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Clifford Chance partner Panayides to face SDT over Excalibur involvement

In another twist in the Excalibur professional negligence saga and a clear sign of the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) clamping down on lawyers at the City’s top firms, a case management hearing over Clifford Chance (CC) disputes partner Alex Panayides took place at Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) on Friday (24 November) following an investigation by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

First reported on RollOnFriday and according to a daily cause list published by the SDT, the hearing over Panayides took place at midday, with the SRA being represented by Capsticks litigator Daniel Purcell.

The prosecution relates to Panayides’ involvement in the notorious Excalibur litigation, in which CC represented Excalibur Ventures in an unsuccessful $1.6bn Kurdistan oil deal damages claim against Gulf Keystone Petroleum and Texas Keystone in 2013.

London’s Commercial Court ruled against Excalibur in 2014, ordering Lemos, an ad hoc investor that helped Excalibur to fund the case, to pay the defendants’ indemnity costs of £13.75m on top of their original funding advance.

During the case, Panayides gave a positive assessment of the litigation, to which the funders looked for their lending evaluation. Panayides was subsequently sued for professional negligence by Lemos in December 2014.

At the time, Lord Justice Clarke said that the claim was worth around $3.3m, not the claimed amount of $1.6bn. CC settled the professional negligence claim for an undisclosed sum in December 2015.

In November 2016, at the Court of Appeal hearing of the decision, it was alleged that Panayides had overstated Excalibur’s prospects of success. As Panayides’ father was a chairman of one of the ship companies owned by the Lemos family and because his brother was a Lemos employee, CC was also criticised by the Court of Appeal for having an ‘acute’ conflict of interest in the case.

A spokesperson for the SRA said: ‘We can’t comment on matters that are being held in private SDT session.’

Clifford Chance declined to comment.