Commercial disputes

Members of Wilberforce Chambers have extensive experience in dealing with commercial disputes, in court, in arbitrations and in mediations, both in the UK and internationally.   From questions of interpretation to the assessment of damages, the set offers first-rate representation and advice.   As a commercial chancery set, Wilberforce Chambers offers particular expertise in commercial contract disputes involving equitable issues, such as estoppel, rectification and trusts.

Our strength is having the combined expertise in the different areas of law that are often present in complex business and commercial situations. This together with genuine international and offshore experience, if the dispute has multi-jurisdictional aspects, helps to meet client demand for specialist assistance in resolving commercial disputes.

Members can assist with issues such as:

  • The interpretation of complex contractual documentation and the implication of terms therein;
  • Questions of misrepresentation, mistake and deceit;
  • Issues of breach and repudiation;
  • Frustration and force majeure;
  • Capacity;
  • Illegality;
  • Estoppel and rectification; and
  • Matters relating to losses, damages and restitution.

Rankings and recognition

Wilberforce is ranked as a leading set for commercial dispute resolution in both Chambers & Partners and The Legal 500.

Chambers & Partners UK Bar 2024: An impressive set, noted for its expertise in complex commercial chancery litigation arising in the UK and across several international and offshore jurisdictions. The team is regularly instructed in company, insolvency and civil fraud disputes, and offers considerable strength when undertaking complex commercial litigation involving elements of pensions, trusts and property law. One instructing solicitor notes: “The set is always my first port of call. It has a large stable of barristers so there’s always someone at the right level whether I need a silk or junior.” Members are instructed in high-profile matters of the greatest complexity including Tulip LLP v Bitcoin Association, a multibillion-pound cryptocurrency claim, and Suppipat & others v Narondej & 16 others, a matter concerning an alleged fraud arising out of the sale of Thaland’s largest wind energy company. ‘One of the top sets for offshore counsel.’

The Legal 500 UK 2024: One of the largest commercial Chancery chambers in London, Wilberforce Chambers houses ‘a lot of good people for commercial disputes‘. Recent highlights include Alan Gourgey KC, in Arma Partners Limited v Wejo Limited, defending approximately £16m claims over a SPAC transaction, a relatively rare incident of litigation over special purposes acquisition companies. In Suppipat & others v Narongdej & 16 othersTim Penny KC was leading counsel for the main defendant (as well as the 17th defendant) in a $2bn claim, which arose from an alleged fraud involving a Thai wind farm company. In a boost to the set’s silk ranks, Thomas Grant KC, who has particular experience in heavyweight, multi-party disputes, joined from Maitland Chambers in October 2022.

Chambers Bar Awards 2023: Wilberforce wins Set of the Year and Chancery Set of the Year

Chambers Bar Awards 2023Tim Penny KC wins Chancery Silk of the Year

The Legal 500 Bar Awards 2022: Wilberforce wins Chancery Set of the Year

Chambers Bar Awards 2022Clare Stanley KC wins Chancery Silk of the Year

Chambers Bar Awards 2021Thomas Grant KC wins Chancery Silk of the Year

Notable cases

Derma Med Ltd v Ally [2024]

An important Court of Appeal case. The first instance judge had set aside and refused to continue a without notice non-compete and confidentiality injunction on grounds of alleged breaches of the duty of full and frank disclosure and the supposed adequacy of damages. The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal, and made some important comments concerning (1) the need for “a sense of proportion in complex cases” when considering lack of fair presentation complaints and (2), more generally, about the appropriateness of interim injunctions in non-compete cases.

Read the full judgment

Lim and others v Ong [2024]

The Defendant was sentenced to 22 months immediate imprisonment in respect of a vast array of contempts of court, including dealing and dissipating assets in breach of a worldwide freezing order, providing inaccurate ancillary asset disclosure inflating his true asset position, providing false affidavit evidence seeking to justify dissipation, and 59 breaches of the standard form weekly living allowance.

The underlying claim pertained to a property investment fraud perpetrated by the first defendant, and orchestrated through a group of companies (some, but not all of which, were defendants to the proceedings). The defendants were the subject of a wide ranging worldwide freezing order and other injunctions including a quia timet injunction with respect to directorships of certain SPVs.

Read the full judgment

Transwaste Recycling and Aggregates Ltd [2024]

A three-week trial of an unfair prejudice petition concerning a waste management company. The judgment addresses in detail issues of perennial interest to the company lawyer: the meaning of unfair prejudice; the interaction between the s.994 jurisdiction and shareholders’ agreements; the appropriate relief to a minority shareholder; the date of valuation; and whether the shareholding should be valued taking into account a minority discount.

Read the full judgment

JSC BTA Bank v Sabyrbaev and others [2024]

Judgment handed down by the BVI Commercial Court in what is the latest episode in the global Ablyazov litigation; in this claim against 54 defendants, Kazakhstan’s BTA Bank alleges it has been the victim of a fraudulent scheme involving the issue of high letters of credit resulting in losses of approximately US$230 million.

