This year’s case line-up has an international theme running through it, underlining the English High Court’s reputation as a global litigation centre.
If there was any doubt remaining that the English High Court has become a global litigation centre, this year’s round-up of the 20 cases to watch will surely eliminate it. Because while 2015 may not be a vintage year in terms of the value or length of cases, it is one where litigants from a large number of countries will converge on the Strand.
As in the past few years, Russians feature on the list. Oil giant Rosneft is bringing the first UK challenge to the sanctions imposed on Russia by the EU in the wake of the Ukraine crisis. In the judicial review application to be heard at the end of this month Rosneft will argue that the delegated legislation introduced by the UK to implement the EU’s sanctions – as well as the underlying EU regulation – is unlawful.
Another sanctions case that will be closely watched is the claim for damages brought by Iran’s Bank Mellat against HM Treasury. The case has already been to the Supreme Court, which ruled in 2013 that financial restrictions imposed by the Treasury against Bank Mellat were unlawful. Now the bank is seeking £2.3bn in damages.
Other claims involving international litigants include two Africa-related cases. In the first, South African-owned Sabre Oil & Gas is suing Standard Bank over its acquisition of a stake in an oil field in Ghana.
The second is a class action brought by illegal prospectors to the site of the North Mara gold mine in Tanzania who were injured or killed by Tanzanian police and private security guards.
Financial services cases feature heavily. Dexia and Banco Santander are bringing claims against public bodies in Italy and Portugal respectively, in disputes over swaps contracts. Meanwhile, the latest stage in the administration of Lehman Brothers International (Europe) (LBIE) sees the joint administrators seek clarification from the court over the distribution of the £7bn surplus left after paying off Lehman’s debts.
There are several professional negligence cases this year. Law firms Bird & Bird and Mishcon de Reya are both facing chunky claims from former clients, as is Big Four accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
Human rights is another theme of the year and Leigh Day is cementing its reputation as a leading firm in this arena. The firm is acting for the claimants on the North Mara mine case, but is also bringing a claim over the misuse of legally privileged documents before the Investigatory Powers Tribunal for Libyan dissident Abdul-Hakim Belhaj.
Leigh Day will also appear in the landmark equal pay claim being brought by thousands of female employees of Asda against the supermarket. The group contend that they are entitled to the same pay as the predominantly male warehouse workforce.
The cases mean Leigh Day is the only firm with three appearances on the Top 20 list this year. A further six firms have two cases each in the list.
Herbert Smith Freehills is defending Standard Bank in the Sabre Oil case, and Tarek Investments in a spat with its joint venture partner Peak Hotels and Resorts.
Linklaters is acting for claimant AXA in its challenge to the Competition and Markets Authority’s stance on private healthcare, and for administrators PwC in the LBIE case.
Slaughter and May has picked up instructions for Kroll Associates on its defence on a $1bn claim brought by two Bahraini institutions, and for Banco Santander Totta in the Portuguese swaps case.
Triton Global, the specialist professional indemnity firm, is defending both Bird & Bird and Mishcon de Reya against negligence claims. And litigation boutique Candey will appear for former partners of Dewey & LeBoeuf as Barclays Bank attempts to recoup money loaned for capital contributions, as well as for Peak Hotels in the Tarek case.
Addleshaw Goddard has taken over representation of Barclays in the Dewey case and is also representing the claimants in the Dar Al-Arkan Real Estate Development Company’s case against several defendants.
Star lawyers and top sets
Candey has instructed a counsel team led by 4 Stone Buildings’ John Brisby QC for both cases.
Brisby is one of a number of barristers to secure multiple appearances in the Top 20 cases this year. One Essex Court’s Laurence Rabinowitz QC has three cases, the most of any barrister, but several silks and juniors are involved in two cases each.
Fountain Court has secured the largest number of appearances of any set, with 15 across the 20 cases including two appearances apiece for Michael Brindle QC, Bankim Thanki QC and Patrick Goodall QC.
Will they get to court?
The question mark hanging over this year’s Top 20 cases is just how many of them will get to court.
