriation of hundreds of millions of dollars. The claim was dismissed after 3-week trial in 2018 ([2018] EWHC 2624 (Comm)) and led to an important decision of the Court of Appeal on a judge’s duty to give reasons: [2019] 4 WLR 112.

Capital Markets Co (UK) Ltd v Tarver: acted (with Daniel Oudkerk QC) for the claimant financial consultancy in a claim valued in the hundreds of millions of pounds against former employees and their associates, in conspiracy, breach of confidence and infringement of copyright in respect of the alleged establishment of a rival fintech business.

Commercial chancery disputes

James has been consistently ranked in recent years as a leading junior for commercial chancery disputes by Chambers & Partners: “He has a very wise head and thinks of points that others wouldn’t”, and “cuts through all the madness and knows what he is talking about” (2019). Previous editions described him as a “great lawyer with a fine intellect, who is very hard-working”, and has “continued to enhance his growing reputation by acting in high-stakes cases.” He joined Essex Court Chambers in October 2016 from a leading commercial chancery set.

James’s experience of commercial chancery disputes encompasses company and partnership law disputes in litigation and arbitration, and shareholder disputes in both contexts, as well as domestic and cross-border insolvency (including recognition of foreign insolvencies and applications by office-holders for disclosure and information). He also has considerable experience of matters of trusts and property law. Cases include:

Yedina v Yedin: acted, unled, for the claimant in a 3-week trial in the Chancery Division who was suing her husband, a Ukrainian politician and businessman, for the payment of monies due under a separation agreement. The husband sought to avoid liability on the basis of various equitable defences (including unconscionable bargain and undue influence). There was a separate dispute over the scope and terms of a family trust over properties in England and abroad.

Brecon v Beckwith-Smith: acting unled for a defendant to a claim in the Chancery Division seeking repayment of monies alleged to be due under a loan agreement and making claims in restitution. Listed for trial in early 2020.

Capitalaid v Tradeshift: acting unled for the defendants in a claim in the Chancery Division for rectification of an agreement conferring an option on one party to acquire shares in the other party’s business upon the termination of their contractual relationship. Listed for trial in late 2019.

Capital Markets Co (UK) Ltd v Tarver: acted (with Daniel Oudkerk QC) for the claimant financial consultancy in a Chancery Division claim valued in the hundreds of millions of pounds against former employees and their associates, in conspiracy, breach of confidence and infringement of copyright in respect of the alleged establishment of a rival fintech business.

Acted for corporate and individual respondents against whom office-holders in a major offshore liquidation sought orders for examination and disclosure under s.236 of the Insolvency Act 1986.

CitizenM LND St Paul’s Properties BV v Chil Ltd (with John McGhee QC): acting for a property owner, engaged in a limited partnership joint venture for the development of a substantial hotel in the City of London, in a dispute (in the Chancery Division and Court of Appeal) over the termination of the joint venture.

Brilliant Pebbles Ltd v 750MPH: acted unled in a dispute between a sound production company and one of its directors over remuneration and the management of the business, involving allegations of unfair prejudice.

Advised on and drafted potential claims to recover, as unlawful, dividends totalling around US$200 million paid by a major English retail company which subsequently went into administration.

Acted (with Robert Miles QC and Mark Howard QC) for the claimants in claims for conspiracy and dishonest breach of fiduciary duty in relation to a Cayman investment fund of hedge funds. Involved a dispute over the application of the rule against recovery by a shareholder of reflective loss, and a double derivative claim made in respect of a Cayman company with a BVI parent.

Acted for a shareholder-director in a long-running unfair prejudice action in relation to two English companies, which produced two important decisions in this area in the Court of Appeal, including acting as sole counsel at a subsequent trial and in non-party costs proceedings.

Acted for the beneficiary of the estate of a deceased bank account-holder in a stakeholder claim brought by the London branch of a Greek bank, involving a dispute over the beneficial entitlement to the account balances.

