Legal Business Blogs

Withers wins roles representing property investors suing banks over swaps

Property tycoons are preparing to hit UK’s courts over allegations that some of the UK’s leading lenders mis-sold hedging products including those involving LIBOR.

Withers commercial litigator Andrew Wass has won roles on two real estate cases including representing Stuart Wall, owner of student accommodation company Opal Property Group, in the early stages of a multi-million pound lawsuit against the Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS), after alleging the company went into administration because the bank mis-sold complex interest rate derivatives while trying to rig the interest-rate benchmark LIBOR. It is understood that Dentons, which advised RBS on a successfully defended case in 2013, is advising the bank.

Wall claimed that RBS lacked transparency in revealing the risks associated with the commercial mortgage-backed securities market, which led to the company’s fall in March last year. At that time, Simmons & Simmons restructuring and insolvency partner Alan Gar advised Opal in its £1.2bn property debt restructuring, alongside Linklaters partner Chris Howard who acted for the steering committee.

Opal was the UK’s largest private owner of student accommodation with an estimated 20,000 rooms in 16 national cities, and had associations with 14 higher education institutions. The group went into administration in spring last year following lengthy debt restructuring discussions and a lender standstill.

Wass is also acting for the Bhatia family, which is potentially pursuing legal action against Barclays Bank for £45m after alleging the bank mis-sold a swap that lost them substantial amounts of money. The claim comes after the family owned hotels – the Waldorf Hotel in the West End and the Hyatt Regency in Birmingham – were put up for sale after their holding companies fell into administration.