Of last year’s case selection, more than half settled. Another five are ongoing – including a claim brought by Bahraini bank Bank Alkhair and its client Dar Al-Arkan Real Estate Development Company against defendants including Kroll Associates and FTI Consulting, which was rescheduled for 2015 and appears again in this year’s Top 20.
Just two judgments were handed down from 2014’s Top 20 cases, with judgment awaited in the final case. The pattern is an about-turn from 2013, when seven of the Top 20 cases settled and eight received judgment.
By the end of this year it should be clearer if there is a tendency towards settlement or whether clients still want to fight their court battles to the bitter end.
The Top 20
AXA & Ors v Competition & Markets Authority (CMA)
19 January, two weeks
Competition Appeals Tribunal, Mr Justice Sales
For the claimant, AXA PPP Healthcare Ltd
Brick Court Chambers’ Kelyn Bacon QC and Sarah Love, instructed by Linklaters partner Simon Pritchard
For the claimant, Federation of Independent Practitioner Organisations
For the defendant, the Competition and Markets Authority
Monckton Chambers’ Kassie Smith QC, Rob Williams, Robert Palmer and Brendan McGurk, instructed by the Treasury Solicitor
For the intervener, the British Medical Association
Brick Court Chambers’ Aidan Robertson QC, instructed by in-house lawyer Emma Mason-Fornazaric
For the intervener, the Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland
Monckton Chambers’ Anneli Howard, instructed by Hogan Lovells partner Suyong Kim
For the intervener, HCA
Monckton Chambers’ Josh Holmes, instructed by Nabarro partner Cyrus Mehta
For the intervener, the London Clinic
Monckton Chambers’ Ronit Kreisberger, instructed by Eversheds partner Stephen Rose
This case constitutes the first substantive challenge to the newly formed Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) decision regarding the UK’s private healthcare market.
The CMA decided the various players needed to divest assets to ensure fair competition.
It follows a two-year investigation by a group of independent panel members at the Competition Commission (CC), which became part of the new CMA.
Measures included a crackdown on benefits and incentive schemes provided to referring clinicians by private hospital operators and measures to increase the availability of information to patients on private fees and hospital performance.
The regulator argued that many private hospitals faced little competition in local areas across the UK and there were high barriers to entry. It concluded this led to higher prices for self-pay patients in many local areas – and for both self-pay and insured patients in Central London, where HCA, a for-profit operator of healthcare facilities that owns more than half of the available overnight bed capacity, charges significantly higher prices to insured patients than its closest competitor.
OMV Petrom SA v Glencore International Aktiengesellschaft
19 January, 16 days
Commercial Court, Mr Justice Flaux
For the claimants, OMV Petrom SA
20 Essex Street’s Duncan Matthews QC, Andrew Fulton and Luke Pearce, instructed by Withers partner Madalina Dumitrescu
For the defendant, Glencore
Romanian oil company Petrom is suing natural resource giant Glencore for $60m. The claimants are alleging systematic fraud, deceit and conspiracy over the delivery of 32 cargoes of crude oil that were sold and delivered to Romania. They claim that instead of crude oil, they received blended cargoes made up of various types of cheaper and heavier crude oils.
It raises issues of principle in the context of damages as to how to measure the “benefits received” by the buyer who received a cargo of blended crude oil rather than the contractual grade of crude oil contracted for.
Glencore contends in defence that Petrom’s claims are time-barred, and that the company is not the successor in title to the Romanian companies which received the cargoes. It also denies wrongdoing.
An attempt to pursue the claim as a breach of contract in arbitration was thrown out by Mr Justice Blair in February last year.
