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Weapons down: CC settles high profile Excalibur negligence case

Avoiding the prospect of a costly and public trial, Clifford Chance (CC) has settled a professional negligence claim against it over the high-profile Excalibur dispute brought by the case’s funders and Greek shipping tycoons, the Lemos family, for an undisclosed sum.

The long-running Excalibur saga involved a $1.6bn energy battle in London’s High Court over oil rights in Iraqi Kurdistan, and was one of the biggest cases of 2013. Taken against Gulf Keystone Petroleum by Excalibur Ventures, the litigation was bankrolled by a consortium of investors, including brothers Adonis and Filippos Lemos, who became involved in the case with the help of CC disputes partner Alex Panayides.

Lord Justice Clarke criticised and dismissed the claim, awarding the defendants their costs on an indemnity basis in 2014, stating it had been ‘an elaborate and artificial construct… replete with defects, illogicalities and inherent improbabilities’.

It also emerged that Panayides had family ties to the funders, with his brother an employee of Lemos and his father a former chairman of one of their ship management companies. CC was also criticised by the court for apportioning a high rate of success to the claim alongside a ‘voluminous’ and ‘heavy-handed’ correspondence.

Last year Legal Business reported that the Lemos brothers had instructed Withers, which had notified CC that a legal action was being prepared, with litigation and arbitration partner Christopher Coffin acting for the family. 

Withers did not provide detail on the terms of the settlement, citing confidentiality, but confirmed the matter had been resolved.

Resolving the matter will be welcome for CC, bringing an end to a saga that has generated a string of unfavourable headlines for one of the UK’s leading commercial litigation teams.

CC also became involved in a separate professional negligence claim last year, in a £130m derivatives dispute between JP Morgan and German public transport provider BVG, during which CC was brought in as a third-party defendant over allegations its German operation gave negligent advice. That case also settled.

CC declined to comment.

For more litigation coverage see our 2015 Disputes Yearbook