Commercial dispute resolution

James is recommended as a leading junior for commercial dispute resolution by both Chambers and Partners and Legal 500, and described as having “incredible mastery of the law” and being “extremely good to work with, he’s interactive, he’s down to earth and he’s hugely reliable” (Chambers Global 2021), “absolutely brilliant, a pleasure to work with and someone who gets right to the crux of the legal issue” and “user-friendly, responsive and sharp-witted” (Chambers UK 2021).

He regularly acts (led and as sole counsel) in commercial disputes of all kinds, both in litigation in the English Commercial Court and Court of Appeal, and in arbitration. James also has experience of both outgoing and incoming letters of request to obtain evidence for civil proceedings.

Recent cases include:

Tatneft v Bogolyubov (see under Civil Fraud & Asset Tracing): major Commercial Court claim seeking the recovery of US$300 million in misappropriated payments, which involved an 11-week remote trial in late 2020.

PCP v Barclays: acted for the claimants (as part of a team led by Joe Smouha QC) on various aspects of this The Lawyer Top 20 case, seeking in excess of £1 billion in damages against Barclays bank arising out of its £7 billion capital raising exercise in October 2008. Involved an important decision on the test for waiver of privilege: [2020] EWHC 1393 (Comm).

Gruber and ors v AIG: acted (with Daniel Oudkerk QC) in this claim by a group of former AIG employees working in AIG’s financial products division, seeking recovery of over US$100 million of unpaid deferred remuneration which was withheld in light of the unprecedented losses suffered by AIG following the financial crash in 2008 and the impact on its portfolio of credit default swaps and other derivatives. See e.g. [2019] EWHC 1676 (Comm) and [2020] EWCA Civ 31.

ACP v Sacyr: acted (with David Foxton QC) for the defendant guarantors in a US$280 million claim by the Panama Canal Authority, which was the employer under a US$3 billion construction contract for the widening of the Panama canal. The claim involved a stay application under s.9 of the Arbitration Act 1996 and on case management grounds, and an issue as to whether guarantees were to be characterised as “demand bonds” (decision reported at [2018] 1 All ER (Comm) 916).

WPB Capital v Llanfair: acted unled for a Czech credit union in a Commercial Court claim concerning the disputed assignment of a retail customer loan book worth US$100 million.

Altergeotechnologies v ArcelorMittal: acted unled for a Ukrainian corporate claimant in a US$30 million Commercial Court claim against a multinational steel and mining conglomerate in respect of the non-performance and termination of a contract for the supply of iron ore mining products.

Company & Insolvency Law

James is recommended by Legal 500 as a leading junior for company and partnership disputes, where he is described most recently as “an outstanding junior” (2021), and previously as a “rising star” who is “delightful to work with and charming with clients”, and as having “an uncanny ability to get to the heart of an issue and a masterful command of detail.

He has acted in all types of company law disputes, including shareholder disputes, claims by and against directors, unfair prejudice proceedings and derivative claims. James also has widespread experience of corporate insolvency, both domestic and cross-border, including compulsory and voluntary liquidation, recognition of foreign proceedings and applications by and against office-holders within insolvency proceedings.

Cases involving company and partnership issues include:

PCP v Barclays: acted for the claimants (as part of a team led by Joe Smouha QC) on various aspects of this The Lawyer Top 20 case, seeking in excess of £1 billion in damages against Barclays bank arising out of its £7 billion capital raising exercise in October 2008. Involved issues over the regulation of commission payments for share subscriptions and financial assistance for the acquisition of a company’s own shares under the Companies Acts.

Gruber and ors v AIG: acted (with Daniel Oudkerk QC) in this claim by a group of former AIG employees working in AIG’s financial products division, seeking recovery of over US$100 million of unpaid deferred remuneration which was withheld in light of the unprecedented losses suffered by AIG following the financial crash in 2008 and the impact on its portfolio of credit default swaps and other derivatives. See e.g. [2019] EWHC 1676 (Comm) and [2020] EWCA Civ 31. Involved issues as to the effect of insolvency on payment rights and obligations and the principles surrounding unlawful return of capital.

