Exclusive: RBS pressure sees 2Birds take over PAG case from CYK

Cooke Young & Keidan is no longer acting on the headline Libor case Property Alliance Group (PAG) v The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), following an application by the bank to remove the firm over issues of conflict.

In a decision by the claimant, Cooke Young & Keidan has been taken off the case, which is due to go to trial in May this year, and been replaced by Bird & Bird.

RBS filed an injunction with the courts late last month to have Cooke Young & Keidan removed as PAG’s lawyers in the £30m dispute.

No ruling has been handed down on the application, with the change of counsel decided by PAG.

A statement by Cooke Young & Keidan said: “We can confirm that the firm is no longer acting for PAG in relation to its case against RBS.

“This will enable PAG, supported by the law firm now acting, to focus exclusively on the upcoming Libor fixing fraud trial in May against RBS. We naturally wish PAG every success in the next stages of the case.”

Bird & Bird co-head of disputes Steven Baker is now leading for the claimant, continuing Cooke Young & Keidan’s instruction of Brick Court Chambers’ Tim Lord QC.

RBS claimed Cooke Young & Keidan was conflicted as lawyers to PAG due to its hire of former Clifford Chance associate Mike Cumming-Bruce in January. The bank said Cumming-Bruce had access to confidential documents concerning RBS during his time at the magic circle firm.

On filing the injunction, a spokesperson for RBS told The Lawyer the bank was “seeking to protect confidential and sensitive privileged information that it believes is at risk of misuse”.

Cumming-Bruce worked at Clifford Chance between 2011 and 2014 before leaving to join offshore firm Carey Olsen. Clifford Chance ran an independent review into RBS’s controversial global restructuring group (GRG) in 2013, which was accused of running small businesses into the ground to make a profit. The GRG review is a central element of the PAG case.

A senior commercial litigation source said RBS’s plan to get Cooke Young & Keidan removed from the case was “alarming” and could have an “affect on access to justice in cases against banks” by “restricting the movement of magic circle associates to litigation boutiques”.

Another source speculated RBS’s application was a “move to try and delay or disturb the course of the trial”.

The case is still expected to be heard in May in the Financial List.

PAG’s case against RBS is one of the most advanced Libor-rigging and swaps mis-selling cases before the courts. The claim alleges the bank’s misconduct went far beyond what has been made public by regulators and say it made fraudulent misrepresentations about Libor at a time when the bank’s senior executives were aware of problems with the integrity of the benchmark.

An interim judgment on the case in November ruled there was “ample support for an inference of fraud and dishonesty at the highest level of RBS”.

Dentons partners Richard Caird and Sam Coulthard are handling RBS’s defence, instructing Fountain Court’s David Railton QC and Adam Sher.

The legal line-up

For the claimant, Property Alliance Group

Brick Court’s Tim Lord QC and Kyle Lawson and XXIV Old Buildings’ Adam Cloherty, instructed by Bird & Bird partner Steven Baker

For the defendant, the Royal Bank of Scotland

Fountain Court’s David Railton QC and Adam Sher, instructed by Dentons partners Richard Caird and Sam Coulthard