Fountain Court Chambers

London & Singapore

Nico LeslieCall Date: 2010

Nico is described as “an outstanding commercial junior, who is ferociously bright and extremely tenacious.” For consecutive years he was named as one of the top ten Commercial Litigation juniors in London under eight years’ call and is now recommended as a Leading Junior in the fields of Banking & Finance (Chambers & Partners), Professional Negligence (Legal 500) and Civil Fraud (Who’s Who Legal). Previously, Nico was identified as one of ten “Stars at the Bar” by Legal Week, which described him as “intelligent, thorough, very hardworking” and “unflappable”, noting that “the thing which sets him apart is how practical he is”.

His recent practice includes a number of high-profile commercial cases, including acting for the claimants in the Gemini litigation and the Avonwick litigation, acting for the defendant partner in the widely publicised Republic of Djibouti litigation, and acting for investors in the Czech Photovoltaic arbitrations in The Hague. Many of his cases involve an international element, and he has particular experience of litigation in offshore jurisdictions (Bermuda, BVI, Cayman and St Lucia) and in Hong Kong and Singapore. He also has extensive experience of international arbitration, particularly under LCIA, SIAC, ICSID, UNCITRAL and ad hoc rules.

Nico is also regularly instructed on cases with an assignment dimension, having co-authored with the Honourable Mr Justice Marcus Smith one of the leading texts in the area: The Law of Assignment, (OUP), now in its third edition.

Areas of Expertise

  • Banking & finance
  • Commercial dispute resolution
  • Company
  • Financial services
  • Fraud: civil
  • Insurance and reinsurance
  • International arbitration
  • Offshore
  • Professional discipline
  • Professional negligence
  • Aviation

Recent practice

Nico has worked on a wide range of commercial matters, and has been instructed in complex and high value matters in arbitration, the High Court and the Court of Appeal.

Banking & finance

Nico has been instructed on a wide spectrum of banking and consumer credit disputes, generally acting for banks and large lending institutions in matters ranging from the largest international claims to smaller disputes. A summary of his recent practice is set out below:

  • Ahmad Algosaibi and Brothers v Saad Investments: instructed (with Marcus Smith QC, Bridget Lucas and Tetyana Nesterchuk) by the Central Bank of Bahrain in relation to a multibillion dollar claim brought before the Grand Court of the Cayman Islands arising out of a fraud allegedly perpetrated by a prominent Saudi national.
  • Sebastian Holdings v Deutsche Bank AG: instructed (in a team including David Railton QC) by the claimant hedge fund in relation to a >£5 billion claim brought before the High Court in London. Nico was particularly involved in legal research and the preparation of written submissions.
  • Dexia v Comune di Prato; Dexia v Comune di Ferrara: acting (with Richard Handyside QC and Rupert Allen) for the Claimant investment bank in substantial ISDA-related proceedings concerning the sale of interest rate swaps to Italian local authorities. Throughout the case Nico made extensive use of his Italian, both reading through original documents and proofing Italian witnesses.
  • Khuja v Lloyds: instructed (with Andrew Mitchell QC) for the defendant bank in relation to a multi-million pound interest-swaps misselling claim relating to a property development partnership.
  • Instructed (with Stephen Moriarty QC) for the claimant in a multimillion dollar claim arising out of an alleged unlawful conspiracy at a Singapore-based private equity firm.
  • Pottage v FSA: instructed (with Guy Philipps QC and Henry King) in a successful appeal to the Upper Tribunal arising out of fines levied by the FSA against a senior international banker.
  • Portigon v Privatair: Acted as sole counsel for a German bank in a >$2 million claim brought against a Swiss private airline arising out of the close-out of an exotic basket of interest-rate and currency-linked derivatives, raising novel points relating to the construction of the ISDA.
  • Papa-Adams v RBS: Acted as sole counsel for a major bank in the Commercial Court striking out a substantial claim based on allegations of misrepresentation, LIBOR fixing and duress, and successfully enforcing a loan of £1.2 million.
  • Barclays v Alpha Broadcasting: Acted as sole counsel for a major bank in the High Court in successfully enforcing a £400,000 loan and defending a counterclaim in the sum of >£16 million that involved allegations inter alia of LIBOR fixing and the forced insolvency of a telecommunications company.
  • BarCap v Uralita: Instructed as sole counsel to give advice and draft particulars of claim in a >£30 million derivatives claim for a major investment bank.

