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The Commercial Court was witness to one of the most extraordinary legal climbdowns ever when litigation against the Bank of England collapsed last month.
The bank, represented by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and six barristers led by Fountain Court Chambers' Nicholas Stadlen QC, was being sued for 850m by the liquidator of the Bank of Credit & Commerce International (BCCI). But on 2 November, the liquidator, accounting giant eloitte, dropped the case in a shock announcement that saw law firm Lovells, lead counsel Gordon Pollock QC of Essex Court Chambers, and the rest of the claimants' legal team walk out of court.
BCCI collapsed in 1991 owing billions of pounds to investors, and since then Deloitte has been trying to recoup funds to pay creditors. Eloitte claimed that the Bank of England and 22 of its officials were guilty of "misfeasance in public office", because they had not made sufficient enquiries into BCCI's activities.
The case against the Bank of England was launched in 1993, but there were many stumbling blocks. Initially, the bank tried to have the claim struck out, and hearings over this application took four years to reach a conclusion in the House of Lords.
Before the trial started, the parties got into a dispute over documents related to the case and whether they were protected by legal advice privilege. This too went all the way to the House of Lords, which handed down a judgment in December 2004 which protected communications between lawyers and their clients.
The trial proper began in January 2004. Pollock's opening statement outlining the liquidator's case went on for 80 days, but this was beaten by Stadlen, who defended the bank for a massive 119 days. The case was dropped on the 256th day of trial, in the middle of cross-examinations.
Stadlen, for the bank, slammed the claimant's conduct and handling of the case in a lengthy statement, saying: "This is unconditional surrender."
The bank has applied for indemnity costs, meaning that it wants the liquidator to pay damages on top of the 75m for legal fees.