The top cases of 2004

BCCI Liquidators v Bank of England
For 12-18 months starting this Tuesday (13 January), lawyers for the liquidators of BCCI will fling bits of carcass at the Bank of England in an attempt to prove malfeasance or wilful negligence, on the Old Lady’s behalf. The appearance of former Bank of England governor Sir Edward George in the witness box, which will follow shortly after both sides’ opening statements, will be a highlight not to be missed.
Lead advisers: For the BCCI liquidators, Deloitte & Touche: Lovells (Chris Grierson, Lawrence Crowley), Gordon Pollock QC (Essex Court Chambers). For the Bank of England: Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Nicholas Stadlen QC (Fountain Court Chambers), Mark Phillips QC (3/4
South Square).
Length of trial: 12-18 months
Trial date: 13 January
Judge: Mr Justice Tomlinson
Critics of this case have scoffed at the idea of any judge finding against the Bank of England. The expediency with which Mr Justice Tomlinson is perceived to have brought this action to the High Court after years of grappling shows he is at least keen to hear all the arguments. Judge Tomlinson, who is head of the Commercial and Admiralty Court, loves both legal technicalities and highly technical cases, and will revel in presiding over this mammoth and complex insolvency dispute.

BP Amoco v Swiss Re, Axa Global, AIG, Ace, Aegis
This is round two of a dispute over insurers’ liability for all of BP Amoco’s claims in the period January 1999-June 2000. The first assault last year was against lead defendant GE Francona and several Lloyd’s syndicates over the validity of so-called ‘open covers’ (one policy for multiple insurable events). Next month, at a private hearing at the High Court in London, BP Amoco will apply for summary judgment against another group of insurers, which it claims owes some $350m (£192m) for the same 18-month period. The defendants have different reasons for denying liability; the most interesting is over validity of underwritings made before BP merged with Amoco. It is likely that the case will then go to a case management conference before a full trial. Parallel proceedings are taking place in New York.
Advisers: For Swiss Re, Axa Global: Norton Rose (Francis Mackie) and no selected counsel as yet. For AIG, Aegis: Kennedys (Nick Thomas), VV Veeder QC (Essex Court Chambers). For Ace: Barlow Lyde & Gilbert (Tim Taylor), Jonathan Gaisman QC (7 King’s Bench Walk). For BP: Herbert Smith, Sir Sydney Kentridge QC, who replaced Jonathan Sumption QC (both of Brick Court).
Length of trial: One week
Trial date: 23 February in chambers
Judge: n/a

Campbell v Mirror Group Newspapers
Naomi Campbell’s long-running privacy action against the Daily Mirror, which published shots of her leaving a Narcotics Anonymous meeting in January 2001, is going to the House of Lords in February. A win will give stars even more ability to control their images, which is great news for those lawyers who make a living from suing newspapers. It could also be good news for anyone in the public eye who wishes to keep treatment for addiction a secret.
Advisers: For Campbell: Schillings (Keith Schilling), Andrew Caldecott QC (One Brick Court), Antony White QC (Matrix Chambers). For Daily Mirror: Davenport Lyons (Kevin Bays), Desmond Browne QC (5 Raymond Buildings), Richard Spearman QC (4-5 Gray’s Inn Square).
Trial date: 18,19 February

Enron litigation: Royal Bank of Canada v Rabobank and Mahonia v WestLB
Rabobank: Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) claims that Rabobank owes it money stemming from a swaps contract linked to Enron prior to its bankruptcy. Rabobank refuses to cough up, contending that it was induced to participate in the swaps by the fraud of three former RBC bankers. All three have been indicted in the US for Enron-related activities. Parallel actions are taking place in the US and the UK.
Mahonia: Mahonia, a Jersey trust, is seeking to recover some $160m (£87.8m) on behalf of JPMorgan Chase, which fared rather badly out of the Enron debacle. It is doing this by trying to enforce a letter of credit involving Enron, which WestLB allegedly signed. The money, owed to Enron, would go to JPMorgan Chase as a potential creditor. WestLB is doing everything it can to stop them in their tracks.
Advisers: For Rabobank: Herbert Smith (Christa Band), Ali Malek QC (3 Verulam Buildings). For the Royal Bank of Canada: White & Case (Rebecca Stephenson), Guy Phillips QC (Fountain Court). For Mahonia: Slaughter and May (Richard Swallow), Lord Grabiner QC, Lawrence Rabinowicz QC (both One Essex Court). For WestLB: Berwin Leighton Paisner (Alex Gordon), Michael Brindle QC (Fountain Court).
Trial date: Rabobank: early March. Mahonia: 8 June
Length of trial: Rabobank: four weeks. Mahonia: six weeks
Judge: Rabobank: n/a. Mahonia: n/a

