Fountain Court Chambers

London & Singapore

Christopher KnowlesCall Date: 2011

Christopher is described in the directories as “highly intelligent” and “knowledgeable and experienced beyond his years”, as well as possessing “a sense of humour and perspective at all times”, and is recommended as a leading junior for insurance and reinsurance disputes (Legal500).

He has a broad commercial and civil practice in line with Chambers’ profile, specialising in:

  • Commercial Dispute Resolution
  • Insurance & Reinsurance
  • Professional Negligence
  • Civil Fraud
  • Conflict of Laws and Jurisdiction
  • Banking & Finance
  • Aviation

He has extensive experience of high-value commercial disputes. Examples include:

  • Acting (with David Railton QC and others) for RBS in the RBS Rights Issue Litigation.
  • Appearing (with David Railton QC, Michael Crane QC and James Cutress QC) in a complex reinsurance arbitration governed by New York law.
  • Acting (with Richard Handyside QC and Tamara Oppenheimer) for Nomura in Nomura International plc v Banca Monte Dei Paschi Di Siena SPA, a €3.5bn dispute between Nomura and Italy’s third largest bank.
  • Appearing (with Brian Doctor QC) for a Paraguayan pension fund in proceedings relating to a USD$40m fraud.

He is also comfortable appearing as sole counsel, and frequently appears for prominent UK and international clients. His work often has an international element. For example, he recently appeared  in proceedings between two Monaco-based individuals, involving entities in Cyprus, Greece, the BVI and Monaco, taking place against the background of litigation in those jurisdictions.

Areas of Expertise

  • Banking & finance
  • Commercial dispute resolution
  • Fraud: civil
  • Jurisdiction & conflicts of law
  • Professional negligence
  • Insurance and reinsurance
  • Aviation

Recent Practice

Commercial Litigation and Arbitration

  • Acting (with Derrick Dale QC and Ian Bergson) in Coward v Ambrosiadou, a dispute between a high-net-worth individual and his former wife and business partner, concerning the profits of a fund they started. The proceedings raised issues concerning the formation and enforceability of oral agreements, fiduciary duties, issue estoppel and abuse of process.
  • Appearing (with Akhil Shah QC) in SDI Retail Services Ltd v Rangers Football Club Ltd. The dispute concerns matching rights provisions in a Retail Operations, Distribution and IP Licence Agreement. It raises issues relating to the proper interpretation of such provisions, as well as issues regarding misrepresentation, economic torts and injunctive relief.
  • Instructed (with Bankim Thanki QC) for the claimant in an international arbitration under ICC rules in relation to choice of law issues regarding privilege, and whether certain documents were privileged as a matter of English law.
  • Instructed (with Alexander Milner) for an engineering concern in Eastern European Engineering Ltd v Vijay Construction (Pty) Ltd in proceedings in which it sought to enforce a large ICC arbitration award against a Seychellois company. The proceedings concerned the grounds on which a court can order a party to give security for an arbitration award, the arbitrator’s substantive jurisdiction, whether the defendant had a sufficient opportunity to present its case, and enforcement of the award.
  • Appearing (with David Mabb QC, Jeffrey Gruder QC and Nigel Dougherty) in proceedings between a shareholder and a publicly-listed company, raising issues regarding whether the board used its powers for an improper purpose in relation to a placing.
  • Christopher also frequently appears as sole counsel in the High Court. Recently, he has:
    • Acted for a broker in a claim against a client arising from the client’s failure to settle bond transactions, obtaining summary judgment on both the broker’s claim and the client’s counterclaim.
    • Appeared for the owner and operator of chain of high-end restaurants, obtaining damages and wide-ranging injunctive relief against two Saudi defendants who breached a franchising agreement and then continued to use the owner’s and operator’s branding and materials.
    • Acted for a string of corporate purchasers of goods (ranging from clothes to car parts to food products) in contractual disputes with suppliers.
    • Acted for a principal in a dispute with its former agent, concerning the alleged underpayment of commission and compensation under paragraph 17 of the Commercial Agents Regulations 1993.
    • Appeared for one of the UK’s largest bookmakers in a dispute with a former customer, raising issues regarding when a bookmaker owes duties to a customer, and the detection of money laundering and fraud.

