Professional practice

Legal 500 Leading Silk

James is “considered one of the leading barristers in banking and finance, commercial litigation, international arbitration, offshore and commercial chancery cases working in London today” (Chambers and Partners, 2021).  He is known for combining strong analytical skills and judgment (“an extremely capable and intelligent barrister with the ability to handle the most complex and intricate of issues”, “the cleverest member of the Bar solicitors know”, “astonishingly clever”, “perfect judgment… can think around corners”) with powerful advocacy (“outshone a courtroom full of illustrious silks by his brilliance”, “an absolute superstar who is spectacular on his feet”, “a very strong advocate and cross-examiner”).

His broad practice extends across the full range of commercial disputes, both in court and arbitration.  He is ranked in six fields in the legal directories: banking and finance, civil fraud, commercial dispute resolution, international arbitration and offshore.

James most frequently appears as case leader or sole counsel. He is equally at home in court or arbitration.  James is currently acting in some of the largest disputes before the courts, including:

  • (as team leader) in Bourlakov v Bourlakova, a multi-jurisdictional dispute relating to the ownership of assets worth in excess of US$1 billion;
  • (with Adrian Beltrami KC and Mark Brealey KC) in FDIC v Barclays Bank, defending Barclays Bank against claims by a US government agency relating to alleged anti-competitive “lowballing” of USD LIBOR;
  • (as sole counsel) in PIFSS v Al-Rajaan, defending a claim relating to alleged corruption by a former director of a Kuwaiti public institution; and
  • (as part of a large team) in JSC Commercial Bank PrivatBank v Kolomoisky, pursuing claims in excess of US$4 billion relating to a fraudulent lending scheme allegedly orchestrated by the bank’s former owners.

Before taking silk, James was the only junior barrister to have been identified by Chambers & Partners as one of its “Stars at the Bar”, who have proved their excellence across a range of practice areas.  Its editorial said of him:

There are sources who say that James Willan of Essex Court Chambers is “destined for huge things”; one might say, taking his considerable achievements and our researchers’ findings in the round, that he has well and truly arrived… Indeed, he has become a “senior junior of choice for complex, cross-border disputes.” Sources note that he regularly appears unled against KCs and “holds his own,” and that he is “an excellent barrister at his level who will no doubt be a superstar further down the line,” declaring themselves “extremely impressed with his written submissions as well as his oral advocacy.” Others are unabashedly fulsome in their praise, with one describing him as “remarkably brilliant – an absolute superstar who is spectacular on his feet, even completely by himself.” Alongside Willan’s clear mastery of his craft, it is reflections on his intellectual acuity that resonate most. Source after source remarks on his ability to “grasp complex, detailed points very quickly” and his “wonderful way of pursuing the complicated points.” …

James had also been awarded “Junior of the Year” in three fields: Banking (Chambers Bar Awards, 2020), Commercial Litigation (Legal 500, 2017) and International Arbitration (Chambers Bar Awards, 2016).  He also appeared in The Lawyer’s “Hot 100”, which described him as “one of the big names at the bar in civil fraud and banking and finance litigation”.

James is also frequently instructed in connection with litigation abroad. He has appeared in the BVI Commercial Court and the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal, and has been admitted ad hoc and appeared in both the Isle of Man and the Cayman Islands.  James was also a member of the Attorney General’s “A Panel” for civil counsel until his appointment as silk.

 

What others say

James is recommended in six fields across Chambers and Partners and the Legal 500: Banking and Finance, Civil Fraud, Chancery Commercial, Commercial Dispute Resolution, International Arbitration, Offshore.

Comments in the 2022 editions of the directories include:

  • “a real star and one of the brightest at the Commercial Bar.  He is absolutely superb”,
  • “the cleverest member of the Bar solicitors know… I have also seen him before he took silk outshine a courtroom full of illustrious silks by his brilliance”,
  • “an extremely capable and intelligent barrister with the ability to handle the most complex and intricate of issues”,
  • “intellectually outstanding, creative and pragmatic when it comes to problem-solving; he takes ownership of cases and is a real team player
  • “the very top of the tree. An absolute superstar who always delivers and undoubtedly a first choice for any difficult fraud claim”
  • he’s incredible hard-working and has a very fast turnaround on his work and an extraordinary intellect”, and
  • “astonishingly clever, very hard-working, responsive and easy to work with”.

Prior to taking silk, James was the sole junior identified by Chambers and Partners as one of its “Stars at the Bar”.  He won “Banking Junior of the Year” at the Chambers UK Bar Awards 2020, having previously been named Legal 500’s Commercial Litigation Junior of the Year in 2017 and “International Arbitration Junior of the Year” at the Chambers UK Bar Awards 2016.

