Fountain Court Chambers

London & Singapore

Adam Tolley QCCall Date: 1994 | Silk Date: 2014

Adam has a wide-ranging practice, specialising in commercial and employment law.

Adam’s commercial practice covers the whole range of commercial litigation, including particular recent experience in banking, financial services and professional negligence.

His employment practice encompasses both High Court and Employment Tribunal litigation. He has particular specialisations in issues of post-termination restrictions and confidentiality and, in relation to ET litigation, equal pay, discrimination and whistleblowing claims.

In addition, Adam undertakes work in the fields of personal tax and VAT, as well as privacy and confidentiality.


Areas of Expertise

  • Banking & Finance
  • Commercial dispute resolution
  • Employment
  • Insurance and reinsurance
  • Professional negligence
  • Tax


Recommended in the legal directories in Commercial Dispute Resolution, Employment, and Banking & Finance.

Comments in Chambers & Partners include:

  • “He is incredibly technical and thorough.” (2019)
  • “He has an excellent manner with clients and explains complex legal arguments clearly.” (2018)
  • “very knowledgeable about a broad range of finance matters”; “very good with clients” (2015)
  • “calm, considered and extremely bright”; “grasps matters quickly, and is also extremely personable and very client-friendly”; “good on cases involving a banking crossover” (2015)
  • “a very strong, clever barrister” (2014)
  • “amazing intellect”; “commercial, sensible and has a sharp eye for detail” (2012)

Comments in Legal 500 include:

  • “Very thorough, incisive, approachable, makes himself available, and pleasant to work with” (2019)
  • “An excellent communicator, who is always very responsive, efficient and user-friendly.” (2018)
  • “He is supremely knowledgeable and is extremely methodical in his approach.” (2018)
  • “recommended for his good depth of knowledge and experience” (2017)
  • “incredibly approachable and knowledgeable on financial services disputes” (2017)
  • “reassuringly clever, always beautifully calm and a pleasure to work with”; “accessible and easy to work with” (2014)


BA Jurisprudence (Oxon) First Class honours

BCL (Oxon) First Class honours


QC – 2014

Junior Counsel to the Crown, ‘A Panel’, 2007 – 2012, reappointed 2013-2014

Recent practice

Commercial Litigation:

Commercial litigation forms the core of Adam’s practice and includes both general commercial work as well as specific areas such as banking, financial services, insurance and conflicts of laws. Additional information about Adam’s banking, financial services and insurance practices is set out below (and more specific information is available on request).

Recent cases include:

  • Acting in a complex contentious trust dispute in the Cayman Islands – hearing in December 2018
  • Acting for a property development company in a claim against NAMA for restitution of monies paid under swaps – trial listed in May 2019
  • Acting in a wide variety of derivatives mis-selling litigation, including structured FX derivatives and the full range of interest rate hedging transactions
  • Acting as an expert witness on English law in proceedings in the United States, Russia, Singapore and the Republic of Ireland
  • Capita (Banstead 2011) v RFIB Group [2016] QB 835 – Court of Appeal – construction of indemnity clause and scope of professional’s continuing duty of care
  • Allied Fort v Creation [2015] EWCA Civ 841 – summary judgment in breach of fiduciary duty claim in context of insurance broking
  • Tael One Partners v Morgan Stanley [2015] Bus LR 278 – Supreme Court – construction of standard Loan Market Association terms
  • Talos Capital v JCS Investment Holding XIV [2014] EWHC 3977 (Comm) – Commercial Court – challenge to jurisdiction

Adam has acted on many injunction applications, frequently at short notice. Typical examples include freezing orders, enforcement of restrictive covenants and prevention of breach of confidence. Adam also has specific recent experience in the areas of franchising, partnership and commercial agency.

Employment and discrimination:

Adam has extensive experience of both large-scale commercial employment litigation (post-termination restrictions, confidentiality, fiduciary duties, TUPE) and high-value individual employment litigation, frequently involving both High Court claims and Employment Tribunal proceedings. He also deals with goods and services discrimination claims.

Much of Adam’s employment work overlaps with commercial litigation and arises in the contexts of banking and financial services. He has in-depth knowledge of the financial adviser sector. He represented the claimant in Aquinas Education v Miller [2018] IRLR 518, obtaining springboard injunctive relief, and the defendant in Ashcourt Rowan v Hall [2013] IRLR 637, a case concerning garden leave and the enforceability of restrictive covenants.

Many of Adam’s cases involve an international element, with issues as to jurisdiction and applicable law.  A recent example (settled at mediation) involved British in-house legal counsel based in the Gulf and employed through a Singaporean vehicle.

Adam also deals regularly with test cases involving issues of general importance or the interpretation of terms of employment. He is instructed in a number of large-scale equal pay claims.  He appeared on behalf of the Department of Business in Lock v British Gas [2016] ICR 503, as to commission and holiday pay, and in Bear Scotland v Fulton and Baxter [2015] ICR 221, the leading case on overtime and holiday pay. He also represented the Department for Transport in an appeal concerning the contractual incorporation of sickness absence management procedures: Sparks v DfT [2016] ICR 695.

Employment status issues feature regularly in Adam’s practice.  He is instructed by HMRC in relation to the IR35 litigation involving TV news presenters, such as Christa Ackroyd [2018] STI 907, and in relation to the case of Team Sky and Sir Bradley Wiggins.

Adam has particular recent experience in relation to the operation of National Minimum Wage in commercial contexts and HMRC enforcement procedures.  He is currently instructed in a number of cases, including issues as to accommodation allowance and uniform expenses.  Adam acted on behalf of HMRC in Daler-Rowney v HMRC [2015] ICR 632 (EAT), an appeal relating to work done by foreign students.