Insurance & Reinsurance

As set out above, Christopher is ranked as a leading junior in this sector by Legal500, which describes him as follows: “Highly intelligent, keeps a sense of humour and perspective at all times, knowledgeable and experienced beyond his years”. His recent practice in this area includes:

  • Acting (with David Railton QC, Michael Crane QC and James Cutress QC) for a reinsurer in a complex arbitration brought against it by a construction company’s captive insurer. The proceedings raised issues under the law of New York relating to the extent to which a reinsurer is bound to follow settlements, aggregation of claims, the extent to which faulty workmanship and defective construction work counts as an accident or property damage, as well as the incorporation, scope, and applicability of exclusions.
  • Acting (with Stuart Ritchie QC) for an individual in a coverage dispute relating to two D & O policies. The dispute turned on points relating to an insured’s obligations to assist an insurer, the advancement of defence costs, and the grounds on which an insurer can deny coverage, and arose against the background of civil and criminal proceedings being brought against the individual by their former employer.
  • Acting (with Derrick Dale QC) for a large group of claimants in a substantial solicitor’s negligence claim in a dispute with the insured’s indemnity insurers regarding the application of the aggregation provisions in the Solicitors’ Minimum Terms. The dispute took place against the background of repeated errors by the insured solicitors, and potential fraud, in the context of the sale of a large number of off-plan leasehold properties.
  • Christopher has substantial experience acting as sole counsel in insurance matters. By way of example he has:
    • Advised the SRA on a coverage dispute with a solicitor’s liability insurers, in which the SRA seeks to advance a claim based on rights acquired by way of subrogation, and the insurer says that the claim was not covered on the basis it sought repayment of fees;
    • Acted, as sole counsel, for a large charity in a coverage dispute with an insurer, concerning whether the charity’s insurance covered sums which it was fraudulently induced to pay away as a result of cyberfraud;
    • Advised Lloyd’s underwriters on the proper interpretation of an aggregation clause, and its application to a number of claims brought against valuers.

Professional Negligence

  • Christopher has extensive experience of bringing and defending professional proceedings against providers of legal services, including:
    • Acting (with Derrick Dale QC) for a barrister in a claim said to be worth £20m regarding the provision of negligent advice, which is alleged to have led to the loss of the opportunity to pursue a supposedly valuable mis-selling claim against a leading UK bank. The dispute turns on issues regarding the likelihood of litigation being pursued and resulting in substantial sums being recovered from the bank.
    • Appearing (with Derrick Dale QC) for a large number of purchasers of off-plan properties in proceedings against the solicitors who acted for them in relation to the purchases. The aggregate value of the claims was over £10m, and the proceedings raised issues relating to (among other things) the duties of a purchaser’s solicitors in such transactions, and causation.
    • Acting (with Patricia Robertson QC) for one of the successful defendants in Ridgewood Properties Group Ltd v Kilpatrick Stockton LLP, a large dispute between a firm of solicitors and their former clients, raising issues relating to advice on repudiatory breach, affirmation, advice from counsel, and causation. The Claimants discontinued their claim after the largest part of it was struck out as an abuse of process.
    • Advising a firm of solicitors on whether reliance on counsel’s advice gave them a defence to a claim based on the negligent conduct and settlement of litigation.
  • He has also appeared in a number of matters concerning professional negligence in the financial sector. For example he has:
    • Acted (with James Cutress QC) for a leading firm of financial advisers in two sets of proceedings against former consultants, raising issues relating to the COB rules, the provision of financial advice, and the recovery of sums paid out to settle claims.
    • Appeared, as sole counsel in the High Court, for a prominent UK bank in a case concerning allegations that it negligently advised a wealthy client to invest in certain funds. The claim also raises issues relating to the extent to which a bank owes duties to its customer at common law when calculating any offer of redress made to the customer.