Nico has also had extensive experience of swaps litigation, including a range of currency swaps and interest rate swaps.

Commercial dispute resolution

Nico has recently been instructed in the following matters:

  • Gemini v (1) CBRE; (2) King Sturge: acting (with Mark Simpson QC, Nik Yeo and Joseph Farmer) for the Claimant in a >£200 million claim against two major valuer firms, relating to their allegedly negligent valuation of a £1.2 billion portfolio of commercial properties. The case has been described in the media as the “valuation trial of the century”, and is listed for 3 months in the Commercial Court.
  • Republic of Djibouti v Boreh: acting (with Mark Simpson QC and James Hart) for a partner at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher accused of deliberately misleading the Court in obtaining a freezing injunction. The defendant’s application to have the application discharged was one of the mostly widely publicised applications ever heard in the Commercial Court.
  • Hemsley v Wey Bridging Ltd: instructed (with John Taylor QC) for the claimants in relation to a 2-month trial in the Chancery division alleging that multiple defendants had been running a multimillion pound ‘Ponzi’ scheme.
  • Wey Bridging v Ernst & Young; Wey Bridging v Hacker Young: instructed (with John Taylor QC) for the claimant in >£6 million claims brought against its former auditors arising out of their failure to detect a major fraud that had been perpetrated on the company.
  • Palmer & Harvey McLane Ltd v Garrad: instructed (with Stephen Rubin QC and Edward Levey) in respect of a 10-day trial in the Chancery Division addressing multiple allegations of fraud.
  • Stanhope v X: Instructed (with Timothy Howe QC) in relation to a >£100 million claim brought by pension fund trustees against a portfolio manager. The claim was settled on favourable terms.
  • Kolomoisky v Lanebrook Ltd: Instructed (with Timothy Dutton QC) to prepare expert evidence in a >£1 billion commercial dispute before the High Court of Cyprus.
  • Leeds United v Ors: instructed (with Jeffrey Chapman QC) for the claimant football club in relation to various multimillion pound disputes with a range of third parties.

Civil fraud

Nico has extensive experience of acting in civil fraud claims, often with an international element:

  • Ahmad Algosaibi and Brothers v Saad Investments: instructed (with Marcus Smith QC, Bridget Lucas and Tetyana Nesterchuk) by the Central Bank of Bahrain in relation to a multibillion dollar claim brought before the Grand Court of the Cayman Islands arising out of a fraud allegedly perpetrated by a prominent Saudi national.
  • Palmer & Harvey McLane Ltd v Garrad: instructed (with Stephen Rubin QC and Edward Levey) in respect of a 10-day trial in the Chancery Division addressing multiple allegations of fraud.
  • Hemsley v Wey Bridging Ltd: instructed (with John Taylor QC) for the claimants in relation to a 2-month trial in the Chancery division alleging that multiple defendants had been running a multimillion pound ‘Ponzi’ scheme.
  • Instructed (with Stephen Moriarty QC) for the claimant in a multimillion dollar claim arising out of an alleged unlawful conspiracy at a Singapore-based private equity firm.
  • RealEurope D v Publiodeon: instructed as sole counsel for the defendant in relation to a claim under various film distribution agreements in Italy, involving allegations of forged documents and sham agreements. Most of the interactions with the client were conducted in Italian.