James has also been one of The Lawyer’s “Hot 100”, described as “one of the big names at the bar in civil fraud and banking and finance litigation”.

Examples of recent cases

Examples of recent cases, which are typical of James’ practice, include:

  • FDIC v Barclays Bank: James is acting (with Adrian Beltrami KC and Mark Brealey KC) for Barclays Bank in Financial List proceedings brought by the FDIC, a US federal government agency, against leading European banks and the British Bankers’ Association.  The FDIC claims substantial damages for alleged LIBOR “lowballing”, alleging claims under EC competition law and for fraudulent misrepresentation.
  • Federal Republic of Nigeria v Royal Dutch Shell Plc: James acted (with Lord Goldsmith KC) for Shell and its subsidiaries in securing the dismissal of claims worth over US$3.5 billion relating to a Nigerian oil prospecting licence.
  • Bourlakova v Bourlakov: James acts (as team leader) for the lead group of defendants in Chancery Division proceedings arising out of multi-jurisdictional disputes over the ownership of assets worth US$ billions.
  • Apache North Sea Limited v INEOS FPS Limited: James acted (with Sonia Tolaney KC) for INEOS in respect of Commercial Court claims relating to the terms for access to critical North Sea oil infrastructure, giving rise to novel issues relating to when consent could be ‘not unreasonably withheld’.
  • Akhmedova v Akhmedov: James acted for Mrs Akhmedova in her widely publicised efforts to enforce a judgment for over £450 million, involving various claims to break through Liechtenstein asset protection trusts and to unwind transactions in fraud of creditors.
  • National Bank Trust v Yurov: James acted (alone) for one of the three former directors of one of Russia’s largest retail banks in defending claims valued at over US$1 billion arising out of the allegedly dishonest management of the bank, which were the subject of a nine-week Commercial Court trial.
  • Yukos International v Merinson: James acted (leading Stephen Donnelly) for Yukos in its claim against a former treasurer, Mr Merinson, for allegedly taking unlawful kickbacks from banks.  James successfully defended a jurisdiction challenge before the Court of Appeal raising several novel points relating to jurisdiction under the Brussels (Recast) Regulation.
  • IPCO (Nigeria) Ltd v NNPC: James acted (with Jonathan Nash KC) for the Nigerian state-owned petroleum corporation in resisting claims for c. US$400 million based on fraud in foreign proceedings.  James also appeared in the Supreme Court (with Toby Landau KC) in NNPC’s successful appeal leading to a ground-breaking decision relating to enforcement under the New York Convention.
Commercial dispute resolution

James is an experienced and highly-regarded litigator.  He acts and advises in connection with a wide range of commercial disputes, across the full range of industries and sectors.  He appears regularly in the Commercial Court (as well as the Chancery Division) and in arbitration.  He now most frequently appears as a team leader or sole advocate, but also as a member of a larger team in particularly substantial disputes.  He has particular experience of jurisdiction disputes and interim injunctions.

James is ranked by both Chambers & Partners and Legal 500.  He is identified as “a real star and one of the brightest at the Commercial Bar”, “very clever and very creative” and “intellectually outstanding, creative and pragmatic when it comes to problem-solving”.  Before taking silk, be was one of a handful of barristers listed in the top-tier (band 1) and was named by the Legal 500 as its Commercial Litigation junior of the year in 2017.

In recent years, James’ instructions have included by way of example:

