Matthew Watson

Matthew Watson

Call: 2012

'Matthew is a star in the making. His written advocacy and drafting are superb, and he is a huge asset to any case team. He has excellent judgment and is always commercial in his advice.'

- The Legal 500 UK Bar (2024)

“Matthew Watson is one of the most impressive juniors I know. He is phenomenally bright, really industrious and totally impressive.”

- Chambers & Partners Global (2022)

“He is one of our go-to junior barristers. He is truly excellent: user-friendly, great to have on the team and very knowledgeable.”

- Chambers & Partners Global (2022)

Practice Overview

Matthew has a thriving commercial disputes practice. He is an advocate in demand, appearing regularly in court and arbitral proceedings and now often instructed in his own right against silks. His experience spans banking and financial services, the sale of goods and commodities, company and insolvency litigation and civil fraud. His initial practice at a Chancery set also gives him particular expertise dealing with trust and equitable claims in a commercial context.

He is recommended in both the Legal 500 and in Chambers and Partners as a leading junior. He is described as a “go-to junior barrister” singled out as “phenomenally bright”, “really industrious” and “totally impressive.” The directories commend him for his “sharp legal mind” and ability to “master complex legal issues quickly and with ease.” He is valued amongst solicitors and clients as a barrister who “can always be relied upon.

Matthew’s commercial practice has a significant international dimension. He has acted in court and arbitral proceedings in the Middle East, the Channel Islands, Gibraltar, Singapore, Bermuda, the Bahamas and the British Virgin.

Matthew has also been described by the directories as the “best junior barrister” in the market for litigation before common law courts and arbitral tribunals in the Middle East. Both the Legal 500 and Chambers and Partners recommend him as one of the leading juniors specialising in Middle Eastern litigation. He is particularly singled out for his “experience and knowledge of DIFC law and practice.” He is one of the contributors to DIFC Court Practice and was part of the drafting team for the court rules in NEOM, a new Saudi Arabian free zone.

Matthew’s core practice is in commercial disputes. He has acted and advised on sale of goods and commodities claims, complex joint ventures, energy projects and banking and financial services disputes. He has particular experience of cross-border litigation, dealing with the conflict of laws, interim relief and jurisdiction battles.

A selection of some his commercial cases include:

  • Northcott Global Solutions v Covac Global Holdings Inc [2023] EWHC 355 (Comm): successfully resisted summary judgment in a substantial claim to fees arising from an emergency COVID-19 evacuation venture.
  • Horlick & ors v Cavaco & ors [2022] EWHC 1888 (QB); [2022] EWHC 1167(QB); [2022] EWHC 2935 (KB) and [2022] EWHC 3906 (KB): successfully defeated at a substantial trial (leading Chinmayi Sharma) claims in hard fought litigation relating to a Mozambique mining venture.
  • Addax Energy SA v Petro Trade Inc [2022] EWHC 237 (Comm): acted as sole counsel in a dispute about the supply of petroleum in Liberia.
  • Sadiyyah v Khatib & Alami [2021] DIFC CFI 099: acted for the successful defendant (led by Tom Montagu-Smith KC), challenging jurisdiction in favour of the Lebanese courts.
  • UK Global Healthcare v IGC International [2021]: acted as sole counsel in a US$305 million sale of goods claim in relation to PPE bought at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Arabian Construction Company v WLL v Credit Suisse Bank [2019] DIFC CA 008: acted on the first appeal in the DIFC Courts (led by Michael Black KC) in relation to the enforcement of foreign judgments under the GCC and Riyadh Convention.
  • Health Bay Investment v Dr Akkach [2019] DIFC CFI 087: acted for the defendant on a claim for breach of restrictive covenants and for alleged misuse of confidential information.
  • First Tower Trustees v CDS (Superstores International) [2017] EWHC 891 (Ch) and [2018] EWCA Civ 1396: acted in a misrepresentation claim (led by Alan Steinfeld KC) arising out of the lease of substantial commercial warehousing. The Court of Appeal’s judgment is the leading decision on contractual estoppel.
  • Sheikh Mohammed Al Jaber v Sheikh Walid Al Ibrahim & ors [2016] EWHC 1989 (Comm) and [2019] EWHC 1136 (Comm): acted for the first defendant (led by Steven Thompson KC) in a multi-million US dollar commercial dispute. The case involved a complex four-day jurisdiction challenge involving issues of Saudi law.
  • Peter Black Footwear v Fawaz Abulaziz Alhokair & Co [2018] EWHC 93 (Comm): acted for a Saudi company (led by Rupert Reed KC) defending a multi-million international sale of goods claim.
  • Monks v Meadows & Sweeney [2018] DIFC CFI 060: acted for the successful claimant on his claim to enforce a judgment of the English Commercial Court in the DIFC. The underlying claim related to a loan facility and the enforceability of interest provisions in the UAE.
  • McConnell Dowell South East Asia v Essar Projects [2018] DIFC CFI 082: acted for the claimant on its claim to enforce a judgment of the Singapore Commercial Court in the DIFC. The underlying dispute related to the financing of a port in Singapore.

