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Few cases this year have seized our attention more than the $5bn claim brought by Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky against Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich over shares in Russian oil company Sibneft.
However, in the wake of Mrs Justice Gloster’s ruling two weeks ago (31 August 2012) against Berezovsky, in which she slammed Berezovsky saying he was “an unimpressive, and inherently unreliable, witness, who regarded truth as a transitory, flexible concept, which could be moulded to suit his current purposes”, attention has now turned to the costs fall out from the case and in particular Addleshaw Goddard’s logic in granting Berezovsky a conditional fee agreement (CFA).
Essentially a CFA is a written agreement whereby legal fees and expenses only become payable in certain circumstances. The particular circumstances in question will depend on the type of CFA entered into.
While the most common form of CFA is a “no win, no fee” agreement, which effectively provides that legal fees become payable only if the case is won, in this case the CFA was a structured deal where the firm stood to gain a substantial uplift should Berezovsky have won but will now take a lower percentage of fees as he has lost.
So why then did Addleshaws agree to share the litigation risk and bankroll the case to the High Court? And what next for the case.
According to sources Addleshaws had secured legal expenses insurance for the CFA, meaning any loss should be covered. In addition, Berezovsky is understood to have paid a chunk of his fees.
Just Costs national advocacy manager Tom Blackburn says rather than backfiring on Addleshaws the firm has scored a PR victory.
“They’ve shown they’re willing to take a risk on behalf of a client and not just on the most promising cases,” he says.
That said, there is potential for this to go drastically wrong for Addleshaws. Abramovich could claim some reasonable costs back.
One partner states: “It wouldn’t be unreasonable to go for indemnified costs after a judgment like that.”
For the latest on other cases worth watching read this update from The Lawyer’s Katy Dowell here.