James specialises in commercial and private client litigation. His practice encompasses commercial disputes, civil fraud, art and cultural property, banking and financial services, company disputes, insolvency, trust disputes, and will and estates disputes.
He is recommended in Chambers and Partners, The Legal 500, and Chambers High Net Worth, where he is described as “hugely clever, hugely personable, and brilliant at presenting a case in a way that a judge can easily grasp and be persuaded by”, and “very much one to watch”, identifying his “excellent legal knowledge and manner with clients” and “great attention to detail”.
James is experienced in acting as sole counsel in cases across his areas of specialism, and regularly appears in court, both at interim hearings and at trial. James also very frequently acts as part of a counsel team in substantial and complex disputes. Many of his cases involve working with lawyers and clients from other jurisdictions, in matters involving international and conflict of laws elements. He has particular recent experience of disputes taking place in Guernsey, Jersey, The Bahamas, Bermuda, and Hong Kong.
Litigation is expensive, and James is concerned that high quality legal representation should not be the preserve of the wealthy alone. James acts for a wide variety of clients, of diverse types and diverse means. Where appropriate, he is willing to act pro bono or under conditional fee agreements for individuals or small businesses with limited financial resources. If you would like to explore this, please contact James's clerks.
Areas of experience
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James has rapidly developed a specialism in art and cultural property matters. He is recommended by the The Legal 500 as a “Rising Star” in this area, where he is described as “very much one to watch” and “hugely clever, hugely personable, and brilliant at presenting a case in a way that a judge can easily grasp and be persuaded by“.
James’s work in this area has included cases concerning ownership disputes, auctions, fraud, and commission and agency agreements.
Notable cases include:
Winehouse v Parry and Gourlay (High Court, 2023 and ongoing): James acts for the estate of the late singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse in this dispute arising out of the auction of numerous fashion items and other property belonging to Amy following her death.
A High Court dispute in which James acted for an art dealership seeking rescission and damages against an internationally acclaimed fine-art photographer on the basis of fraudulent misrepresentations and dishonest auction practices.
Acting for the owner of a very valuable sculpture by a renowned artist (worth c. £4 million) in a dispute concerning the terms upon which the sculpture could be resold
Hutchcroft & anor v Barrett (High Court, 2021): James acted, led by Edward Cumming KC, for the owner of a substantial collection of valuable couture, in a dispute concerning the nature of payments totalling c £1.4m made by a dress agency in Kensington. The agency alleged that the payments were dishonestly procured loans.
Hindle v Kitching (Guernsey Royal Court, Guernsey Court of Appeal, 2020): James acted, assisting Advocate Alison Ozanne, in a case concerning the disputed ownership of a vintage Jaguar sports car.
James has a range of experience acting for investors, finance professionals, and regulated entities in relation to disputes concerning financial services. His cases have included group claims brought under section 90 and 90A of FSMA, mis-selling claims, claims concerning alleged negligent investment advice, and cases requiring detailed consideration of the COBS rules and FSMA regime. His experience includes:
G I Globinvestment Limited & Ors v XY ERS UK Limited & ors – James acts, led by Adam Cloherty KC, for a financial services firm defending substantial claims for misrepresentation, negligence, and breach of section 138D FSMA in relation to investments made by UHNW clients in compartments of a Luxembourg investment fund which were liquidated at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Various Investors v BT Group Plc – James acts, led by Edward Cumming KC, for a group of institutional investors in a claim brought under section 90A of FSMA, in which it is alleged that BT misled the market in relation to fraudulent accounting practices in its Italian subsidiary.
Various Investors v Petrofac Limited – James acts, led by Edward Cumming KC, for a group of investors in a claim brought under section 90A of FSMA, in which it is alleged that Petrofac misled the market in relation to contracts for oil and gas projects secured by bribery in the Middle East.
Civil fraud work is a core part of James’s practice. He has detailed experience in this area from the early stages of proceedings through to trial. He has experience of acting at hearings both seeking and resisting freezing and proprietary injunctions, and obtaining interim orders such as Norwich Pharmacal and Bankers Trust orders to obtain information about a fraud before substantive proceedings have begun.