Matthew has an established banking and financial services practice. He is one of the contributors to the forthcoming edition of Paget on Banking. He has been instructed on customer-bank and bank-bank disputes in England and overseas. He has particular experience in syndicated lending, where he has acted for several syndicates on the recovery of debts and the enforcement of security.

Matthew has experience on claims involving complex financial products, including various types of swaps and derivatives. In 2014, the Financial Conduct Authority instructed him to draft part of the new MCOB rules to give effect to the new Mortgage Credit Directive (2014/17/EU).

A selection of Matthew’s recent cases include:

  • Rijckaert v El-Khouri [2023] EWHC 409 (KB): successfully defeated a US$3m claim under an allegedly forged promissory note by resisting a last minute attempt to amend six days before trial.
  • Khoury v Mashreq Bank [2021] DIFC CFI 046 and [2022] DIFC CA 007: successfully defeated (sole counsel at first instance and led by Tom Montagu-Smith KC) a claim for damages against the bank on service and jurisdictional grounds.
  • Emirates NBD Bank v Advanced Facilities Management [2020] DIFC CFI 065: obtained a US$540m summary judgment (led by Tom Montagu-Smith KC) for a syndicate of banks that had lent to a UAE corporate group.
  • DIFC Investments Ltd v Dubai I Bank [2022] DIFC CFI 024: acted a successful claim (led by Tom Montagu-Smith KC) challenging the validity of an assignment of receivables.
  • E. Hamad Al Khaili v BNP Paribas Wealth Management [2021] DIFC CFI 031: acted for the successful bank defending a claim that it made an unauthorised investment on the claimant’s behalf.
  • Bank of Beirut (UK) Ltd v Moukarzel [2021] EWHC 3777 (Comm): acted as sole counsel for the bank and successfully obtained a multi-million dollar judgment on a restructuring loan.
  • Emirates NBD Bank v KBBO CPG Investment [2020] DIFC CFI 045: acted on behalf of the successful claimant banks (led Tom Montagu-Smith KC and John Taylor KC) in proceedings relating to a US$300 million syndicated loan.
  • DIFC Investments Ltd v Dubai I Bank [2020] DIFC CFI 016: acted on a successful claim (led by Tom Montagu-Smith KC) to enforce a performance guarantee given by a bank, notwithstanding an injunction in the court where the bank was located restraining payment.
  • Bank of Beirut v Sbayti [2020] EWHC 557 (Comm): acted for the successful claimant bank in its application for summary judgment under guarantees given to secure lending to a Nigerian company.
  • Macquarie Capital v Nordsee Offshore MEG I [2019] EWHC 1655 (Comm): acted for the defendants (led by Andrew Spink KC) in a multi-million euro claim by the Australian bank for commission relating to the project finance raised for an offshore German windfarm.
  • IDBI Bank Limited v Amira C Foods International DMCC [2019] DIFC CA 014: acted on an appeal (led by Tom Montagu-Smith KC) concerned with the measure of damages for breach of a documentary credit and the bank’s liability for damage to its customer’s reputation.
  • Kazzaz v Standard Chartered Bank [2019] SGHC(I) 15: acted for the claimant in this regulatory claim in the Singapore Commercial Court relating to the mis-selling of a complex package of financial products.
  • CCUK Finance Ltd v Barclays Bank Plc [2018] EWHC 304 (Comm): acted for the claimants (led by Stephen Cogley KC) in a billion dollar claim against Barclays relating to the sale of a portfolio of sub-prime credit card debt.
  • Re the Arasbridge Trust [2017] GRC 002: acted for the trustee of an open-ended, unit investment trust being wound up by the Guernsey courts.

