Stewarts has three cases listed in this year’s list, spanning the firm’s commercial, banking and tax expertise.

Each year, The Lawyer analyses all cases due before the English courts and highlights 20 of the biggest, longest or most significant.


Stanford International Bank v HSBC Plc

Elaina Bailes, Laura Jenkins and Harry Spendlove are mentioned for their work representing Stanford International Bank in a dispute against HSBC. The Lawyer explains:

“A dispute over a $7bn Ponzi scheme sees Stewarts take on Eversheds Sutherland this year, as the liquidators of Stanford International Bank (SIB) allege HSBC breached its duty and failed to check money was being properly paid out from its accounts. The liquidators at Grant Thornton believe SIB suffered a loss of £118m when it emerged funds had been paid to existing investors out of subscriptions received from new ones. They argue HSBC should have identified issues with SIB’s accounts by 2008 and frozen them. SIB is now understood to be insolvent by around $5bn, while its owner Robert Allen Stanford was convicted of fraud in 2012 and handed a 110-year sentence.

“There has already been some court action in this case, as HSBC last year applied to strike out, or obtain summary judgment, on two aspect of the claims. While striking out SIB’s accusation of dishonest assistance, HSBC failed on the breach of duty (Quincecare) point, meaning the case can proceed. Both parties will appeal aspects of the decision in March, while the main trial is scheduled for October.

“The case is expected to provide clarification for banks on the scope of their duty, as HSBC argues that SIB suffered no loss given its insolvent status. Another key focal point is SIB’s claim of collective dishonest assistance against HSBC, due to a lack of evidence towards one individual. Though it was struck out at first instance, the issue is likely to be reconsidered this year.”


Skatteforvaltningen (the Danish Customs and Tax Administration) v Solo Capital Partners LLP (in Special Administration) and ors

Keith Thomas and Laura Jenkins are featured for their work in the ongoing SKAT case, involving the Danish Customs and Tax Administration. This case is large and complex, involving several parties. The Lawyer says:

“It was no exaggeration in June 2020 when Mr Justice Baker described this case as ‘litigation on a massive scale’, with almost 100 defendants listed alongside more than 20 separate legal teams.

“Underpinning the matter of Skatteforvaltningen (the Danish Customs and Tax Administration) v Solo Capital Partners is an alleged £1.5bn fraud, relating to fraudulent applications to claim refunds of dividend withholding tax.

“The Kingdom of Denmark is the driving force behind the claim, while the lead defendant is a London-based hedge fund placed into special administration five years ago. Most of the defendants are alleged to have participated in the fraud, while claims have also been issued against others in respect of alleged negligence or unjust receipt of proceeds.

“The case has already produced several curveballs due to its sheer size and magnitude, and as the High Court attempts to manage what could be one of the largest trials ever heard, 2021 will see two major preliminary issues take place.”


McClean & Ors v Andrew Thornhill QC & Ors

James Le Gallais features for his work representing a group of claimants in a professional negligence claim against a barrister, which is related to film finance scheme investments. The Lawyer says:

“This £40m professional negligence claim against leading tax silk Andrew Thornhill QC will examine the extent to which barristers owe a duty to those who are not their clients but who were informed of, and relied upon, the advice given.

“The claim relates to advice Thornhill gave on a film finance scheme, which was created in the late 1990s to encourage investment in the UK film industry and allowed investors to buy up film rights and lease them back to the film company for profit. The rub arose because the investors were unaware of the tax liabilities stemming from their investments. This, they say, is because of negligent legal advice.

“The case will put the spotlight on the highly secretive and lucrative tax Bar and will have implications for all barristers, who so rarely come before the courts as defendants.”

The full list of the Top 20 cases can be found here (subscription required).



You can find further information regarding our expertise, experience and team on our Commercial Litigation, Banking and Financial Disputes, Securities Litigation, and our Tax Litigation and Investigations pages.

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