  • FDIC v Barclays Bank: acting (with Adrian Beltrami KC and Mark Brealey KC) for Barclays Bank in ongoing Financial List proceedings brought by the FDIC, a US federal government agency, against leading European banks and the British Bankers’ Association.  FDIC seeks substantial damages for alleged LIBOR “lowballing”, bringing claims under EC competition law and for fraudulent misrepresentation.
  • EnQuest Heather Ltd v BP Exploration Operating Oil Company Ltd: acting (alone) for BP in defending Commercial Court proceedings relating to the costs of operating an oil and gas facility in the Shetland Islands.
  • National Bank Trust v Yurov [2020] EWHC 100 (Comm): acted (alone) for one of the three former directors of National Bank Trust, one of Russia’s largest retail banks, defending claims valued at over US$1 billion for the allegedly dishonest management of the bank. The claim was heard at a nine week Commercial Court trial in late 2018.
  • VTB Commodities Trading DAC v Sberbank [2021] EWHC 1758 (Comm): James successfully acted for Sberbank (with Lord Goldsmith KC) in challenging the jurisdiction of the court to hear a claim for over US$300 million brought by a subsidiary of VTB Bank.
  • Apache North Sea Limited v INEOS FPS Limited [2020] EWHC 2081 (Comm): James acted (with Sonia Tolaney KC) for INEOS in respect of Commercial Court claims relating to the terms for access to critical North Sea oil infrastructure, giving rise to novel issues relating to when consent could be ‘not unreasonably withheld’.
  • Guralp Systems Ltd v Dr Guralp: acted for private equity-backed companies in pursuing substantial claims in the Commercial Court against a former director in respect of the alleged payment of bribes to a foreign public official to obtain public-sector business, which were the subject of parallel criminal proceedings by the Serious Fraud Office.
  • Yukos International v Merinson [2020] QB 336: acting (leading Stephen Donnelly) in Yukos’ claim against a former employee to rescind a settlement agreement and to recover damages caused by Mr Merinson allegedly placing business with financial institutions as a result of kick-backs. James successfully defeated a jurisdiction challenge brought by Mr Merinson in reliance on an exclusive Dutch jurisdiction clause, both at first instance and in the Court of Appeal, based on novel arguments under the Brussels (Recast) Regulation.
  • ACON Equity Management LLC v Apple Bidco Ltd [2019] EWHC 2750 (Comm): acted for the successful claimant, a private equity investor, in proceedings to recover conditional payments following its exit from a consortium of investors in a power generation business.
  • Trafigura v Republic of South Sudan and Bank of South Sudan: Acted for Trafigura in Commercial Court proceedings to recover substantial sums due under financing arrangements with the Republic of South Sudan and guarantees issued by its central bank in respect of oil transactions.  James successfully secured summary judgment on all of Trafigura’s claims.
  • Barclays Bank v Unicredit: acted (with Joe Smouha KC) for Barclays Bank in resisting Unicredit’s substantial Commercial Court claim for breach of warranty arising under a complex structured investment.  The case settled during trial, after UniCredit abandoned a significant part of its case following the exchange of skeleton arguments.
  • Dexia Crediop SPA v Provincia di Crotone: acted (alone) for an Italian investment bank in its successful Commercial Court claim to enforce high-value interest rate swaps against an Italian local authority, overcoming defences alleging lack of capacity under Italian law, illegality and fraudulent misrepresentation.

James also assists foreign lawyers in substantial overseas litigation, and has experience of acting in disputes before the Courts of the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, the Isle of Man, and St Christopher and Nevis.  Further details are contained in the “Offshore Litigation” section below.

Arbitration & related court applications

James advises and acts, both alone and as junior counsel, in a wide range of arbitral proceedings including under a variety of rules (including LCIA, ICC, SIAC, HKIAC and CIETAC) and ad hoc.  He has acted in arbitrations under a range of foreign laws, including those of Bahrain, the BVI, the Cayman Islands, Hong Kong, the Isle of Man and Singapore.

James is ranked by both Chambers & Partners and Legal 500, having held a top-tier (band 1) ranking before taking silk and having been named International Arbitration Junior of the Year at the Chambers UK Bar Awards in 2016.  The directories describe James as “astonishingly clever, very hard-working, responsive and easy to work with” and “an extraordinary intellect”.  James is also recommended by Who’s Who Legal, which describes him as “a class act with a great legal mind and extensive experience as counsel in complex disputes”.

James’ instructions usually concern high-value, international disputes.  For example, James has recently acted:

  • for a multinational industrial group in pursuing claims for over £200 million relating to an M&A transaction, involving allegations of market manipulation (LCIA);
  • for a global pharmaceutical company in resisting high-value claims relating to the development of a humanised monoclonal antibody therapy (ICC);
  • for a Cayman investment fund (with Tom Smith KC) relating to the ownership of two investments worth in excess of US$2 billion, giving rise to issues relating to compliance with regulation of foreign direct investment (HKIAC);
  • for the founders and sellers of a business in claims for consideration following the sale of their company to a NASDAQ-listed multinational group, which has given rise to difficult and important questions of the res judicata effect of national court decisions within the arbitral process and recoverability of third-party funding costs (SIAC); and
  • for Viktor Pinchuk (with Jonathan Crow KC and David Foxton KC) in a multi-hundred million US Dollar claim arising out of a Ukrainian ferroalloys business (LCIA).