The judgment provides a comprehensive survey of the law applicable to service out of the jurisdiction in the BVI, including the duty of full and frank disclosure, and provides a salutary warning to litigants seeking to use BVI incorporated ‘Anchor Defendants’ as a hook through which to bring their real targets within the jurisdiction of the BVI courts.

Read the full judgment

Lazarichev & Ors v Lyndou [2024]

This case presented what is believed to be the first opportunity to consider the question of whether “resident” within the meaning of r25.13(2)(a) means “lawfully resident”.

Read the full judgment

Knell v Van Loo [2023]

This case involved a 7-day trial of an unfair prejudice petition, followed by a one-day quantum hearing. The petition was brought by minority shareholders in respect of two substantial property developments; at trial the Deputy Judge found numerous incidents of unfair prejudice, including a failure on behalf of the board to exercise valuable contractual rights held by the Company. Whilst the Company was heavily balance-sheet insolvent, the Deputy Judge granted a buy-out order in the Petitioners’ favour, on the basis that the Company be valued as if the unfairly prejudicial acts had not occurred, and, in addition, that part of the Company’s debt be ignored for the purposes of the buy-out order.

Read the full judgment

CLO HoldCo Limited v Highland CLO Funding Limited [2023]

The Royal Court of Guernsey dismisses a substantial unfair prejudice application, which represents a key aspect of multi-faceted ongoing litigation connected with the bankruptcy in the US of once high-flying billion-dollar investment firm Highland Capital Management LP. 

The judgment contains interesting discussion of (i) whether breach of a duty to act in good faith necessarily amounts to bad faith, and (ii) the circumstances in which equitable considerations may have a place in governing the proper conduct of the affairs of a company.

Read the full judgment

Kirtanlal International DMCC v State Bank Of India (DIFC Branch) [2023]

Judgment has been handed down in the Court of First Instance of the DIFC by Justice Sir Jeremy Cooke.

Kirtanlal International DMCC, a steel trading company, brought a claim for damages of USD 18.51m in relation to what it said was the unlawful termination of its facility agreement with the Defendant bank. Kirtanlal claimed that the Bank acted in breach of a duty of good faith and/or a Braganza duty, alleging malice on the part of the Bank. Kirtanlal also alleged that there were breaches of tortious, fiduciary and regulatory duties by the Bank.

The Court rejected the $18.5 million damages claim.

Read the full judgment

FamilyMart Holding v Ting Chuan [2023]

A Privy Council judgment delivered simultaneously with the Supreme Court decision in Republic of Mozambique v Credit Suisse International. Lord Hodge delivered two important judgments on how to define and identify the “matters” which give rise to stay of legal proceedings in favour of arbitration (in England under Section 9 Arbitration Act 1996) and certain other related issues. In doing so, these Courts have dropped the overly “granular” approach adopted by English Courts recently and opted for a more nuanced and analytical approach favoured by the Australian courts. The legal analysis in the two decisions is more or less identical.

Read the full judgment

Invest Bank v El-Husseini [2023]

In a judgment handed down on 20 September 2023 following the trial of preliminary issues, the Deputy Judge of the Commercial Court held that it is not a rule of private international law that a final and binding foreign judgment on the merits must be enforceable in the foreign jurisdiction before it could be the subject of an application to ‘enforce’ the foreign judgment in this jurisdiction by a claim at common law, and dismissed the sixth defendant’s application to set aside a default judgment the claimant had obtained against the first defendant, as (i) there was accordingly no arguable defence, and (ii) the sixth defendant had not satisfied the Denton criteria.

Read the full judgment

Eva Green v White Lantern Film and SMC Speciality Finance LLC [2023]

A high-profile contractual claim brought by Hollywood actress Eva Green against film producers. She claimed she was entitled to her million-dollar fee for the film, despite its cancellation, under the terms of their agreement.

Read the full judgment

 

Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank PJSC v Shetty & others [2022]

A US$1 Billion damages claim, which arose out of the collapse of NMC PLC, a former FTSE 100 company, and its operating subsidiaries in the UAE, all of which are now in administration in England and Wales and the UAE. The claimant is an Abu Dhabi-based bank, and the first to third defendants are the former private shareholders in NMC PLC. The Bank alleged that the defendants are responsible, with others, for a serious fraud that appears to have taken place within the NMC Group of companies. The defendants all deny involvement in the fraud.

Read the full judgment

 

Raiffeisen Bank v. Scully Royalty Ltd & Others [2022]

A multi-million euro, multi-faceted fraud claim in the Cayman Islands that made new law on the Cayman Fraudulent Dispositions Law.

Read the full judgment

 

Steenbok Newco and another v Formal Holdings and others [2022]

South Africa’s largest ever private sector accounting fraud scandal. Alleged payments totalling approximately €95 million are said to have been made fraudulently. The case raises issues of German, Austrian, Swiss and BVI law.

