Professional practice

James Willan has a broad experience of commercial litigation and international arbitration, including the full range of commercial, banking, fraud, conflict of laws, commercial chancery and offshore disputes.

James is recognised as one of the leading juniors at the commercial bar. He is the only junior to hold top-tier (band 1) rankings for both Commercial Dispute Resolution and International Arbitration (both in Chambers & Partners and Legal 500). He holds seven top-tier rankings across the directories, and is also singled out as a “Star Individual” for civil fraud by Chambers & Partners. In 2017, he was appointed directly to the Attorney General’s “A” Panel of Civil Counsel to the Crown.

In 2017, the Legal 500 selected James as the Commercial Litigation Junior of the Year. In the previous year, he was named “International Arbitration Junior of the Year” at the Chambers UK Bar Awards and identified by The Lawyer as one of its “Hot 100”, describing him as “one of the big names at the bar in civil fraud and banking and finance litigation”.

James wins praise from his clients for combining strong analytical skills (“a brain the size of a planet”, “one of the most intellectually brilliant counsel you could come across”, “the brightest junior at the Bar”) with powerful advocacy (“simply astonishing in full flow, definitely a future super-silk”,a brilliantly analytical and fast-thinking advocate”, “widely held to be a really effective advocate”, has the most brilliant rapport with the court”).

As well as appearing as sole counsel (in the High Court, the Court of Appeal, and a wide variety of ad hoc and institutional arbitrations), James also acts as a member of larger teams on heavyweight litigation, including some of the largest cases to come before the courts in recent years.

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.

 

What others say

James is recommended in Chambers and Partners (band 1) and the Legal 500 for Commercial Dispute Resolution. Comments in recent years have included:

  • simply astonishing in full flow, definitely a future super-silk”,
  • he thinks well beyond his years and has a really good gut feeling for how judges will react”,
  • I have rarely come across somebody who just has that spark about him. He is incredibly bright, bordering on genius, and has the most brilliant rapport with the court”,
  • “exceptionally able junior counsel who attracts resounding praise both from his instructing solicitors and his peers at the Bar”,
  • “he’s a brilliantly analytical and fast-thinking advocate”, and
  • has the ‘Midas touch’ and is not only exceptionally knowledgeable and commercial, but readily grasps the issues concerning clients”.

James is also ranked by both directories in their top tiers (band 1) for International Arbitration, where his recommendations have included:

  • “outstanding – a joy to work with and his work never falters in its sheer excellence”,
  • clearly frighteningly bright, he’s very on the ball and understands very complex issues”
  • a silk in a junior’s disguise; definitely hot property and in great demand”, and
  • masters the facts and the legal issues with lightning speed”.

James is the sole junior to be identified as a “Star Individual” for civil fraud in Chambers & Partners, as well as holding a top-tier (band 1) ranking from Legal 500. Comments have included:

  • the brightest junior at the civil fraud Bar with the maturity and judgment of a silk”,
  • “a brilliantly analytical and fast-thinking advocate”,
  • “an exceptional talent, who shows a level of knowledge and judgment well beyond his years”, and
  • “a phenomenally good draftsman with a very good eye for detail”,

James is also recognised for his specialisms in:

  • Banking: “A superstar on all fronts. His intellect, analytical skills, ability to master documents, advocacy and his confident and assertive advice are all superb”, “ridiculously impressive. A junior who performs way, way beyond his years”,
  • Chancery commercial: “exceptionally bright and a brilliant lawyer with excellent judgment. When pitting against opponents who are double his level of call, he acquits himself exceptionally every time. He is someone who can get the solicitors out of a lot of scrapes.       In court he doesn’t berate, but he just gently persuades”, and
  • Offshore litigation: “he is phenomenally clever, extremely nice and very easy to work with. You can present him with a fiendish problem and he will go away and come back with a simple answer”, “attracts consistently excellent praise from peers and instructing solicitors, who commend him as a top-notch commercial junior”, “exceptionally bright. Instructing him is like instructing a QC”.

James is Legal 500’s Commercial Litigation Junior of the Year, having previously been named “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:

  • IPCO (Nigeria) Ltd v NNPC [2017] UKSC 16: James acts (with Jonathan Nash QC) for the Nigerian state-owned petroleum corporation in resisting claims for c. US$400 million arising out of the Bonny Export Terminal project, on the basis of fraud in foreign proceedings. James acted for NNPC in its successful appeal to the Supreme Court in 2017 on a ground-breaking decision relating to the New York Convention, and will appear at the eight week fraud trial in early 2018.
  • FDIC v Barclays Bank: James is acting (with Adrian Beltrami QC and Mark Brealey QC) 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.
  • National Bank Trust v Yurov: Acting (alone) for one of the three former directors of one of Russia’s largest retail banks in defending Commercial Court claims valued at over US$1 billion arising out of the allegedly dishonest management of the bank.
  • Barclays Bank v Unicredit: Acted (with Joe Smouha QC) 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.
  • Pinchuk v Kolomoisky et al.James acted (with Jonathan Crow QC and David Foxton QC) for Mr Pinchuk, a leading Ukrainian businessman, in a bitterly contested battle between three of Ukraine’s leading oligarchs in relation to joint business activities worth several hundred million US dollars.
  • Yukos Capital v Rosneft: acted (with Gordon Pollock QC) for Yukos in its claim to enforce awards, worth US$500 million, which have been set aside in Russia in allegedly corrupt judicial proceedings. The proceedings have led to several ground-breaking decisions in favour of Yukos, including [2011] 1 All E.R. (Comm) 172 (availability of freezing orders against non-parties), [2014] QB 458 (Court of Appeal; a modern restatement of the Act of State/non-justiciability doctrines) and [2014] 2 Lloyd’s Rep. 435 (power of the English court to enforce awards at common law even if set aside in foreign proceedings).
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 is experienced acting alone as sole advocate for interlocutory applications and trials, as well as forming part of a larger team with leading counsel. He has considerable experience of long trials.

He is recognised by Chambers & Partners and Legal 500 as one of a handful of top-tier (band 1) commercial litigators. Recent comments in the directories have included: “simply astonishing in full flow, definitely a future super-silk”, “he thinks well beyond his years and has a really good guy feeling for how judges will react”, “I have rarely come across somebody who just has that spark about him. He is incredibly bright, bordering on genius, and has the most brilliant rapport with the court”, “exceptionally able junior counsel who attracts resounding praise both from his instructing solicitors and his peers at the Bar”,he has a brain the size of Jupiter, is tenacious, polite and very good on his feet”, “outstandingly committed… he’s a brilliantly analytical and fast-thinking advocate”, and “has the ‘Midas touch’ and is not only exceptionally knowledgeable and commercial, but readily grasps the issues concerning clients”.

In recent years, James’ instructions have included:

  • FDIC v Barclays Bank: acting (with Adrian Beltrami QC and Mark Brealey QC) 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.
  • Pinchuk v Kolomoisky et al.acting (with Jonathan Crow QC and David Foxton QC) for Viktor Pinchuk, a leading Ukrainian businessman, in his claim for several hundred million US dollars arising out of an industrial venture.
  • National Bank Trust v Yurov: acting (alone) for one of the three former directors of National Bank Trust, one of Russia’s largest retail banks, against whom claims valued at over US$800 million are being made in the Commercial Court as a result of the allegedly dishonest management of the bank.
  • Barclays Bank v Unicredit: acting (with Joe Smouha QC) 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 skeletons.
  • Guralp Systems Ltd v Dr Guralp: acting (alone, against silks) 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 a parallel criminal investigation by the Serious Fraud Office.
  • Dexia Crediop SPA v Provincia di Crotone: acting (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.
  • Acting for various Yukos Oil entities in their complex, multi-jurisdictional battles arising out of their break-up by the Russian Federation. Reported decisions in Commercial Court litigation include: [2014] QB 458 (a decision of the Court of Appeal, which is the leading modern statement of the Act of State doctrine).
  • Arcadia Petroleum Ltd v Bosworth: acting (with Graham Dunning QC) for one of the defendants in resisting claims for c. US$200 million arising out of allegedly fraudulent oil trading.
  • Boreh v Republic of Djibouti acting for the primary defendant, Mr Boreh, in defending claims alleging corruption and other wrongdoing, including successfully securing the discharge of a freezing injunction due to dishonesty by the Claimants’ solicitors and misconduct by the Claimants [2015] 3 All ER 577 (appeal pending).
  • Bitel LLC v Kyrgyz Mobil Tel: acting (with Graham Dunning QC) for the claimants, subsidiaries of Russia’s largest mobile telephone company, in respect of a claim for in excess of US$800 million, concerning a Kyrgyz telecoms company. James 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.
  • Teekay v STX Offshore:  acting for the publicly-listed Teekay group it its claims for c. US$200 million arising out of the repudiation of an option agreement. He successfully defended a challenge to the jurisdiction of the English Commercial Court, involving a novel issue concerning service on overseas companies under the Companies Act 2006: [2015] 2 BCLC 210.
  • Acting for purchasers (with Joe Smouha QC) on their claim for breaches of warranty under an SPA in respect of one of the largest Ukrainian M&A deals ever undertaken.
  • Acting as junior counsel for Compass Group in Mid Essex NHS Trust v Compass Group UK [2013] BLR 265, leading to an important Court of Appeal decision on contractual ‘good faith’ obligations.

