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London and its globally respected courts remain popular venues for complex, high-stakes, high-value disputes, including litigation emanating from regions such as Russia and CIS, the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

English law also remains highly popular within the international arbitration world; London’s international arbitration practices are widely sought after, both for significant commercial and investment treaty work.

FIRMS IN THE SPOTLIGHT

Ronald Fletcher Baker

The promise of being professional, responsive and competitive is at the core of everything we do. This promise is never more important than when dealing with high value litigation where businesses or reputations are at stake. We have over 50 years experience in commercial litigation, including arbitration, intellectual property disputes, commercial fraud, international contractual and corporate disputes and matters involving regulatory investigations. The firm has been involved a number of leading cases in recent years including, the leading authority on director’s liability, a leading case on the effectiveness of retention of title clauses and a leading authority relating to implied terms into an option agreement. As a result, the firm is sought after by foreign governments, international corporate bodies, high net worth individuals and well known charities seeking the firm’s expertise in professional discipline.

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The London market’s top law firms continue to embrace contingency and conditional fees, with a number of legal practices distinguishing themselves through their relationships with third-party funders and the provision of innovative funding options.

Several London practices have reacted to the impact of economic uncertainty caused by the UK’s decision to exit the European Union; as a result of currency fluctuations, many international clients with cross-border contracts have sought advice on potential contractual disputes arising from Brexit.

Notwithstanding the passing of several years, contractual disputes emanating from the 2008 global financial crisis continue to feed London’s litigators with a range of high-profile instructions, such as ongoing Lehman-related issues, while banking-related scandals, such as LIBOR, FX benchmarking, interest rate swap mis-selling, and PPI, including investigations and related enforcements, frequently led to potential claims against companies, directors and advisers. Group claims have also kept several firms busy, such as the shareholder and investor group claims against the RBS Group in relation to its 2008 £12bn rights issue.

Notable recent developments saw The Court of Appeal’s 2017 unanimous upholding of the Commercial Court decision from the first trial heard within the new Financial List: Banco Santander Totta v Companhia Carris De Ferro de Lisboa SA & Others, which concerned the validity of derivative transactions entered into by Portuguese public transport companies and Banco Santander Totta. The Financial List is based in the Rolls Building, which houses the Commercial Court, the Technology and Construction Court, the courts of the Chancery Division and the Mercantile Court. It is a specialist cross-jurisdictional list announced in late 2015 by the Lord Chief Justice to address the particular business needs of parties that litigate on financial matters. It is used for financial claims of £50m or more, or cases that raise issues concerning the equity, derivatives, FX and commodities markets.

Other market initiatives coming to fruition included the first case to proceed from start to finish under the shorter and flexible trials pilot scheme, which High Court judges introduced into the Rolls Building’s courts in 2015 to make business litigation simpler and more economical. In the recent case of National Bank of Abu Dhabi PJSC v BP Oil International Ltd, the high-value claim was resolved in just nine months, from commencement of the claim to the trial of only one day.

The headline market news of the year was King & Wood Mallesons’ (KWM) UK, Europe and Middle East operations going into administration; this marked the largest ever UK law firm collapse. Consequently, Rachel Couter joined Osborne Clarke LLP and Paul Stothard went to Norton Rose Fulbright’s Dubai office. KWM’s former litigation head Craig Pollack, as well as partners Louise Freeman, Ian Hargreaves and Greg Lascelles, also left the firm. KWM Europe LLP was launched, retaining international arbitration specialists Andrei Yakovlev and Dorothy Murray.

Other significant legal market news saw a three-way merger between CMS with Nabarro and Olswang; this created the sixth-largest law firm in the UK by revenue, the sixth largest in the world by lawyer headcount, and created a high-value contentious practice, with a significant proportion of litigators based in London. Additional notable international mergers included London-based Curtis Davis Garrard and Texas-headquartered Haynes and Boone, LLP joining up to become Haynes and Boone CDG, LLP; and Atlanta-based law firm Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP, which was founded over 90 years ago, teaming up with British multinational law firm, Eversheds LLP to become Eversheds Sutherland.

Other US law firms making inroads into the UK litigation market include the oldest Wall Street firm still in existence,Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP, which recently hired Bird & Bird LLP’s former international disputes practice head Steven Baker to establish its own London international dispute resolution practice.

Also of note, several litigators, who work for both US and UK-based dispute resolution practices, apply to take silk each year. Recent additions include Herbert Smith Freehills LLP’s Adam Johnson QC, John Savage QC at King & Spalding LLP, and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom (UK) LLP’s David Kavanagh QC.

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Legal Developments in London for Overview

  • US rules regarding offshore accounts

    The Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act 2010, enacted on 18 March 2010, imposes a new US withholding tax and reporting regime, known as the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA). The FATCA regime applies generally to payments made after 31 December 2012, except on obligations (to be defined in future guidance) outstanding on 18 March 2012. Substantial effort is required by foreign entities to bring their worldwide operations and policies into compliance with the FATCA rules as of the effective date.

    - Jones Day

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