First the climbdown, now the costs. Was BCCI worth the money?

When litigation goes on for over a decade, the costs mount up, and BCCI is no exception. It is, however, highly unusual for the defendants to rack up higher legal fees than the claimants. In the recent Equitable Life case, settled only three years after being launched and after less than a year in court, Equitable Life had amassed fees of around £40m, with defendants Ernst & Young clocking up a bill of approximately £25m.

In comparison, Deloitte has stated publicly that its legal fees for the litigation against the Bank of England are £38m. Included in that is Pollock’s £3m brief fee, first revealed by The Lawyer in January 2004 when the trial began. It is a hefty amount to pay one man, even someone of Pollock’s stature, but other litigators have confided that Pollock is not alone in charging such figures. When cases are set to last for more than a year, £3m and higher for top silks is the sort of figure quoted.

The liquidators have had additional legal costs in running parallel pieces of litigation. Earlier this year, Deloitte triumphed over the Bank of India in the Court of Appeal, winning a £45m award and, in January 2005, it settled with the Bank of America, preventing a trial that was due to last as long as the Bank of England case.

For the bank, the 12 years of litigation have cost at least £75m. In the current financial year, £23.5m had been budgeted, anticipating the continuation and possible conclusion of the trial. Most of the money has been spent in the past three years, which was split between Freshfields and the six counsel instructed. The bank itself only has a small legal team of six, headed by Malcom Glover, making the support for its solicitors essential. Freshfields was always going to be the obvious choice, having advised the bank of England since 1743. (The bank was founded just 49 years earlier in 1694).

It just goes to show that a longstanding client relationship really does pay off.