Professional practice

Paul McGrath QC, who has been described as “phenomenally clever man” [1] and “an expert courtroom bruiser” who “wins hopeless cases”, practises primarily in the field of international commercial/chancery litigation, having an “enviable reputation in the fields of tracing claims and asset recovery” and being credited as “the brains behind a lot of the innovative ideas out there.” He regularly appears in both the Chancery Division and the Commercial Court and has appeared before the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. He has been instructed in most of the recent heavy weight commercial fraud and asset recovery cases including Barings; reinsurance issues arising out of Enron and Worldcom; Berezovsky v the Estate of Badri (US$1.2billion asset recovery), Weavering Capital v Petersons; Republic of Egypt v former President Mubarak; the Otkritie litigation; the Ablyazov litigation; VTB v Nutritek (US$250m fraud claim/lifting the corporate veil); Estate of Boris Berezovsky v Aeroflot (US$200m fraud claim); Yukos v Rosneft (US$500m enforcement process); the Axiom Litigation Financing Fund (US$120m fraud claim), Latmar v Lembergs; LKB v Antonov (US$80m fraud), JSC Medzhdunarosdniy Promyshlenniy Bank v Pugachev (US$2 billion asset recovery/WFO); Kazakhstan Kagazy v Arip; Vincent Tchenquiz v SFO. More recently, he has been instructed in relation to the enforcement of the arbitral awards in Yukos v Russian Federation (US$50 billion plus) involving issues of state immunity/lifting the corporate veil; PJSC Tatneft v Bogolyubov/Kolomoisky; Crescent Petroleum v National Iranian Oil Company (US$15 billion). He has also acted as an expert on English law of lifting the corporate veil for enforcement purposes in the Connecticut Proceedings and elsewhere relating to Deutsche-Bank v Sebastian Holdings (enforcement of US$250m UK Judgment).

The international nature of much of his work has resulted in him also appearing as counsel before the Courts of the Grand Cayman, the British Virgin Islands, Turks & Caicos and the Isle of Man, and often being heavily involved in litigation before the Courts of the Channel Islands. He is also qualified to appear before the Courts of the Dubai International Financial Centre. He has been described as having “a good eye for the winning argument” and having a style which is “incredibly disarming in its charm – he never misses a point, and he’s very popular with whoever he’s in front of.”

Between 1999 and 2001 he was Editor of Lloyds Law Reports, Banking and he is the author of Commercial Fraud in Civil Practice (2nd edn OUP 2008), the leading practitioner text on international commercial fraud.

His practice is Commercial/Chancery in nature, including freezing and disclosure orders, tracing assets through various off-shore jurisdictions, asset recovery and claims involving issues as diverse as challenging the validity of discretionary off-shore trusts, breach of fiduciary and director duties, claims arising from alleged fraudulent hedge funds or avoiding transactions under the insolvency legislation to acting for the Premier League in football-related matters, for The Race Course Association in its dispute over exclusive satellite tv licensing of British horse racing and in a shareholder dispute amongst a well-known rock group. His cases inevitably involve issues of conflict of laws and often require liaison with lawyers from other jurisdictions, notably the off-shore jurisdictions.

In addition to having been instructed in major arbitrations, such as the Bermudan-based arbitration relating to the reinsurance of Arthur Andersen following the collapse of Enron and WorldCom, and Elektrim SA’s long running dispute with Vivendi Universal over Polish telecommunications, he has particular expertise in relation to inter relief applications to the Court in relation to heavy arbitrations such as ETI Euro Telecom V Republic of Bolivia [2008] (no pre-emptive relief in aid of an ICSID arbitration); Elektrim SA v Vivendi [2007] 1  Lloyd’s Rep 693 (s.68 of AA 1996 and awards obtained by fraud); Elektrim v Vivendi [2007] 2 Lloyd’s Rep 8 (injunction to restrain arbitration continuing) Telenor East Holding II AS v Altimo Holdings & Investments Ltd (multi-billion dollar shareholder dispute – interim injunction under s.44 of the AA 1996); Steadfast v Baker Hughes (s.9(3) step in the action preventing a stay in favour of arbitration) and enforcement of arbitral awards (Yukos v Rosneft: US$500m and Yukos v Russian Federation US$50 billion.

Paul was named Commercial Litigation silk of the year in The Legal 500 UK Awards 2015.

