Professional practice

Legal 500 Leading Silk

Nathan Pillow QC is a “much-praised” and “highly respected” commercial practitioner “in high demand”. He specialises in advocacy in commercial/chancery disputes both in court and in arbitration, usually involving domestic and offshore (or other international) elements, with a particular focus on civil fraud, asset-tracing and  international banking and finance.

Nathan usually acts as the leader of the team of barristers in complex and high-value cases, having particular experience both of heavy interlocutory applications (e.g., for worldwide freezing relief or  on jurisdictional issues) and long commercial trials, including extensive witness and expert cross-examination. He is praised as “extremely clever” and “a brilliant cross-examiner”; and as a “slick”, “very robust” and “unflappable” advocate, who is “effective and tenacious”, “razor-sharp, bright and very charismatic”.

Nathan has extensive experience of heavy and high-profile cases, leading large counsel teams and working closely with solicitors, foreign lawyers and client representatives, in commercial disputes of all kinds. He has particular experience in the field of civil fraud—acting both for claimants and defendants—including injunctive and other interim relief; equitable, proprietary, and restitutionary claims and remedies; tracing and asset recovery; and enforcement, including committal, proceedings. His work generally has an international character and often involves complex jurisdictional and conflict of laws issues. Nathan’s approach to his cases is “very commercial”, and he is praised for his “efficient” work, which he “turns… around in short order”, and which is “always of exceptional quality” and “meticulous”.

Nathan is widely commended for the supportive and responsive manner in which he works with his professional and lay clients, being described as “client-focused”, “generous with his time”, “fantastic to work with”, “super-responsive and attentive”, “very good with clients”, “incredibly user friendly” and a “great team player”—as well as “good value for money”. He is “one of the most user friendly and personable” silks, and he “always appreciates the commercial realities faced by clients”, “has a deep strategic insight” and “instinctively knows how to drive a case to the best possible outcome”.

He is recommended by The Legal 500: UK edition in the fields of Commercial Litigation, Civil Fraud, Banking & Finance, Commodities, and Shipping; by Chambers and Partners for Commercial Dispute Resolution (UK and Global), Civil Fraud (UK), Shipping and Commodities (Global); and by Who’s Who Legal as a National Leader (Silks) for Civil Fraud. (All of the quotes above come from recent editions of these directories.)

 

What others say

Recommended in the Chambers and Partners and Legal 500 directories for many years, comments about Nathan, his work, and his approach to his cases,  include:

  • “One of the best courtroom advocates and cross-examiners I have seen, also exceedingly good to deal with and always focused on the bigger strategic picture without losing sight of the detail.”
  • “A lawyer in high demand, who makes his submissions in a graceful way and is an extremely good cross-examiner. He’s great to work with as he always has the time available to speak to you.”
  • “He’s very commercially focused, good on strategy, razor-sharp bright and very He’s also good at presenting difficult issues to the court in the most attractive way possible.”
  • “Commands the respect of the Court and has a very charming courtroom manner, but is willing and able to talk a judge round when they are in danger of finding against the client, and to secure a win.”
  • “He has a fantastic legal and strategic mind, wrapped in the one of the most user friendly and personable bodies around. He is super responsive and attentive, and instinctively knows how to drive a case to the best possible outcome.”
  • “A brilliant cross-examiner who is fantastically easy to work with, generous with his time and has a deep strategic insight.”
  • “A robust and very personable advocate.”
  • “Very robust advocate and personable to deal Very reliable.”
  • “An effective and tenacious advocate. He really fights his corner and is a great team player.”
  • “He is personable and produces high-quality and succinct advice quickly.”
  • “He is willing to think outside the box and work around challenging issues and challenging client demands.”
  • “He is an excellent communicator and has a great manner with clients.”
  • “A charming advocate who is very bright and very prepared.”
  • “He is not only intellectually very sharp, but also commercially pragmatic.”
  • “He’s extremely nice to work with and a very good His cross-examination is very effective and he has a very nice manner about him in court.”
  • “An extremely sharp legal and strategic mind, wrapped in a very personable and approachable body. Nathan is fantastic to work with and knows instinctively how to drive a case to a successful conclusion.”
  • “A very intelligent individual, who is very good tactically and very good with clients as well.”
  • “He is client-focused and extremely clever. He is so easy to work with and he doesn’t shy away from difficult issues. He’s efficient and good value for money.”
  • “We find him incredibly user-friendly, bright and hard-working.”
  • “He is very commercial and he turns work around in short order, which is always of exceptional quality.”
  • “Really user-friendly and a slick advocate.”
  • “Excellent both in his cross-examination and reading of the court.”
  • “Unflappable, client-friendly and a very good advocate with a calm but forceful manner.”
  • “A very robust advocate who always appreciates the commercial realities faced by clients.” “Very bright and extremely knowledgeable”
  • “A good advocate, who is unflappable and client friendly”
  • “He has a very nice manner with clients and he is very good on his feet”
  • “He is strong, clear and commercial”
  • “He is robust and unflappable”
  • “very easy to work with and personable”
  • “A talented and polished performer”
  • “Is prepared to get stuck into the detail, is always responsive and takes a very commercial approach”
  • “The quality of his work is extraordinary at times,” say solicitors, and “he is one of the calmest people you will ever come across”
  • “‘Star of the future’, Nathan Pillow boasts ‘excellent technical skills’ and has earned a great reputation for his work on fraud and asset recovery cases”
  • “While observers commend him for his trailblazing demeanour, they also highlight Nathan Pillow for a smooth, polished approach that calms the most troubled of waters”
  • Pitched by some as “the modern face of the bar”, his profile is on the ascendancy
Examples of recent cases