Civil Fraud

  • Appearing (with Brian Doctor QC) for a Paraguayan company in proceedings against individuals said to be responsible for a $40m fraud against it. The claimant successfully obtained freezing and search orders against the defendants, the latter in a novel form.
  • Acting (with Robin Barclay) for one of the Defendants in the SKAT litigation, relating to an alleged billion-pound fraud on the Danish revenue.
  • Acting (as sole counsel) for a supplier of electrical components in a matter concerning suspected fraud by a senior employee and a former employee, and a company connected to them which supplied services to the supplier.
  • Christopher has experience of disputes arising out of cybercrime and cyberfraud. For example:
    • As set out above, he has acted:
      • for a charity in a dispute concerning whether it was entitled to an indemnity under a computer fraud provision in an insurance policy, after it was the victim of fraud carried out via e-mail; and
      • for a bank in proceedings brought by a customer after a third party obtained the customer’s login details through a keylogger, and used them to make a series of payments out of the customer’s account.
    • He has, as sole counsel, advised a company on obtaining disclosure of the identity of account holders from paying and receiving banks in circumstances where payments which were meant to be to the company were instead made to third parties, who then dispersed the monies they received, as a result of fraud carried out via e-mail.
  • As sole counsel, Christopher successfully defended a merchant payment services provider at trial against a claim alleging that funds which should have been remitted to the claimant were not, and where the merchant payment services provider refused to remit the funds as it suspected they were being transferred as part of a £1.3m mandate fraud. At trial, the defendant was able to secure a finding that the attempted payment was in fact part of the proceeds of a £1.3m fraud, and that a director of the claimant was involved in that fraud.

Conflict of Laws and Jurisdiction

  • Appearing (with Derrick Dale QC) in Coward v Ambrosiadou, a dispute between two Monaco-domiciled individuals raising issues at the jurisdiction stage as to whether proceedings between them ought to be heard in England or Cyprus, and whether an alleged agreement between them would be governed by English or Cypriot law. The dispute arises against the background of dozens of pieces of litigation involving the individuals and entities connected to them, taking place in Monaco, Greece, Cyprus and the BVI.
  • Acting (with Stuart Ritchie QC) for a Russian individual in proceedings against another Russian individual, seeking remuneration due under a contract for services, and declaratory relief in relation to a number of other agreements. This included acting for the claimant in an application to serve proceedings out of the jurisdiction, raising issues concerning the applicable law, the “necessary or proper party” gateway for granting permission to serve out of the jurisdiction, and when a substantial risk of injustice in another forum may lead to England being the proper forum. Christopher also appeared as sole counsel in a subsequent application relating to effecting service, once permission to serve out had been obtained.
  • Appearing (with Richard Coleman QC) in Standard Chartered Bank (Hong Kong) Ltd v Independent Power Tanzania Ltd (both in the Court of Appeal and at first instance), which concerned a challenge by a Tanzanian company to the existence and exercise of the Commercial Court’s jurisdiction over claims brought against it in England by a bank situated in Hong Kong, following proceedings in New York and Tanzania. Christopher also appeared as sole counsel in the Court of Appeal against a leading silk in an interim hearing.
  • Advising an English company on jurisdiction and choice of law issues arising from a dispute with the Scottish office of a French company. This dispute raised complex issues regarding the Brussels Regulations Recast, and the application of Article 25 (relating to express jurisdiction agreements) to a ‘battle of the forms’ situation where each party sent the other its standard terms, containing differing provisions regarding jurisdiction (and indeed choice of law).
  • Advising a Maltese company on the enforceability of judgments obtained in the Maltese Courts in England under the Brussels Regulation.

Banking and Finance

  • Acting (with David Railton QC and others) for RBS in the multi-billion-pound rights issue litigation arising from the £12bn rights issue in April 2008.
  • Acting (with Richard Handyside QC and Tamara Oppenheimer) for Nomura in Nomura International plc v Banca Monte Dei Paschi Di Siena SPA, a high-value dispute raising issues relating to accounting for complex transactions, alleged wrongful accounting, illegality, and the attribution of knowledge to a company.
  • Acting (with Nicholas Medcroft QC) for a bank in proceedings raising issues relating to the extent to which a paying bank is liable for payments made by a third party using a customer’s credentials, and the scope and application of the Payment Services Regulations.
  • Appearing in a wide range of mis-selling claims, ranging from swaps-misselling claims against a number of the UK’s largest banks (in which Christopher has appeared both as sole counsel, and with Andrew Mitchell QC and John Taylor QC), to a claim brought by a wealthy individual against a bank concerning allegedly negligent financial advice.
  • Instructed (with John Taylor QC) in relation to a dispute concerning a letter of credit, raising issues regarding UCP600.
  • Christopher often appears as sole counsel in the High Court in complex banking disputes, for example, he:
    • Appeared as sole counsel for a bank in a 5-day trial in High Court, in proceedings raising issues relating to agency, unjust enrichment, and trusts, which settled partway through trial; and
    • Appeared for a prominent UK bank in a dispute concerning whether the bank was entitled to freeze a customer’s account, raising issues relating to the interpretation and application of the bank’s terms and the POCA 2002 regime.

