Grabiner and Sumption case settles before trial

A courtroom clash between the titans of the commercial bar, Lord Grabiner QC and Jonathan Sumption QC, has been called off following a late settlement deal in the six-year long Metro Trading dispute.

Grabiner, who commands up to £3,000 per hour, had been brought in by DLA for an October Court of Appeal hearing on behalf of Alpina Insurance in its dispute against commodities trading firm Glencore International. However, the case has been settled several weeks before trial, saving hundreds of thousands of pounds in costs.

The case was part of the wider Metro Trading litigation, which totalled some 35 cases and 50 parties and arose out of the 1998 collapse of oil logistics specialist the Metro Group. The massive litigation has already racked up some £50m in lawyers’ fees.

In the Court of Appeal case, Alpina was seeking to reverse an earlier ruling in which it was held liable for losses that Glencore suffered as a result of the Metro Group’s collapse. Glencore, represented by Clyde & Co litigation partner Howard Townson, had stored oil at the Fujairah plant.

As well as Grabiner, Alpina instructed two other heavyweight silks, Simon Rainey QC of Quadrant Chambers and Dominic Kendrick QC of 7 King’s Bench Walk (7KBW), who command hourly rates of around £450 and £750 respectively.

Acting for Glencore, Sumption, who would have led Alistair Schaff QC of 7KBW at the appeal hearing, earns some £2m a year.

Most of the other claims in the wider litigation, brought by banks, ship companies and oil traders over ownership of the remnants of the insolvent Metro Group, have settled over the course of the last three years.

The chambers which most profited from the case is 7KBW. In addition to a roll call of its current silks and juniors, its former members Stephen Tomlinson QC and Jeremy Cooke QC, now High Court judges, were also involved.

Metro’s administrative receiver Moore Stephens was represented by Norton Rose litigation partner Roger Heward.