Other reported decisions include:

  • Telenor East v Altimo Holdings [2011] ArbLR 9
  • Britannia Bulk Plc v Pioneer Navigation Ltd [2011] 2 Lloyd’s Rep 84
  • TMT Asia Ltd v Marine Trade [2011] 1 CLC 976
  • Vossloh AG v Alpha Trains (UK) Ltd [2011] 2 All ER (Comm) 307
  • Lomas v JFB Firth Rixson [2012] 2 All E.R. (Comm) 1076
  • Oceanbulk Shipping & Trading SA v TMT Asia [2011] 1 AC 662
  • Linsen International Ltd v Humpuss Sea Transport Pte Ltd [2011] 2 Lloyd’s Rep 663
  • Antonio Gramsci v Stepanovs [2012] BCC 182
  • Cruz City 1 Mauritius Holdings v Unitech Ltd [2014] 2 CLC 784
  • IPCO (Nigeria) Ltd v NNPC [2014] 1 Lloyd’s Rep. 625
  • Euro-Asian Oil SA v Abilo (UK) Ltd [2014] 1 All ER (Comm) 162

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 and ICC) and ad hoc. He has acted in arbitrations under a range of foreign laws, including those of Bahrain, BVI, the Cayman Islands, the Isle of Man and Singapore.

He is recognised as one of a handful of leading juniors in this area. In addition to holding top-tier (band 1) rankings in both Chambers & Partners and Legal 500, he was selected as the International Arbitration Junior of the Year at the Chambers UK Bar Awards 2016. Recent comments in the directories have included “outstanding – a joy to work with and his work never falters in its sheer excellence” and “clearly frighteningly bright, he’s very on the ball and understands very complex issues”.

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

  • for Viktor Pinchuk (with Jonathan Crow QC and David Foxton QC) in a multi-hundred million US Dollar claim arising out of a Ukrainian ferroalloys business (LCIA);
  • for purchasers (with Joe Smouha QC) on their claim for breaches of warranty under an SPA in respect of one of the largest Ukrainian M&A deals ever undertaken (LCIA);
  • for investors (with Huw Davies QC) in various claims, with a total value of around US$1 billion, in respect of major development projects in Qatar (LCIA);
  • 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 (SIAC); and
  • for a major shipping group (with Huw Davies QC) in their claims for several hundred million US Dollars arising out of a refusal to perform shipbuilding contracts (LMAA).

James also has extensive experience of court proceedings concerning arbitration including, in particular, enforcement of arbitration awardsRecent examples include:

  • IPCO Nigeria Ltd v NNPC: acting 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). James will appear for NNPC in the eight week trial of its defences to enforcement, including its case that the award was procured by fraud and forgery of documents.
  • P v Q, R, S and U [2017] 1 WLR 3800 and [2017] 1 WLR 3823: acted (with David Foxton QC) 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.
  • Yukos Capital v Rosneft [2014] 2 Lloyd’s Rep. 435: acted (with Gordon Pollock QC, against Lord Grabiner QC) 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).
  • Cruz City 1 Mauritius Holdings v Unitech Limited [2014] 2 CLC 784: James acted for the successful third parties in discharging a freezing order obtained in support of enforcement of a US$350 million award on the basis that there is no jurisdiction to make freezing orders on the “Chabra” basis against foreign parties. The case also considers the power of the court to grant interim relief to grant relief against persons who are not parties to the arbitration.

James is also regularly instructed to seek interim relief in connection with arbitration under s. 44 of the Arbitration Act 1996, for example Telenor East v Altimo Holdings [2011] ArbLR 9 (with Joe Smouha QC, against Mark Howard QC, seeking an interim injunction to restrain a US$6.5bn acquisition transaction) and a confidential injunction (with Helen Davies QC, against Lord Grabiner QC, defending a mandatory injunction to ensure that payment was made before oil was taken).

Civil fraud & asset tracing

James has a particular interest in civil fraud litigation. He has been involved in much of the recent heavyweight fraud litigation in the Commercial Court, especially concerning the CIS, including acting for the principal defendants in Republic of Djibouti v Boreh (defending claims brought by the Republic of Djibouti alleging that benefits were obtained through abuse of public office), JSC BTA Bank v Ablyazov (resisting claims of procuring fraudulent transactions worth over US$2bn) and 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).

He is in a category of his own as a “Star Individual” in Chambers and Partners, as well as holding a band 1 ranking in the Legal 500. He is described as “an exceptional talent, who shows a level of knowledge and judgement well beyond his years” and “phenomenally bright and hard-working… a walking brain…”. He is also identified by Who’s Who Legal as one of its three “most highly regarded” juniors for civil fraud, which refers to him as “quite simply astounding, a go-to junior counsel for heavyweight litigation”.