 

What others say

Chambers and Partners UK Bar 2017

“A real heavyweight on fraud cases. He is not one of these silks with airs and graces but is a real member of the team. He easily explains the most complex ideas in the type of simple terms that both clients and the court really appreciate.”

“Extremely talented, he has a forensic knowledge of the law and is a measured and effective advocate.”

“He is a very solid QC who literally wrote the book on injunctions. He has a very good temperament and explains things well to the offshore courts. He’s an academic by background, who’s an extremely good lawyer and a great authority on cases.”

“Paul is phenomenal. He doesn’t have to look stuff up. He just seems to know everything about civl fraud. Clients and judges like him.”

Chambers and Partners UK Bar 2016

“His knowledge is exceptional. He is very user-friendly and a master tactician. Someone you want on your side if you have a difficult battle on your hands. He is creative, disciplined and focused on the details.”

“He is very astute and insightful, and can quickly see both what is important in terms of the legal arguments but also what is important for the client. Astonishing – he is the most creative counsel I’ve ever come across.”

Legal 500 2016

‘Top of the class as far as injunctions are concerned.’  

Legal 500 2015

“He has literally written the book on commercial fraud, and is one of the most knowledgeable QCs in this area.Personable, strategic, unafraid to try new things and unafraid to say no – a superstar.”

Chambers and Partners UK Bar 2015

He simply knows everything there is to know about commercial fraud. However difficult or tricky the problem, he has either come across it before or has a creative solution.” 

“He’s got common sense and is a good diplomat too.”

“He is imaginative and someone you can really talk to and bounce ideas off.”

An “extremely clever” silk with a practice focused on chancery, commercial and civil fraud cases, particularly claims involving constructive trusts, knowing receipt and asset tracing.

“Excellent with clients; he has a laid-back style and is very user-friendly.”

The Legal 500 2015

The go-to person for fraud, asset tracing and injunctive relief.’

‘He has literally written the book on commercial fraud, and is one of the most knowledgeable QCs in this area.Personable, strategic, unafraid to try new things and unafraid to say no – a superstar.’

‘Extremely thorough, dependable and completely on top of the law.’

Chambers and Partners 2014

Frequently instructed in the biggest fraud cases. He is recognised as a foremost authority on injunctive relief.

“He is just sensational. His knowledge is encyclopaedic.”

“He’s absolutely excellent on fraud.”

He has an impressive record in both the commercial and chancery courts, and wins wide market approval for his expertise in commercial fraud matters. McGrath also has a significant advisory practice pertaining to offshore trust structures.

“Energetic and robust. You would want him on your side.”

“He is one of the brightest at the Commercial Bar. A real blue-sky thinker.”

Examples of notable cases

Westminster CC v Dame Shirley Porter (Asset recovery)

Republic of Egypt v Fmr President Mubarak & Ors (Asset Recovery;

Boris Berezovsky v Estate of Badri (US$1 billion);

Yukos v Rosneft (US$500m enforcement of arbitral award );

Weavering Capital v Petersons (hedge fund fraud claim);

RBI v Algoasaibi (US$25m claim);

Minister of Justice v LSM (alleged bribes involving leasing of Court buildings);

Mobil Cerro Negor Ltd v Petroleos de Venezuela SA [2008] 1 Lloyd’s Rep 684(successfully discharged worldwide freezing order for US$12bn under s.44 of AA 1996 on grounds insufficient connection between the jurisdiction and foreign arbitration);

ETI Euro Telecom International NV v Republic of Bolivia & Ors [2008] EWHC 1689 (Andrew Smith J): affi’d on Appeal  successfully discharging a freezing order obtained under s.25 of the CJJA 1982 and s.44 of the Arbitration Act 1996 in aid of an ICSID arbitration.

The Otkritie litigation;

The Ablyazov litigation;

VTB v Nutritek (Supreme Court, jurisdiction/lifting the veil);

The Axiom Litigation Financing Fund v Timothy Schools & Ors (£100m Cayman Fund Fraud)

Latmar v Lembergs;

LKB v Antonov (2014: Fraud arising from Latvian Bank Collapse),

JSC Medzhdunarosdniy Promyshlenniy Bank v Pugachev (2014: US$2 billion WFO).

