The Lawyer’s Top 20 Cases of 2017 were released in January, launching 12 months of complex and high-value commercial and criminal disputes in the English courts.
A whopping £25bn is in dispute in 2017, up on £6bn in dispute across The Lawyer’s biggest cases of last year.
Read more: The Top 20 Cases of 2016
But 2016 was also a landmark year for major litigation. Of The Lawyer’s top cases, final judgments have been delivered in nine (including two judgments in the MasterCard interchange fee claims); six have settled (including one that was withdrawn); and five are ongoing.
The outcome of one case (the PIP breast implants group litigation) is not yet known.
But the results of such cases are not always black and white. While many are ongoing, several have had far-reaching interim judgments, while others have been delayed again and again and could rumble on for several more years.
Cases that have settled:
Victor Pinchuk v Gennadiy Bogolyubov and Igor Kolomoisky
This $2bn business feud between a number of Russian and Ukranian oligarchs settled just prior to its trial in January 2016. The case had promised to be one of the most expensive in English legal history and featured allegations of murder, bribery and political intrigue. Pinchuk was represented by Hogan Lovells, while the defendants were represented by Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom (Bogolyubov) and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer (Kolomoisky).
Fair Crime Contract Alliance v Legal Aid Agency (Legal Aid Procurement Challenge)
The Government’s legal aid procurement process was set to be challenged by 115 firms in this major group litigation, set down for trial in April 2016. However in January the Lord Chancellor, then Michael Gove, abandoned plans to launch the controversial contract-tendering procedure. As a result the claim fell away with the majority of claimants settling on account of costs. The principal groups of claimants were represented by Bevan Brittan, Bindmans and Trowers & Hamlins, while the defendants were represented by the Government Legal Department.
Construction Industry Vetting Information Group Litigation
This group litigation brought against a number of construction companies, including BAM, Carillion and Lendlease, stemmed from their alleged involvement in two “blacklists” by which a number of trade union workers were denied work between the 1960s and 2000s. The claimants settled in May for a total of £5.4m plus millions in legal costs. The various claimant groups were represented by Leigh Day, Guney Clark & Ryan, Thompsons and OH Parsons, while the defendants were represented by Herbert Smith Freehills, Macfarlanes, Gowling WLG, Eversheds, CMS Cameron McKenna.
Gemini (Eclipse 2006-3) Plc v CBRE and Warwick Street LLP
This £100m-plus claim was set down to be heard in October, but settled in July 2016. The claim was brought by investment vehicle Gemini against valuers CBRE over an alleged overvaluation of a 37-propoerty portfolio in 2006. The terms of the settlement have been kept confidential. Gemini was represented by Norton Rose Fulbright, while CBRE was represented by Clyde & Co. The second defendant, Warwick Street, was represented by Simmons & Simmons.
Fortelus Special Situations Master Fund Ltd v Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson
Hedge fund Fortelus was suing the Paris office of US firm Fried Frank for breach of duty over advice on the enforcement of a €20m commercial loan. The trial was set down for June but settled on confidential terms around two months before. Fortelus was represented by Signature Litigation, while Fried Frank was advised by Clyde & Co.
Terra Firma v Citigroup Global Markets & Citibank NA
Terra Firma boss Guy Hands pulled out of this £1.5bn claim against Citibank two days into the start of the trial last June. The challenge had centered on the acquisition of failing music business EMI, with Hands alleging Citi misled him into overpaying for EMI in 2007. Hands withdrew the claim, stating he couldn’t recall conversations that could prove crucial to evidence. Terra Firma was represented by Mishcon de Reya, while Citigroup was represented by Clifford Chance.
Cases to have received judgment:
Holmcroft Properties Ltd v KPMG LLP
This unprecented judicial review application against a private company sought to challenge KPMG’s role as independent reviewer to Barclays. The bank drafted in KPMG to oversee its compensation process in relation to the bank’s mis-selling of interest rate swaps. The application for judicial review was permitted, but Holmcroft’s case eventually dismissed following a hearing in February 2016. Herbert Smith Freehills successfully defended its client KPMG against the challenge by Holmcroft, which was represented by Mishcon de Reya.
Sainsbury’s Supermarkets Ltd v MasterCard Inc and ors
In December, the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) ordered MasterCard to pay Sainsbury’s £68.5m damages for infringing competition law when it set interchange fees on transactions for credit and debit cards. MasterCard is understood to have sought permission to appeal the decision, which came as several other claims against both Visa and MasterCard over interchange fees continued. Mishcon de Reya won the claim for Sainsbury’s against MasterCard, which was represented by Jones Day.
Arcadia Group and ors v MasterCard Inc and ors
Arcadia Group and a raft of other retailers lost their £450m case against MasterCard over anti-competitive interchange fees in February 2017. Stewarts Law, representing the claimaints, branded the ruling “surprising” on the steps of the courthouse, particularly following the Sainsbury’s ruling the previous December. Stewarts Law was up against Jones Day for MasterCard.
Khanty-Mansiysk Recoveries Ltd v Forsters LLP
Law firm Forsters successfully defended this £70m professional negligence claim brought by a Russian oil company. In a ruling in March 2016, the judge ruled Forsters was protected by an earlier settlement agreement with its former client. Forsters was defended by Bond Dickinson, while Khanty-Mansiysk was represented by Humphries Kerstetter.
Ogale Community v Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDS) and the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC)
Royal Dutch Shell and its Nigerian subsidiary SPDC were the subject of a group action brought on behalf of the Ogale community over oil spills in Ogoniland. However Shell challenged the relevancy of the claim to the English courts, arguing there were prior actions pending before the Nigerian Courts that had to be considered. Shell’s application to dismiss the case on jurisdiction was ultimately successful in January 2017. Shell was successfully represented by Debevoise & Plimpton, while the Ogale community was represented by Leigh Day.