Professional negligence

In recent years, Nico has developed substantial experience in professional negligence litigation, acting both for claimants and for defendants:

  • Gemini v (1) CBRE; (2) King Sturge: as noted above, instructed (with Mark Simpson QC, Nik Yeo and Joseph Farmer) in a >£200 million negligent valuation claim that has been described as the “valuation trial of the century”. It is the largest such valuation claim ever brought before the English Courts.
  • Sloane v Saffery Champness: instructed (with Mark Simpson QC) for the defendant accountants in relation to allegedly negligent tax advice given by them in relation to a film investment scheme. The claim, brought by a hedge funder manager and widely publicised, was settled shortly before trial.
  • Wey Bridging v Ernst & Young; Wey Bridging v Hacker Young: instructed (with John Taylor QC) for the claimant in >£6 million claims brought against its former auditors arising out of their failure to detect a major fraud that had been perpetrated on the company.
  • Stanhope v X: Instructed (with Timothy Howe QC) in relation to a >£100 million claim brought by pension fund trustees against a portfolio manager. The claim was settled on favourable terms.
  • Marahta v Taylor Hampton: instructed (with Michael McLaren QC) for the claimant in relation to a multimillion pound claim arising out of the defendant’s allegedly negligent handling of his company’s litigation.

Insurance

  • GM v XL: instructed (with Mark Simpson QC) in an LCIA arbitration concerning a claim under an insurance policy.
  • QBE v Blaver-Mann; Evans v Blaver-Mann: instructed for the defendant as sole counsel in relation to a multimillion pound claim against a helicopter pilot’s estate, arising out of a helicopter crash, and in defending a suit by the pilot’s insurers for a declaration that they were not liable under his insurance policy.

International litigation and arbitration

Nico has experience of litigation and arbitration in a range of foreign jurisdictions and has been called to the Bar in the British Virgin Islands (2017). As well as his practice in chambers, he was seconded for four months to Clifford Chance in Singapore, from September 2014 to December 2014, and has previously worked in the Litigation department of a leading offshore firm in Bermuda. He has since developed extensive experience in offshore litigation and international arbitration, and Nico’s international experience includes:

  • Ahmad Algosaibi and Brothers v Saad Investments: instructed in long-running multi-billion-dollar proceedings brought before the Grand Court of the Cayman Islands.
  • Instructed (with Professor Luca Radicati di Brozolo) on three sets of investor-state UNCITRAL arbitrations brought by investors against the Czech Republic under the ECT and various BITs, with a combined value of over €250million.  The arbitrations were heard separately before three extremely distinguished panels in the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.  Nico handled much of the cross-examination, including multiple cross-examinations of experts and former ministers of state.
  • Instructed (with John Brisby QC) on four parallel sets of LCIA arbitration proceedings for a prominent Ukrainian oligarch in relation to the ownership of a range of iron and steel assets in Eastern Europe.
  • Instructed (with Michael Green QC) for the principal defendants in the Equis litigation before the courts of the Cayman Islands.  The action involves allegations of conspiracy and fraud relating to the realisation of certain investment assets by a private equity fund and seeks damages of US$440 million.
  • Instructed (with Michael Green QC) for the defendant company in the China Biologic litigation before the courts of the Cayman Islands.  The claim seeks to set aside the company’s US$570 million share allotment on the basis that it was transacted for an improper purpose, to block a proposed US$2.7 billion takeover.  The claim was successfully struck out on the basis that it had been brought by the wrong claimant, in a decision that made new law on the standing of shareholders to bring personal actions to challenge share allotments.
  • Instructed (with Michael Green QC) for the principal defendants in the Dragon Capital litigation before the Courts of the British Virgin Islands. The action involved an unfair prejudice petition brought by the co-founder of a major Vietnam-based private equity firm in relation to his shares, valued at up to US$150 million.
  • Instructed (with Paul Shieh QC and Sara Tong of Temple Chambers) to assist in a multi-million dollar trial before the Hong Kong High Court involving the assignment of income from substantial commercial properties in Kowloon.
  • Contesting (at Clifford Chance) a $30 million arbitration involving allegations of fraudulent misrepresentation in relation to the sale of an Indian textiles company. The case involved issues of US and Indian law.
  • Contesting (at Clifford Chance) a substantial arbitration involving allegations of fraudulent misrepresentation relating to the sale of a Thai company. The case involved issues of Thai and Singapore law.
  • Instructed (as sole counsel) on a substantial ad hoc arbitration, seated in London, arising out of a dispute between a German software developer and an Italian fashion company.
  • Advising (at Clifford Chance) a Japanese client in relation to arbitration claims arising from the purchase of a large mine in Indonesia.
  • Contesting (at Appleby) before the Supreme Court of Bermuda the winding-up of a substantial hedge fund by a motivated creditor as part of a multi-jurisdictional dispute.