Vincent Tchenguiz v SFO (2014)

Arbitration & related court applications

Although much of Paul’s work is court-based, he has been instructed in arbitrations such as Ali Shipping v Shipyard Trogir, a six week arbitration involving issues of frustration in a shipbuilding contract arising out of the Yugoslavian civil war: Ali Shipping Corp v Shipyard Trogir (1996) C.A. summary judgment / arbitration); Deccan Assian Infrastructure v BPL Communications Ltd (2 week Indian telecommunications arbitration); a 7 week Bermuda-based reinsurance arbitration involving the reinsurance of the auditors of Enron, Worldcom and other collapsed companies; Elektrim SA v Vivendi Universal SA & Ors [2007] 1 Lloyd’s Rep 693 – meaning of ‘obtained by fraud’ in AA 1996 s.68(2)(g). Elektrim SA v Vivendi Universal SA & Ors [2007] 2 Lloyd’s Rep 8 : grounds for restraining by injunction an arbitration; as well as several leading cases dealing with interim relief in aid of international arbitral proceedings including Mobil Cerro Negor Ltd v Petroleos de Venezuela SA [2008] 1 Lloyd’s Rep 684 (expropriation of Mobil’s oil fields in Venezuela; successfully discharged worldwide freezing order for US$12 billion under s.44 of the Arbitration Act 1996); ETI NV v Republic of Bolivia [2009] 1 WLR 665 (CA): (nationalisation of company; successfully discharged a freezing order obtained under s.25 of the CJJA 1982 and s.44 of the AA 1996 in aid of an ICSID arbitration); Telenor v Vimpelcom & Altimo Group (pre-arbitration interim relief in S$3bn telecommunications shareholder dispute); Yukos Oil v Rosneft (US$425m freezing order in support of enforcement of Russian arbitral awards);

Banking & financial services

Paul has been instructed by most of the major banks and financial institutions, both in the UK and abroad (e.g Cayman Islands) including Barclays, National Westminster Bank, British Arab Commercial Bank, Credit Lyonnais, Nationsbank, and Bank of America in all aspects of banking law including banker-customer relationship (Barclays v Struggle Against Financial Exploitation); Finmecanica v Branch & Ors – US$18m bank’s liability to victim of fraud), injunctive relief (incl. letters of credit tainted by fraud: Solo Industries v Canara), tracing assets (Bankgesellschaft Berlin AG v Makris & Ors 1999 – US$20m fraudulently induced loan), disclosure obligations, issues of confidentiality (incl. Cayman Islands criminal sanction), bills of exchange, guarantees and letters of credit: IIG Capital LLC v Van Der Merwe [2008] EWCA Civ 542 (characterisation of bonds and guarantees).

Chancery Litigation

Paul has been instructed in many of the major international commercial frauds/asset recovery cases including: Bre-X Minerals Ltd v Felderhoff (Cayman Islands: US$1bn plus gold mineral fraud: world’s largest mining fraud); Westminster City Council v Dame Shirley Porter (acted for the Council in successfully tracing and recovering assets for enforcement of £34m judgment);Glencore v Metro Trading (largest commercial fraud litigation before the Commercial Court at the time); Banner Homes Group plc v Luff Developments [2000] Ch 372 (CA) (constructive trusts based on Pallant v Morgan jurisdiction); Co-Operative Society v Andrew Regan (represented the Co-Op in its claims against Regan for alleged bribery of officers);Twinsectra v Yardley (advised on CA and appl to HL); Tajik Aluminium Plant v Ermatov (take-over of smelting plant); reinsurance of Enron’s auditors; AremisSoft v Roys Poyiadjis (Isle of Man: US$200m “pump and dump” share scam: largest recovery by US SEC from an individual); Aiylan v Smith & Ors (multi-million pound Ponzi scheme); Boris Berezovsky v Patarkatsishvili (seeking to recover some US$2bn in assets); KBC Lease v Total Asset Limited (£130m Ponzi scheme); The Secretary of State for Justice v LSM, Smith & Topland (alleged bribery case); Jennington International/Kazakhgold Group v Assaubayev (US$500m alleged fraud); Asset Recovery Proceedings against Ian Leaf (UK’s largest tax fraud [£100m]: represented Leichenstein Trusts of Leaf family); Linsen v Humpuss; Latmar Holdings v Media Focus, Lembergs & Ors (on-going: issues on appeal); Weavering Capital Hedge Fund Litigation (rep. Mrs Petersen in US$500m SWAPs/Hedge Fund litigation); JSC BTA v Ablyazov litigation (instructed for principal defendant); presently acting for the Republic of Egypt seeking to recover assets misappropriated by the former regime; instructed by the FCA in relation to its £3m fine of Alberto Micalizzi, Chief Executive Officer of the Manager of the Fund, Dynamic Decisions Capital Management Limited, in respect of some £390m losses; presently instructed in Accident Exchange/Autofocus dispute (said to be largest alleged fraud committed on the Civil Justice System).

