Collyer Bristow facing negligence claim over Rangers FC advice

Collyer Bristow is understood to be facing claims of alleged professional negligence and breach of fiduciary duty in the fallout over the administration of Rangers FC.

The club’s administrators at Duff & Phelps, Paul Clark and David Whitehouse, have said that they have “substantially larger” claims to make against the firm, with the High Court ruling that all submissions must be lodged by 16 April.

The news comes after the administrators successfully applied to the High Court earlier this month to transfer £3.6m of client money from Collyer Bristow to Taylor Wessing, which is acting for the administrators. Restructuring partner Nick Moser and Mark Phillips QC and Daniel Bayfield at South Square Chambers made the High Court application. There is a dispute about who can access the money between the UK tax authorities, a pension fund and Duff & Phelps, who are all claiming a share.

A statement from joint administrator Clark said: “On other litigation matters, on 23 March the High Court in London ordered that in addition to the current proceedings regarding the £3.6m that was transferred into the safekeeping of the administrators’ lawyers, Taylor Wessing, the parties with claims against Collyer Bristow (the former lawyers to Craig Whyte and Rangers FC) should bring their claims by 16 April 2012.

“This has widened the court proceedings because we have substantially larger claims against Collyer Bristow which we wish to bring as soon as possible. The original trial dates of 30 March – 4 April are now not being utilised as the wider claims are still being formulated. A further hearing will take place as soon as possible after the deadline for claims against Collyer Bristow of 16 April.

“As regards the general administration process, we, as the club’s administrators, would like to pay tribute to Rangers supporters for their continuing outstanding efforts to support the Club at this time.

“We appreciate greatly the contributions made to the Rangers Fighting Fund and welcome the fact that those who are administering the fund have taken the decision to release funds which will offset some of the debts owed by the club to other clubs.”

To date, Taylor Wessing restructuring partner Nick Moser and Mark Phillips QC and Daniel Bayfield at South Square Chambers are understood to be acting for Rangers’ administrators. They made a successful application to the High Court to transfer £3.6m in client money from Collyer Bristow to Taylor Wessing.

The Lawyer understands that Collyer Bristow has instructed Clyde & Co partner Richard Harrison and senior associate Nicole McKinnon to act on its behalf. They have appointed 3VB’s Cyril Kinsky QC and Matthew Hardwick.

There is a dispute about who can access the money between the UK tax authorities, a pension fund and Duff & Phelps, who are all claiming a share.

Collyer Bristow became involved with Rangers when partner Gary Withey, who recently left the firm (5 March 2012), advised businessman Craig Whyte on his takeover of the club last year.

Collyer Bristow business development director Paul Newhall told The Lawyer: “On Friday 23 March Rangers’ administrators at Duff & Phelps made an application to the High Court to vacate the trial that had been due to commence today (Friday 30 March) in London.

“This was a change in stance, given their previous insistence that the expedited hearing of the case was ’critical’ to the ongoing administration of the club.

“They have now indicated that they wish to widen the scope of the proceedings beyond establishing entitlement to the £3.6m – currently held by Taylor Wessing to the order of the court.

“Given that Collyer Bristow does not claim any entitlement to the £3.6m we did not resist the administrators’ request to delay the court proceedings. However, we would like to make it clear that Collyer Bristow will robustly defend any additional claims brought by the administrators against them.”