Claims against banks in freefall, data shows

The number of cases brought against banks in London dropped off a cliff last year, data from court records has revealed.

Barclays was hit with 45 per cent fewer claims in 2015 than in 2014, for example, while the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) faced 36 per cent fewer lawsuits over the same period.

The reduction follows the six-year limitation period on claims arising out of the financial crisis coming to an end, but paves the way for a wave of claims related to rate-rigging and foreign exchange manipulation to hit the banks this and next year, according to senior litigation sources.

A total of 168 claims were brought against the four major UK-headquartered banks – RBS, Lloyds, Barclays and HSBC – last year, records showed. This represents a 37 per cent drop on cases filed against those banks in 2014, when 270 claims were lodged.

Both 2013 and 2014 were peak years for claims against the banks, when 262 and 270 claims were filed against the ‘big four’ respectively.

RBS has repeatedly been hit with the most High Court claims over the last three years. The bank was named as a defendant in 103 cases in 2013, 108 cases in 2014 and 69 last year. Between 2007 and 2015 RBS was hit with 447 High Court applications.

In 2014, Barclays was named as a defendant in 93 claims, with this number dropping to 51 last year. Lloyds was subject to 44 claims in 2014 and 35 last year, and HSBC faced 25 in 2014 and just 13 last year.

The data also showed 2011 was the best year for the banks since the start of the financial crisis. In 2011 just 81 claims were filed against the leading four banks at the High Court, including 26 against Barclays, 22 against RBS, 20 against Lloyds and just 13 against HSBC.

Those figures doubled almost across the board in the following year, with claims shooting up to 47 against Barclays, 44 against RBS, 25 against HSBC, though just 20 claims were filed against Lloyds.

The figures are derived from research into court filings carried out for The Lawyer.

The numbers come as several headline banking cases are making their way through the London courts.

The Lawyer revealed in January RBS had filed an application to remove Cooke Young & Keidan as lawers to Property Alliance Group, which is bringing a £30m Libor claim against the bank, scheduled to be heard in June.

Meanwhile, Guardian Care Homes subsidiary Wingate has instructed Hausfeld to bring proceedings against Lloyds over swaps mis-selling. The case, which will see its first case management conference in April, reignites a dispute previously settled with the bank over Libor manipulation in 2011.

Wingate chief executive Gary Hartland swapped his counsel on the case in January, replacing One Essex Court’s Stephen Auld QC and Outer Temple’s Farhaz Khan with Guildhall Chambers’ Stephen Davies QC, instructed by Hausfeld partner Anthony Maton.

The swap reunites the legal team that won Graiseley Properties and ors v Barclays Bank in 2014, when Hausfeld secured the first out of court settlement against a bank in a Libor case for its client.

A report late last year showed the cost of bringing a claim against a bank in the London courts has skyrocketed in recent years, with claimants exposed to costs of up to £10m, according to senior litigators.