Travers Smith client hit with £50m indemnity costs for Deutsche Bank

Travers Smith client Sebastian Holdings has been ordered to pay 85 per cent of the £60m legal bill racked up by Deutsche Bank in an $8bn court showdown between the parties.

The bank turned to Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer partners Andrew Hart, Tom Snelling and Christopher Robinson to lead defence of the mammoth claim, which was heard over the course of four months in London’s High Court.

Rejecting the claim last week (see ruling), Mr Justice Cooke said parties had been warned at the outset of the case that unnecessary costs would not be tolerated. The litigants that did not pass the “red face test”, he said, would be hit with indemnity costs.

As well as being ordered to pay over $240m in compensation to the bank, Sebastian Holdings was told to hand over indemnity costs of £51m to cover Deutsche Bank’s legal disbursements. The court also ordered that Sebastian Holdings should pay £32m plus VAT within the next fortnight.

Cooke J said that the sanction would be forlorn in a case that involved such colossal sums, but he added, “it may discourage other litigants from pursuing hopeless points”.

Sebastian Holdings might have been ordered to pay even more had the judge not applied a discount because, he said, “some of [Deutsche Bank’s] 
witnesses were dishonest and hid the true position”.

This came after Sebastian Holdings, which had instructed Travers Smith partner Andrew King, issued an $8bn counterclaim in response to the bank’s $240m suit against it (12 November 2013).

Sebastian claimed that Germany’s biggest lender had breached its contract in dealings with the company and had put through trades it shouldn’t have done. Sebastian argued that trades made on behalf of the company were unauthorised and refused to pay more money to cover the losses – known as margin calls.

But Deutsche Bank argued that it was owed $116.9m for Vik’s FX currency trading account with the bank and $118.6m for his equity account. Cooke J concluded that Deutsche Bank had not breached its contract with Sebastian.

For the claimant Deutsche Bank

Essex Court’s David Foxton QC and 3 Verulam Buildings’ Sonia Tolaney QC leading Fountain Court’s Henry King, 3 Verulam Buildings’ James MacDonald, instructed by Freshfields partners Andrew Hart, Tom Snelling and Christopher Robinson

For defendant Sebastian Holdings

Fountain Court’s David Railton QC, Brick Court’s Simon Birt, Thomas Plewman, Oliver Jones and Max Schaefer instructed by Travers Smith partner Andrew King