Matthew has considerable experiencing acting in arbitrations on a wide range of commercial disputes. He has appeared in LCIA, ICC and other institutional arbitrations. Matthew also has experience acting in court to obtain relief in support of arbitral proceedings.

Much of Matthew’s caseload is confidential, however examples of recent cases include:

  • Muzama v Mihanti [2022] DIFC ARB 004: acted (led by Christopher Harris KC) on a successful application to resist the annulment of a US$87m ICC award in the DIFC.
  • Qatar Pharma v the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia [2022]: acting for the Kingdom (led by Christopher Harris KC) on an investment treaty claim arising out of measures enacted against Qatar in 2017.
  • Re an LCIA Arbitration [2022]: acted for an Omani importer in an arbitration relating to the supply of hot briquetted iron.
  • Re an ICC Arbitration [2021]: acted as sole counsel for the defendant in a US$10 million claim arising from the termination of an oil rig contract.
  • Re a DIFC-LCIA Arbitration [2020]: acted for a major hotel chain (led by Tom Montagu-Smith KC) in an arbitration relating to the termination of a hotel management agreement relating to a Middle Eastern hotel. The proceedings began following DIFC Court proceedings for interim injunctive relief pending formation of the tribunal.
  • Re a DIFC-LCIA Arbitration [2019]: acted for the successful claimant (led by Tom Montagu-Smith KC) obtaining a multi-million dollar award in proceedings concerning the termination of a commercial satellite telecommunications contract.
  • Re a DIFC-LCIA Arbitration [2016-2018]: acted in a substantial arbitration (led by Rupert Reed KC) involving a claims to enforce a written parent company guarantee following the collapse of a Spanish clothing franchise.
  • Re an ICSID Arbitration [2017]: acted for a government in proceedings to resist enforcement of an award made after an ICSID arbitration.
  • Hayri International v Hazim Telecom Private [2016] DIFC ARB 010: acted for the successful applicant (led by Tom Montagu-Smith KC) for an urgent anti-suit injunction to restrain a foreign court from itself restraining arbitration proceedings.

As a result of his prior practice at a Commercial Chancery set, Matthew is experienced in all forms of commercial chancery litigation including company and insolvency disputes, trust disputes and equitable relief.

Matthew is the junior barrister representative on the Bankruptcy and Companies Court Users’ Committee. He was also one of the draftsmen, alongside a team of senior judges and lawyers, of the Insolvency Practice Direction. He was a contributor to Atkin’s Court Forms: Companies – General (2018).

His cases include:

  • Representation of B and C [2022] JRC 086: acted for the protector in this contentious dispute about the administration of a trust and corporate structure holding c.$1 billion in assets.
  • Martinez v AAL Group Limited [2022]: acted for a creditor resisting recognition of a Columbian insolvency on public policy grounds.
  • Pilatus (PTC) v RBC Trustees (Guernsey) [2021] GRC 012: acted for the defendant in substantial Guernsey litigation relating to a corporate structure holding an African oil business. The claim is the leading decision on the application of the reflective loss rule in the Channel Islands.
  • Re Shif [2020]: acted for a guarantor on his application to set aside a statutory demand in relation to substantial lending to a property development company.
  • Hannon v Thresh & Mangajo Ltd [2019]: acted in a High Court claim for unfair prejudice relief in relation to a privately owned company.
  • Hare v Doherty [2019]: acted for the defendant in this dispute relating to an offshore corporate structure holding a South African game farm. The dispute settled shortly before its two week High Court trial.
  • Investec Trust (Guernsey) v Glenalla Properties (2014) 18 ITELR 1; (2018) 18 ITELR 30 and GCA 7 and [2018] UK PC 7: acted in the Guernsey Court of Appeal and before the Privy Council (led by Ewan McQuater KC) in this landmark appeal relating the status of foreign statutory limitations of liability in contractual claims as a matter of private international law and restitution.
  • Bank of Ireland v Lord Magan [2017]: acted for the successful respondent, a Conservative peer, to a bankruptcy petition in the High Court. The proceedings were widely reported in the national press.
  • EME Capital LLP v Bryant [2017]: acted for the successful petitioning creditor on a contested bankruptcy petition in relation to loans made to a broker by his former firm
  • Re Elgin Legal Limited [2016] EWHC 2523 (Ch): acted for a former administrator in his claim to resolve problems with his appointment. The case established a former administrator’s standing as creditor to apply for a fresh administration order and considered the case law on retrospective appointments under paragraph 13(2) of Schedule B1 to the Insolvency Act 1986.
  • Zaleksi v GM Trustees Ltd [2015] GRC 042 and [2016] GCA 009: acted for the defendant at a two week trial before the Guernsey Royal Court and subsequently in the Court of Appeal. The defendant successfully resisted complex claims relating to the sale of a concession granted over a mineral port in the Gabon.
  • Jefcoate v Spread Trustee [2014] GRC 42: acted for the successful defendant at the three week trial of this multi-million commercial trust dispute, defeating claims of conspiracy and breach of trust, arising from the alleged deliberate sale of former National Coal Board land at an undervalue.
  • Barnett v Creggy [2014] EWHC 3080 (Ch); [2015] EWHC 1316 (Ch) and [2016] EWCA Civ 1004]: Matthew acted for the claimants (led by Steven Thompson KC) at first instance and before the Court of Appeal in a claim for the repayment of substantial sums paid to a solicitor over several decades and held in an offshore structure. The Court of Appeal’s judgment is the leading decision on the application of the Limitation Act to equitable claims.

