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Fieldfisher successfully defends clients from Yukos claims in high profile Commercial Court proceedings

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United Kingdom

Fieldfisher has successfully defended former Renaissance Capital employees Stephen Jennings and Robert Reid following a seven week trial in the Commercial Court. Yukos Finance BV & others v. Stephen Lynch & others [2019] EWHC 2621 (Comm).

Fieldfisher has successfully defended former Renaissance Capital employees Stephen Jennings and Robert Reid following a seven week trial in the Commercial Court.  The claims made included serious allegations of dishonest rigging of a Russian state auction for a valuable former Yukos Oil subsidiary (with estimated assets of more than $1bn) over a decade ago. The case was listed as a Lawyer magazine "Top 20 Case of 2019" and has attracted global media attention due to the subject matter and high profile individuals involved.

Sir Michael Burton QC (sitting as a judge of the Commercial Court) dismissed all claims against Mr Jennings, Mr Reid and their co-defendants (Stephen Lynch, Richard Deitz, and Robert Foresman) in an emphatic judgment that found definitively in the defendants favour on all key issues of fact.  The judge also preferred the defendants' position on (Russian) law where there was any divergence with the claimants' own expert position.
 
The claims were brought by Yukos Finance B.V. and other former subsidiaries and management of Yukos Oil on behalf of Yukos shareholders who claimed that they had suffered losses of over $40m as a result of the allegedly rigged "Lot 19" auction in 2007.  The claimants argued that the auction (one of 17) was pre-determined, unlawful and the result of the five defendants dishonest collusion in July and August 2007.  The Lot 19 auction itself has spawned over a decade of legal proceedings in the Netherlands and elsewhere in relation to restoring the position following the disputed transfer of ownership.

In relation to Mr Jennings and Mr Reid, the judge commented:

"I find it very difficult to find any justification for having included as a Defendant Mr Jennings…and in particular no justification whatsoever for the pursuit of the solicitor Mr Reid, who was involved in 36 hours of drafting, at his employers' instance."

The Fieldfisher team was led by partners Colin Gibson and Daniel Hayward, and Senior Associates Elora Mukherjee and Chris Sweeney who were supported by a team of more than 20 fee earners in London, Manchester and Amsterdam. The firm instructed Andrew Mitchell QC and Alexander Milner of Fountain Court chambers, with Russian law experts Maxim Kulkov of KK&P Trial attorneys, Moscow and Viktor Gerbutov of Noerr LLP, Moscow also retained.

Following the handing down of judgment, indemnity costs were ordered in favour of all of the defendants.  Permission to appeal is pending against Messrs Lynch, Foresman and Deitz.  Permission to appeal was not sought against either of the Fieldfisher defendants.

Colin Gibson, head of Dispute Resolution at Fieldfisher commented: "Mr Jennings and Mr Reid have maintained from the very beginning of these proceedings that the claims should never have been brought against them. They have not only won on every issue but the judge has said in terms that, particularly in relation to these two individuals, the claims were not justified."

Daniel Hayward, Dispute Resolution partner and Russia/CIS specialist at Fieldfisher commented: "This total victory was a culmination of almost three years of work from a high calibre team of Fieldfisher lawyers and other professionals.  It underscores our market leading CIS-region disputes capability and is yet another example of a large Fieldfisher team acting (and winning) in complex, high profile litigation in the English courts." 

The full judgment is available here.

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Areas of Expertise

Dispute Resolution