OJSC Rosneft Oil Company v 1) Her Majesty’s Treasury 2) The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation, and Skills 3) The Financial Conduct Authority
27 January, three days
Queen’s Bench Division, Administrative Court (Divisional Court)
For the claimant, Rosneft
Blackstone Chambers’ Pushpinder Saini QC and Joseph Hage Aaronson barristers Patrick Dunn-Walsh and Sarah Tulip, instructed by Joseph Hage Aaronson partner Michael Anderson and Joseph Hage
For the first and second defendants, the Treasury and the Secretary of State
Monckton Chambers’ Tim Ward QC, Gerry Facenna and Julianne Morrison, instructed by the Treasury Solicitor
For the third defendant, the Financial Conduct Authority
3 Verulam Building Chambers’ Sonia Tolaney QC and Fountain Court Chambers’ James McClelland, instructed by Kingsley Napley partner Adam Chapma
This case is the first piece of litigation challenging the sanctions imposed against Russia in the wake of the annexation of the Crimean peninsula and ongoing Ukraine crisis.
Amid the Government’s attempts to toughen up on the rules permitting judicial review, this case sees Russian oil giant Rosneft bring proceedings challenging the lawfulness of delegated legislation introduced by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) in order to implement EU sanctions against Russian industries.
Rosneft is also arguing that the underlying EU regulation imposing sanctions on Russia is unlawful, and challenges the Financial Conduct Authority’s definition
of “transferable security”, and the secretary of state for BIS’s interpretation of “financial assistance”. The latter phrase is commonly used in EU sanctions, and is accordingly also of relevance in relation to legislation imposing sanctions against countries such as North Korea and Iran.
As well as being closely linked to an ongoing political crisis between Russia and the EU, the case examines questions over the Government’s obligations when implementing EU legislation.
Rosneft is also challenging the validity of the EU regulation before the General Court of the EU, and its judicial review claim seeks a reference to be made to the Court of Justice of the EU – meaning the case raises questions about the relationship between domestic and European proceedings.
Adams & Ors v Asda Stores Ltd
30 January (preliminary hearing); trial date TBC
Manchester Employment Tribunal
For the claimants, Adams and Ors
Outer Temple Chambers’ Andrew Short QC, Naomi Cunningham and Keira Gore, instructed by Leigh Day partner Chris Benson, and associate Michael Newman
This landmark equal pay claim is the first mass claim brought against a private sector employer since the 2012 Supreme Court ruling that allowed equal pay claims to be brought in the High Court up to six years after a worker leaves their employment where pay discrimination may have occurred. The previous time limit for such claims was six months.
Over 19,000 female employees of supermarket chain Asda claim they are due pay equal to that of the company’s predominantly male warehouse staff, saying their own work is of the same value.
The claim is brought under the Equality Act 2010 or (where applicable) under the Equal Pay Act 1970. The claimants claim that they are entitled to the benefit of the equality clauses within this legislation, which operate to modify their terms of employment so that they are no less favourable than the corresponding terms enjoyed by their male comparators.
If successful, the claimants may be entitled to six years’ worth of back pay to compensate for the discriminatory difference between their earnings and those of the male warehouse staff.
The case will test how large retailers currently pay their employees in different areas of their business. With other supermarket chains using a similar distribution model to Asda, there could well be an impact on the company’s rivals should the claim succeed.
Re Lehman Brothers International (Europe): ‘Waterfall II’
Three stages from February-October, 25 days
Chancery Division, Mr Justice David Richards
For the joint administrators, PricewaterhouseCoopers
South Square’s William Trower QC, Daniel Bayfield, Alexander Riddiford and Stephen Robins instructed by Linklaters partners Tony Bugg and Euan Clarke and managing associate Jared Oyston
For the senior creditor group
South Square’s Robin Dicker QC, Richard Fisher and Henry Phillips, instructed by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer partner Christopher Robinson
For Wentworth Sons Sub-Debt Sàrl
South Square’s Antony Zacaroli QC, David Allison QC and Adam Al-Attar, instructed by Kirkland & Ellis partners Partha Kar and Kon Asimacopoulos
For York Global Finance
South Square’s Tom Smith QC and Robert Amey, instructed by Michelmores partners Charles Maunder and Peter Sigler
Over seven years after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the administrators of the UK subsidiary, Lehman Brothers International (Europe) (LBIE) have paid off all debts. Left with a £7bn surplus, the administrators have applied to the High Court for directions as to how it should be applied.