Many of Matthew’s cases involve allegations of fraud. He has experience pleading and pursuing such claims for claimants and resisting fraud claims for defendants. He is familiar with the common ancillary applications including freezing orders and Norwich Pharmacal orders.

Some cases that give a flavour of Matthew’s work in this area include:

  • Rijckaert v El-Khouri [2023] EWHC 409 (KB): successfully defeated a US$3m claim under an allegedly forged promissory note by resisting a last minute attempt to amend six days before trial.
  • Uphold v Ismail [2022] acted for a cryptocurrency wallet provider and obtained judgment on its deceit claim against its former chief compliance officer arising out of the fraudulent appropriation of cryptoassets.
  • SKAT v Elysium Global (Dubai) Limited [2018] DIFC CFI 048: acting for the Danish government (led by Tom Montagu-Smith KC) in proceedings to recover £2 billion alleged to have been paid out to hundreds of parties pursuant to a fraudulent dividend withholding tax conspiracy. He managed the proceedings arising from one of the largest search orders ever executed.
  • Tavira Securities Ltd v Re Point Ventures FZCO [2017] DIFC CFI 026: Matthew acted for the claimants (led by Tom Montagu-Smith KC) in a claim for damages for deceit and conspiracy arising from share brokerage transaction
  • Peak Construction (London) v Michael Savva [2016] EWHC 1295 (Ch): successfully obtained an urgent freezing order in support of the claimant’s bribery claim arising in relation to a construction project and unless orders to enforce the order.
  • Jefcoate v Spread Trustee [2014] GRC 42: acted for the successful defendant at the three week trial of this multi-million commercial trust dispute, defeating claims of conspiracy and breach of trust, arising from the alleged deliberate sale of former National Coal Board land at an undervalue.

Matthew’s practice also involves acting on negligence claims against professionals connected to his core practice areas. He has experience of claims against solicitors, accountants, trustees and investment professionals.

His cases include:

  • Re a loan transaction: acting for the claimant banks in a c.$300 million negligence claim against former solicitors for negligent advice in relation to a substantial loan transaction.
  • Abraaj Investment Management Ltd & ors v KPMG Lower Gulf & ors [2021] DIFC CFI 041: acting (led by Tom Montagu-Smith KC) for the former auditors of the Abraaj Capital Group.
  • Equity Real Estate (South West) Ltd v Harrison Clark Rickerbys: acting for the claimant against former solicitors for negligence in relation to a share purchase agreement.
  • Kleinwort Benson (Guernsey) Ltd v Aras Investment Management Ltd & ors [2017] GRC 30: acted for the trustee of an open-ended, unit investment trust bringing proceedings in negligence against the former management and administrator of the unit trust.
Winner: UK Bar Awards 2023
The Lawyer Awards 2022: Chambers of the Year