As director of litigation and special investigations, Jonathan Peddie has seen off the OFT and implemented major changes at Barclays Global Retail and Banking. But that was only the beginning, writes Andrew Pugh
Name: Jonathan Peddie
Position: Director of litigation and special
investigations, Global Retail and Banking (GRB)
Company: Barclays Bank
Industry: Financial services
Number of employees: 144,000
Legal capability: 743 (39 in GRB litigation)
Main external law firms: Addleshaw
Goddard, A&O, Clifford Chance, DLA Piper, Freshfields, Hammonds, Hill Dickinson,
Linklaters, Lovells, Matthew Arnold Baldwin, Simmons & Simmons, TLT
Jonathan Peddie’s CV
1987-1990: BA, University of Southampton
1992-93: Postgraduate Diploma in Law,
1993-94: Inns of Court School of Law
1990-1992: Management trainee, APT
1994-96: Pupillage, then barrister, Chambers of Michael Hill QC, 36 Essex Street
1996-2002: Associate, Clifford Chance
2002-2005: Professional indemnity and risk management counsel, Clifford Chance
2005-2007: Principal legal counsel, litigation and disputes, Barclays Bank
2007-2009: Head of litigation, GRCB, Barclays Bank
2009-present: Director of litigation and special investigations, GRB, Barclays Bank
When Jonathan Peddie was app-ointed as Barclays Global Retail and Commercial Bank’s (GRCB) head of litigation, his first task was dealing with the Office of Fair Trading’s (OFT) investigation into bank overdraft charges.
The OFT had wanted the courts’ permission to investigate whether bank overdraft charges were unfair. The case came after thousands of consumers flooded the banks with claims for refunded charges.
Barclays joined forces with six high street banks and a building society to fight the claim.
Peddie, who was elevated to the role of director of litigation and special investigations in 2009, became an instrumental figure in how the case was coordinated.
At the Supreme Court, after losing the case in the High Court and Court of Appeal in February 2009, the banks went to the House of Lords to appeal the ruling. Barclays’ external lawyer, Simmons & Simmons partner Colin Passmore, brought in Brick Court’s Jonathan Sumption QC to lead the advocacy in the Supreme Court. It was a killer blow.
In November, five Supreme Court justices ended the OFT’s two-year fight, ruling that the overdraft charges could not be deemed as penalties but could be assessed on their fairness under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999.
GRCB’s litigation team has undergone some dramatic changes since Peddie took up the role of litigation head in 2007, including a reorganisation that saw the commercial element removed from the department title. When he joined, the practice had 14 lawyers. That figure has since swollen to 39.
While dealing with the onslaught of the OFT case, the bank was facing mounting pressure from the economic slump. In the past two years, the team’s workload has almost doubled due to an increase in legal work relating to mortgage disputes and repossessions.
Peddie created the Small Claims Unit (SCU) to handle low-value litigation. The department is staffed entirely by pre-pupillage barristers, pre-training contract solicitors and secondees from panel firms. The aim is to nurture younger lawyers and develop a strong team packed with talent. It is something he is clearly passionate about: “For me, my job is not just about managing legal risk, it’s about developing legal talent.”
He adds: “We have a group of lawyers supervising trainees and paralegals in the SCU. They run a large volume of litigation and, more importantly, they get experience of managing people.”
Peddie trained at the criminal bar and received expert tutoring from the distinguished Lord Hobhouse of Woodborough and, later, criminal silk Michael Hill QC.
“They injected me with a sense of personal development,” he says. “I take the same approach with my staff. As a result, I’m lucky to have a loyal workforce, with a very low turnover.”
Peddie is so keen to develop legal talent that during his time at Barclays he has developed a secondment system that sees the bank take lawyers on all levels in-house.
This not only helps keeps costs down but also develops stronger links with panel firms.
Simmons partner Passmore was the first secondee to arrive, coming after the bank charges litigation, in 2009.
“I was talking with Colin and he mentioned he was keen to encourage his staff to go on secondments,” Peddie explains. “I said that he should do one with us and he agreed – he was sober at the time.”
A place on Barclays’ general advisory legal panel is sought after by many firms, but only the best gain entry. Advisory firms include:
The team enjoys a particularly strong relationship with Simmons, which Peddie describes as “one of the most flexible and innovative firms I’ve come across”.
Peddie reels off a list of prerequisites for any Barclays panel firm: “We want high quality, strength in depth and flexibility. Sometimes big firms simply can’t keep up. I
look for intuitive understanding of our business, of what we’re trying to achieve, client focus, our legal processes and how we make decisions.”
Big demands, but for a bank that supplies so many firms with substantial income streams, that is Peddie’s prerogative.