James McWilliams

James McWilliams

Call: 2011

"Very, very gifted when it comes to seeing points no one else does. He is academically excellent."

- Chambers & Partners UK Bar (2022)

"Very affable and bright, he always takes a pragmatic view."

- Chambers & Partners UK Bar (2022)

"The complete package: incredibly sharp on matters of black letter law, experienced beyond his years on matters of strategy, a great team member and a real gent."

- Legal 500 UK Bar (2022)

"Extremely hardworking and a diligent junior with excellent drafting skills. He is meticulous and his turnover timing is absolutely amazing."

- Legal 500 UK Bar (2022)

"The complete package: incredibly sharp on matters of black letter law, and experienced beyond his years on matters of strategy."

- Legal 500 UK Bar (2022)

Practice Overview

James is one of the leading juniors at the commercial Bar. His practice sees him regularly instructed in high-value, complex and international disputes, often with a fraud or insolvency aspect. A confident advocate and a team player, James is equally happy acting as sole counsel as he is as part of a larger legal team.

James’ recent instructions include acting for General Electric in proceedings arising out of a USD 3.6 billion Ponzi scheme; acting on behalf of Mr Magomedov in relation to disputes around the world arising out of a conspiracy to carry out a corporate raid on Mr Magomedov’s assets, including his multi-billion-dollar stake in PJSC Far-Eastern Shipping Company; acting for bankruptcy trustees in a £40m fraud dispute concerning the acquisition and sale of a portfolio of classic cars; acting for a lender in the Court of Appeal in a series of conjoined appeals concerning the construction of redacted transaction documents; and acting in a claim to set aside for fraud a judgment obtained by a listed company in a bitter boardroom dispute.

James is ranked as a leading junior for commercial dispute resolution, civil fraud and insolvency. Earlier in his career, he was ranked as one of the top 10 commercial juniors under 8 years’ call at the Bar for three consecutive years. The directories have described him as:

“Very, very gifted when it comes to seeing points no one else does. He is academically excellent” (Chambers, 2022)

“The complete package: incredibly sharp on matters of black letter law, experienced beyond his years on matters of strategy, a great team member and a real gent” (Legal 500, 2021)

“Extremely hardworking and a diligent junior with excellent drafting skills. He is meticulous and his turnover timing is absolutely amazing” (Legal 500, 2021)

“Bright, incredibly responsive and a man who loves hard work. He puts clients at ease and explains difficult concepts to them in a way that they can understand” (Chambers, 2021) “Fantastically bright, an impressive, assured advocate, and very commercial in his approach – he is the full package and a future superstar” (Legal 500, 2020)

“Really good on his feet, unflappable and at ease before the court. He’s also a man of stamina” (Chambers, 2020)

“Stands out due to the strength of his performances in court” and “comes across  as  more senior than he is due to the way he puts advice across, and speaks with such authority” (Chambers, 2019)

“Incredibly user-friendly, thoughtful and forensic in his approach to commercial disputes” and “in terms of his call, he is beyond his years in the way he presents his advice (Chambers, 2018)

“Shows great maturity in his approach and in his manner, particularly when delivering advice” (Legal 500, 2018)

“A rising star with huge potential” (Legal 500, 2017)

“Bright, tenacious and not afraid of a challenge – a star of the future” (Legal 500, 2016)

James has for several years been recommended as a leading junior for commercial dispute  resolution by both Chambers and Legal 500. Earlier in his career, he was ranked as one of the top 10 commercial juniors under 8 years’ call at the Bar for three consecutive years by Legal 500.

He regularly acts (led and as sole counsel) in commercial disputes of all kinds, both in litigation and in arbitration.

His recent cases include:

  • Ritchie v General Electric Company: acting for General Electric in a challenge to the jurisdiction of the Cayman Court to hear a conspiracy and deceit claim arising out of the USD 3.6 billion Ponzi Scheme operated by Thomas Petters.
  • FESCO litigation: acting on behalf of Mr Magomedov and his companies in relation to disputes around the world arising out of an alleged conspiracy to carry out a corporate raid on Mr Magomedov’s assets, including his stake in the Far-Eastern Shipping Company. The dispute spans conspiracy claims in the BVI, options proceedings in the English Commercial Court, liquidation proceedings in the BVI and arbitration in various fora.
  • Yang Foo-Oi v Wai Wai Chen: acting for Vivien Chen in Hong Kong litigation arising out of a HK$9 billion agreement to distribute the assets of Chen Din Hwa, the founder of the Nan Fung Group and one of the wealthiest men in Hong Kong before his death.
  • SKAT v Solo Capital Partners & Ors: acting for one of the defendants to a £1.5bn claim brought by the Danish Tax and Customs Administration in relation to a sophisticated alleged dividend withholding tax fraud.
  • Tinkler v Esken: acting for Mr Tinkler in his claim to set aside for fraud the judgment obtained by Esken following a bitter boardroom battle for control of the listed aviation and energy group.
  • Promontoria (Oak) Limited v Emanuel [2021] EWCA Civ 1682: acting for a lender in a series of conjoined appeals concerned with how courts should treat and construe redacted documents of title.
  • Tuke v Hood [2020] EWHC 2843 (Comm): acting for the Joint Trustees of Derek Hood in a £40m dispute concerning the acquisition and sale of a classic car portfolio.
  • Hancock v Promontoria (Chestnut) Limited [2020] EWCA Civ 907: acting for a lender in an appeal concerned with the ability of a court to construe a contract that has been redacted.
  • Cyprus Popular Bank v Vgenopoulous & Ors [2018] EWCA Civ 1: acting for the claimant on appeal arising out of a €3.79 billion claim brought following the collapse of the second largest bank in Cyprus.