Harlequin Property (SVG) Ltd and Harlequin Hotels & Resorts Ltd v Wilkins Kennedy LLP
Accountancy business Wilkins Kennedy lost its long-running battle with property business Harlequin in December 2016 following a seven-week trial and was ordered to pay in excess of £7m plus costs to Harlequin over advice given between 2006 and 2010. ELS Legal won the claim for Harlequin, while Wilkins Kennedy was represented by Kennedys.
Property Alliance Group (PAG) v Royal Bank of Scotland
This £30m claim hit headlines for being the first Libor rigging case against a major bank to get all the way to trial. The case was heard over 11 weeks last summer but Mrs Justice Asplin ultimately ruled against PAG, marking a win for RBS’s lawyers Dentons. Asplin J ruled PAG’s claim for damages relied on a “series of unreliable assumptions” and some of its quantum claims in relations to losses were “no more than a guess”. It emerged following the ruling that PAG would pay Dentons’ costs of around £10m and another £1.2m to Clifford Chance, which provided off the record advice to RBS. PAG, represented by Bird & Bird, was denied permission to appeal the ruling.
Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) v Goldman Sachs and ors
Libya’s £67bn sovereign wealth fund attempted to sue Goldman Sachs for $1.2bn in losses related to a number of disputed trades. The fund claimed Goldman executives pocketed fees and convinced LIA officials to take on derivatives trades they did not understand. The High Court ruled against the fund in October, dismissing all of its claims against the bank, marking a major win for Goldman’s lawyers, Herbert Smith Freehills. LIA’s lawyers Enyo Law are still pursuing a separate but parallel claim against Societe Generale, again over disputed trades worth $2.1bn, which will go to trial in April 2017.
Judge McCloud & Ors v The Lord Chancellor (Judicial pension litigation)
More than 200 judges who challenged the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) over changes to pensions entitlements won their claims in the Employment Tribunal in January. The challenge was brought against changes to the judicial pension scheme on the grounds they were discriminatory on the grounds of age, sex and race. The tribunal found the MoJ and Lord Chancellor had discriminated against younger judges in its proposed implementation of the scheme, which has been revoked. Successfully representing groups of judges were Bindmans and Leigh Day. The MoJ was represented by the Government Legal Department.
Cases that are ongoing:
Bank St Petersburg PJSC and Alexander Savelyev v Vitaly Arkhangelsky, Julia Arkhangelskaya and Oslo Marine Group Ports LLC
This Russian oligarch dispute related to a row over a number of shipping finance loans was set down to be heard over 12 weeks from January 2016. The trial eventually concluded in July and judgment is awaited, with no indication yet on when a ruling can be expected. The Bank St Petersburg was represented by RPC, while the defendants were represented by a McKenzie Friend after parting ways with their previous lawyers, Withers.
Daniel Alfredo Condori Vilca and ors v Xstrata Plc, Xstrata Queensland Ltd and Xstrata Tintaya SA
The second group claim brought by Leigh Day to feature in last year’s Top 20 Cases was this dispute on behalf of environmental protesters against mining giant Xstrata, which has now merged with Glencore. The claimants want damages related to the company’s alleged complicity in the shooting and mistreatment of protesters resulting in fatalities and serious injuries. The High Court handed down a significant ruling on disclosure in November, requiring Xstrata to broaden the scope of the documents it will provide to the court. Now it both sides are awaiting a judgment on costs enforcement, amid significant delays to the crux of the dispute. The claimants are represented by Leigh Day while the defendants are represented by Linklaters.
Marme Inversiones v Royal Bank of Scotland, HSH Nordbank AG, Bayerische Landesbank, ING Bank and Caixa D’Estalvis
This mammoth Euribor rigging claim will see Spanish property company Marme Inversiones, owned by property tycoon Glenn Maud, sue RBS for in excess of £800m. The row stems from Maud’s purchase of Santander’s global headquarters in 2008 for £1.5bn. Although the trial was originally listed for May 2016, it is now not likely to go ahead until 2018, with case management conferences still ongoing. Kobre & Kim are representing the claimant against RBS’s lawyers Simmons & Simmons. Allen & Overy is representing the second, third, fourth and fifth defendants.
Marathon Asset Management LLP and Marathon Asset Management (Services) Ltd v James Seddon, Luke Bridgeman, Jennifer Buchanan and Global Investment Mandate
This £40m dispute, heard over five weeks in November, is expected to see four years of highly publicised fights between London fund manager Marathon and its founder Jeremy Hosking draw to a close. The row centres on Hosking’s exit from the fund, which the claimant alleges led to serious losses when Hosking set up a rival investment venture. Following a partial judgment in October, the bulk of the claim went to trial in December and a judgment is awaited. Marathon is represented by Herbert Smith Freehills, while the defendants are represented by Withers and GQ Employment Law.
Yukos v Russian Federation
The €50bn arbitration award handed down by the Hague PCA to Yukos in 2014 was the largest of its kind in history. The enforcement saga in a number of European jurisdictions and in the US was due to begin late last year, but has been stayed pending the result of an appeal. In April 2016 the Hague District Court reversed the PCA ruling on the grounds that it lacked jurisdiction to arbitrate the case. Yukos shareholders are appealing that decision, and as a result all enforcement proceedings have been put on hold (except in France, where enforcement action is continuing). In the English Commercial Court enforcement action, representing Yukos is Stephenson Harwood, while Russia is represented by White & Case.