Nathan specialises in trial work (both in court and arbitration), as well as complex interlocutory disputes, including e.g., for freezing orders, on jurisdictional issues and in relation to committal and other enforcement proceedings.

In addition to the numerous (confidential) arbitration cases he regularly conducts as lead advocate, Nathan has also recently acted at first instance:

  • for ENRC at the trial (over 11 weeks) of its related claims against the law firm, Dechert (and its former partner, Neil Gerrard), and the Serious Fraud Office;
  • for the Republic of Mozambique in its bribery claims against Crédit Suisse, Privinvest, and others, including in jurisdictional challenges and related applications under the Arbitration Act 1996: [2020] EWHC 2012 (Comm); [2020] EWHC 1709 (Comm);
  • for Mr. Oleg Deripaska, in defence of committal proceedings (and related damages claims) brought against him by Vladimir Chernukhin: Navigator Equities v Deripaska [2020] EWHC 1798 (Comm);
  • for the lead de facto claimant in a complex dispute over ownership of the assets of convicted criminal, Dr Gerald Smith: The Serious Fraud Office v Litigation Capital Ltd & Ors (Re Smith) [2020] EWHC 1280 (Comm), [2020] EWHC 788 (Comm);
  • for National Bank TRUST in obtaining freezing orders and at the trial (over 10 weeks) of fraud claims against its former owners and directors: NBT v Yurov & ors [2020] EWHC 100 (Comm), [2016] EWHC 1913 (Comm);
  • for Mr. Sergey Taruta, a Ukrainian businessman and politician, in a four-way commercial and contractual dispute concerning the division and sale of a conglomerate of Ukrainian industrial interests: Avonwick v Dargamo & ors [2019] EWHC 305 (Comm);
  • for M. Luc Argand, a senior Swiss lawyer, in his defence of claims made against him (and others) by the Kuwaiti social security fund in respect of alleged involvement in the payment of secret commissions: PIFSS v Al-Rajaan & Ors: [2020] EWHC 2979 (Comm);
  • for Bank Otkritie in its case against Boris Mints and his sons, as well as former management, in relation to allegedly fraudulent bond and other transactions (including worldwide freezing
  • orders and jurisdiction challenges): Bank Otkritie v Mints & ors [2021] EWHC 692 (Comm), [2020] EWHC 3253 (Comm), [2020] EWHC 204 (Comm), [2019] EWHC 2061 (Comm);
  • for FM Capital Partners in its fraud and bribery claims (including freezing orders) against its former principal and his associates; and at the subsequent trial: FMCP v Marino & ors [2019] EWHC 725 (Comm), [2018] EWHC 2905 (Comm), [2018] EWHC 1768 (Comm).

