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Commercial Court dismisses claim by Vincent Tchenguiz and others against Jóhannes Rúnar Jóhannsson

Overview

Travers Smith LLP represents Kaupthing ehf. and Jóhannes Rúnar Jóhannsson (a member of Kaupthing’s former Winding-up Committee) in a claim brought in the Commercial Court in November 2014 by Vincent Tchenguiz and related parties against Kaupthing, Mr Jóhannsson, Grant Thornton UK LLP and two partners of Grant Thornton UK LLP, Stephen Akers and Hossein Hamedani.

The claim alleges that Messrs Akers, Hamedani and Jóhannsson conspired to pass information, dishonestly, to the Serious Fraud Office (“SFO”), in order to instigate and encourage an investigation by the SFO into Mr Tchenguiz and his related companies in the context of Kaupthing’s collapse in October 2008, and that they did so for their own commercial gain. Kaupthing and Grant Thornton UK LLP are said to be vicariously liable for the actions of their representatives. The claim is baseless, unsupported by evidence and ought never to have been made.

In July 2015 the Commercial Court dismissed the claim as against Kaupthing. Today Mr Justice Knowles has dismissed the claim as against Mr Jóhannsson.

Mr Justice Knowles was satisfied that the claim being asserted by Vincent Tchenguiz had in fact been settled by virtue of a settlement agreement entered into in earlier proceedings commenced by Vincent Tchenguiz. The effect of this judgment is that the claim as against Mr Jóhannsson is now at an end, subject to any attempted appeal (as to which Mr Justice Knowles today refused permission to appeal, meaning that Mr Tchenguiz must now seek permission from the Court of Appeal directly). The claim continues as against Grant Thornton UK LLP and the two partners of Grant Thornton UK LLP, albeit that the same argument in relation to the settlement agreement as was deployed by Mr Jóhannsson is also available to the remaining Defendants.

Stephen Paget-Brown, who leads the Travers Smith team, commented:

“This is an important victory for Mr Jóhannsson which, subject to any attempted appeal, brings the claim brought by Vincent Tchenguiz against both of our clients to an end. In my view this is a claim which should never have been brought: it is clear to me that the very serious allegations made in the claim about the conduct of Mr Jóhannsson had absolutely no basis in fact, and were pursued despite the absence of any evidence whatsoever supporting those allegations. Mr Jóhannsson vigorously contested all of the allegations, clear that at every stage he had performed his duties as a member of the Resolution Committee and subsequently the Winding-up Committee of Kaupthing entirely properly and to the highest possible standards in all respects.”

Mr Justice Knowles ordered that Mr Jóhannsson is entitled to recover from the Claimants his costs of dealing with the claim brought against him.

A similar case commenced by Robert Tchenguiz and related parties in August 2015 continues as against Mr Jóhannsson, Grant Thornton UK LLP and two partners of Grant Thornton UK LLP, having been dismissed as against Kaupthing in November 2015. The serious allegations in Robert Tchenguiz’s claim are of the same nature as those in the claim by Vincent Tchenguiz, are similarly unsupported by any evidence, and are likewise being vigorously contested.

The Travers Smith team acting on the claims by both Vincent and Robert Tchenguiz is led by Head of Dispute Resolution Stephen Paget-Brown and Dispute Resolution partner Huw Jenkin, who are assisted by associates Louise Hill, Sam Cottman, Adam Short, Alexa Day, Alyssa Brathwaite and Rachel Ward.

Lead Counsel acting for Kaupthing and Mr Jóhannsson is Robert Miles QC of 4 Stone Buildings, supported by Jeremy Goldring QC and Stephen Robins (both of South Square Chambers) and Tom Gentleman of 4 Stone Buildings.