The case raises 39 novel points of law and construction. These include technical questions relating to insolvency law, such as how statutory interest is to be calculated, and how creditors with foreign currency debts should be compensated for exchange rate fluctuations. Others are of more general commercial interest, such as the correct interpretation of the “cost of funding” provisions of the ISDA Master Agreement and other master agreements.
A number of creditors have claims against the surplus and are watching the case closely. However the outcome of the case will also have an impact for anyone trading on standard-form master agreements, which account for billions of trades annually.
Quah Su-Ling v Goldman Sachs / Ng Su-Ling v Goldman Sachs
February and October, three weeks
For the claimants, Quah Su-Ling and Ng Su-Ling
For the defendants, Goldman Sachs
Fountain Court Chambers’ Bankim Thanki QC, Ben Valentin and Rebecca Loveridge, instructed by White & Case partner John Reynolds
In an example of the growing trend for English court cases relating to the Asian market, Goldman Sachs is facing litigation from two former private wealth clients in the Far East.
These two cases will be heard separately in the Commercial Court, but relate to the same issue. The claimants are challenging the bank’s right to enforce on-demand loan facilities, and the manner in which it sold collateral.
Goldman Sachs is counterclaiming for amounts outstanding under the facilities which total around $30m (£19.1m).
(1) Dar Al Arkan Real Estate Development Company and (2) Bank Alkhair BSC v Majid Al-Sayed Bader Hashim Al Refai & Ors
9-12 March (opening submissions); evidence commencing 14 April, eight weeks
Commercial Court, Mr Justice Andrew Smith (TBC)
For the claimants, (1) Dar Al Arkan Real Estate Development Company & (2) Bank Alkhair BSC
Essex Court Chambers’ David Foxton QC and Stephen Houseman QC, Fountain Court Chambers’ Paul Casey and Maitland Chambers’ Rosanna Foskett and James Sheehan, instructed by Addleshaw Goddard partners Mark Hastings, Kambiz Larizadeh and David Engel
For the first defendant, Majid Al-Sayed Bader Hashim Al Refai
Selborne Chambers’ Neil Mendoza and 11 Stone Buildings’ Harriet Ter-Berg, instructed by PCB Litigation partner Trevor Mascarenhas
For the second defendant, Kroll Associates
One Essex Court’s Craig Orr QC, Nicholas Sloboda and Sophie Weber, instructed by Slaughter and May partner Jonathan Cotton
For the fourth defendant, FTI Consulting
39 Essex Street’s Richard Spearman QC and 5 Raymond Buildings’ Godwin Busuttil, instructed by CMS partners Belinda Schofield and Zoe Burge
This case was originally expected to be heard in 2014, but has been delayed until April this year.
The trial is being split into two phases over two months to break down and address the numerous allegations made, which include computer-hacking and theft of sensitive information. The claimants allege losses of $1bn.
The row erupted after Al Refai, a senior executive of Bahraini investment bank Bank Alkhair, was dismissed in August 2010 following the alleged discovery of money laundering.
The claimants, Bank Alkhair and its client Dar Al Arkan Real Estate Development Company, allege losses in the region of $1bn. The claimants argue that after he was dismissed, Al Refai and the other defendants set out to destroy their business, spreading rumours in meetings with investors and publishing damaging allegations about the claimants.
The defendants deny the allegations.
Abdul-Hakim Belhaj & Ors v (1) Security Service (2) Secret Intelligence Service (3) Government Communication Headquarters (4) Secretary of State for the Home Department and (5) Secretary of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs
10 March, four days
Investigatory Powers Tribunal, Mr Justice Burton and colleagues
For the claimants, Abdul-Hakim Belhaj and Ors
Blackstone Chambers’ Dinah Rose QC and Ben Jaffey and Monckton Chambers’ Conor McCarthy, instructed by Leigh Day partner Richard Stein
For the claimants, Amnesty
Matrix Chambers’ Hugh Tomlinson QC, Nick Armstrong and Tamara Jaber, instructed by Amnesty’s Nick Williams
For the defendants, (1) Security Service (2) Secret Intelligence Service (3) Government Communication Headquarters
(4) Secretary of State for the Home Department and (5) Secretary of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs
Blackstone Chambers’ James Eadie QC, 11KBW’s Karen Steyn QC, 39 Essex Street’s Kate Grange and 1 Crown Office Row’s Marina Wheeler, instructed by the Treasury Solicitor
Counsel to the tribunal
Matrix Chambers’ Jonathan Glasson QC
This headline-making case has potential implications for all lawyers and is also being closely watched by human rights specialists.