Art law

Nico has developed particular experience in art law, an area in which he also has a substantial personal interest:

  • Re: A Modigliani Painting: instructed in relation to the insurance of an artwork worth in excess of £15 million that was badly damaged during building works at a private residence.
  • Maranello Rosso: instructed in relation to a £40 million claim arising out of the sale of a portfolio of vintage Ferraris, including the sale of the most expensive car ever sold at auction.
  • Confidential: instructed to bring a claim for conspiracy relating to the unlawful transfer of highly valuable artworks across jurisdictions, in breach of a court order.
  • Confidential: instructed for an Ultra-High Net Worth individual in a claim arising out of the £1 million sale, and alleged mis-description, of a Dutch Old Master painting.
  • Jule Pond Productions v Isgro: instructed by the Respondent, one of Italy’s leading modern artists in respect of a claim bought by a company controlled by Sony and connected with Roger Waters, a former member of Pink Floyd.
  • Birrane v Mecom: instructed as sole counsel by the defendant in a £300,000 claim arising out of the sale of a vintage racing car, turning in particular on a dispute as to the vehicle’s true racing history.
  • Naumann: instructed for the claimant in relation to the sale of a vintage photograph purporting to be by Marcel Duchamp and developed by Man Ray.

Conflicts of Law

Nico has a close interest in the conflict of laws, both in practice and from an academic perspective. He was closely involved in the writing of the conflict of laws sections in The Law of Assignment (2nd Edition), and has recently been commissioned by OUP (with Marcus Smith QC) to write a specialist book on the conflict of laws: Private International Law and Intangible Property.

Injunctions

Nico has a strong interest in injunctions of all types. He has also recently been instructed on the following matters:

  • Bank of Ireland v Jaffery: acted (with Neil Kitchener QC) for the bank in successfully resisting the lifting of asset-freezing undertakings given by the defendants.
  • Instructed (with Neil Kitchener QC) to obtain an ex parte freezing order over an individual believed to have improperly acquired substantial assets from a major bank. The order was successfully obtained, and was maintained at the return date.

Recommendations

  • Nico is ranked as a Leading Junior in the fields of Banking & Finance (Chambers & Partners), Professional Negligence (Legal 500) and Civil Fraud (Who’s Who Legal).
  • Recent comments include:

“Accessible, very hard-working and extremely strong on the technical side” Chambers and Partners 2019)

He is very able and excellent to work with.” (Legal 500 2019)

Hard-working, incredibly efficient, highly intelligent and charming, he’s a fantastic junior to have working on a team.” (Chambers & Partners 2019)

He is incredibly bright, calm, clear, detailed and yet concise… He effortlessly pinpoints the crux of a matter – regardless of the complexity – and produces clear, thoughtful and creative advice.” (Chambers & Partners 2019)

He is highly experienced in conducting cases in multiple jurisdictions.” (Chambers & Partners 2019)

He has a brilliant mind and is a pleasure to work with.” (Legal 500 2018)

  • Nico has previously been ranked by the Legal 500 in the fields of Commercial Litigation (2016, 2017) and Professional Negligence (2016, 2017). For Commercial Litigation, he has been identified as one of the top ten juniors under 8 years’ call in consecutive years.
  • Previous comments include:

