As originally published in The Lawyer 6 November 2014 – here

Stewarts appoints PwC lawyer as first tax litigation chief

Litigation boutique Stewarts has appointed partner David Pickstone from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Legal to head its new tax litigation group.

Pickstone has experience of acting for large corporates, financial institutions and high-net-worth individuals in tax disputes before the tax tribunals and in court.

He said the new group would focus on both commercial tax disputes such as those arising from the recent spike in miss-selling related to loss avoidance schemes, as well as disputes against HM Revenue & Customs.

The firm first mooted plans for a specialist practice to hone in on the swathe of tax-related cases hitting the courts in August (20 August 2014).

Pickstone said there were further laterals in the pipeline for the tax litigation team.

“The aim is to encourage organic growth by building on what we have already. There will be strategic hires and when we see a business need,” he said.

He said he would hope to maintain a relationship with PwC and the other big four firms, as well as the mid-tier accountants, but that it was not Stewarts’ intention to have one preferred source of work.

On the development of the team, Pickstone added: “Stewarts is good at spotting opportunities and taking these to market themselves. We have a couple of opportunities we’re looking at on both the corporate and HMRC side in the coming months.”

Last year Stewarts launched an international arbitration group with the hire of former Mayer Brown partner Philippa Charles (25 February 2013). The firm also launched an employment litigation group in 2010 with Simmons & Simmons associate Tim Spillane joining as a partner.

Its other groups include aviation, clinical negligence, divorce and family, international injury and personal injury. The firm’s strategy of targeting high-value litigation across a range of sectors has helped it quadruple its turnover from £11.9m to £45.2m between 2007/08 and 2012/13 (16 July 2014).

The structure of the firm’s offering has altered dramatically over the past five years, having strengthened its commercial litigation group to match its formerly personal-injury dominated practice.

Among its heavyweight cases is the shareholder battle brought against the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) (18 August 2014).

The firm was joined by Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan and Leon Kaye in fighting the bank over a 2008 rights issue prospectus which investors allege “material misstatements and omissions”, set to be a key fixture in the courts next year (18 September 2013).

Tax litigation is an increasing focus for litigation boutiques. Last year Pump Court Tax Chambers’ Graham Aaronson QC joined forces with former One Essex Court barrister Joe Hage and a team of tax litigators from Dorsey & Whitney to launch boutique Hage Aaronson, focusing on ultra high value disputes (11 March 2013).



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