James also has extensive experience of and a particular interest in court proceedings concerning arbitration including, in particular, enforcement of and challenges to arbitration awardsRecent examples include:

  • BSG Resources Ltd v Vale SA: acted (with David Foxton KC) for Vale SA in successfully opposing challenges under ss. 24 and 68 to a US$1.5 billion LCIA arbitration award arising out of a mining joint venture in the Republic of Guinea.  James also acted (alone) in various enforcement-related proceedings, including Vale SA v Cramer [2020] EWHC 2021 (Comm).
  • IPCO Nigeria Ltd v NNPC: acted for the Nigerian state-owned oil company to resist enforcement of awards alleged to have been procured by fraud.  The case has generated a number of seminal decisions relating to enforcement under the New York Convention, including [2017] UKSC 16 (Supreme Court: whether enforcing court has power to require security as condition of opposing enforcement) and [2009] 1 Lloyd’s Rep 89 (Court of Appeal: partial enforcement of New York Convention awards).  The case settled at the beginning of an eight week trial of NNPC’s defences to enforcement.
  • P v Q, R, S and U [2017] 1 WLR 3800 and [2017] 1 WLR 3823: acted (with David Foxton KC) in opposing an application to remove two well-known commercial arbitrators.  The proceedings having given rise to two reported decisions of general importance concerning the circumstances in which the Court will order disclosure of the Tribunal’s deliberations and the appropriate use of tribunal secretaries.
  • A v B: acting (with David Foxton KC) on multiple s. 67 and s. 68 challenges relating to the validity of notices of arbitration referring disputes under multiple contracts and whether a party is obliged to raise an objection to jurisdiction prior to service of its Statement of Defence under the LCIA rules.
  • Yukos Capital v Rosneft [2014] 2 Lloyd’s Rep. 435: acted (with Gordon Pollock KC) in proceedings to enforce arbitral awards, in which James’ clients obtained a landmark decision holding that the English courts were able to enforce awards even if they had been set aside by the curial courts (the matter was settled before an appeal was heard by the Court of Appeal).

James is also regularly instructed in connection with proceedings for interim relief in connection with arbitration, including under s. 44 of the Arbitration Act 1996, for example Telenor East v Altimo Holdings (with Joe Smouha KC, against Mark Howard KC, seeking an interim injunction to restrain a US$6.5bn acquisition transaction), a confidential injunction (with Helen Davies KC, against Lord Grabiner KC, defending a mandatory injunction), Cruz City 1 Mauritius Holdings v Unitech Limited (discharge of freezing order on basis of absence of jurisdiction against non-parties to the arbitration), and Yukos Capital v Rosneft (with Gordon Pollock KC, obtaining freezing order against Russian state-owned oil major).

Civil fraud & asset recovery

James is a “go-to barrister who has participated in a number of landmark fraud cases” and “undoubtedly a first choice for any difficult fraud claim”.

James is recognised as a leading silk by both Chambers & Partners and the Legal 500.  Comments include “the very top of the tree.  An absolute superstar who always delivers…”, “he is everything you would want in a modern silk – he has perfect judgment, knows which points to fight and which to leave and is extremely well liked”, and “an absolute star who can be relied upon for the most difficult cases and the most difficult clients.  He can think around corners”.  Prior to taking silk, he was one of only two “Star Individuals” in Chambers and Partners.  He is also identified as a “Global Leader” and “Thought Leader” by Who’s Who Legal for asset recovery, where he is “highly rates for his ‘excellent’ handling of complex cross-border asset recovery disputes”.

James is involved in many of the largest and most complex fraud disputes currently pending before the English courts.  For example, he is currently instructed:

  • (as lead advocate) by the lead group of defendants in Bourlakov v Bourlakova, which involves a multi-jurisdictional dispute relating to the ownership of over US$1 billion of assets following the breakdown of the Bourlakov marriage,
  • (as sole counsel) for the second defendant in PIFSS v Al-Rajaan, involving a claim by a Kuwaiti public institution for over US$800 million, and
  • (as part of a large team) by the claimant Ukrainian bank in Privatbank v Kolomoisky, pursuing a claim for over US$4 billion arising out of an alleged fraudulent lending scheme by the former owners of a Ukrainian bank.

James has particular experience of disputes relating to the CIS, having acted (alone) for one of the three defendant directors in National Bank Trust v Yurov (claim for over US$1bn relating to the allegedly dishonest management of one of Russia’s largest retail banks, leading to a nine week trial), for Mr Boreh in Republic of Djibouti v Boreh (defending claims brought by the Republic of Djibouti alleging that benefits were obtained through abuse of public office), for Mr Ablyazov in JSC BTA Bank v Ablyazov (resisting claims of procuring fraudulent transactions worth over US$2bn), for the claimants in the Bitel litigation (a claim by Russia’s largest mobile telephone company for over US$800 million relating to the misapproportiation of a Kyrgyz telecoms company through corrupt court proceedings, which settled during a 10 week trial) and for Mr Ermatov in Tajik Aluminium Plant v Ermatov (concerning the operations of an aluminium smelting plant in Tajikistan, which settled during a 14 week Commercial Court trial).

