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Blair Leahy

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Clerks' direct contact:
+44 (0)20 7842 1200
Clerks [at] 20essexst [dot] com

Blair joined Chambers in January 2012 having previously practised from South Square chambers. At South Square, in addition to a directory-recognised expertise in insolvency and restructuring, she also gained substantial experience of multi-jurisdictional frauds. Since her move, she has considerably broadened her commercial practice. Recent cases include two substantial multi-jurisdictional hedge fund frauds, acting for a foreign financial services regulator, representing claimants in a USD300m LCIA arbitration between the CIS domiciled stakeholders of a BVI company, and appearing (with Iain Milligan QC) on a USD1.35bn appeal to the Privy Council in a dispute over the ownership of Turkey's largest mobile phone operator.

At the same time, Blair has also continued to develop her insolvency and company law practice: since joining Chambers she has advised in relation to a number of very substantial unfair prejudice petitions, conducted two substantial misfeasance trials as sole counsel and appeared in the Supreme Court in the Rubin v Eurofinance litigation, for the Respondent in JSC Bank of Moscow v Kekhman, for the foreign liquidator in Trillium v Office Metro and for landlords in the HMV, Dream, Game and Luminar administrations.

Specialisations: 

  • General commercial litigation
  • International and domestic insolvency and restructuring
  • Company law (including directors' breach of duty claims and shareholders' disputes)
  • Civil fraud
  • Banking and finance

Principal Cases: 

Recent Cases

JSC Bank of Moscow v Kekhman, 9 April 2014: acting for the successful Respondent to an annulment application. The Respondent is a Russian national who could not be made bankrupt in Russia (where he was held to be domiciled and resident) because of the limited scope of the personal bankruptcy regime there.
 
The Respondent successfully petitioned for his own bankruptcy in October 2012 on the sole jurisdictional basis that he was present in England on the day his petition was presented (i.e. s 265(1)(b) IA86). His creditors then applied for an annulment claiming there was no utility in the bankruptcy and that the Respondent had no sufficient connection with England but was simply forum shopping. The Court dismissed the application holding that there was utility in the bankruptcy including because the debtor “has come to this jurisdiction to fill a lacuna in the laws of the country where he is domiciled and resides”.
 
Permission to appeal was granted and the appeal is listed for hearing in January 2015.

Vivendi SA v Richards [2013] EWHC 3006 (Ch): acting for the successful claimant in a claim against a director and a shadow director for breach of fiduciary duty, in particular their duty of good faith, in procuring the company to make payments to third parties totalling over £10 million when they knew that it was in financial difficulty. The Court held that in making and procuring the payments the defendants were guilty of fraudulent breach of fiduciary duty. The case is significant because, in relation to the extent of duties owed by shadow directors, Newey J considered that the decision of Lewison J in Ultraframe v Fielding understated the extent to which shadow directors owed fiduciary duties and held that they would typically owe such duties.

Re HLC Environmental Projects Ltd [2013] EWHC 2876 (Ch): acting for the successful liquidators on a breach of duty claim against a director of the insolvency company. The director had made payment to various creditors (including connected creditors) in the knowledge that the company was on the verge of insolvency. He was held to have breached his duty to act in the company's best interests and ordered to repay the sums paid away. The case is significant because the court had to consider an argument that since the payments had discharged liabilities of the company, the company had suffered no loss and this was a complete answer to the claim in misfeasance. The argument was rejected, both because the claim was analogous to a claim against a trustee to restore a fund that he had misapplied and because in any event the court retained a very wide discretion under s.212 Insolvency Act 1986 to order repayment in such circumstances.

Cukurova Finance International Limited v Alfa Telecom Turkey Limited [2013] UKPC 2: acting for the respondents (led by Iain Milligan QC) on an appeal to the Privy Council from the decision of the Court of Appeal of the British Virgin Islands. The case involved a battle between Turkish and Russian investors for control of Turkey's largest mobile phone operator. The appeal included difficult questions about appropriation by a collateral-taker under the Financial Collateral Regulations, the availability of relief from forfeiture following such an appropriation, and the extent to which the exercise of a chargee's rights are subject to any duty of good faith.

