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Trusts, probate and estates: contentious, International / offshoreWednesday 20 December 2023

Supreme Court judgment handed down in Byers v Saudi National Bank

Brian Green KC, leading Alan Roxburgh of Brick Court, acted for the successful respondent before the Supreme Court (as they had previously in the Court of Appeal) in the now leading knowing receipt case of Byers v Saudi National Bank [2023] UKSC 51 (judgment handed down 20 December 2023), in which the Supreme Court has now definitively stated the proprietary basis of such relief, and rejected the submission that it is a remedial response to unconscionability.  Lord Briggs explained that the case had “forced the court to revisit the most basic equitable principles which underlie a claim in knowing receipt, not least because it cannot be said that the issue has ever been squarely addressed by this court or its predecessor.”

Following a wide-ranging analysis, Lord Briggs concluded that a knowing receipt claim was based on the “vindication of an equitable proprietary right” (including in cases where such claims are brought by companies in respect of property hitherto beneficially owned by them).  Lord Burrows who also gave a full judgment in which the proprietary basis of the claim was affirmed, categorised a knowing receipt claim as “an equitable proprietary wrong”.  Lord Hodge (with whom Lords Leggatt and Stephens agreed) provided a summary of his own, preferring Lord Briggs’ categorisation, whilst leaving that of Lord Burrows for consideration on another day.  Similarly left for another day was whether the appellants might have had more success had they pleaded their case in unjust enrichment, which they had not done and are now time-barred from doing.   So ends 10 years of litigation with this matter, having started life as Akers v Samba Financial Group and in that form also previously having reached the Supreme Court [2017] UKSC 6 (where Brian and Alan also successfully appeared), now definitively concluded in favour of the respondent bank.

Brian was instructed by Oliver Browne of Latham & Watkins in this case.

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