William McCormick QC

Call: 1985
QC: 2010

William’s practice covers a wide range of cases in which his expertise as a litigator means he is in high demand. Directories praise him in the fields of Commercial Dispute Resolution, Company & Partnership & Defamation & Privacy for his “great legal knowledge and an uncanny ability to identify problems at an early stage”, for being “simply excellent with clients” and as “a tenacious and savvy advocate, who is quick to get to grips with the papers”. “He is a first class tactician and always impressive on his feet. He has a really lovely advocacy style. He is charming, energetic.”

In addition, both the Supreme Court and Privy Council have praised his advocacy in judgments – “spirited and impressive” [2017] UKSC 33 and “force and realism” [2014] UKPC 6. He has also appeared in the Courts of Appeal of both Trinidad & Tobago and the Dubai International Financial Centre.

  • ADR & Mediation

    William regularly attends mediations and other forms of alternative dispute resolution.  He recognises the opportunities that these processes offer to resolve legal disputes within a broader context, whether this is centred on commercial interests or personal relationships (or a combination of both) and in particular the ability for the parties to mould their own outcome rather than being constrained by the legal remedies available in a courtroom.

  • Arbitration

    Representing a defendant Colombian company facing attempts to enforce an LCIA arbitration award for £60m +. The claimant has secured freezing order over insurance monies held in London. The client company has entered into administration in Colombia and is seeking recognition of those proceedings. Claimant opposes this on the basis that it is a sham.

    Insurance company arbitration – Arbitration between ATE insurer and solicitor which issued thousands of policies under a number of coverholder agreements. The insurer claims that the solicitor had agreed to bear a proportion of adverse costs awarded and then committed wholesale breaches of the terms of the agreement and concealed the extent of the losses being sustained for many years.

  • Civil Fraud & Asset Recovery

    SKAT (Danish Tax Authority) Litigation (2019-2020)
    Successfully defending the Gerant (CEO) of a Luxembourgish Company who was alleged to have negligently failed to identify conduct said to be part of a world-wide conspiracy that has defrauded the Danish Tax Authorities of more than £1.2bn. The claim was discontinued in the face of an application for summary judgment by the defendant.

  • Commercial

    Representing a Seychelles company suing a Singapore-based Trust Company for procuring breach of contract relating to a major property development in London. The defendant both held 95% of the shares in the defaulting company and required its employees to serve as directors of the corporate director of the defaulting company  by Company for which it provided directors.

    SKAT (Danish Tax Authority) Litigation (2019-2020)
    Successfully defending the Gerant (CEO) of a Luxembourgish Company who was alleged to have negligently failed to identify conduct said to be part of a world-wide conspiracy that has defrauded the Danish Tax Authorities of more than £1.2bn. The claim was discontinued in the face of an application for summary judgment by the defendant.

    AMP Advisory and Management Partners v Force India Formula One Team Limited [2019] EWHC 2426 (Comm) in which he successfully secured a quantum meruit for work done (without a contract) in assisting in the securing of the title sponsor (BWT) for the F1 team now known as Racing Point (which produced the well-known colouring of the team’s cars).

    Affinity Workplace Solutions Limited v McCann and others [2019] EWHC 2829 (Ch) and Monex Europe Limited v Pothecary & another [2019] EWHC 1714 (QB), both of which involved proceedings to enforce post-termination restrictive covenants.

    Representing a German business in a claim for compensation in excess of £4m under the Commercial Agent Regulations and in its claim for negligence against the solicitors who initially advised it to deny that the agent was an employee.

    William led the team representing Rangers International FC, The Rangers Football Club and its Chairman Dave King in the dispute with Mike Ashley and Sports Direct PLC. He secured the dismissal as an abuse of process of an application to commit Mr King to prison [2016] EWHC 85 (Ch), the striking out of parts of that substantive claim and the imposition of terms upon Sports Direct PLC when it sought to discontinue the balance of its claim on the eve of the trial. Rangers Retail v TRFC [2017] EWHC 737 (Ch) – a case concerning the ability of a JV partner to bring a derivative action when the JV agreement purports to exclude any right to sue the defendant.

    Cases where directors or employees are said to have breached their duties for their own benefit (or the benefit of others) include

    In the trial of a dispute between competing funeral plan suppliers, following cross-examination of the claimant company’s witnesses the claimant discontinued its claim and its managing director (and final witness) resigned the following day.

    Patel v Mirza [2013] EWHC 1892 (Ch) and [2014] EWCA Civ 1047 – represented the defendant at trial and in the Court of Appeal arguing issues of illegality in the context of restitution.

    Namalco v EMBD and others – advised surveyors on their defences to third party claims made in multi-million US$ highway contracts.

    In Trinidad & Tobago his cases include disputes over the development/construction of multi-million pound hotel and villa leisure resorts and substantial highway contracts:.

    Real Time Ltd v Renraw Ltd [2014] UKPC 6 – a series of disputes between a number of companies controlled by high-profile individuals in Trinidad & Tobago.

  • Company & Partnership

    Re Ruskin Private Hire Ltd [2017] resisting claims by a liquidator against the finance director for breach of duty and trust.