CitizenM LND St Paul’s Properties BV v Chil Ltd (with John McGhee QC): acted for a property owner, engaged in a limited partnership joint venture for the development of a substantial hotel in the City of London, in a dispute (in the Chancery Division and Court of Appeal) over the termination of the joint venture.

Advised on and drafted potential claims to recover dividends totalling around US$200 million paid by a major English retail company which subsequently went into administration, and claims by the administrators to reverse the dividends as transactions at an undervalue.

Acted for a shareholder and director of a substantial family hotel business (with assets of hundreds of millions of pounds) in relation to proposed unfair prejudice proceedings.

Cases involving insolvency issues include:

Sberbank v Byakov: acted on a bankruptcy petition brought by a Russian bank against a businessman borrower based on personal guarantees amounting to the equivalent of £40 million.

Advised on and drafted potential claims to recover dividends totalling around US$200 million paid by a major English retail company which subsequently went into administration, and claims by the administrators to reverse the dividends as transactions at an undervalue.

Acted for corporate and individual respondents against whom office-holders in a major offshore liquidation seek orders for examination and disclosure under s.236 of the Insolvency Act 1986.

James is the author of an article published in the Journal of International Banking and Financial Law in 2019 entitled Make-whole payments in English financial law: an insolvency perspective (2019) 6 JIBFL 374.

Conflict of laws & private international law

James’s practice is international in nature and the majority of his cases involve issues of conflicts of law (and/or the application of foreign law) or jurisdiction. He regularly advises both potential claimants on the possibility of establishing jurisdiction in England in cases involving foreign defendants, and defendants on challenges (and potential challenges) to jurisdiction. He frequently works with, and cross-examines, foreign law experts. James also has experience of both outgoing and incoming letters of request to obtain evidence for civil proceedings.

Examples in the jurisdiction context include:

Mastermelt v Siegfried: acted unled for a Swiss pharmaceuticals company which challenged the jurisdiction of the English court in a Commercial Court claim brought against it for negative declarations, on the basis of an exclusive jurisdiction agreement in favour of the Swiss courts which was held to satisfy the requirements of the Lugano Convention. See [2020] EWHC 927 (QB).

Jefferies v Cantor (see under Arbitration): jurisdiction challenge relying primarily on an alleged agreement under s.9 of the Arbitration Act 1996, as well as forum non conveniens arguments and an application for a case management stay.

VTB v Antipinsky (see under Civil Fraud and Asset Tracing): jurisdiction challenge in respect of a committal application brought against directors of a company which was the respondent to a freezing order.

ACP v Sacyr (see under Arbitration, Commercial Dispute Resolution): application for a case management stay of proceedings brought in England pursuant to an exclusive jurisdiction clause, raising issues as to the compatibility of a stay with the EU jurisdictional regime.

Altergeotechnologies v ArcelorMittal: Commercial Court claim involving a jurisdiction challenge, raising issues over the use of an anchor defendant to establish jurisdiction over defendants in the EU, and the reflexive effect of provisions of the Brussels Recast Regulation conferring exclusive jurisdiction in company law disputes.

Koza Ltd v Akçil: acted in the initial stages of a claim against Turkish defendants in which jurisdiction was established under provisions the Brussels Recast Regulation conferring exclusive jurisdiction in company law disputes, which was subsequently challenged.

Examples in the conflicts of law context include:

Tatneft v Bogolyubov (see e.g. under Civil Fraud & Asset Tracing): US$300 million fraud claim under Article 1064 of the Russian Civil Code, which also involves a number of complex issues of Ukrainian law and the rules surrounding recognition of conflicting foreign judgments.

