Legal Business Blogs

High Court rules Dechert bill discrepancy ‘impossible to ignore’

The High Court has ruled that Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation (ENRC) will now have its multimillion-pound bills from Dechert assessed after the mining company had claimed it had been overcharged.

Master Rowley, who handed down the judgment from the senior courts costs office at the end of January, described discrepancies between Dechert’s estimates and the costs actually billed, noting that some of those estimates were ‘considerably awry on every occasion’.

The ruling means that the a timetable for assessment of the bills will need to be put in place and ENRC will continue its claim for recovery of costs against Dechert in the High Court. A spokesperson for Dechert said: ‘We look forward now to proceeding with the costs assessment process’.

A spokesperson for ENRC said: ‘We have always been concerned about the level of charging by Dechert, but felt unable to challenge these while our internal investigation was underway. We are pleased that the High Court has agreed that assessment proceedings can now be brought in relation to £11.6m of the fees charged to us by Dechert.’

ENRC initially hired Dechert to undertake a self-reporting process of the company’s finances relating to a criminal investigation by the Serious Fraud Office that began in 2011, which alleged ENRC may have been committing fraud in some its overseas operations. For this service, Dechert billed ENRC over £16.3m (excluding VAT), with £11.7m invoiced between 23 July 2012 and 11 April 2013.

Overseen by Graham Huntley, Signature Litigation led for ENRC, instructing Outer Temple Chambers’ Saaman Pourghadiri and 4 New Square’s Ben Williams QC. Representing Dechert, Clyde & Co instructed Temple Garden Chambers’ Simon Browne QC alongside the Clyde’s commercial costs lawyer Mersedeh Safa.

Dechert had previously attempted to have the hearing on costs held in public, arguing that it needed to cite legally privileged material to clear its name, but the Court of Appeal ruled that one of the firm’s former clients had not waived its privilege rights.

In the recent judgment, Master Rowley criticised Dechert’s attempts to bring ENRC’s confidential information into the public domain, citing that ‘third parties were clearly interested in that information’.