Commercial dispute resolution

Paul is regularly instructed in heavy-weight commercial litigation often having an international element, raising difficult questions of conflict of laws (jurisdiction/choice of law). Glencore v Metro Trading [2001] 1 Lloyd’s Rep 284 (multi-million dollar oil trade dispute); Elektrim v Vivendi Holdings (Polish telecommunications dispute); Mobil Cerro Negor Ltd v Petroleos de Venezuela SA [2008] 1 Lloyd’s Rep 684 (expropriation of Mobil’s oil fields in Venezuela; successfully discharged worldwide freezing order for US$12 billion under s.44 of the Arbitration Act 1996); National Grid Wireless Ltd v Orange Personal Communication Services (substantial telecommunications contractual dispute);ETI NV v Republic of Bolivia [2009] 1 WLR 665 (CA): (nationalisation of company; successfully discharged a freezing order obtained under s.25 of the CJJA 1982 and s.44 of the AA 1996 in aid of an ICSID arbitration); Cecil v Bayat (Afghanistan telecommunications shareholder dispute); Telenor v Vimpelcom & Altimo Group (US$3bn telecommunications shareholder dispute); Yukos Oil v Rosneft (US$425m freezing order in support of enforcement of Russian arbitral awards); Raiffeisen Bank International v Algosaibi Brothers (substantial loan recovery); VTB v Nutritek (Supreme Court: US$200m bank loan/fraud); Treatt v Barratt (2013: Earn-Out Notice dispute in company purchase); SCA Group v D S Smith Plc [2013] (£200m draft completion account dispute arising from a £2bn sale and purchase agreement); Vatounio Investments Ltd v Cold Spring (4 week construction trial relating to development on Berlin Wall).

Commercial fraud / asset recovery

Paul was selected by his peers as one of the ten Most Highly Regarded Individuals in the world for asset recovery in Who’s Who Legal 2014.

Paul has been instructed in most of the recent leading cases on commercial fraud: see the list in Commercial Chancery Disputes.

Company law

Paul has received instructions in all aspects of Company Law litigation both in the UK and offshore (principally BVI and Cayman Islands). He was instructed for the preference shareholders in the Barings Litigation; Law Debenture Trust Corporation Plc v Elektrim Finance NV and Ors (termination of trust bond under Saunders v Vautier rule); advised a major rock group (Queen) on a shareholder dispute; been instructed in respect of shareholder disputes in the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands; recently advised on two separate schemes of arrangement under s.425 of the Companies Act; recently appeared in the Turks & Caicos Islands on multi-million dollar breach of director’s duties; acted in the US$3bn shareholder dispute between Telenor East and Vimpelcom and Altimo Group; acted for bank seeking to recover US$200m in VTB v Nutritek (Supreme Court judgment). He has acted as an expert on English law in relation to lifting the corporate veil issue in enforcement of Deutsche Bank v Sebastian Holdings Judgment.

Conflict of laws & private international law

Given the international aspect of Paul’s practice, his cases invariably start with or involve some jurisdictional and/or choice of law issue and he has a detailed understanding of those rules both for the UK and several offshore jurisdictions. His more recent cases include: VTB v Nutritek jurisdictional issue in £200m bank fraud before the Supreme Court; Latmar v Lembergs CA dealing with jurisdiction under Art 6(1) of the Brussels I Regulations.

Insurance & reinsurance

Paul’s practice includes claims of insurance and reinsurance disputes, including the 7 week Bermudan-based arbitration involving the reinsurance of a major accounting firm relating to the collapse of Enron, Worldcom and others.

