Press releases | 16 Dec 2016

Commercial Court dismisses substantial part of claim by Robert Tchenguiz and another against Jóhannes Rúnar Jóhannsson and Grant Thornton Defendants

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 August 2015 by Robert Tchenguiz and a related party 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 November 2015 the Commercial Court dismissed the claim as against Kaupthing. Today Mr Justice Knowles has dismissed a substantial aspect of the claim as against Mr Jóhannsson and the Grant Thornton defendants.

As part of his claim, Robert Tchenguiz sought damages for the loss of a chance, by a trust of which he is a beneficiary, to obtain a more favourable result in its claim to the proceeds of the sale of its equity interest in Somerfield (owner of the supermarket business) to the Co-operative Group. This element of the claim was said by Mr Tchenguiz to be worth up to £153 million.

Today Mr Justice Knowles, a judge in the Commercial Court in London, has dismissed this part of the claim as against Mr Jóhannsson and the Grant Thornton defendants in the strongest of terms, finding that it "demonstrably has no foundation and should never have been brought".

The remainder of the claim continues as against Mr Jóhannsson and the Grant Thornton defendants. The serious allegations that have been made in the remainder of the claim about the conduct of Jóhannes Rúnar Jóhannsson have, like the element of the claim dismissed today, absolutely no basis in fact or in law, and have been pursued despite the absence of any evidence whatsoever supporting those allegations. Mr Jóhannsson acted entirely properly throughout his tenure as a member of the Resolution Committee, and subsequently the Winding-up Committee, of Kaupthing, performing his duties to the highest possible standard in all respects, and will continue to contest vigorously all of the allegations against him.

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

“Today's decision represents a further important victory for Mr Jóhannsson which, subject to any attempted appeal, brings a substantial part of the entirely baseless claim brought by Robert Tchenguiz against Mr Jóhannsson to an end.”

Mr Justice Knowles ordered that Mr Jóhannsson and the other defendants are entitled to recover from the Claimants their costs of dealing with this aspect of the claim brought against him on the indemnity basis.

The Claimants sought permission to appeal the judgment, as to which Mr Justice Knowles refused permission, meaning that Robert Tchenguiz's only remaining avenue is to seek permission from the Court of Appeal directly.

A similar case, commenced by Vincent Tchenguiz and related parties in November 2014, came to an end today (subject to appeal). Having been previously dismissed against Mr Jóhannsson and Kaupthing, today Mr Justice Knowles dismissed the claim against all of the remaining defendants, Grant Thornton UK LLP and two partners of Grant Thornton UK LLP, on the basis that the claims brought had already been settled pursuant to a settlement agreement. Irrespective of the fact that the claims had already been settled, the serious allegations in this claim, like those in the claim by Robert Tchenguiz, had absolutely no basis in fact or law and should never have been brought.

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, Amelia White, 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.