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P&ID: Judge Knocks Lawyers Over Conduct, Refers Judgment To Regulators

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Justice Robin Knowles of the Commercial Courts of England and Wales, has lambasted two lawyers for the roles they played in the judgment, which had earlier required Nigeria to pay oil and gas company, Process & Industrial Developments (P&ID) Limited, $11 billion arbitration award over a purported breach of contract.

Knowles, who, on Monday, ruled in favour of Nigeria in an appeal before his court, has referred a copy of the judgment to the Solicitors Regulation Authority and Bar Standards Board, asking them to consider the professional consequences of the conduct of Seamus Andrew and Trevor Burke KC, over the handling of documents, which came into P&ID’s hands during the arbitration proceedings.

He had granted an application by Nigeria to reverse the $11bn award to the company, affirming that it was “obtained by fraud.”

The judge said the case “sadly brought together a combination of examples of what some individuals will do for money.”

In an end note of his 140-page judgment, after an eight-week hearing earlier this year, he criticised some individuals, who, he said, were “driven by greed and prepared to use corruption; giving no thought to what their enrichment would mean in terms of harm for others.”

He specifically said “The reason Mr Andrew and Mr Burke KC behaved in this way, was because of the money they hoped to make.

“Andrew may have had a claim for up to £3bn in the event of P&ID’s success, while Burke may have had a claim for up to £850m.

“I trust that these two regulators of the legal profession in England & Wales will consider the professional consequences of the conduct of Mr Burke KC and Mr Andrew in relation to Nigeria’s internal legal documents,” the judge said, hoping that the case sparks debate about the conduct of arbitration

According to him, “As legal professionals, Mr Andrew and Mr Burke KC appreciated that (Nigeria’s internal legal documents) included documents that were privileged and rejected as “untrue” Andrew’s oral evidence that the documents were shared as part of settlement discussions.

“Mr Andrew and Mr Burke KC knew that P&ID and they were not entitled to see these documents. Their decision not to put a stop to it, at least by informing Nigeria or immediately returning the documents they knew were received, was indefensible.

“The facts and circumstances of the case, which are remarkable but very real, provide an opportunity to consider whether the arbitration process, which is of outstanding importance and value in the world, needs further attention where the value involved is so large and where a state is involved.

“The present case shows that having a tribunal of the greatest experience and expertise is not enough. Without reflection, then a case such as the present could happen again, and not reach the court,” he added.

Andrew and Burke KC, in statements, denied wrongdoing.

While Andrew said “I do not accept the criticism in the judgment concerning Nigeria’s internal legal documents.

“I believe I acted in accordance with my professional duties, and I am confident that my conduct will in due course be vindicated by my regulator.

“I appeared voluntarily before the High Court as a witness and did my best to answer the questions asked of me carefully and accurately, as the judge observed.

“I shall not be making any further comment at this time in relation to today’s judgment.’

On his part, Burke said “I do not accept the criticism that have been made of me in relation to Nigeria’s internal legal documents. I gave my evidence in the English proceedings in good faith and to the best of my ability.

“I am confident that my conduct will be exonerated by my professional body with whom I shall cooperate fully,” he concluded.


Additional report from The Law Society Gazette

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