Litigation-based insolvency law

Paul’s practice incorporates a detailed understanding of the litigious aspect of insolvency law such as heavy-weight contested winding up applications, whether in the UK, BVI or the Cayman Islands. He has acted for the liquidator in Edennote v Terry Venables; successfully resisted the winding-up of Stock, Aiken & Waterman; acted for the preference shareholders in the Barings dispute; advises on claims involving the transaction avoidance provisions of the Insolvency Act; appeared in Edward Klempka: In Re Parkside – important authority on the question of what amounts to a preference when dealing with common directorships; acted for the Cayman Islands’ appointed SPC Receiver in the £100m Axiom LItigiation Funding Fraud case which involved the first case of a SPC Receiver being recognised under the Cross-Border Insolvency Regulations 2006; has recently advised on several schemes of arrangement; regularly advises on recovery of assets in an insolvency context using the transaction avoidance rules. Paul’s knowledge extends to the insolvency law applicable in several off-shore jurisdictions including BVI and Cayman Islands.

Offshore litigation

Paul has been called to the bar/admitted to practise as an attorney in the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (2005), especially British Virgin Islands; Cayman Islands; Turks & Caicos Islands, Dubai and the Isle of Man. Recent cases include: Axiom Litigation Financing Fund (acting for the “receiver/liquidator” of a Caymans Islands fund: £110m dispute); Frauntled Management Limited v Featherwood ($13m investment dispute before the BVI Court of Appeal); BBX Capital Asset Management v Royal Bank of Canada & Ors ($30m Cayman dispute relating to transaction to defraud creditors/sham trusts); Trinity Management Group Ltd v Burke Consolidated Ltd (s.184I/s.175 BVI dispute); Maruti Holdings PTE Limited v Sinclair Strategies Limited (BVI jurisdictional challenge); QVT Fund & Ors v China Zenix Auto International Limited (s.184I and s184C BVI dispute: interim injunction) In addition, the international nature of commercial fraud often results in Paul advising in relation to proceedings before off-shore courts such as in VTB v Nutritek (advised on interim relief in Cayman Islands and maintenance of BVI injunction in light of UK Supreme Court decisions) and in other off-shore jurisdictions such as Jersey, Guernsey and Nevis. His cases have included contested winding-up proceedings/shareholder disputes/protection; worldwide freezing and disclosure orders in respect of large scale fraud; company law, property and contractual disputes; trust disputes; breach of directors’ duties/ breach of fiduciary duties/recovery of assets; advising on Cayman Islands “STAR” trusts/ transactions to defraud creditors.

Paul’s practice relating to commercial fraud and off-shore work often raises difficult issues as to assets held in or to be traced through various discretionary trust schemes, particularly in off-shore jurisdictions. Such disputes will involve issues as to the validity of the trust structure, busting-the trust, sham trusts, tracing into and out of trusts, as well as matters of jurisdiction and choice of law eg BNP Jersey v Crociani (breach of Jersey trust).

Sports law

Paul is a big sports fan (football in particular) and seeks to combine that knowledge of sport with his experience of heavy commercial litigation to provide effective resolution of sports law disputes. He has been instructed on behalf of The Race Course Association v Premier Telesports (George Walker) concerning exclusive rights to broadcast British horseracing; has been instructed in relation to various football-related disputes involving the football agent/club relationship; agent and player relationship; and player and club relationship; have advised UEFA on injunctive relief re: ticket touts for Euro 2006; have advised the Premier League on various football-related matters. He is the author of “Football Contracts – An English Law Perspective” Sport and Law Journal.

Career

2011     QC

2005      Called to Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court

1994      Call: Inner Temple

1997 et seq.    Attorney-at-Law for the Cayman Islands

1994      Essex Court Chambers from

1994      Inns of Court School of Law

1993      BCL (First), University College, Oxford University

1992      BA (First) (Law), University College, Oxford University

Education

1994      Inns of Court School of Law

1993      BCL (First), University College, Oxford University

1992      BA (First) (Law), University College, Oxford University

Awards

Martin Wronker Prize for Jurisprudence (paper), University College, Oxford University

College Prizes for Land Law and Jurisprudence, University College, Oxford University

Morris Prize for Best Performance in Conflict of Laws (BCL), Oxford University

Prize for Best Performance in Remedies in Contract and Tort (BCL), Oxford University

Major scholarship, Inner Temple