Farepak Christmas saver case collapses after Insolvency Service backs down

The Insolvency Service has dropped its High Court battle against the Farepak executives who it had wanted barred from taking up directorships for up to 15 years.

Mr Justice Peter Smith, who presided over the hearing, read out a statement in court this morning bringing the costly trial to an end. The collapse will be seen as an embarrassing climbdown for the Government.

In a statement the Insolvency Service said the decision was, “based on consideration of evidence given to the court to date”.

Initially the Insolvency Service, part of the Department for Business, had been advised by the Treasury Solicitor. It later instructed Dickinson Dees, with managing partner Jonathan Blair leading a team of eight on the case.

Malcolm Davis-White of 4 Stone Buildings was instructed to lead the case. Costs are believed to have topped £1m.

The case was launched following the collapse of Christmas savers club Farepak in 2006, which left more than 100,000 of its customers out of pocket.

The withdrawal of the case is a significant victory for Maitland Chambers’ Paul Girolami QC who was instructed by K&L Gates partner John Magnin for three former Farepak directors (Neil Gillis and Paul Munn and former chairman Sir Clive Thompson, a one time president of the CBI).

Girolami also represented K&L Gates’ London senior partner Michel Johns, who was a non-executive director of Farepak when it collapsed.

It is also a victory for Fountain Court’s Michael Green QC who was instructed by DAC Beachcroft partner Richard Highley for defendants Stevan Fowler and William Rollason, the former chief executive of Farepak parent company European Home Retail.

Also celebrating a win is Serle Court’s Philip Jones QC who was instructed by Nabarro partner George Maling for former Farepak managing director Nicholas Gilodi-Johnson (Maling has since quit Nabarro for litigation boutique Enyo (28 May 2012)).

The trial began on 24 May and was expected to last between six and eight weeks. On Tuesday Smith J directed the claimants to reconsider their case after he heard how HBOS had twice refused to put £4m saved by customers into a protected trust.

This meant when Farepak went into administration the money was used to repay the company’s debts rather than being returned to Farepak savers.