The Libyan Investment Authority v Credit Suisse and others [2021]

The latest chapter in the long running and high-profile litigation instigated by the LIA seeking to recoup funds invested during the Gaddafi dictatorship in Libya. Successfully defended fraud and corruption claims to the value of £200m.

Read the full judgment

AHAB v SAAD [2021]

One of the largest frauds ever perpetrated involving some 118 banks which together lent a total of $126 billion over two decades.

 

Meridian Trust v Eike Batista [2020]

A case involving the first statutory free-standing worldwide freezing order in Cayman. The first common law case in which a freezing injunction was granted over claims for American treble damages under RICO. Fraud resulted in losses of $5bn, with the lead claim being for $60m.

Read the full judgment

Grupo Mexico v Registrar of Companies [2020]

Court of Appeal case concerning the question of the Court’s power to order rectification of the register to reverse the administrative restoration of an LLP where the restoration had been obtained through the provision of fraudulent material.

Read the judgment

 

Lemos v Blue Diamond Corporation and Stegasis Corporation [2020]

A complex multi-jurisdictional case involving one of Greece’s largest shipping families and their ownership of shares in two Liberian Corporations, which raises multiple conflicts of law issues and matters relating to fraudulent misappropriation of shares.

Read the full judgment

Takhar v Gracefield Developments Limited [2019]

Supreme Court case establishing that a person who applies to set aside an earlier judgment on the basis of fraud does not have to demonstrate that the evidence of this fraud could not have been obtained with reasonable diligence before the earlier trial.

Read the full judgment

Naftogaz v Gazprom [2019]

Resisting an application in the Commercial Court for immediate enforcement of an arbitral award of almost $3 billion granted in an SCC arbitration.

KeyMed Ltd v Michael Woodford and Paul Hillman [2018]

One of The Lawyer’s “Top 20 Cases of 2018”. Claims against the former Managing Director and Finance Director of the Claimant company for breach of duty and conspiracy, in connection with benefits provided to the directors from the Claimant company’s pension scheme.

Read the full judgment

 

Cavendish Square Holding BV v Makdessi [2015]

Supreme Court case; acting on behalf of Cavendish in relation to the continued existence of the doctrine of penalties in both commercial and consumer contracts.

Read the full judgment

Insights View all thought leadership

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    Articles

    A Nigerian tragedy: how to set aside a US$11 billion arbitral award

    John Grocott-Barrett and Ernest Leung have written an article for TL4’s FIRE Starters magazine on ‘A Nigerian tragedy: how to set aside a US$11 billion arbitral award’, where they analyse Federal Republic of Nigeria v Process and Industrial Developments Limited.... Read more

    By John Grocott-Barrett | Ernest Leung
    Monday 4 March 2024

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    Recent Cases

    Lim and others v Ong

    Civil fraud and asset recovery, Commercial disputes, Company law

    James Bailey KC | James Goodwin
    Wednesday 21 February 2024

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    Recent Cases

    Judgment handed down in Transwaste Recycling and Aggregates Ltd

    Company law, Commercial disputes

    Thomas Grant KC
    Monday 19 February 2024

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    Recent Cases

    JSC BTA Bank v Sabyrbaev and others

    Civil fraud and asset recovery, Banking and financial services, Commercial disputes, International / offshore

    Thomas Grant KC | Tara Taylor
    Friday 9 February 2024

    View more

View all thought leadership

Upcoming events View all events

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    External Conferences

    TL4 Disputes ESG Litigation 2nd Annual Summit 2024

    Tuesday 12th March 2024
    Ironmongers' Hall, London

    Speakers:
    Jessica Brooke

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    Events / Webinars

    Civil Fraud Conference 2024

    Thursday 4th July 2024 | 12.15pm - 6pm, followed by drinks and canapés
    The View at The Royal College of Surgeons

    Price TBC

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Past events View all past events

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    External Conferences

    TL4 – KC Surgery: Asset Recovery

    Tuesday 28th November 2023
    Central London

    Speakers:
    Thomas Grant KC | Tim Penny KC | Jessica Brooke | Elizabeth Houghton

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    Events / Webinars

    Wilberforce Fraud, Trusts & Asset Recovery Conference 2023

    Wednesday 8th November 2023 | 12.45pm - 5.30pm, followed by drinks
    Courthouse Hotel Shoreditch, London

    £120 + VAT | 3.5 CPD

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    Events / Webinars

    Wilberforce Guernsey Conference 2023

    Thursday 19th October 2023 | 3.30pm- 6.20pm, followed by a drinks reception
    The Old Government House Hotel & Spa, St Peter Port

    Free to attend | 2.0 CPD

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    Events / Webinars

    Wilberforce Jersey Conference 2023

    Wednesday 18th October 2023 | 3.30pm - 6.20pm, followed by a drinks reception
    Grand Jersey Hotel & Spa, St. Helier

    Free to attend | 2.0 CPD

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