Nathan also has very considerable recent experience as an appellate advocate, appearing regularly in the Court of Appeal, including recently in appeals acting for:

  • Sotheby’s (in relation to claims concerning the sale of a painting attributed to the Old Master, Frans Hals): Sotheby’s v Mark Weiss Ltd & anr [2020] EWCA Civ 1570;
  • Luc Argand successfully resisting PIFSS’ appeal against M. Argand’s jurisdiction challenge: [2022] EWCA Civ 29;
  • FM Capital Partners (in relation to the restitution of bribes and contributions as between co- defendants): [2020] EWCA Civ 245;
  • the Republic of Mozambique (on issues concerning section 9 of the Arbitration Act 1996): [2021] EWCA Civ 329;
  • Oleg Deripaska (on the issue of when committal proceedings are an abuse of the Court’s process): [2021] EWCA Civ 1799;
  • the appellant in an anonymised appeal (CDE v NOP) concerning principles of public justice and private hearings: [2021] EWCA Civ 1908
  • the Otkritie group (both from decisions on the merits and on interlocutory/enforcement issues, g.: [2017] EWCA Civ 1485, [2017] EWCA Civ 274, [2017] EWCA Civ 134, [2016] EWCA Civ 1316.

Nathan acted for many years, at both first instance and on multiple appeals, for the main defendants in long-running proceedings brought in the English Commercial Court by the Russian state-owned shipping companies: Fiona Trust v Privalov & ors and Novoship UK v Mikhaylyuk & ors. This included (in Fiona Trust) a successful claim for US$60m (plus interest) against the claimants on their undertaking in damages   given in freezing orders ([2016] EWHC 2163 (Comm), [2016] EWHC 2451 (Comm), [2017] EWCA Civ 1877); and (in the Novoship case) a successful appeal in the Court of Appeal against judgment given at first instance for over US$100 million ([2014] EWCA Civ 908).

Arbitration & related court applications

Nathan’s practice encompasses all types of institutional and ad hoc commercial arbitration, particularly large international disputes, whether seated in London or abroad (e.g., Paris, the Middle East, or Singapore).

His experience includes both appearing at interlocutory and final hearings (alone or leading teams of counsel and solicitors) and advising on and drafting papers for all aspects of arbitral proceedings—as well as appeals from and challenges to awards in the English Commercial Court and the Court of Appeal. He recently appeared in the Commercial Court and Court of Appeal in relation to the applicability of section 9 of the Arbitration Act 1996 to claims made by the Republic of Mozambique against alleged wrongdoers: [2020] EWHC 2012 (Comm), [2021] EWCA Civ 329.

His arbitration practice is focused on international trade and finance (especially energy, commodities, telecommunications, shipping/transport and joint ventures) and pharmaceutical disputes, most recently under   ICC, UNCITRAL, LCIA or LMAA rules. (See also International Trade and Transport, below.)

Nathan accepts instructions to act as arbitrator, both on his own or as part of a larger tribunal.

Banking & financial services

Nathan acted for BTA Bank in its long-running and high-profile case against its former Chairman, Mukhtar Ablyazov; and more recently for the Otkritie banking and financial services   group in various cases relating to fixed income traders’ ‘golden hellos’ and transactions in sovereign debt instruments, including a US$120 million claim against Threadneedle Asset Management.

He acted for National Bank TRUST in its successful US$1 billion Commercial Court claim against its former owners and directors; and is currently acting for both Otkritie Bank and National Bank TRUST (including as successor to Rost Bank) in further claims for in excess of US$500 million concerning allegedly dishonest bond and other transactions with the O1 Group, against Boris Mints (and his sons) and the banks’ former management.

Nathan’s other recent instructions include acting for the Republic of Mozambique in its high-profile claims concerning the enforceability of sovereign guarantees issued to Crédit Suisse (and other banks); and for the London-based investment manager, FM Capital Partners, against its former principal (and his associates), in connection with disputes concerning asset management and performance fees, secret commissions, and breaches of fiduciary duty.

Nathan acted for many years for Deloitte, the Liquidators of BCCI SA, in their long-running action against the Bank of England for misfeasance in public office (Three Rivers District Council v. The Governor   and Company of the Bank of England), including in the landmark decisions of the Court of Appeal   and House of Lords on legal professional privilege (Three Rivers (No. 5) [2003] QB 1556; and Three Rivers (No. 6) [2004] QB 916, [2005] 1 AC 610).

In addition, Nathan has acted and advised in a wide variety of international and domestic banking disputes (both for and against major British and overseas banks). These include cases on letters of credit, guarantees, performance bonds, bills of exchange and other financial instruments, constructive trusts and accessory liability; applications for injunctive relief, including freezing and search orders; and in relation to confidentiality and disclosure issues.