Jefferies v Cantor (see under Arbitration): jurisdiction challenge involved an issue as to the law applicable to the question of whether there was an “arbitration agreement” within the meaning of s.9 of the Arbitration Act 1996.

UNCITRAL arbitration involving claims for remuneration under Greek law regulations governing commercial agency.

Gruber and ors v AIG (see e.g. under Commercial Dispute Resolution): claims governed primarily by Connecticut Law. Post-judgment proceedings involved dispute as to the applicability of certain provisions of Connecticut Law regarding the burden of proof.

Altergeotechnologies v ArcelorMittal (see under Commercial Dispute Resolution): contractual claim governed by Ukrainian law, and economic tort claim under Article 13 of the Ukrainian Civil Code concerning abuse of right.

ACP v Sacyr (see under Arbitration, Commercial Dispute Resolution): US$280 million claim under English law guarantees which involved preliminary issues of Panamanian law as to whether the principal debtor was liable under the underlying contract.

Energy & natural resources

Acted unled in an LCIA arbitration involving claims for breach of contract, fraudulent misrepresentation and restitution in respect of an agreement for the sale of timber reserves in Russia.

Altergeotechnologies v ArcelorMittal: acted unled for a Ukrainian corporate claimant in a US$30 million Commercial Court claim against a multinational steel and mining conglomerate in respect of the non-performance and termination of a contract for the supply of iron ore mining products.

Acted for an energy consultancy business in a dispute over payment for services provided in a gas pricing dispute between Turkish gas importers and a Russian state gas supplier.

Acted in an ICC arbitration in a dispute over alleged contractual repudiation causing disruption to the activities of a gold mine in Guinea, West Africa.

Med Mining and Minerals Limited v Nusantara: acted as sole counsel in a substantial Commercial Court trial (against leading counsel for both other parties) relating to the activities of a mining company in the Far East.

Unjust enrichment & restitution claims

Many of James’s cases involve unjust enrichment and restitution. Examples include:

Brecon v Beckwith-Smith: acted unled for a defendant to a claim in the Chancery Division seeking repayment of monies alleged to be due under a loan agreement and making claims in restitution.

Acted for an energy consultancy business in a dispute over payment for services provided in a gas pricing dispute between Turkish gas importers and a Russian state gas supplier which involves restitutionary claims arising out of the discharge by the claimant of the defendant’s debt to a third party.

Acted unled in an LCIA arbitration involving a restitutionary claim for the recovery of a deposit paid in advance of the sale of timber reserves in Russia.

Advised on and drafted restitutionary claims to recover dividends totalling around US$200 million paid by a major English retail company which subsequently went into administration.

Acted in a restitutionary claim against a high street bank for recovery of payment made by mistake.

Acted for the claimant in a multi-million pound claim in unjust enrichment brought by a property developer against a major institutional property fund.

Acted for the claimant in a claim for restitution in relation to benefits conferred as part of precontractual negotiations where no contract materialised.

Career

2008 Call, Middle Temple

Education

2007 – 2008 BVC, Inns of Court School of Law (Outstanding, 2nd in year)

2005 – 2006 Graduate Diploma in Law (Commendation)

2001 – 2005 BA, St Catharine’s College Cambridge, Modern and Medieval Languages (French and German) (Starred first, 1st in year)

Awards

2008 Baron Dr Ver Heyden de Lancey Prize, Middle Temple

2008 Scarman Scholarship, Inns of Court School of Law (for 2nd highest results on the BVC)

2007 Queen Mother Scholarship, Middle Temple

2005 Mrs Claude Bennington Prize, Cambridge University, for highest result in university in Modern Medieval Languages

2005 Tasker Prize, St. Catharine’s College Cambridge, for outstanding merit in Modern and Medieval Languages

2005 St. Catharine’s College Cambridge Book Prize

2002, 2003 Kurt Hahn Prize, Cambridge University, for highest marks in university in German in Tripos Part 1A (2002) and Part IB (2003)