Other recent instructions include:

  • Federal Republic of Nigeria v Shell [2020] EWHC 1315 (Comm): James acted (with Lord Goldsmith KC) for Shell and its subsidiaries in securing the dismissal of claims worth over US$3.5 billion relating to allegations of corruption in connection with a Nigerian oil prospecting licence.
  • Akhmedova v Akhmedov: James acted for Tatiana Akhmedova in asset recovery proceedings to enforce her £450 million divorce award. James has appeared for Tatiana (leading Mark Belshaw) in her efforts to break through Liechtenstein asset protection trusts, giving rise to complex and novel issues relating to the limits of the extraterritorial powers exercised by the English courts and their ability to make orders for return of assets notwithstanding foreign criminal laws and judgments, as well as in an important application relating to the use of illegitimately obtained evidence [2020] 4 WLR 15.  James also appeared (with Alan Gourgey KC) in the three week trial of claims in which Tatiana successfully applied to set aside various transactions in fraud of creditors [2021] 4 WLR 88 and in striking out a challenge to the claims based on allegedly champertous litigation financing [2020] Costs LR 901.
  • VTB Commodities Trading DAC v Sberbank [2021] EWHC 1758 (Comm): James successfully acted for Sberbank in challenging the jurisdiction of the court to hear a claim for over US$300 million brought by a subsidiary of VTB Bank, arising out of an alleged conspiracy to asset strip an oil refinery before its insolvency.
  • Guralp Systems Ltd v Dr Guralp: acted for companies in bringing substantial claims in the Commercial Court against a former director in respect of the alleged payment of bribes to a foreign public official to obtain public-sector business, which are the subject of parallel criminal prosecutions by the Serious Fraud Office.
  • IPCO Nigeria Ltd v NNPC: acted (with Jonathan Nash KC) for the Nigerian state-owned oil company to resist enforcement of arbitral awards alleged to have been procured by fraud. James will appear in the eight week Commercial Court trial of the allegations that IPCO systematically forged the documents relied upon in the arbitration and gave perjured evidence in support of its claims.
  • Arcadia Petroleum Ltd v Bosworth: James acted (with Graham Dunning KC) for one of the defendants in resisting claims brought by shipping magnate John Fredriksen’s Farahead Holdings group alleging that profits of c. US$200 million were fraudulently extracted from an oil trading business.

James has particular experience (both alone and as junior counsel) of applying for and resisting applications for interim relief, including both freezing orders and search orders. He has acted in many of leading cases concerning the limits of the freezing order jurisdiction, including acting for the successful parties in Yukos Capital v Rosneft [2010] EWHC 784 (Comm) (ambit of the Chabra jurisdiction), Linsen International v Humpuss Sea Transport [2011] 2 Lloyd’s Rep 663 and [2011] EWCA Civ 1042 (limits of the territorial jurisdiction to grant freezing orders against non-resident non-parties) and Cruz City 1 Mauritius Holdings v Unitech Limited [2014] 2 CLC 784 (power of court to grant freezing orders against non-parties in aid of arbitral proceedings), as well as Yukos CIS v Wincanton in the BVI Commercial Court and Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal (availability of freezing orders in aid of foreign litigation in the absence of an equivalent of s. 25 of the CJJA).

Banking & financial services

A major part of James’ practice involves acting and advising, predominantly for banks and other financial institutions, in complex financial and banking litigation.

James is recommended by Chambers & Partners, the Legal 500 and Who’s Who Legal.  He is described as “the cleverest member of the Bar solicitors know.  His ability to master the most complex suite of securitisation documents and deftly advise on every nuance is outstanding.  I have also seen him before he took silk outshine a courtroom full of illustrious silks by his brilliance” and “an extremely capable and intelligent barrister with the ability to handle the most complex and intricate or issues… [he] consistently garners praise for the power of his analysis and his work ethic”.

Before taking silk, James was awarded “Banking Junior of the Year” at the Chambers UK Bar Awards in 2020 and featured as one of The Lawyer’s “Hot 100”, which observed that he was “one of the big names at the bar in… banking and finance litigation”.

