Michael is an experienced barrister with a recognised expertise in advocacy. Michael’s speciality is conducting trials in commercial and chancery matters where allegations of fraud, complex questions of credibility and large amounts of money are involved.
“A real streetfighter whose cross-examination is outstanding.” (Chambers UK Bar). Michael is particularly strong in handling heavily contested litigation.
He has been described as being “an absolutely first-rate commercial litigator” who is “a ferocious advocate and who has the ability to get to the root of the problem quickly” (Legal 500).
Many of Michael’s cases involve allegations or issues of fraud. Recent cases include: a fraud claim on behalf of one of a group of companies owned by a prominent Arab Sheikh; a trial and various applications in a long-running partnership and fraud case; successful defence of loan claims on the basis that the loan agreements were forgeries (where given loss of the originals there was no expert evidence). He is presently instructed on a substantial offshore fraud case in relation to fraudulent misrepresentations inducing transfer of shares, a claim potentially worth in excess of £100 million.
Michael has substantial experience of fraud in the context of share transactions e.g. Hurndell v Hozier  EWHC 3340 (Ch), Vald. Nielsen Holding A/S and another v Baldorino and others,  EWHC 1926 (Comm).
In December 2022 Michael obtained judgment in a property fraud claim where the value exceeds £10 million. He has other forthcoming property fraud claims and trials.
Michael is effective in cross examining; demonstrates significant grasp of the factual detail; promotes confidence of the client in the legal team by ensuring all lawyers work as an effective unit; and is flexible to adapt both cross-examination and legal arguments to the changing underlying factual scenario.
Michael also has specialist expertise in money-laundering and associated matters. He has regularly spoken on this topic to solicitors and also to professional bodies and groups such as the Chancery Bar Association. He has also spoken on fraud related topics for example to the Commercial Fraud Lawyers Association, also conducting and leading a workshop on fraud for the Chancery Bar Association Annual Conference.
Michael specialises in high-value litigation where there are complicated factual and legal issues, in both the Chancery Division and the Commercial Court. The amounts at stake are usually £millions or £tens of millions, if not more.
Having travelled to Washington DC, Michael was selected as the leader on a $3 billion international arbitration claim in respect of a joint venture agreement in the East with an English choice of law clause. He also obtained a High Court judgment for over £6 billion in connection with provision of a bond under a joint venture agreement in relation to substantial proposed developments in the Middle East and the United States.
He is involved in many trials, arbitrations, mediations and appeals regarding contractual construction whether express terms (Easyair v Opal Telecom Limited  EWHC 339, where the test applied for the successful application for summary judgment is the usual test quoted) or implied (Beazer Homes Ltd v County Council of Durham  EWCA Civ). Michael has led the successful defence of a claim to a one third share in the profits of one of the flagship skyscraper developments in Dubai. He has recently worked on defending a breach of contract and competition undertakings claim valued at over £100 million, as well as a £10 million plus claim regarding breach of contract and conspiracy to use unlawful means. He has been often instructed in relation to telecoms matters.
Michael also does professional negligence work where it relates to Chancery and Commercial topics.
Company & Partnership
Michael is often instructed in relation to contentious company matters, whether the complaint is by petition, or dispute regarding warranties (Belfairs Management Limited v Sutherland  EWCA Civ 185) or disqualification of directors (Official Receiver v Watson  EWHC 64).
Many of his fraud cases referred to above are in the context of share sales or other breaches of fiduciary duty. Likewise insolvency cases often relate to company law duties.
Many cases involve alleged breach of fiduciary duties. His insolvency practice includes both cases regarding specific statutory duties or obligations (Miller v Bayliss  BPIR 1438) and the run of applications regarding misfeasance, wrongful/fraudulent trading or preferences. Michael was involved over many years in applications in this and other jurisdictions arising out of insolvency where his clients were alleged to be nominees for or owned by the bankrupt (which claims were eventually abandoned).
He recently pursued a case on behalf of a liquidator regarding an alleged wrongful dividend payment prior to the onset of insolvency (resulting in a substantial payment by settlement). In both company and insolvency matters, his fraud trial experience is of considerable benefit.
Offshore & International
Michael has appeared a number of times in the Caribbean and the Isle of Man, and has also been involved in litigation in the Channel Islands (not as advocate but assisting the local advocates). He has undertaken Privy Council work both in relation to trusts (Oakley v Osiris Trustees Ltd (Isle Of Man)  UKPC 2) and property (Mount Murray Country Club Ltd and another v Department of Transport of the Isle of Man (PC)  UKPC 57). Michael’s robust approach to advocacy is well-suited to offshore work. He is presently involved in a substantial £100 million plus offshore fraud claim.
Trusts, Wills & Estates
Michael’s trust and property work is solely contentious, whether or not involving cross-examination of witnesses. In relation to trustee indemnities, he successfully appeared in Oakhurst Property Developments (Lowndes Square No. 2) Limited v Blackstar (Isle of Man) Limited  EWHC 1131. He has dealt with issues regarding change of the proper law of trusts, Oakley v Osiris Trustees Ltd (Isle Of Man)  UKPC 2. He was involved in the latter stages of the litigation between the Earl of Cardigan and the trustees of the family trust. His extensive experience in examining witnesses is useful in any case involving disputes of fact.
Michael has a long background and extensive experience in traditional property work (from issues of title or construction of instruments to boundary disputes, easements or landlord and tenant). When he was a junior a significant part of his practice consisted of acting for SIF on behalf of solicitors accused of negligence in conveyancing transactions. As a silk he succeeded for the Ministry of Defence in the test case regarding efficacy of its overage provisions on land disposals (Ministry of Defence v Country and Metropolitan Homes (Rissington) Ltd Times Law Reports 7th November 2002). He also appeared in the property related case of Mount Murray Country Club Ltd and another v Department of Transport of the Isle of Man (PC)  UKPC 57). In relation to easements/covenant for quiet enjoyment he was in B&Q Plc v Liverpool and Lancashire Properties Limited (2001) 81 P. & C.R. 20, and payments for property introduction fraudulent misrepresentation, Adler v Ananhall  EWCA Civ 586. In a property context in relation to notices of discontinuance, he appeared in Toplain Limited v Orange Retail  EWHC 4254 (Ch)
- Manchester Grammar School (1969-1977)
- Open Scholarship to Trinity College Cambridge
- M.A, Trinity College Cambridge (1977-1980)
- President of the Cambridge Union Society, Michaelmas 1979
- Chancery Bar Association
- Commercial Fraud Lawyers Association
What the directories say
“He’s superb as he’s ferocious in court.” “He talks on complicated issues and arrives at simple solutions.”
Chambers UK Northern Bar 2013
“A real streetfighter whose cross-examination is outstanding.”
Chambers UK Bar
“an absolutely first-rate commercial litigator” who is “a ferocious advocate and who has the ability to get to the root of the problem quickly”