    Energenics & Neuftec v Hazarika [2014] EWHC 1845 (Ch), resisting claims for damages based on breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty against the seller of a Dominican company.

    Killen v Horseworld Ltd [2012] EWHC 363 (QB) obtaining an account from a defaulting director who diverted corporate opportunities to a new company bought by her after she had been dismissed for attempting a similar diversion .

    Cordes v Sentinel [2008] UKPC 60. Successfully appealed from the Bahamian Court of Appeal a case concerning the payment for the sale of shares.

    William is regularly instructed to deal with claims of unfair management of companies where the possibility of derivative actions arise. Examples of this aspect of his caseload are:

    Rangers Retail v TRFC [2017] EWHC 737 (Ch) – a case concerning the ability of a JV partner to bring a derivative action when the JV agreement purports to exclude any right to sue the defendant.

    An unfair prejudice petition (alleging unfair dilution) was settled at trial following cross-examination of the company’s accountant exposing his lack of understanding of the company’s solvency (which had been used as the basis for a rights issue diluting the claimant’s shareholding to an insignificant percentage).

    A dispute between extended family members over the dealings with a group of companies over a period of 10-15 years. The principle underlying asset was a large piece of development land worth in the region of £30m. There were series of allegations of breaches of fiduciary duty arising out of a large number of undervalued transfers of shares within the group to the benefit of some family members and allegations were made against professional Trustees for approving various of these transactions.

    Similar cases involve disputes over the conduct of businesses in the fields of engineering, care homes and media.

    Re Mister Dee International [2009] EWHC 1902 (Ch) and [2010] EWCA Civ 1408 – successfully resisting a claim for unfair prejudice relief and the setting aside of a share transaction in a 3 week hearing and in the Court of Appeal.

  • Insolvency

    Representing a defendant Colombian company facing attempts to enforce an LCIA arbitration award for £60m +. The claimant has secured freezing order over insurance monies held in London. The client company has entered into administration in Colombia and is seeking recognition of those proceedings. Claimant opposes this on the basis that it is a sham.

     

    Resisting an application for administration by a construction company which was based upon wholly artificial arguments as to insolvency and was prompted by intra-family animosity.

    Re Ruskin Private Hire Ltd [2017] resisting claims by a liquidator against the finance director for breach of fiduciary duty, breach of trust and fraudulent preference.

     

  • Media & Entertainment

    William has long been recommended in the field of defamation and privacy where his trial experience and ability to provide early well-focused advice enable him to provide a complete service.

    Having acted as junior in a series of large libel trials, his first day in court as a QC was to take the Court of Appeal’s judgment in the ground-breaking case of British Chiropractic Association v Singh [2010] EWCA Civ 350 (in which he represented Mr Singh) which contributed to the eventual passing of the Defamation Act 2013. He is regularly engaged to advise in cases involving the mis-use of private information and defended Tamara Ecclestone’s former partner in the dispute in which each alleged such mis-use against the other and Ms Ecclestone sought unsuccessfully to reclaim the Lambourghini Aventador that she had given him as a birthday present (and the number plate she gave him for Christmas).

    Euroeco Fuels (Poland) Ltd & others v Szczecin and Swinoujscie Seaports Authority SA & others [2018] EWHC 1018 (QB) & [2019] EWCA Civ 1932
    William represents a Polish Port authority (and its president and an employee) in an action for libel and malicious prosecution brought against them in England by the operator and owners and executives of a recycling plant in Poland (based on statements made in Poland and in Polish that the plant had breached local environmental laws. The Judge at first instance declined of jurisdiction as a matter of discretion (the first time this had occurred in a libel case) under the Recast Brussels Regulation. The CA overturned that decision and an application for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court is pending.

    Banks v Cadwalladr [2019] EWHC 345 (QB)
    William represents Arron Banks in a libel action against Carol Cadwalladr arising out of her allegations that he lied about a secret relationship with the Russian Government in relation to accepting foreign funding in breach of UK referendum law. He also advised Mr Banks in his dispute with the Electoral Commission over statements it made about the source of funds donated by him to Leave campaign during the EU referendum which was settled on the basis of a statement by the Commission that it accepted the NCA’s decision that the funds had been Mr Banks’ and that it had found no evidence that any offences had been committed.

    He also represented the owners of the nationally known “heir hunter” Anglia Research Services Limited in their successful libel claim against a competitor, for statements made in emails to sales persons.

    Representing the defendant in a libel claim brought by the manufacturer of a protein powder in which a report said (inaccurately) that a dead mouse had been found. The publicity is alleged to have resulted in a temporary dip in sales with a profit value of c £1m and this sum is claimed as special damage.

    Barron & others v Collins & UKIP [2018] EWHC 253 (QB)
    William successfully obtained an order that UKIP was liable for the costs of three Labour MPs who sued UKIP MEP Jane Collins for libel in a speech delivered at the UKIP Conference because it had manipulated her defence of that action in the hope of political advantage in the 2015 general election.