James is frequently instructed on complex, international and high-value civil fraud and asset tracing disputes. He is ranked as a leading junior for civil fraud work by Chambers and Legal 500.

He has extensive experience, as sole counsel and as part of a larger legal team, of applications for and to challenge interlocutory relief in this context, including worldwide freezing orders,  search orders, relief in support of foreign proceedings pursuant to s. 25 CJJA 1982, proprietary injunctions, bench warrants and tipstaff orders, Norwich Pharmacal and Bankers Trust disclosure applications and orders for cross-examination on asset disclosure. In addition, James has experience of bringing and defending applications for committal for contempt of court.

His recent cases include:

  • Ritchie v General Electric Company: acting for General Electric in a challenge to the jurisdiction of the Cayman Court to hear a conspiracy and deceit claim arising out of the USD 3.6 billion Ponzi Scheme operated by Thomas Petters.
  • Farrer & Co LLP v Meyer [2022] EWHC 362 (QB): acting for Farrer & Co LLP to obtain a committal order against former Dragon’s Den panelist and government advisor, Julie Meyer MBE.
  • Tinkler v Esken: acting for Mr Tinkler in his claim to set aside for fraud the judgment obtained by Esken following a bitter boardroom battle for control of the listed aviation and energy group.
  • Benkel v East-West German Real Estate Holding [2021] EWHC 777 (Ch): acting for the defendants to a claim brought by the Trustee in Bankruptcy of Eliezer Fishman, the largest bankruptcy in Israeli history, in relation to an alleged portfolio of concealed assets.
  • Shelley v Norman [2021] EWHC 975 (QB): acting for the defendant on an application to commit the claimant on multiple grounds including having made false statements of truth and having breached the terms of a worldwide freezing order and proprietary injunction.
  • Tuke v Hood [2020] EWHC 2843 (Comm): acting for the Joint Trustees of Derek Hood in a £40m classic car dispute involving allegations of deceit, breach of fiduciary duty, dishonest assistance and knowing receipt.
  • Les Ambassadeurs Club v Sheikh Salah Hamdan Albluewi [2020] EWHC 1313 (QB) – acting for the defendant in a successful application to discharge a worldwide freezing order obtained by a leading private members club and casino.
  • SKAT v Solo Capital Partners & Ors: acting for one of the alleged fraud defendants to a £1.5bn claim brought by the Danish Tax and Customs Administration in relation to a sophisticated alleged dividend withholding tax fraud.
  • Abela v Baadarani [2018] 1 WLR 89: acting for a third party against whom a search order had been made in support of a Norwich Pharmacal order in what is now the leading case on the court’s jurisdiction to make such orders.

James is ranked as a leading junior for insolvency and restructuring work by Legal 500 and is regularly instructed in a wide variety of insolvency disputes by officeholders, creditors and debtors.

His recent cases include:

  • R (on the Application of Robert Stephen Palmer) v North Derbyshire Magistrates Court [2021] EWHC 3013 (Admin): acting for an officeholder on a judicial review against the decision to permit his criminal prosecution under the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 by reason of his conniving in the failure of the company over which he had been appointed to give notice to the Secretary of State to make a large number of redundancies.
  • Benkel v East-West German Real Estate Holding [2021] EWHC 777 (Ch): acting for the defendants to a claim brought by the Trustee in Bankruptcy of Eliezer Fishman, the largest bankruptcy in Israeli history, in relation to an alleged portfolio of concealed assets.
  • Tuke v Hood [2020] EWHC 2843 (Comm): acting for the Joint Trustees in Bankruptcy of Derek Hood in a £40m dispute concerning the acquisition and sale of a classic car portfolio.
  • Hancock v Promontoria (Chestnut) Limited [2020] EWCA Civ 907: acting for the respondent in a second appeal against a decision not to set aside a statutory demand for substantial sums due under a facility agreement.
  • Kevin Lucas and Elizabemth Manley (as Joint Liquidators of Taunton Logs Limited) v Cruickshanks & Ors [2020] EWHC 3480 (Ch): acting for investors facing claims by liquidators seeking to recover sums alleged to be due by way of unpaid share capital.
  • Re Eurodale and Re Topplan Limited: acting for the officeholders in a multi-million pound claim for dishonest breach of fiduciary duty against the former directors of a property development company.
  • Franses v Hay [2016] BPIR 355: acting for the supervisor of an individual voluntary arrangement on an application for directions as to the effect of a notice of termination in circumstances where there was doubt as to the effect of the R3 standard IVA conditions.
  • Hellenic Capital Investments v TrainFX Limited [2016] BCC  493: acting for  the  applicant  on  a heavily contested administration application which turned on the proper construction of a business services and royalty agreement.
  • Re Pikeville Investments LLP: acting for the receivers appointed over the membership interest in an LLP by way of equitable execution in the JSC VTB Bank v Skhurikhin litigation  in  a  successful application for an administration order involving difficult questions as to solvency.

