Legal Business Blogs

Battle over, war begins: Clifford Chance set to face professional negligence claim by Excalibur funders

Clifford Chance (CC) is to face a professional negligence suit over the high-profile Excalibur dispute by the case’s funders and Greek shipping tycoons, the Lemos family.

The latest development in the long-running Excalibur saga will see the Lemos family mount a claim against the Magic Circle firm and follows the Commercial Court handing down judgment on the costs liability of the litigation funders, who were ordered to pay the defendants’ costs up to the total amount that it had funded Excalibur. Lemos’ costs order was to the tune of £13.75m – on top of their original funding advance.

No proceedings have been filed in the courts yet, but the brothers have instructed law firm Withers, which has notified CC that a legal action is being prepared, with litigation and arbitration partner Christopher Coffin acting for the Lemos family.

A $1.6bn energy battle over oil rights in Iraqi Kurdistan and one of the biggest cases of 2013, the High Court litigation taken against Gulf Keystone Petroleum by Excalibur Ventures saw the claimant allege it was entitled to a 30% share in the rights of four oil fields in Kurdistan. Lord Justice Clarke dismissed the claim and awarded the defendants their costs on an indemnity basis, stating the claim had been ‘an elaborate and artificial construct… replete with defects, illogicalities and inherent improbabilities’.

The result was every litigation funder’s worst nightmare and ultimately negative for CC as disputes partner Alex Panayides had helped Excalibur secure £50m of litigation funding through several ad hoc investors, including Adonis and Filippos Lemos. It controversially emerged that Panayides’ brother George Panayides was an employee of Lemos, while his father had been chairman of one of their ship management companies. The firm was criticised by the court for allocating such a high rate of success to the claim alongside a ‘voluminous’ and ‘heavy-handed’ correspondence.

CC declined to comment.