    Miller v Associated Newspapers Ltd [2017] UKSC 33
    William successfully represented the claimant in this conjoined appeal heard over 3 days in which the attempt by various newspapers to strike down the recoverability of additional liabilities in publication cases failed. The Court’s judgment referred to his submissions as “spirited and impressive”.

    Dr Liam Fox MP v  Boulter  [2013] EWHC 1435 (QB), securing a settlement on the eve of trial for allegations arising out of Dr Fox’s public life.

    Lord McAlpine v Bercow [2013] EWHC 1342 (QB), representing the defendant in what was the first “twitter libel” arising out of unfounded reports on BBC’s Newsnight of child sexual abuse by the claimant.

    Tesla Inc v BBC [2013] EWCA Civ 152, suing Top Gear for the manner in which it reported on the Tesla Roadster.

    Cooper v Associated Newspapers Ltd & Evening Standard Ltd (one of the last jury trials for libel) in which he secured an award of £65,000 for an individual wrongly accused of masterminding the Millbank riots.

    MPS & SOCA v Times Newspapers Lld & Gillard [2011] EWHC 776, 1566 & 2705.
    In the allied field of breach of confidence he successfully resisted the intended use by Times Newspapers (in its defence of separate libel proceedings) of documents obtained by its journalist in breach of confidence which contained sensitive material that could have expose evidence-gathering methods and sources of information.

    He advised Tony Blackburn over his contractual position following his temporary departure from the BBC in 2016.

    In addition to having advised sportspersons on media related issues William has experience of advising on sports contracts (including Formula One) and has experience of contractual disputes in boxing (Sports Network v Calzaghe [2009] EWHC 480 (QB) [2010] EWHC 71 (QB)) and football, having been instructed on behalf of Glasgow Rangers FC in its long-running dispute with Sports Direct over their commercial relationship: [2016] EWHC 85 (Ch) and [2017] EWHC 737 (Ch).

    In AMP Advisory and Management Partners v Force India Formula One Team Limited [2019] EWHC 2426 (Comm) he obtained a quantum meruit on behalf of the claimant for work done without an agreed contact in connection with the title sponsorship for the Formula One Team.

  • Professional Negligence

    Among his professional negligence caseload are:

    A claim alleging the negligent drafting of a share sale agreements leaving the client exposed to being forced out on unfavourable terms.

    A claim against solicitors for failing to properly advise the business as to its exposure to risk under the Commercial Agents Regulations (leading the “employee” to bring such a claim which required to be settled).

    A claim alleging that the negligence of expert witnesses and solicitors had led to a conviction for murder.

    Representing a UK business in an action for negligence against solicitors for failing to take proper steps to register its design rights in the Far East in respect of a new type of hairbrush.

    Representing an insurer in proceedings against a firm of solicitors in respect of the issuing of ATE policies and the conduct of the linked litigation.

    Scullion v BoS (t/a Colleys) [2011] EWCA Civ 693
    William represented the claimant in Court of Appeal in seeking to establish a duty of care to buy-to-let purchasers. The appeal to the Supreme Court was compromised weeks before it was due to be heard.

     

  • Real Property

    In 2019 William represented claimants seeking to enforce their rights against a joint venturer developer of property transferred or charged by them to him.  Their claim was met with pleas of fraud, forgery, misrepresentation and breach of the joint venture agreement on their part. On the eve of trial the developer abandoned his case.

     

    Patrick v McKinley [2017] EWCA Civ 2068
    Successfully representing the respondent to an appeal in respect of alleged beneficial interests in properties arising over a period of years.

    Dattani v Damac Ltd (DIFC March 2015)
    Resisted the appeal of a developer against judgment for damages based upon the failure to complete a residential and retail project in Dubai.

    His case-load in Trinidad & Tobago has covered cases concerning the development/construction of multi-million pound hotel and villa leisure resorts

     

     

  • Recommendations

    ‘An absolute star at the Bar, he stands out for his forensic ability to focus on the relevant issues in hand and as a superb courtroom performer.’

    Legal 500 – 2021 – Defamation and Privacy

    ‘A seasoned silk who combines brilliant advocacy and analysis with a user-friendly style: he always adds value.’

    Legal 500 – 2021 – Company and Partnership

    “A very good advocate who is passionate in his delivery and very user friendly.”

    Chambers and Partners – 2020 – Defamation/Privacy

    “He’s a proper street fighter who really gets involved in the case and works with solicitors in a joint effort.”

    Chambers and Partners – 2020 – Commercial Dispute Resolution

    “A tenacious and formidable barrister who is hard-working and deadly in cross-examination..”

    Chambers and Partners – 2020 – Commercial Dispute Resolution

    “He is noted for his insightful analysis, his cutting straight to the core issues and his unambiguous approach.”

    Legal 500 – 2020 – Company and partnership

    “Extremely user-friendly”

    Legal 500 – 2020 – Defamation/Privacy

    “Very accomplished. Very engaging and good with the court.”

    Who’s Who Legal 2020 – William McCormick QC is a “truly excellent” barrister and “well liked by clients”. He “gives thoughtful advice and is assured in court”.

     

  • Chambers and Partners 2020
  • Legal 500, 2021
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