Libyans Abdul-Hakim Belhaj and Sami al-Saadi and their families are suing the Government for its role in their alleged rendition and torture back to Libya. The Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) case centres around the security services’ use of legally privileged information.
The claimants allege that privileged communication may have been intercepted by the security services, and that the services do not have the proper procedures to protect this material.
Following the disclosure of documents late last year by MI5, MI6 and GCHQ, the claimants’ skeleton arguments alleged that the services had intentionally targeted and used privileged material.
Although the case is connected to a human rights suit, it could also affect commercial clients whose activities might be of interest to the security services.
Dexia Crediop SPA v Provincia Di Crotone
March, two to three weeks
For the claimants, Dexia Crediop
For the defendants, Provincia di Crotone
11 Stone Buildings’ Charles Samek QC and James Barnard, instructed by Pini Franco partner Nicole Hirst
Yet another case involving foreign parties sees banking group Dexia locked in a dispute with the southern Italian province of Crotone.
The dispute concerns three interest rate swap transactions entered into in 2007 to restructure Crotone’s €27m (£20.9m) borrowing from Dexia.
Crotone has defaulted and Dexia is claiming the substantial sums due under a swaps agreement. Crotone is counterclaiming for approximately €6m, arguing that Dexia made illicit profits from hidden costs embedded in the swaps and that the swaps are therefore void or voidable due to breaches of Italian law, lack of capacity and fraudulent
Dexia is a key lender in Italy and the case could set important precedents for other banking groups active in the country, which remains beset by economic crisis.
Bank Mellat v HM Treasury
March (preliminary hearings)
For the claimant, Bank Mellat
Fountain Court Chambers’ Michael Brindle QC and 11KBW’s Amy Rogers, instructed by Zaiwalla & Co partner Sarosh Zaiwalla
For the defendant, HM Treasury
39 Essex Street’s Steven Kovats QC, Fountain Court Chambers’ Patrick Goodall QC and 6KBW’s Julian Blake, instructed by the Treasury Solicitor
This key case involving Iranian Bank Mellat will return to the High Court after years of skirmishes. In 2013 the Supreme Court ruled that the case should be heard in public, rather than private, and found that the financial restrictions imposed by HM Treasury on the bank in 2009 were unlawful.
Bank Mellat is now seeking damages of £2.3bn from the Government which it says it incurred following the sanctions.
The Treasury imposed a ban restricting trading with Bank Mellat as it claimed the bank financed companies involved in Iran’s nuclear weapons programme. The bank denies the claims, and says that the sanctions caused the loss of businesses, relationships and dealing services.
Barclays Bank plc v Lester Charles Landgraf, Londell McMillan and Elias Farrah
5 May 2015, seven to nine days
For the claimant, Barclays Bank plc
Fountain Court Chambers’ Guy Philipps QC and Adam Zellick instructed bypartner Richard Clayton
For the defendants, Lester Charles Landgraf, Londell McMillan and Lewis Rosenbloom
4 Stone Buildings’ John Brisby QC and Alexander Cook, instructed by Candey partner Andrew Dunn
For the defendant, Elias Farrah
4 New Square’s Dan Saoul, instructed by Signature Litigation partner Graham Huntley
This case will be of great interest to many in the legal profession. It relates to the May 2012 collapse of Dewey & LeBoeuf and sees the firm’s bank, Barclays, seek to recoup money from partners of the defunct firm.
When Dewey folded, over 200 partners owed Barclays Bank about $60m which they had borrowed to fund their equity contributions to the firm and which had been lost in the firm’s bankruptcy.