In addition, Adam has been instructed in many cases involving the termination of the contracts of senior executives of leading companies, and claims for breach of contract in relation to bonus and other incentive schemes.

In relation to ET litigation, Adam has represented HRH The Prince of Wales in successful defence of tribunal proceedings alleging race discrimination and sex discrimination by former employees at Highgrove and Clarence House. He has also represented HRH The Princess Royal (successful defence of tribunal claim for unfair redundancy dismissal) and the Duchy of Lancaster (claim for wrongful dismissal settled before trial).

Adam has “DV” security clearance, enabling him to act in matters involving national security, both in the commercial sector (involving employers such as British Airways) and in the public sector.

Banking and Financial Services:

Most recently, Adam has acted in a wide variety of interest rate swap, foreign exchange and other derivative mis-selling claims, involving many different types of business and swap products.  He has experience of claims involving allegations of LIBOR manipulation, as well as claims as to the conduct of the FCA Review in specific cases (including claims for declarations).

Adam has been instructed in a number of recent financial services disputes, including litigation between a fund manager and a custodian, and a contentious FCA investigation into pension transfers, involving a s166 FSMA review.

He has also advised in relation to the regulation of complex financial products, including collective investment schemes and crypto-currencies.  He is familiar with MiFID II and all associated legislation.

Adam is acting in a claim involving a bank’s responsibility for a fraud perpetrated on a customer.  He has in the recent past acted on behalf of a high street bank in defence of proceedings involving allegations of malicious presentation of a bankruptcy petition and in another case, the defence of claims of race discrimination concerning the closure of bank accounts and the application of the international sanctions regime against Iran.

Adam represented the lender in the leading Court of Appeal decision, BCT v Scotland and Reast [2014] Bus LR 1079, about the attribution of responsibility in relation to ‘unfair relationship’ claims under the Consumer Credit Act 1974.

In January 2013 Adam was appointed as counsel to the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards, with particular reference to the Sub-Panel on Mis-Selling and Cross-Selling. This work involved the questioning of witnesses on live TV (BBC Parliament).

Adam has experience of both international and domestic banking issues. Cases with an international dimension include VTB v Skurikhin, involving Russian litigation and claims for s25 CJJA relief in England, and Barclays v Svizera, involving a claim by syndicated lenders against international pharmaceutical companies, including issues as to a share sale governed by Brazilian law.

Domestic banking cases have involved a wide range of issues, including a broad variety of issues under the Consumer Credit Act 1974, the enforcement of security, including guarantees, and allegations of misrepresentation and undue influence.

Professional Negligence:

Adam’s professional negligence work encompasses the widest range of claims. He has extensive experience in relation to financial advisers, tax advisers, fund managers and pension fund administrators and contributes to the chapter on Financial Services in Professional Negligence and Liability (Informa, looseleaf).

He has particular recent experience in claims against advisers in respect of tax avoidance schemes, and claims against solicitors in relation to employment advice and the conduct of litigation.

Personal taxation and VAT:

Adam is and has been instructed by HMRC in a wide variety of cases, frequently involving overlap between matters of employment law and tax law. Notable cases include:

  • Christa Ackroyd v HMRC [2018] STI 907 – Application of IR35 to BBC News presenter
  • Paya v HMRC [2016] FTT 660 – scope of FTT rules as to intervention by BBC as non-party
  • Reed Employment v HMRC [2015] STC 2518 – CA – salary sacrifice and deductibility of home-to-work travel expenses for temporary employees
  • Martin v HMRC [2015] STC 478 – UT – tax treatment of payment due from employee to employer arising on breach of ‘golden handcuffs’ clause – ‘negative earnings’

Adam also deals with appeals on behalf of taxpayers, including VAT assessments and penalties.


Adam acted in a recent dispute about the interpretation of an insurance business transfer scheme, involving the question of its application to PPI mis-selling claims and complaints to the Financial Ombudsman Service – PA (GI) v GICL 2013 [2016] Lloyd’s Rep IR 125.

In relation to direct insurance work, Adam’s recent experience includes:

  • acting in direct claims between insured and insurers in respect of coverage disputes, for example, Hatton v Brit Insurance (claim by householder re serious injury suffered by individual working on buildings at his home – “employment” status of victim – successful defence of proceedings following trial)
  • acting in claims for and against insurers re avoidance issues, for example, Sharon’s Bakery v Axa and Aviva [2012] Lloyd’s Rep IR 164 (issues re non-disclosure of moral hazard and fraudulent devices)

Confidentiality, Privacy and Protection of Information

In addition to his employment work, Adam has considerable experience of confidentiality, privacy and protection of information issues in other contexts, including personal privacy (EWQ v GFD [2012] EWHC 2182), data protection and ICO investigations.

Other Fields of Work:

Adam’s wide-ranging experience enables him to act in cases involving overlap between two or more areas of law. He has extensive experience in the fields of conflicts, partnership, company and insolvency law. Further details of such experience are available on request.


French (competent)




Co-author (with Simon Beckwith and Adam Temple) of the chapter on Financial Services in Professional Negligence and Liability (Informa, looseleaf)

Other experience

Adam is a reviewer for the Bar Pro Bono Unit


Trying to find time to spend with my family (who may be less interested in spending time with me)

Challenging unlawful parking tickets issued to my electric car (current score 15-0 in my favour, including two appeals to the Parking Adjudicator)

Closely following the fortunes of Celtic FC (mostly enjoyable, especially in recent years, occasionally maddening but never dull)

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