Disputes Yearbook 2018
The 2018 Legal Business Disputes Yearbook focuses on RPC's rise to become one of the largest and most successful disputes firms in the City of London, thanks largely to its banking litigation practice.
Leading with its litigation expertise has meant that the firm has managed to remain largely conflict free, allowing for work on a wide-ranging disputes portfolio.
Split into three sections, the piece focuses on the working parts of RPC, the critics' view and the future.
The working parts rounds up the firm's key practice areas; from banking litigation to technology, RPC handles multi-national, multi-jurisdictional work and aims high. Clients include tech giants and global banks and the firm continues to develop its practices both here and in its offices in Hong Kong and Singapore.
An overview of what the directories say in 'the critics' view' reveals that clients think RPC 'punches well above its weight', gives clients ' a great level of service and takes the time to get to know and understand clients' business' and is 'solutions-focused, commercial and very keen to ensure its advice is tailored to the relevant audience'.
The feature also touches on RPC's ambitions for the future. The rise of arbitration, funding and data are three areas of focus for the firm. The uncertainty of BREXIT has meant that arbitration is now a favoured method for resolving disputes whilst GDPR and cyber security have presented significant challenges with data and how organisations deal with it. There is a need for not only well experienced litigators but those with deep technical knowledge, putting RPC in a strong position to win these mandates. Third party funding is busy disrupting the UK market and group claimants, who many not have previously had their cases considered, will now have the appropriate access to justice- the process rigorous enough to put off unmeritorious claims.
The working parts
Having no material conflicts has undoubtedly helped RPC become one of the few go-to firms when considering a banking case. But the team rejects any notion of being ‘anti-bank’. ‘Our clients are hedge funds, asset managers, fund managers and major banks, including international and global banks. These organisations are sophisticated users of litigation as a business tool. They need lawyers who understand their business and its commercial drivers,’ states Hibbert.
Magic and Silver Circle firms will typically be on the other side to RPC. The team won a huge amount of financial crisis-related work and, although we now appear to be seeing the end of these disputes, Hibbert sees no end to litigation in the sector. Because of its broad financial sector client base, the firm appears to be well insulated should the oft-predicted fall in bank vs bank litigation materialise.
The award-winning team includes former senior members of HMRC’s Solicitor’s Office, including practice head Adam Craggs. Understanding the inner working of HMRC – what strategies it uses during tax enquiries and in litigation and how to secure the best outcomes for clients – promotes RPC to a very small number of firms who can handle the top-end civil and criminal defence work.
Unlike many of its competitors, RPC does not suffer from potential conflicts of interest in undertaking contentious tax matters as it does not devise or advise on tax-planning arrangements and does not therefore have a vested interest in defending a tax position. It will only defend those cases that are defendable. It has also become the go-to firm for judicial review challenges to HMRC decisions founded on public law arguments.
With HMRC taking an increasingly aggressive stance towards taxpayers due to political pressure to increase the tax yield and an increase in ‘dawn raids’ and ‘invitations’ to attend police interviews under caution, the work of the group and the size of the team continues to grow. The team has developed a number of strategies to maximise the prospects of its clients reaching a favourable settlement with HMRC and thus avoid litigation.
The team led by Lambros Kilaniotis works on matters spanning commercial antitrust disputes, competition investigations and appeals, and private damages actions, acting for both claimants and defendants. Kilaniotis joined RPC in 2013 with a mandate to grow the team, which now stands at six partners.He stresses the importance of bringing commercial acumen as well as pure legal skills to the table. On the claimant side, the team is alive to the sensitivities and opportunities presented by any ongoing commercial relationships with defendants, and seeks to ensure successful outcomes for clients without disrupting those relationships. On the defence side, ‘some settlements’, Kilaniotis explains, ‘pay for themselves’ and he can point to cases where the RPC team helped a defendant generate new business from claimants, not just settle.
The team frequently acts as the coordinator of a number of firms across the world. This ‘quarterback’ role is vital when engaging with cross-border investigations and disputes.
Contentious restructuring and insolvency
An increasingly important part of the RPC armoury, the contentious restructuring team is another beneficiary of the firm’s conflict policy, and this has led to extensive experience of acting for parties in significant contentious restructurings and insolvencies, where the clients’ interests are adverse to those of the largest investment banks.
Whether acting for an original counterparty or a debt purchaser, the team’s focus is on maximising recoveries through the restructuring process. The team boasts significant experience of disputes arising from sovereign debt restructurings, litigation arising out of the unwinding of the estates of insolvent financial institutions, as well as the design and enforcement of schemes of arrangement.
The client roster includes the usual suspects: hedge funds, pension funds and European banks, but also insolvency office holders, family offices and re-insurers.
General commercial litigation
The team, which has experience in all major industry sectors and has developed particularly strong tech and media expertise, is a growing force and is now recognised as a powerhouse. Based in London, Hong Kong and Singapore, the team has experience in all major industry sectors. It works across various international jurisdictions and advises on a range of contentious issues. These include contractual, tortious, corporate and trust disputes. They also advise in breach of confidentiality cases, joint ventures and post-closing disputes, and an increasing number of internal investigations.
The group has witnessed an uptick in cases where arbitration is the chosen resolution mechanism. Again, the team is clear that a commercial approach is essential. Equally, an awareness of cultural nuances, practices and tactics can be the difference between a win and a loss.
The team has worked on cases with bodies including the London Court of International Arbitration, International Chamber of Commerce, International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, Singapore International Arbitration Centre, China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission, Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre, Dubai International Financial Centre, trade associations such as the Federation of Oils, Seeds and Fats Associations, The Grain and Feed Trade Association, London Maritime Arbitrators Association and the World Intellectual Property Organization, as well as ad hoc arbitrations, including ARIAS, the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and UNCITRAL rules.
Renowned for its tenacity and commerciality, RPC’s IP team advises on disputes and transactions across many sectors, notably retail, luxury goods, media, technology, financial services and sport. Led by Jeremy Drew – who heads the broader IP/media/technology group – the team has a strong international focus, particularly in the US, Europe and Asia.
The media team at RPC is a genuine market leader, topping the directory rankings for many years. The defendant-focused team – led by Keith Mathieson – handles disputes involving all the leading media companies, from privacy and data protection complaints, to defamation, contempt and reporting restrictions issues. They have advised in some of the highest-profile media matters in recent years, including Leveson and phone hacking.
Technology is a major focus for RPC. The team handles domestic and international transactions and disputes for both suppliers and customers. Clients include tech giants, leading financial institutions, household-name retailers and media companies, as well as digital businesses and tech start-ups at the cutting edge. Recent work has spanned issues relating to data migration, disputed terminations, managing project transformations, cyber breaches and software disputes, operating across the full range of options, from management and turnaround of failing projects, to mediation, arbitration and court proceedings.
RPC "gives clients a great level of service and takes the time to get to know and understand clients’ business".Legal 500 UK 2017
With experience representing mainland Chinese and international businesses, RPC is active in a range of disputes, often concerning mainland China, heard before both the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre and mainland Chinese centres.Legal 500, 2018
The team is highly commercial and really understands business priorities and it tailors its service accordingly.World Trademark Review 2018
They are able to take big-ticket litigation in their stride, have an excellent work ethic and seem to thrive on the strategic aspects of litigation.Chambers UK 2018
RPC ‘punches well above its weight’ in the area of competition litigation and has experience in commercial antitrust disputes, regulatory challenges and private actions, acting for claimants and defendants.Legal 500 UK 2017