Cukurova Finance International Limited v Alfa Telecom Turkey Limited [2013] UKPC 20: again acting for the respondents, in a further dispute over the terms of relief from forfeiture and the extent to which in addition to allowing further time for payment, the relieving court could also vary other terms of the finance documents.

LCIA Arbitration (2013): acting for the Claimants in a shareholder dispute over the ownership of a large CIS manufacturing company. The shareholders held their interests through a BVI company and their relationship was governed by a Shareholders Agreement with a London arbitration clause. The Claimants sought relief on the basis that the Respondents had sought to unfairly prejudice their minority shareholders' rights.

Rubin v Eurofinance SA [2013] 1 AC 236: acting for the New Cap Appellants (Lloyds' names) in a conjoined appeal to the Supreme Court seeking to overturn the controversial decision of the Court of Appeal in Rubin v Eurofinance [2011] Ch 133 that judgments of foreign bankruptcy courts in avoidance proceedings were in a special category that could be enforced in England whether or not the defendant had submitted to the jurisdiction of the foreign court. The Supreme Court held that the approach in Rubin did not represent an incremental development of existing principles but was "a radical departure from substantially settled law" and that change to the law of this nature was more suitable for legislation than judicial innovation. The Supreme Court also rejected the argument that judgments in foreign (non UK) avoidance proceedings could be enforced in England pursuant to provisions of the Cross-border Insolvency Regulations 2006 or section 426 of the Insolvency Act 1986.

Trillium (Nelson) Properties v Office Metro [2012] BCC 829: representing a foreign liquidator in the first reported English decision on the meaning of "establishment" in EC Regulation 1346/2000 on Insolvency Proceedings. The court held that company, which had dual registration in Luxembourg and England and whose centre of main interests had been transferred to Luxembourg, did not have an establishment in England, its English registered office notwithstanding. The Court further held that the correct date for determining the issue of establishment was the date on which the English winding-up petition was presented, and, obiter, that no useful purpose would have been served by secondary proceedings in any event.

Lazari GP v Jervis [2013] BCC 294: appearing for a landlord of one of Game group's most prominent stores on Oxford Street, W1 on a successful application for permission to forfeit the lease of the property.

Leisure Norwich II Limited v Luminar Lava Ignite Limited [2012] BCC 497: led by Stephen Jourdan QC (Falcon Chambers) on an application by landlords (all members of the X-Leisure group) in proceedings against administrators of the Luminar group of companies. The litigation involved an unsuccessful challenge to the controversial decision in Goldacre (rent as an expense) and other complex landlord & tenant/insolvency issues.

(These are two recent examples of Blair's substantial recent experience of the landlord and tenant issues which arise in insolvency proceedings. She has also acted for the landlords in the HMV, Dreams, Game, TJ Hughes and Blacks' administrations, the landlords in Goldacre Offices (UK) Limited v Nortel Networks (UK) Limited [2010] Ch 455 and Metro Nominees [2008] BCC 40, the administrators of Innovate Logistics (Sunberry Properties Limited v Innovate Logistics Limited [2009] 1 BCLC 45) and for the successful objectors in PRG Powerhouse CVA (Prudential v PRG Powerhouse [2008] 1 BCLC 289).)

Re Integrated Medical Solutions Limited [2012] BCC 215: acting for an Irish Examiner on an application under section 426 Insolvency Act 1986/CBIR requesting the English court to dismiss a winding up petition presented by HMRC against the English registered company in examination in Ireland on the basis that the winding up would upset a sale of the business of the company.

HSBC v Rental Property Management Limited; Clydesdale Bank v Rental Property Management Limited (October 2012): acting for HSBC and Clydesdale Bank in a c.£16m dispute over sham intermediate leases of mortgaged property granted without the consent of the banks to an associate company of the chargors.

