Conflicts, Bank Panel Appointments and a contested jurisdiction application

An attempt to challenge the jurisdiction of the English Court in proceedings issued against a Scottish Law Firm recently failed.

In Holgate v Addleshaw Goddard (Scotland) LLP), proceedings were issued against a law firm in connection with advice it gave to the joint administrators of Arthur Holgate & Son (an English company now in liquidation). 

The primary claim centred around an alleged conflict arising from the firm’s panel arrangement with Barclays in seeking to advise the Joint Administrators (also on the panel) on a potential interest rate swap mis-selling claim against the bank. The Joint Administrators, based in Scotland, did not pursue a claim, but subsequent liquidators did and they secured a large settlement. Two sets of proceedings were issued, one against the firm, and a second against the Joint Administrators, in misfeasance. Both claims were issued in England, and the Court held that that was the correct place for both to be heard.

In the case of the claim against the Joint Administrators, this claim arose out of the insolvency, which was proceeding in England. Therefore the English Court had exclusive jurisdiction to demine this claim.

As for the claim against the Law Firm (based in Scotland), this also should be heard in England. The misfeasance claim against the administrators amounted to “anchor” proceedings and the claims were so closely connected they should be heard and determined together. However, even if that was not the case, jurisdiction could in any case be conferred on the English Court based on the “place of performance”. Here, despite both the law firm and the Joint Administrators being based in Scotland, the place of performance was England as the Joint Administrators received their advice as agents for the Company.  The Company was in England.

This application looks to be the beginnings of some lively contested proceedings – in the judgment it is apparent a limitation point may also turn on whether English or Scottish law applies and no doubt that was one factor behind the decision to try and have the claim heard in Scotland. It will be interesting to see how the substantive dispute itself unfolds.

Holgate v Addleshaw Goddard (Scotland) LLP [2019] EWHC 1793 (Ch)

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