Civil fraud & asset recovery

Nathan has been instructed in some of the most high-profile and substantial fraud cases in the English High Court in recent years (for both claimants and defendants), including:

  • Fiona Trust v Privalov & ors (for the main defendants; Commercial Court and Court of Appeal)
  • BTA Bank v Ablyazov & ors (for the claimants; Commercial Court)
  • Novoship UK v Mikhaylyuk & ors (for the main defendants; Commercial Court and Court of Appeal)
  • Otkritie v Urumov & ors (for the claimants; Commercial Court and Court of Appeal)
  • National Bank TRUST v Yurov & ors (for the claimants; Commercial Court)

Nathan’s involvement in these long-running cases included substantial pre-trial applications (for worldwide freezing relief (or its discharge), Norwich Pharmacal or other pre-trial/third party disclosure orders, security for costs, and cross-examinations on assets), as well as appearing at the lengthy trials of the Fiona Trust, Novoship, Otkritie and National Bank TRUST cases, in various subsequent Court of Appeal hearings, and in ancillary committal, enforcement and related  proceedings (in the Commercial Court, Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Gibraltar).

Other recent fraud cases also include acting for Network Rail in a ‘phantom worker’ case; for the owners of retail outlets in a claim arising from an alleged invoicing fraud; and for bondholders in relation to alleged deliberate defaults on the instruments.

Commercial dispute resolution

Nathan has a special interest in, and particular experience of, working as part of teams of lawyers in major commercial litigation. This has included appearing in some of the biggest Commercial Court cases of recent years, including:

  • the Metro Glencore litigation;
  • the Fruit Shippers (Molestina v. Ponton) case;
  • BCCI (Three Rivers) v. The Bank of England action;
  • Fiona Trust Privalov & ors;
  • BTA Bank Ablyazov & ors;
  • Novoship UK v. Mikhaylyuk & ors;
  • Otkritie v. Urumov & ors;
  • National Bank TRUST v Yurov & ors;
  • Republic of Mozambique v Crédit Suisse v ors;
  • ENRC v Dechert, Gerard; ENRC v the Serious Fraud Office.

As a result, Nathan has particular detailed experience of English civil procedure; issues relating to disclosure, privilege, evidence, costs, case management and enforcement (including committal for contempt); as well the myriad conflict of laws issues (in terms of service, jurisdiction and choice of law) that arise in large, international, multi-party commercial disputes.

Drawing on his wide experience of such litigation, Nathan now leads large teams of  barristers on the most substantial cases.

International trade, transport & commodities

Nathan has wide experience of disputes involving all types of trade and commodity, with particular recent   experience in the fields of oil, chemicals and steel. He has acted in and advised on court- based transportation and commodity disputes (including acting for ExxonMobil in claims concerning chemical importation and transportation; for Inovyn in defence of claims concerning the supply of industrial hydrochloric acid; and in the Glencore v. Metro litigation, relating to the ownership of oil at the Fujairan oil terminal).

He also has wide experience of (confidential) commodity arbitrations under institutional rules, such as GAFTA, the LME, the LMAA, the Sugar Association of London and the Refined Sugar Association.

 

Shipping & admiralty

Nathan has extensive shipping experience, both in court and arbitration, including bareboat, time and voyage charter cases, as well as more general shipping-related contractual disputes and frauds. This includes the long-running Fiona Trust and Novoship cases and related arbitral proceedings (including in relation to the Tropic Brilliance, which blocked the Suez canal); and most recently in Palmali Shipping’s large claim against Lukoil’s trading arm, Litasco, concerning oil affreightment and transhipment in and around the Black Sea.

He has been recommended for shipping work for many years, in both the Chambers UK and Legal 500 guides, and was nominated for Shipping Silk of the Year at the Legal 500 UK Bar Awards in 2019.

Career

1997 Called to the Bar: Gray’s Inn

1998 Essex Court Chambers

2015 Appointed Queen’s Counsel

Education

1996 BA (First Class Hons), Magdalen College, Oxford University

1995 Diploma in French Law, Paris University, Panthéon-Assas

Awards

1996 Prince of Wales Scholarship, Gray’s Inn

1996 Norton Rose Prize for Company Law, Oxford University

1994 Tutorial Prize in Law, Magdalen College, Oxford

1994 Scholarship, Magdalen College, Oxford