Issues under scrutiny will include partner loan programmes and the financing of equity contributions in LLPs. It could affect whether lending will continue to be available at all to those wishing to become or remain partners in professional firms.
Should the court side with the defendants’ contention that the money cannot be recovered from partners, it is likely to make banks reluctant to lend money for capital contributions in the future.
[This case has been updated from an earlier version to reflect changes in advisers for the claimants and for Elias Farrah, who were originally represented by Richard Clayton at TLT Solicitors and Candey respectively]
Sabre Oil & Gas v Standard Bank Plc
3 June, five weeks
For the claimant, Sabre Oil & Gas
One Essex Court’s Laurence Rabinowitz QC instructed by King & Spalding partner Sarah Walker
For the defendant, Standard Bank plc
Brick Court Chambers’ Mark Howard QC and Roger Masefield QC instructed by Herbert Smith Freehills partner Damien Byrne-Hill
This is a multi-million pound claim arising out of the sale of an oil company investing in the Jubilee offshore oil field in Ghana.
The field was discovered in 2007 and commercial pumping began three years later.
Petro SA, South Africa’s national oil company, purchased Sabre Oil & Gas Holdings in 2012, giving it a stake in the oil field. Petro SA also bought out Sabre’s interest in the Deepwater Tano and Ghana’s West Cape Three Points blocks.
The deal has proved contentious, with Petro SA hit with corruption allegations and put under investigation by the country’s anti-corruption police unit.
Orientfield Holdings Ltd v Bird & Bird
15 June, five days
For the claimant, Orientfield Holdings
For the defendant, Bird & Bird
Wilberforce Chambers’ Joanna Smith QC and Tiffany Scott instructed by Triton Global director Michael Robin
This is one of a number of professional negligence claims set to be heard this year. Bird & Bird faces a £2m claim over the sale of a £25m, seven-bedroom house in St John’s Wood.
British Virgin Islands company Orientfield Holdings was planning to buy the property as an investment, but pulled out when it discovered that a nearby school was to be redeveloped as an academy.
Orientfield claims that Bird & Bird failed to pass on information about the school development, which led to it losing its £2m deposit.
The property has since been sold to Rupert Murdoch’s daughter Elisabeth for £38.5m.
Banco Santander Totta v Companhia Carris De Ferro de Lisboa SA & Ors
October, seven weeks
For the claimants, Banco Santander Totta
One Essex Court’s Lawrence Rabinowitz QC, 3 Verulam Buildings’ John Odgers QC and One Essex Court’s Alexander Polley, instructed by Slaughter and May partner Ewan Brown
For the defendants, Companhia Carris De Ferro de Lisboa SA & Ors
Banco Santander Totta is bringing five claims against four Portuguese public transport companies in a case set against the background of low European interest rates.
Between them the transport companies undertook nine derivative transactions with the bank, which have resulted in them paying interest rates under some swap contracts of more than 40 per cent despite Euribor rates sitting at less than 1 per cent.
The bank is seeking a declaration in the English courts that the swap agreements entered into by the companies are binding. It is also seeking damages from the companies.
The principal issues that will be examined during the trial concern the capacity of the companies to enter into the transactions and the application of mandatory provisions of Portuguese law to the governing ISDA contracts.
Cattles plc v PricewaterhouseCoopers
5 October, 16 weeks
Commercial Court, judge TBC but Mr Justice Andrew Smith has dealt with issues to date
For the claimants, Cattles plc
7KBW’s Jonathan Gaisman QC, Rebecca Sabben-Clare QC, Josephine Higgs and Adam Turner instructed by Ashurst partner James Levy
For the defendants, PricewaterhouseCoopers
4 New Square’s Justin Fenwick QC and Graham Chapman QC, Brick Court Chambers’ Mark Hapgood QC and Thomas Plewman SC, and One Essex Court’s Alexander Polley instructed by Taylor Wessing partner Andrew Howell
In one of the highest-value auditors’ negligence cases to be brought for some time, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) is facing a £1.6bn claim.
