A Clifford Chance partner is set to be prosecuted by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

RollOnFriday can reveal that Alex Panayides, a litigation and arbitration partner in the Magic Circle firm's London office, is due to appear before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal in the coming weeks. The SDT published notice on its website of an upcoming private case management hearing for the partner at the application of the SRA, before quickly unpublishing it. It remains visible in a pdf format on the site.

The prosecution is understood to stem from the catastrophic 2010 claim brought by Excalibur Ventures against Texas Keystone Inc and Gulf Keystone Petroleum Limited. Excalibur, which had no assets, claimed that it was owed a share of the rights to develop four oil fields in Kurdistan, which it argued was worth $1.6 billion. Under lead partner Panayides, Clifford Chance agreed to act for Excalibur on a conditional fee arrangement, understood to be the firm's first. In return for discounting its fees by 40%, Clifford Chance would have collected a 140% uplift in the event of victory, plus a success fee at Excalibur's discretion.

A group of third party litigation funders gave Excalibur £31.75 million to pursue the matter to trial. Over £14 million was paid to Clifford Chance in fees. But the High Court claim failed spectacularly, on every point. Excalibur's "essentially speculative and opportunistic" case was "based on no sound foundation in fact or law", ruled the High Court. The $1.6 billion quantum of the claim was "grossly exaggerated" and worth $3.3 million at best, said the judge. The funders were ordered to pay the defendants' £20 million costs, which they appealed. And lost, with the Court of Appeal finding in 2016 that their defeat "can have come as no surprise to anyone".

  But in the end no milkshake was available to drink up, and in fact milkshakes worth £20 million had to be given away. 

The courts were critical of Clifford Chance, citing a conflict of interest (Panayides' brother and father both worked for companies owned by one of the litigation funders), its high fee uplift, and Panayides' "aggressive and unacceptable correspondence", which was charitably attributed by one judge to his "misplaced zeal". In 2014 the funders sued Clifford Chance for professional negligence, blaming Panayides for over-stating the claim's chances of success. The firm settled for an undisclosed amount.

But the firm's Excalibur woes continue. This year the SRA launched an investigation into the affair. And now Panayides will face the regulator. The SRA, Clifford Chance and Panayides all declined to comment.
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Anonymous 24 November 17 08:06

Exactly which part of this is the SRA’s business? Or is the SRA saying that he breached O5 by misleading the court? That would be strange as the court did not reach that conclusion.

The alleged conflict seems like a bit of a stretch too.

How do I change my username from anonymous to “NotACliffordChancePartner”???

Anonymous 24 November 17 10:47

I think if the court concludes that a $1.6 billion claim is "essentially speculative and opportunistic", "grossly exaggerated" and worth $3.3 million at best, and then a client brings a professional negligence claim (settled outside of court) blaming the solicitor for over-stating the claim's chances, then the SRA has every right to stick its nose in.