Recent instructions include:
Adams & ors v FS Capital Limited & ors  EWHC 1649 (Ch): James acted (with Hugh Miall) in this two-week trial on behalf of c.700 beneficiaries of 3 Jersey-law trusts, who successfully recovered debt assets with a book value of over £410m. The court held that the sale of the assets by the trustee had been a fraud on the power, and that the recipient was not a bona fide purchaser for value of the assets and was therefore liable to restore the assets to the trusts and personally liable as a knowing recipient.
Fonds Rusnano Capital SA v CRGF GP Ltd(Guernsey Royal Court, 2019 and 2021): James was instructed with Edward Cumming KC, assisting Sarah Brehaut, in this trial in the Guernsey Royal Court, in which the plaintiff sought the rescission of a limited partnership agreement said to be worth $125 million on grounds including fraudulent misrepresentation.
Newcastle Investors Freehold Limited v HSBC (High Court, 2020): James obtained urgent Bankers Trust relief for a company that had been victim to an authorised push payment fraud.
Advising a client who had been the victim of a crypto-currency scam.
Advising in relation to a potential claim for dishonest assistance against a bank following a fraud in the value of $1.2 million.
Commercial disputes are one of James’s core practice areas. As well as advising and acting in contractual disputes for businesses and HNW individuals of all shapes and sizes in a very wide variety of sectors, James is very frequently instructed on cases which overlap with other areas of his commercial chancery practice, including cases involving issues of company law, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, and insolvency.
James’s work includes:
Marsden & anor v Oval Holdco Ltd – James acts, led by Daniel Warents, in this High Court dispute arising out of the sale of a telecommunications company concerning alleged breaches of a share purchase agreement.
B & J Investments Limited & ors v IQ EQ Trustees (Guernsey) Limited & anor – James acts, led by Ian Clarke KC, for the defendant trust company in a claim for breach of an alleged joint venture agreement concerning the development of a hotel business near Stonehenge.
G I Globinvestment Limited & Ors v XY ERS UK Limited & ors– James acts, led by Adam Cloherty KC, for a financial services firm defending substantial claims for misrepresentation, negligence, and breach of section 138D FSMA in relation to investments made by UHNW clients in compartments of a Luxembourg investment fund which were liquidated at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Various Investors v Petrofac Limited– James acts, led by Edward Cumming KC, for a group of investors in a claim brought under section 90A of FSMA, in which it is alleged that Petrofac misled the market in relation to contracts for oil and gas projects secured by bribery in the Middle East.
JSC Uzhuralzoloto Group of Companies v Petropavlovsk Plc & ors (High Court, 2021): James acted, led by Aiden Casey KC and Daniel Warents, in a claim for injunctive relief to prevent the sale of a shareholding in an iron ore mining company by Petropavlovsk Plc.
James is regularly instructed in respect of disputes involving issues of company law. His experience includes claims for breaches of directors’ duties, derivative claims, unfair prejudice petitions, and winding up petitions on the just and equitable ground.
James also very frequently acts in cases concerning companies that form part of trust structures.
Recent cases include:
JSC Uzhuralzoloto Group of Companies v Petropavlovsk Plc & ors (High Court, 2021): James acted, led by Aiden Casey KC and Daniel Warents in a claim for injunctive relief to prevent the sale of a shareholding in an iron ore mining company by Petropavlovsk Plc.
Re the X Foundation Trust (Supreme Court of the Bahamas, 2021 and ongoing): James acts (led by Francis Tregear KC) in this ongoing dispute concerning a Bahamian Trust which owns very valuable Hong Kong corporate assets, and which carries out its activity through companies in the BVI and Hong Kong.
James regularly appears in the High Court and County Court in both corporate and personal insolvency proceedings. He frequently acts for petitioners, debtors, and supporting creditors on bankruptcy and winding up petitions and at other related insolvency hearings, including applications to set aside statutory demands and applications for injunctions to restrain the presentation of a winding up petition.
James also regularly advises on insolvency proceedings and disputes arising under the Insolvency Act 1986, including, for example, void dispositions of property under section 127 of the Act, the antecedent transaction provisions at sections 238-245 of the Act, and claims under section 423 of the Act for transactions defrauding creditors.
Trusts and estates disputes are a core part of James’s practice.