An outstanding brain with a crazy work ethic” (Legal 500, 2017)

A real team player” (Legal 500, 2017)

An outstanding commercial junior, who is ferociously bright and extremely tenacious” (Legal 500, 2016)

A junior who rolls up his sleeves and gets on with it” (Legal 500, 2016)

  • Nico was identified by Thomson Reuters’ client survey as one of 18 QCs or juniors noted for exceptional client care (2017). Comments included that he is “easily approachable”, “very responsive”, “value for money” and “able to break down complex legal issues”.
  • Nico was also identified as one of ten “Stars at the Bar” by Legal Week (2016).

Education

  • BA (Modern and Medieval Languages), Christ’s College, Cambridge (Starred Double First, 4th in year)
  • CPE, City University (Commendation)
  • BVC, The City Law School, (Outstanding, 2nd in year)

Appointments, memberships, prizes

  • Called to the Bar: British Virgin Islands
  • The Pegasus Scholarship Trust: Pegasus Scholarship to Bermuda, with Appleby
  • Lincoln’s Inn: Lincoln’s Inn Student of the Year
  • Ede & Ravenscroft prize
  • Megarry Scholarship
  • Buchanan Prize for outstanding performance on the Bar Vocational Course
  • Lord Mansfield Scholarship
  • Lord Bowen Scholarship
  • Hardwicke Entrance Award
  • The City Law School: Scarman Scholarship for second highest results on the Bar Vocational Course (2010)
  • BACFI prize for Commercial & Company Law
  • Outstanding Overall Achievement Award
  • Christ’s College, Cambridge: 
  • Various college prizes and scholarships for performance in Tripos
  • Two Full Blues in Association Football
  • Eton College: King’s Scholarship

Other experience

  • Volunteer Legal Adviser at Bethnal Green Law Centre
  • 2-month internship (in Zagreb) at Hanžekovic & Partneri, one of Croatia’s leading commercial law firms (2010)
  • 3-month graduate internship in J.P. Morgan’s Middle East Corporate Finance team (2008)

Publications

  • Co-author, with Mr Justice Marcus Smith, of The Law of Assignment: The Creation and Transfer of Choses in Action, 3rd edition (2018, OUP), the leading practitioner text on assignment.
  • Co-author, with Mr Justice Marcus Smith, of Private International Law and Intangible Property (forthcoming, OUP).
  • Co-author, with Aaron Taylor, of ‘MiFID 2 and Brexit’, a chapter in Brexit and Financial Regulation (forthcoming, OUP).
  • Editor (with Mr Justice Marcus Smith) of the chapter on ‘Choses in Action’ in Halsbury’s Laws of England, Fifth Edition.
  • Co-author (with Richard Lissack QC and Clifford Chance LLP) of the chapter on ‘Corporate Monitorships’, The Practitioner’s Guide to Global Investigations (2017, GIR)
  • Specialist contributing editor on restitution (with Mr Justice Marcus Smith and Henry King QC) for Bullen & Leake & Jacob’s Precedents of Pleadings, 17th edition (2012, Sweet & Maxwell).
  • Mis-selling interest rate swaps: common law negligence and the statutory rules” (2014) Journal of Professional Negligence, PN 2014, 30(1), 39-42
  • Mortgage Advice and the scope of compensation” (2013) Journal of Professional Negligence, PN 2013, 29(4), 238-240
  • “Black Holes and the Quantum of Loss” (2012) Journal of Professional Negligence, PN 2012, 28(3), 220-223
  • Nico also regularly gives talks on topics ranging from the evolution of leases in the 13th century to the nature of rights in the digital economy.

Languages

  • French (Fluent)
  • Italian (Fluent)
  • Croatian/Serbian (Fluent)
  • Spanish (Good working knowledge)
  • Arabic (basic)

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