Recent instructions, which are illustrative of the high-value and complex nature of James’ practice, include:

  • FDIC v Barclays Bank: James is acting (with Adrian Beltrami KC and Mark Brealey KC) for Barclays Bank in Financial List proceedings brought by the FDIC, a US federal government agency, against leading European banks and the British Bankers’ Association.  FDIC alleges that there was coordinated “lowballing” of USD LIBOR and is pursuing claims under EC competition law and for fraudulent misrepresentation.
  • ACON Equity Management LLC v Apple Bidco Ltd [2019] EWHC 2750 (Comm): acted for the successful claimant, a private equity investor, in proceedings to recover conditional payments following its exit from a consortium of investors in a power generation business.
  • Advising a bank on complex issues relating to the operation of waterfall provisions in CDOs following a potential Termination Event.
  • Trafigura v Republic of South Sudan and Bank of South Sudan: Acted for Trafigura in Commercial Court proceedings to recover substantial sums due under financing arrangements with the Republic of South Sudan and guarantees issued by its central bank in respect of oil transactions.  James successfully secured summary judgment on all of Trafigura’s claims.
  • Barclays Bank v Unicredit: Acted (with Joe Smouha KC) for Barclays Bank in resisting claims, in the Commercial Court, brought by Unicredit for over €300 million concerning a complex structured investment.  The case settled during trial, after UniCredit abandoned a significant part of its case following the exchange of skeletons.
  • Broker-dealer v client: Acted for an FX broker-dealer in an arbitration relating to the timing and price of the liquidation of substantial Swiss franc positions following the unpegging of the Swiss franc in January 2015.
  • Barclays Bank v Saad Investment Co Ltd: Acting for Barclays Bank in proceedings in the Cayman Islands under an accreting strike option where there are competing proprietary claims arising out of the alleged Al Gosaibi Group fraud.  James appeared alone for the Bank in the Cayman Islands, successfully applying for permission to bring proprietary claims against two investment vehicles.
  • Dexia Crediop SPA v Provincia di Crotone: Acted (alone) for an Italian investment bank in its successful Commercial Court claim to enforce high-value interest rate swaps against an Italian local authority, overcoming defences of lack of capacity under Italian law, illegality and fraudulent misrepresentation.
  • Barclays Bank v LG Chem Ltd: Represented Barclays Bank (with Stephen Houseman KC) in Commercial Court proceedings relating to the duties of a bank processing CHIPS/SWIFT transfers to detect and prevent fraud.

James has particular expertise regarding the ISDA Master Agreement, having been involved in several of the recent leading cases on the interpretation of that standard form. He has acted in Britannia Bulk Plc v Pioneer Navigation Ltd [2011] 2 Lloyd’s Rep 84, TMT Asia Ltd v Marine Trade [2011] 1 CLC 976 and Deiulemar v Transfield Shipping SpA [2012] EWHC 928 (Comm). James appeared alone in the Court of Appeal concerning an important issue of construction of the Master Agreement in the joined ISDA appeals sub. nom Lomas v JFB Firth Rixson [2012] 2 All E.R. (Comm) 1076.

Commercial chancery disputes

Alongside his recognition as a top-tier commercial litigator, James is also recognised by Chambers & Partners for his work in commercial chancery disputes, where he is described as “a real star and one of the brightest at the Commercial Bar.  He is absolutely superb.

Many of James’ commercial cases – including complex banking and fraud disputes – are heard in the Chancery Division of the High Court or give rise to issues traditionally regarded as falling within the “commercial chancery” sphere (including issues relating to proprietary claims/tracing, partnership, company law, trusts and insolvency).  Recent examples include:

  • Bourlakov v Bourlakova: acting (as lead advocate) for the lead group of defendants in Chancery Division proceedings relating to over US$1 billion of assets following the breakdown of the Bourlakov marriage, involving multi-jurisdictional issues relating to alleged partnerships, beneficial interests and the operation of Panamanian foundations.
  • FDIC v Barclays Bank: James is acting (with Adrian Beltrami KC and Mark Brealey KC) for Barclays Bank in Financial List proceedings brought by the FDIC, a US federal government agency, against leading European banks and the British Bankers’ Association.  FDIC is pursuing claims under European and UK competition law.
  • Badyal v Badyal: acting (as sole advocate) for two of the Badyal brothers regarding the dissolution of a family partnership which operated businesses in England and India. The dispute arises under the Partnership Act 1980 and gives rise to complex issues relating to tracing and preservation of assets.
  • Paramount Powders (UK) Ltd v Badyal: James is acting (as sole advocate) for a company pursuing claims in the Chancery Division for breach of fiduciary duty against a former director arising out of the establishment of a competing business. James successfully opposed an application to strike out the claim on grounds of abuse of process arising from alleged vexation due to prior unfair prejudice proceedings [2021] EWHC 2714 (Ch).
  • CPAY Foundation Ltd v Cryptopay Ltd: James acted (alone) for Cryptopay, a bitcoin platform offering “electronic wallet” technology, in proceedings relating to an Initial Coin Offering.
  • Guralp Systems Ltd v Dr Guralp: acted (alone, against silks) for companies in bringing substantial claims against a former director for breach of director’s duties under the Companies Act 2006 in respect of the alleged payment of bribes to a foreign public official. James is also resisting a counterclaim which seeks to avoid, in equity, a deed of variation relating to loan notes issued as part of the acquisition of the company.
  • Barclays Bank v Saad Investment Co Ltd: acting for Barclays Bank in advancing competing proprietary claims, involving complex issues of tracing assets, arising out of the alleged Al Gosaibi Group fraud.  James has appeared (alone) for Barclays in obtaining permission from the Chief Justice of the Cayman Islands to commence proceedings against two investment vehicles which are in liquidation, and acted for Barclays in the English Companies Court in responding to an application by a foreign liquidator for information and documents under s. 236 of the Insolvency Act.
  • Re Acia Aero Group: acted for the majority shareholders in resisting claims for unfair prejudice arising out of an aviation business.
  • advised a foreign liquidator in connection with recognition under the Cross-Border Insolvency Regulations and the exercise of investigatory powers under ss. 234 and 236 of the Insolvency Act.
  • assisted in obtaining interim relief and pursuing claims in the Isle of Man to attack complex asset protection arrangements involving international trusts and a limited partnership.
  • Ismailaj v Debt International Advisory Limited (BVI Commercial Court): Acted (alone) in proceedings to rectify a company’s register of members where the company had allegedly been seised in a corporate raid by the shareholders’ former advisors.
  • acted (with Justin Fenwick KC) in sealed proceedings in the Eastern Caribbean giving rise to issues of money laundering in connection with an offshore trust.
Offshore litigation

James has a particular interest in offshore litigation. He has been called to the Bar of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court in the BVI, has been admitted ad hoc as an advocate in the Isle of Man and has been granted limited admission in the Cayman Islands.  He has also assisted with proceedings being heard in St Christopher and Nevis, Singapore and Hong Kong.

He is ranked by both Chambers & Partners and the Legal 500 for his offshore work.  Comments include “very responsive and clear, he has the trust of the client” and “incredibly hard-working and has a very fast turnaround on his work and an extraordinary intellect”.

Examples of instructions in offshore proceedings include:

  • Yao Juan v Kwok Kin Kwok (BVI): acted for the claimant in her appeal to the Privy Council, following the decision by the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal to overturn the BVI Commercial Court’s judgment in her favour (which had appointed a liquidator due to unfairly prejudicial conduct by Madam Kwok). James also appeared (as lead advocate) for Madam Juan in her successful appeal to the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal relating to the irrecoverability of costs of foreign lawyers under the Legal Profession Act, 2015 (BVIHCMAP2018/0042, 1 June 2021).
  • Barclays Bank v Saad Investment Co Ltd (Cayman Islands): acting for Barclays Bank in proceedings in the Cayman Islands under an accreting strike option where there are competing proprietary claims arising out of the alleged Al Gosaibi Group fraud.  James has been granted limited admission to practise in the Cayman Islands and appeared (alone) for the Bank in obtaining permission to commence proceedings against two investment vehicles.
  • Bitel LLC v Kyrgyz Mobile Tel (Isle of Man): acted (with Graham Dunning KC) for the claimants, subsidiaries of Russia’s largest mobile telephone company, in respect of a claim before the High Court of the Isle of Man for in excess of US$800 million, arising out of the alleged misappropriation of a Kyrgyz telecoms company through corrupt court proceedings and asset laundering. James has conducted interlocutory hearings alone (including obtaining an order for disclosure of documents said to be subject to Swiss banking secrecy laws and resisting an application for disclosure of documents held by a parent company). The dispute settled part-way through a 10 week trial.
  • IOTA Violet LLC v Woman LLC (Isle of Man): assisted Manx advocates in obtaining interim relief and pursuing proceedings to attack complex asset protection arrangements involving offshore strusts established in St Vincent and the Isle of Man, including under the Fraudulent Assignments Act 1736.
  • Appointment of provisional liquidators (BVI): advised and acted in Commercial Court proceedings to appoint a provisional liquidator in the BVI over a foreign company following the failure to satisfy a multi-hundred million USD arbitral award.
  • Ismailaj v Debt International Advisory Limited (BVI): acted (alone) in Commercial Court proceedings to rectify a company’s register of members where the company had allegedly been taken over unlawfully by formerly trusted advisors.
  • Trinity Management Group Ltd v Burke Consolidated Ltd (BVI): acted (with Paul McGrath KC) to obtain interim injunctions, in aid of arbitration and an unfair prejudice petition, preventing the sale of a business contrary to the wishes of a 50% shareholder.
  • Sealed proceedings: acted (with Justin Fenwick KC) in proceedings in an Eastern Caribbean jurisdiction giving rise to issues of money laundering in connection with an offshore trust.
  • Yukos CIS v Wincanton (BVI): successfully resisting applications for freezing and receivership orders against former Yukos subsidiaries before the Commercial Court and Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal. The applications gave rise to important issues relating to the availability of ancillary relief in aid of foreign litigation in the absence of an equivalent of s. 25 of the CJJA (the Black Swan jurisdiction).
Insurance & reinsurance