James is recommended as a leading junior for traditional chancery work in Chambers and Partners HNW, Chambers and Partners UK Bar, and The Legal 500.
James is frequently instructed as sole counsel on domestic cases of a variety of sizes. He also has substantial experience working as part of a larger international team, assisting foreign lawyers in litigation in other jurisdictions.
His experience spans claims for the removal of trustees and personal representatives; claims for breach of trust; applications for accounts and the provision of trust information; claims under Part 64 (and its equivalent in foreign jurisdictions) in respect of the administration of trusts, including Beddoe applications; contentious probate actions, involving allegations of undue influence, want of knowledge and approval, lack of testamentary capacity, and defective execution; claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975; disputes concerning trusts of land; proprietary estoppel claims; rescission and rectification claims.
James’s cases include:
Adams & ors v FS Capital Limited & ors EWHC 1649 (Ch): James acted (with Hugh Miall) on behalf of c.700 beneficiaries of 3 Jersey-law trusts, who successfully recovered debt assets with a book value of over £410m following trial in the English High Court. The court held that the sale of the assets by the trustee had been for an improper purpose, and that the recipient was not a bona fide purchaser for value of the assets and was liable to restore the assets to the trusts, and personally liable as a knowing recipient. The judgment contains a detailed review of the effect of a trust’s insolvency on the trustee’s duties to beneficiaries and creditors, the consequences of a power being exercised for an improper purpose, and the level of ignorance of the breach of trust that a defendant must establish to be able to avail itself of the bona fide purchaser without notice defence.
Hamersmith-Stewart v Cromwell Trust Company Ltd (ongoing): James acts (led by Alan Steinfeld KC) for one of the beneficiaries in this major trust litigation in the Bahamas.
In the matter of a Bahamian Trust (Supreme Court of the Bahamas, 2021 and ongoing): James acts (with Jonathan Adkin KC) in a dispute concerning the identity of the protector of a Bahamian trust holding substantial assets in Hong Kong in circumstances where the mental capacity of the settlor and former protector is contested.
Hine & anor v Bruce-Smith & ors (High Court, 2022): James acted (led by Edward Cumming KC) for the defendant former personal administrators of the estate of Lord Jacobs (the late businessman and peer) in a professional negligence claim concerning payments made from sums standing nominally to the credit of Lord Jacobs to defray the inheritance tax liabilities of his late wife, Lady Jacobs.
Goodrich v AB (High Court, 2022): James acted for the representative of the class of beneficiaries comprising authors and illustrators in this Public Trustee v Cooperapplication concerning the distribution of the proceeds of sale of the famous publishing company, Walker Books Limited.
Potter v Ntamianova & ors (High Court, 2022): James acted (led by Constance McDonnell KC) for the claimants in contentious probate proceedings after an elderly testator had purportedly changed her will to leave substantial assets to a professional carer. The claim, which settled at an early stage of proceedings, was brought on the footing of (i) lack of testamentary capacity, (ii) want of knowledge and approval and (iii) undue influence.
Mayhew v Dawood (High Court, 2020): James acted for the defendants to a 1975 Act claim brought by a claimant who was shortly to marry the Deceased before her death. The matter settled before trial.
Semernina v D’Aponte (High Court, 2020): James acted (led by Tracey Angus KC) for the respondent executor and will trustee in an application for pre-action disclosure brought by the respondent’s sister in respect of a threatened claim for his removal.
Parks v Parks & another (County Court, 2020): James successfully obtained summary judgment (both at first instance and on appeal before HHJ Venn) against an adult child claimant under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, on the basis that there was no real prospect of establishing that the deceased’s will had not made reasonable financial provision for the claimant.
Molard International (PTC) Limited & another v Rusnano Capital AG (in liquidation) GRC 011 and  GCA 077 James, led by Edward Cumming KC and assisting Rupert Morris, acted for a company in the Rusnano technology investment group which sought the termination of a trust of which it was the sole beneficiary, in circumstances where the trust deed contained a power to add beneficiaries. The Guernsey Court of Appeal decision is the leading authority on a beneficiary’s ability to terminate a Guernsey trust under section 53 of the Trusts (Guernsey) Law 2007.
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