 

Aviation

  • Acting, as sole counsel, for an aircraft lessor in proceedings seeking the return of an aircraft, said to have been wrongfully seized by a third party while in the lessee’s possession. The proceedings raised issues concerning who had a beneficial interest in the aircraft, and who had control of it.
  • Acting, as sole counsel, for a lessee under a series of aircraft leases in a dispute concerning two passenger aircraft. The proceedings raised issues concerning the interpretation and application of aircraft leases, as well as, later, issues regarding potential contempt.
  • Assisting Akhil Shah QC in advising one of the world’s largest airlines in relation to a dispute concerning online ticketing authorities and ‘cross-border selling’, and on the creation of security rights over aircraft.

Education

  • BCL, St. Catherine’s College, University of Oxford (Distinction)
  • BA (Law), St. Catherine’s College, University of Oxford (First Class)

Prizes and Scholarships

  • Kennedy Scholar (Lincoln’s Inn, 2010)
  • Hardwicke Scholar (Lincoln’s Inn, 2010)
  • Falcon Chambers Prize for the best performance in Land Law (University of Oxford, 2009)
  • Highest mark in the year in Personal Property in FHS Examinations (University of Oxford, 2009)
  • College Prize for Performance in BCL Examinations (St. Catherine’s College, University of Oxford, 2010)
  • College Prize for Performance in FHS Examinations (St. Catherine’s College, University of Oxford, 2009)
  • Exhibition Award for Performance in Moderations (St. Catherine’s College, University of Oxford, 2006, renewed in 2007/8, 2008/9 for sustained academic performance)

Publications

  • Haugesund Kommune, Narvik Kommune v Depfa ACS Bank, Wikborg Rein (Case Comment), Journal of International Banking Law and Regulation, 2011, 26(5), 207-210
  • Failure to Estop: Rationalising Proprietary Estoppel Using Failure of Basis, Conveyancer and Property Lawyer, 2011, 3, 176-190 (with Mischa Balen).
  • What’s Special About Land? The Relationship Between Promissory and Proprietary Estoppel, King’s Law Journal, 2013, 24(1), 111 – 118 (with Mischa Balen).
  • Christopher co-authored, with Nicholas Medcroft QC, the Lloyds Law Report Financial Crime Report ([2019] Lloyd’s Rep. FC 94) on the important Court of Appeal decision in Lonsdale v NatWest [2018] EWCA 1843 (QB) concerning the circumstances in which a bank is entitled to freeze a customer’s account.
  • Christopher co-authored, with Anneliese Day QC, the Lexis PSL section concerning damages for loss of a chance.
  • Christopher is a former contributor to the Civil Procedure Reports.

Other Experience

  • Former Temporary Lecturer in Land Law, Trinity College, University of Oxford. Christopher delivered tutorials covering foundational concepts in Land Law, licenses, and trusts of the family home (2011)
  • Christopher has acted as a research assistant to a number of academics and practitioners:
    • He was involved in the production of The Law of Security and Title Based Financing (OUP, 2012) as research assistant to Louise Gullifer, Harris Manchester College, University of Oxford. He provided assistance with regard to chapters concerning security rights in general, possessory and non-possessory security rights, priorities, and the enforcement of security rights, along with other matters (2011).
    • As research assistant to Professor Ben McFarlane, he provided research assistance in relation to Proprietary Estoppel (OUP, 2014) and promissory estoppel in a commercial context (2010 – 2011). He also assisted in producing the first supplement to the 32nd edition of leading textbook Snell’s Equity.
    • He acted as a research assistant to one of the authors of Foreign Currency: Claims, Judgments and Damages, M. N Howard QC, John Knott and John Kimbell (Informa, 2016) (2010 – 2011). He provided research assistance on restitution, trusts, private international law and interest on foreign currency debts.

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