JPMorgan Chase Bank v HIH Casualty and General Insurance & Ors
This, the latest in the never-ending round of mammoth film finance spats, involving insurers, banks and brokers suing each other over losses made on film financing guarantees, is set down in the High Court for five months in October. The case, which also involves broker Heath, concerns two sets of films known as ‘Paramount One and Paramount Two’, and includes clangers such as The Beautician and the Beast, which were insured in the late 1990s.
Advisers: For JPMorgan Chase Bank: Morgan Lewis & Bockius (Robert Goldspink), Colin Edelman QC (Devereux Chambers). For the insurers: CMS Cameron McKenna (John Hall), Nicholas Hamblen QC (20 Essex Street).
Length of trial: Five months
Trial date: October 2004
Judge: Mr Justice Langley
There are dozens of similar film finance cases relying on the results of Paramount One and Paramount Two before they can get going, and it is Mr Justice Langley who has the unenviable job of sorting the timetable out. In December he presided over a case management conference in a packed courtroom filled with dozens of lawyers, all screaming for their case to go first. He is described as “calm and highly organised”, and “even-handed but not soft”. He knows how to deal with barristers overstating their cases with sardonic humour, which “shuts them up pretty quickly”.

Kirin-Amgen v Transkaryotic Therapies
The Law Lords will hear this key patents case of 2004, which will cover almost every aspect of patent law. It centres on the protein erythropoietin (EPO), a treatment for anaemia and one of the world’s best-selling biotech pharmaceuticals. The Lords will have to weigh up conflicting European and English case law on patenting naturally-produced proteins. Kirin-Amgen will claim that it has the patent to EPO as it was the first company to discover the DNA sequence encoding it. Transkaryotic Therapies (TKT) will seek to maintain a Court of Appeal ruling that it has not infringed Kirin’s patent and also convince the Lords that Kirin’s patent is invalid.
Advisers: For TKT: Bird & Bird (David Wilson), David Kitchen QC (8 New Square). For Kirin-Amgen: Taylor Wessing (Gary Moss), Antony Watson QC and Andrew Waugh QC (Three New Square).
Length of trial: Two weeks
Trial date: 5 July 2004
Chairman of Court of Appeal hearing: Lord Hoffman

Loss relief litigation
In February, a mammoth group of 60 companies will go to the High Court to sue the Inland Revenue for tax losses on the grounds that UK tax law does not comply with EU law in this area. The action is the first of four group litigation orders, similar to a US class action, all of which are being led by Dorsey & Whitney. This and similar cases could end up costing the Inland Revenue billions, and they are set to go all the way to Europe before a resolution is found. The companies in this action have not been named, but are rumoured to include giants such as IBM, PepsiCo and Siemens.
Advisers: for the companies: Dorsey & Whitney (Simon Whitehead), Graham Aaranson QC (Pump Court Tax Chambers). For the Inland Revenue: in-house legal team and the counsel is as yet unknown.
Length of trial: Four days
Trial date: February
Judge: Mr Justice Park

Sumitomo v Credit Lyonnais Rousse
This is the final chapter in the scandal that began back in 1986 when Yasuo Hamanaka, the now jailed former chief copper trader for Japanese trading company Sumitomo, began his decade of making illicit trades, which totalled $2.6bn (£1.4bn). The price of copper plunged as a result and Sumitomo launched a series of civil claims in the US and the UK. The series of claims against Chase Manhattan Bank and JPMorgan (now JPMorgan Chase) settled in 2002. In the forthcoming UK trial, Credit Lyonnais Rousse – accused of assisting Hamanaka in his unauthorised trades – faces a compensation claim of almost $700m (£384m).
Advisers: For Sumitomo: Ashurst (Chris Vigrass), Christopher Carr QC (One Essex Court). For Credit Lyonnais Rousse: Clifford Chance (Matthew Newick), Michael Briggs QC (Serle Court).
Length of trial: 30 weeks
Trial date: October (no precise date set yet)
Judge: Mr Justice Cooke
The word often used to describe Mr Justice Cooke is ‘fair’. This comes from the voices of former colleagues while he was a practising barrister (for three years he headed 7 King’s Bench Walk before going to the bench in September 2001), and one might hazard a guess that he will be in the thoughts of observers of T-Mobile v Virgin Mobile. In it he sensibly ruled (although this is subject to appeal) that T-Mobile was entitled to require Virgin Mobile to disconnect customers whose phones had not been active for 180 days. Doubtless the chaps of Credit Lyonnais Rousse, in the dock over the Sumitomo affair, will hope his sense of right and wrong is well sharpened for their case.

Virgin Mobile v T-Mobile
These former buddies are fighting it out yet again. Last year it was over cancelling phone contracts without the other’s agreement, while this time it is related to T-Mobile’s supply of airtime services to Virgin Mobile.
Advisers: For T-Mobile: Linklaters (Andrew House), Jonathan Sumption QC (Brick Court Chambers). For Virgin Mobile: Denton Wilde Sapte, Charles Aldous QC (Maitland Chambers).
Length of trial: 40 days
Trial date: 8 June 2004
Judge: n/a