Recent instructions include:

  • National Bank Trust v Yurov: James is acting (alone) for one of the three former directors of National Bank Trust, one of Russia’s largest retail banks, against whom claims valued at over US$1 billion are being made in the Commercial Court as a result of the allegedly dishonest management of the bank.
  • Guralp Systems Ltd v Dr Guralp: Acting (alone, against silks) 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 a parallel criminal investigation by the Serious Fraud Office.
  • IPCO Nigeria Ltd v NNPC: acting 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 QC) 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.
  • Bitel litigation: James acted (with Graham Dunning QC) for the claimant subsidiaries of Russia’s largest mobile telephone company, in respect of a claim 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 been admitted ad hoc as an advocate in the Isle of Man, and 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.
  • Otkritie Investment Management v Urumov: Acted (with Steven Berry QC and Nathan Pillow) for the Claimant, a Russian financial institution, in claims worth over US$150 million against 19 defendants for fraudulent warrants trading. James conducted interlocutory hearings, including for freezing orders, as sole counsel.

James has particular experience (both alone and as junior counsel) of applying for and resisting applications for freezing relief. He has acted in significant recent cases concerning the limits of the 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

James has significant experience of acting and advising (both alone and with leading counsel) in complex financial and banking litigation. He is recommended by both Chambers & Partners and the Legal 500 as a leading junior, described in recent years as “a superstar on all fronts. His intellect, analytical skills, ability to master documents, advocacy and his confident and assertive advice are all superb” and “ridiculously impressive. A junior who performs way, way beyond his years”. He was included as one of The Lawyer’s “Hot 100” in 2016, 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 QC and Mark Brealey QC) 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.
  • Barclays Bank v Unicredit: Acted (with Joe Smouha QC) 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.
  • HSBC Private Bank v Waterman: Acting (alone) for HSBC Private Bank in its claims to recover sums from Mr Waterman, a well-known music producer, which he contends were the subject of an oral agreement for debt forgiveness.
  • 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 QC) 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 (where the Court of Appeal described his submissions as “attractively… advanced”). He is currently acting for several of the major international banks and financial services firms in derivatives disputes.

Commercial chancery disputes

James is regarded as a top-tier commercial litigator: he is recognised by Chambers & Partners and Legal 500 as one of a handful of band 1 commercial litigators (“a leading junior with experience in top-level commercial disputes including civil fraud and banking cases”), as well as being ranked specifically for commercial chancery disputes (“exceptionally bright and a brilliant lawyer with excellent judgment. When pitting against opponents who are double his level of call, he acquits himself exceptionally every time”). He has a very broad practice and is noted for his “many areas of substantial expertise” and “ability to handle the most complex and intricate of issues”.

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

  • Guralp Systems Ltd v Dr Guralp: Acting (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.
  • Advising a Russian 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.
  • Assisting 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.
  • Trinity Management Group Ltd v Burke Consolidated Ltd (BVI Commercial Court): Acted (with Paul McGrath QC) 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.
  • Acted (with Justin Fenwick QC) in sealed proceedings 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 as a top-tier (band 1) junior by Chambers & Partners, which notes that he “attracts consistently excellent praise from peers and instructing solicitors, who commend him as a top-notch commercial junior.” He is described as “exceptionally bright. Instructing him is like instructing a QC” and “phenomenally clever, extremely nice and very easy to work with. You can present him with a fiendish problem and he will go away and come back with a simple answer”.

Recent instructions in offshore proceedings include:

  • Bitel LLC v Kyrgyz Mobile Tel (Isle of Man): acting (with Graham Dunning QC) 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.
  • 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.
  • IOTA Violet LLC v Woman LLC (Isue of Man): assisting 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 Commercial Court): advising and acting in 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 Commercial Court): acting (alone) in 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 Commercial Court): acting (with Paul McGrath QC) 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 (High Court of Nevis and BVI Commercial Court): acted (with Justin Fenwick QC) 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 Commercial Court and Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal): successfully resisting applications for freezing and receivership orders against former Yukos subsidiaries. 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.

 

Insurance & reinsurance

James acts and advises in a wide range of insurance and reinsurance disputes.

Recent experience includes:

  • 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.
  • M/V “Sea Coral”: Acted (with Jeremy Russell QC) for underwriters in a Commercial Court total loss claim said to arise from the operation of microbially-influenced corrosion. The claim, which gave rise to complex issues of a technical nature and of English law, settled shortly before a 6 week trial.
  • Fedra Navigation SA v Brit UW Ltd: Acted (with Graham Dunning QC) for a ship owner in Commercial Court proceedings for a total loss, being defended on the basis of wilful misconduct.
Career

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