The case arises from the collapse of sub-prime lender Welcome Finance, a subsidiary of financial services group Cattles. The claimants allege that PwC was negligent in its audit of Welcome’s accounts for the financial years ending 2006 and 2007.
Cattles suspended lending through Welcome in 2009 and closed it to new business.
The Financial Services Compensation Scheme declared Welcome in default in March 2011, saying it was unlikely to be able to pay claims against it in relation to payment protection insurance (PPI).
The case is likely to revisit and clarify the law relating to claims against auditors – ahead of a predicted wave of auditors’ negligence cases relating to the collapses of other corporates in the wake of the financial crisis.
Street Map v Google / Foundem v Google
26 October, six weeks
Chancery Division, Mr Justice Roth
For the claimant, Foundem
Brick Court Chambers’ Helen Davies QC and David Bailey, instructed by Sidley Austin partner Steven Pitt and senior associate John Bedford
For the claimant, Street Map
Brick Court Chambers’ Mark Hoskins QC, Maya Lester and David Bailey, instructed by Sidley Austin partner Tim Cowen and senior associate John Bedford
For the defendant, Google
Monckton Chambers’ Jon Turner QC and Josh Holmes and Brick Court Chambers’ Robert O’Donoghue, instructed by Bristows partner Pat Treacy
This litigation brought by price comparison site Foundem and online mapping site Street Map against Google is the first English case alleging abusive conduct on the part of the search engine.
The two sites are bringing multi-million pound damages claims against Google alleging abuse of dominance in the way in which Google operates its search engine. Both allege that Google favours its own products over those of third parties. Mr Justice Roth has ordered that the trials run back to back.
The cases are running in parallel with a European Commission investigation into Google’s conduct, and Roth J has exchanged information with the commission about the proceedings.
Peak Hotels and Resorts Ltd v Tarek Investments Ltd, Sherway Group Ltd & Ors
9 November, five weeks
For the claimants, Peak Hotels & Resorts Ltd and the part 20 defendant Omar Amanat
4 Stone Buildings’ John Brisby QC, Richard Hill QC and Alexander Cook, instructed by Candey partners Ashkhan Candey and Andrew Dunn
For the defendant, Tarek Investments
Brick Court Chambers’ Mark Howard QC and One Essex Court’s David Caplan, instructed by Herbert Smith Freehills partner Paula Hodges QC and Jeremy Garson
For the defendants, Sherway Group and Johan Eliasch
Fountain Court Chambers’ Michael Brindle QC, Paul Sinclair and Adam Zellick, instructed by Berwin Leighton Paisner partners Michael Polonsky and Graham Shear
For the part 20 defendant, Lalit Modi
Maitland Chambers’ Catherine Newman QC and Gregory Banner, instructed by Kerman & Co partner John Evans
An international line-up features in this case. Related proceedings are ongoing in other jurisdictions including the British Virgin Islands, Hong Kong and New York.
Peak Hotels and Resorts is a party to a joint venture which acquired the Aman Resorts group of luxury hotels in January 2014.
It is suing its joint venture partner Tarek Investments, alleging that the company conspired with logistics company Sherway, which provided a debt facility for the deal, to breach shareholder agreements related to the joint venture.
Peak Hotels claims it is entitled to exercise rights under a mandatory share transfer clause to buy Tarek’s stake in the joint venture at a substantial discount and to rescind the debt facility provided by Sherway.
Tarek and Sherway deny the allegations and Tarek is counterclaiming against Peak Hotels for damages for breaches of the shareholder agreement.
Meanwhile Sherway is counterclaiming for relief relating to the debt facility, and has brought part 20 claims against former Peak Hotels director Omar Amanat and the former commissioner of cricket’s Indian Premier League, Lalit Modi.
(1) Antonio Caliendo (2) Barnaby Holdings LLC v Mishcon de Reya (and its professional indemnity insurers)
30 November, 10 days
For the claimant, Antonio Caliendo and Barnaby Holdings
11 Stone Buildings’ Alan Gourgey QC and 4 New Square’s Graham Chapman QC, instructed by DLA Piper partner Mark Goodwin
For the defendant, Mishcon de Reya
Wilberforce Chambers’ Ian Croxford QC and Clare Stanley, instructed by Triton Global partner Michael Robin
In another high-profile professional negligence case Mishcon de Reya is facing a claim from the former chair of Queens Park Rangers (QPR) football club, Antonio Caliendo. The case relates to the sale of the club to Italian businessman Flavio Briatore and Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone in 2007.