ESO Capital Luxembourg Holdings II S.A.R.L v Duet Cayman LLP (2011): acting for an investment fund in a €50+ million multi-jurisdictional dispute arising out of the refinancing of a property construction and development project in St Barts (French West Indies). The dispute, which settled in July 2011, involved three sets of arbitration proceedings in the London Court of International Arbitration and Court proceedings in the Cayman Islands and Luxembourg.

In re Mercury Tax Group Limited [2011] 2 BCLC 301: acted for the Respondent administrators at first instance and on appeal to the Court of Appeal in a dispute about the administrators' rejection of HMRC's debt for voting purposes at a creditors' meeting to consider the company's administrators' proposals for the future of the administration.

Blair has also acted in relation to a number of major corporate restructurings and insolvencies including Lehman Brothers (for the US Trustee of Lehman Brothers Inc), Zavvi (for the administrators and liquidators), Madoff (for the English provisional liquidators), Woolworths (for a counter-party), Waterford Wedgwood (for the English administrators), T&N (for the trustees of the T&N Retirement Benefits Scheme (1989)) and BCCI (for the English liquidators in their fraudulent trading claims against Bank of India and State Bank of India (see BCCI v State Bank of India [2003] BCC 735, BCCI v Bank of India [2004] 2 BCLC 279 and BCCI v Bank of India [2005] 2 BCLC 328)).

Education and Career: 

Newtown School, Republic of Ireland
BA in Philosophy (York, First Class Honours) and MA in Continental Philosophy (University of Essex, British Academy Scholar)
Dip. Law (City)
Inner Temple Major Scholar
Called to the Bar 2001 (Inner Temple)
Tenant at South Square chambers from October 2002 to January 2012
 

Blair was admitted to the Bar of the East Caribbean Supreme Court, British Virgin Islands in 2015. 

Appointments and Society Memberships: 

  • COMBAR
  • Chancery Bar Association
  • R3 Education and Training Committee
  • Insolvency Lawyers Association
  • LCLCBA
  • Fraud Lawyers Association (FLA)

Quotes: 

Blair is recommended by the Legal Directories as a leading junior in the fields of Commercial Litigation, Civil Fraud and Insolvency/Restructuring. Most recent quotes are:

Chambers UK 2018: "A pleasure to work with, she is very hard-working and devoted to her cases"; "She just understands being part of the client team"; "She is bright, bullish and decisive"; "She is very approachable and very easy to deal with"; "She's very user-friendly and great with clients."

Legal 500 2017: "A great junior"; "An incredibly capable junior"; "She knows insolvency law extremely well and is able to advise accordingly".

Chambers UK 2017: "Blair knows the technical side of the law inside out and is a wonderful tactician."

Legal 500 2016: "She has star quality and is a brilliant lawyer";  "Tremendously able with a huge breadth of talent".

Who's Who Legal 2016: "At 20 Essex Street, Blair Leahy is "second to none" for her "phenomenal level of skill” and “versatile thinking”.

Chambers UK 2016: "She provides clear advice on what is possible and how best to achieve it."

Legal 500 2015: “A phenomenal individual who makes mincemeat of highly ranked silks and senior juniors”.

Chambers UK 2015 “A practical and intelligent adviser, who handles a range of corporate insolvency and fraud cases. She is seen as being a solid performer in court.”

Chambers UK 2014: "A good court performer," she is "bright, personable and an excellent part of any large litigation team." "A compelling advocate, she is straight-talking and well prepared."

Legal 500 2014: "An excellent senior junior for both commercial and insolvency work".

Chambers UK 2013: 'Solicitors across the City were extremely complimentary about Blair Leahy ... and would "have no hesitation in instructing her in all things insolvency." Sources pick out her determined and persuasive court manner, fast turnaround, talent and great client skills as key attributes.'

Legal 500 2013: “very approachable, commercial and proactive”.

Chambers UK 2012: "Blair Leahy ... continues to make a strong impact in the market ... She is "highly capable, to the point and aggressive when she needs to be", say sources".