James acts and advises in a wide range of insurance and reinsurance disputes, both in court and arbitration.

Recent experience includes:

  • Disputes relating to 9/11: James acted (with John Lockey KC) for various (re)insurers in arbitrations relating to cover and aggregation in respect of losses arising out of the 9/11 attacks, including claims relating to injuries suffered during the emergency response and subsequent clean-up operations.
  • Equitas v Arab Insurance Group BSC: James acted (alone) for Equitas in claims to recover alleged overpayments from insurers following recoveries made from the UN Compensation Commission and Republic of Libya.
  • Equitas v Export Credit Guarantee Corporation of India: James acted (alone) for Equitas in claims relating under the settlement of a political risks reinsurance treaty in respect of the failure to achieve proper recovery in respect of Iraqi trade credit debts.
  • British-American Insurance (Kenya) Ltd v Matelec SAL: James acted (alone) in resisting substantial claims in ARIAS arbitration, arising out of property damage and business interruption/delayed start-up claims in respect of a power station development in Kenya, on the basis of breach of warranty.
  • Lapanday Food Corp v Charter Ping An Ince Co: James acted (alone) for insurers in defending claims for losses said to be due to Chinese governmental action, including decisions by the Chinese customs authorities which are alleged to have been politically motivated.
Energy & natural resources

James has advised and represented many of the largest companies operating in the energy sector.  He has particular experience of the oil and gas industry, including both trading and infrastructure.  Examples of recent instructions include:

  • Apache North Sea Limited v INEOS FPS Limited [2020] EWHC 2081 (Comm).  James acted for INEOS FPS, the operator of the Forties Pipeline System, in respect of Commercial Court proceedings to determine the tariff for transportation of North Sea liquids under a Transportation and Processing Agreement.
  • Trafigura Pte Ltd v Republic of South Sudan.  Acted for Trafigura in Commercial Court proceedings arising from crude oil purchase and prepayment financing arrangements with the Republic of South Sudan.
  • Confidential LCIA arbitration.  James acted for a leading independent energy and commodity trader in an arbitration arising out of its counterparty’s failure to deliver multiple cargoes of LNG under various DES/FOB contracts.  The proceedings gave rise to issues relating to the invocation of producer force majeure, as well as the proper interpretation of a “pay now, dispute later” provision.
  • Confidential HKIAC arbitration.  James acts for a leading commodity trader in a series of high-value disputes arising out of a chain of long-term contracts for the sale and purchase of LNG.
  • EnQuest Heather Ltd v BP Exploration Operating Company LimitedJames acts for BP in ongoing Commercial Court proceedings arising from the use of crude oil storage and gas sweetening facilities at the Sullum Voe Terminal on the Shetland Islands.
  • Confidential advices.  James has advised upstream and midstream companies in respect of a diverse range of issues, including recoverability of emissions trading scheme costs.
Career

2021: to be appointed one of Her Majesty’s Counsel (Q.C.)

2017: Appointed to the Attorney General’s “A” Panel of Civil Counsel to the Crown

2010: Called to the Bar of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (BVI)

2008: Admitted to the Courts of the DIFC

2006: Call: Gray’s Inn

2006: Supervisor in the Law of Equity, Clare College, Cambridge

Education

2009: MA, Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge

2006: BVC (Outstanding), BPP Law School (ranked first in year)

2005: BA (Starred First Class Hons.) (Law), Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge (ranked first in year)

Awards

2007: Arden Scholarship for pupillage, Gray’s Inn

2006: Bedingfield Scholarship for BVC, Gray’s Inn

2005: Slaughter and May Prize for best results in Law, University of Cambridge

Clifford Hamson Prize for Aspects of Obligations, University of Cambridge

Herbert Smith Prize for Conflict of Laws, University of Cambridge

Bateman Scholar, Trinity Hall

2004: Falcon Chambers Prize for Land Law, University of Cambridge

Rebecca Flower Squire Scholar, University of Cambridge