Caliendo and Barnaby Holdings are claiming that Mishcon negligently failed to incorporate a term that would have given Caliendo a big bonus if QPR got into the premier division, and that it failed to make provision for the repayment of debts by QPR to Brazilian football team manager Carlos Dunga.
The case will examine situations where a solicitor may owe a duty of care to a third party which is inconsistent to the duty of care the solicitor will owe to their own client.
Caliendo and Barnaby Holdings have secured a conditional fee arrangement (CFA) with DLA Piper to fund the litigation. Last year Mr Justice Hildyard ruled that the claimants would be allowed to keep the CFA and related after-the-event insurance, despite missing the required deadline to inform the defendants of the funding arrangements.
Ecotricity Group Ltd & The Electric Highway Company Ltd v Tesla Motors Inc & Tesla Motors Netherlands BV
18 December (preliminary issues)
Chancery Division, Mrs Justice Rose
For the claimants, Ecotricity Group Ltd & the Electric Highway Company Ltd
Matrix Chambers’ Rhodri Thompson QC and Nicholas Gibson, instructed by Lewis Silkin partner Adam Glass (competition issues); 3 Hare Court’s Peter Knox QC and Rupert Butler, instructed by Lewis Silkin partner Adam Glass (non-competition issues)
For the defendants, Tesla Motors Inc & Tesla Motors Netherlands BV
Monckton Chambers’ Paul Harris QC and Ronit Kreisberger, instructed by Osborne Clarke partner Charlie Wedin
To date there have been few cases focusing on the developing world of green energy, and this case will have interest for anyone involved in the sector.
Green energy supplier Ecotricity has invested in a network of charging stations around the UK which are intended to promote the use of electric vehicles. Originally it was teaming up with electric car manufacturer Tesla, which was founded by PayPal co-founder Elon Musk, to use Tesla’s superchargers. However an email was allegedly sent by mistake from Tesla to Ecotricity, suggesting that Tesla wanted to persuade motorway service stations to break off their contract with the supplier.
Ecotricity promptly filed for an injunction preventing Tesla from using information it picked up during the two companies’ relationship and is suing Tesla for breach of non-disclosure agreements, while Tesla is challenging the exclusivity of Ecotricity’s network.
The case will apply competition law to exclusive agreements for the use of land, a rare test, which will make this case important not only for the electric vehicles market but also competition law more broadly.
Kesabo & Ors v African Barrick Gold plc and North Mara Gold Mine Ltd
TBC, three months
Queens Bench Division
For the claimants, Kesabo and Ors
Matrix Chambers’ Richard Hermer QC and Samantha Knights, and Blackstone Chambers’ Tom Hickman, instructed by Leigh Day partner Shanta Martin
For the defendants, African Barrick Gold plc and North Mara Gold Mine Ltd
Fountain Court Chambers’ Bankim Thanki QC and Simon Atrill and Henderson Chambers’ Andrew Kinnier, instructed by Quinn Emanuel partners Richard East, Sue Prevezer QC and Ted Greeno
The year’s top cases are rounded off by another dispute involving Africa. This three-month trial is a class action case, brought by illegal prospectors to the site of a gold mine in Tanzania who were injured or killed by Tanzanian police and private security guards.
The claims involve issues as to the extent to which private entities can be liable for the acts of law enforcement agencies, and the application of the Act of State doctrine in that context, as well as the potential liability of an English parent company for such acts in Tanzania. It also involves disputes on the facts, regarding whether the circumstances relate to a mass violation of human rights or the lawful response to an armed invasion.
The events have been the subject of questions in Parliament, and the outcome is expected to have implications for English companies – particularly in the mining, energy and natural resource sectors – operating in areas of conflict throughout the world.