James has experience of banking and financial services disputes of a varied nature, including investment management agreements, introducer and ‘Finders’ agreements, Islamic finance, collective investment schemes, facility agreements, guarantees, mortgages  and  other  forms  of security, recovery of mistaken bank payments and card processing services agreements.

His recent cases include:

  • Promontoria (Oak) Limited v Emanuel [2021] EWCA Civ 1682: acting for a lender in a series of conjoined appeals concerned with how courts should treat and construe redacted documents of title.
  • Conservatorium Holdings LLC and Thibault Square Financial Services Pty v Steinhoff International Holdings: acting in a dispute concerned with the construction of a security agreement for a €1.6 billion syndicated loan agreement.
  • CMC Spreadbet Plc v Tchenguiz [2020] EWHC 3483 (Comm): acting for Robert Tchenguiz in a claim concerning the closing out of his £70m position in FirstGroup in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Hancock v Promontoria (Chestnut) Limited [2020] EWCA Civ 907: acting for a lender in an appeal concerning the ability of a court to construe a redacted agreement effecting the assignment of a non-performing loan portfolio.
  • Altana Protective Alpha Strategy Fund SLP v Global Prime Partners: acting for a fund in a claim against its prime broker.
  • Cyprus Popular Bank v Vgenopoulous & Ors [2018] EWCA Civ 907: acting for the special administrator of Cyprus Popular Bank, what was the second largest banking group in Cyprus, in €3.79 billion litigation against its former chairman, Andreas Vgenopoulous.
  • FM Capital Partners v Marino: acting for the former director of a hedge fund in a US$60 million dispute concerning allegations of breach of fiduciary duty arising out of his management of the fund.

James is regularly instructed in arbitration claims and related court applications.  He has conducted cases under various major arbitral rules, including those of the LCIA and ICC.

His recent cases include:

  • LCIA Arbitration: acting for the claimant in a multi-billion-dollar dispute for control of a strategic transport and logistics company.
  • ICC Arbitration: acting for the claimant in a dispute concerning a commission entitlement in respect of a Kazakhstan oil development project.
  • LCIA Arbitration: acting for a respondent in a dispute between shareholders in a leading hotel group.
  • LCIA Arbitration: acting for the respondent in a dispute concerning the construction of a settlement agreement.
  • LCIA Arbitration: acting for the claimant in a dispute concerning a luxury condominium development in the Philippines

James has considerable experience of company and partnership disputes, including shareholder disputes, claims by and against directors, unfair prejudice proceedings, derivative claims and partnership dissolution proceedings.

His recent cases include:

  • LCIA Arbitration: acting for the respondent to a s. 994 petition proceeding by way of arbitration concerning the management and affairs of a leading hotel group.
  • Radia v Jhaveri [2021] EWHC 2089 (Ch): acting for the claimant in an application for declaratory relief in relation to the ownership of founder shares in Durham County Cricket Club.
  • Kevin Lucas and Elizabemth Manley (as Joint Liquidators of Taunton Logs Limited) v Cruickshanks & Ors [2020] EWHC 3480 (Ch): acting for investors facing claims seeking to recover sums alleged to be due by way of unpaid share capital.
  • Re Capital City Service Limited: acting for the respondent to an unfair prejudice  petition concerning a highly successful VoIP telecommunications company operating in Moldova.
  • Barone v DHR International [2017] EWHC 2419 (Ch): acting for the respondent to an appeal involving an attempt to enforce a judgment by means of piercing the corporate veil.

James has extensive experience of commercial disputes in the energy and natural resources sector.

His recent cases include:

  • ICC Arbitration: acting for the claimant in a dispute concerning a commission entitlement in respect of a Kazakhstan oil development project.
  • Larkfleet Limited v Renewables Solar UK Construction Ltd: acting for the claimant in a dispute concerning a commission entitlement in respect of a Kazakhstan oil development project.
  • Confidential: acting for an investor in a misrepresentation claim concerning an investment made in a biomass power generation plant.
  • Confidential: acting for the claimant in a dispute concerning the ownership of four power generation turbines.

James regularly acts in commercial disputes involving allegations of professional negligence.

His recent cases include:

  • Guan Siang Chiang & Ors v Graham & Rosen & Ors : acting for a large group of  Singaporean investors in a series of London hotel developments in a professional negligence action against their former solicitors.
  • Daggolu & Ors v Ravi Sethi LLP: acting for a group of investors in a professional negligence action against their former solicitors in connection with obligations arising under a section 106 agreement.
  • Ballymore Properties v Mivan Ltd: acting for  a  property  developer  in  a  professional  negligence action concerning the design of a health club said to have caused a substantial fire in an apartment complex.