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Alaric Watson
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An exceptionally capable advocate

Legal 500

Alaric is an experienced commercial barrister specialising primarily in business disputes and insolvency.  His practice covers a wide range of commercial litigation, civil fraud, employment related litigation, company and partnership disputes and all aspects of insolvency, both individual and corporate.

 

Civil Fraud & Asset Tracing

Alaric offers advice and advocacy in relation to fraud and asset tracing claims, particularly in the context of breaches of fiduciary duties by officers or senior employees of a company or by the members of a partnership or LLP, claims in fraudulent misrepresentation/deceit, particularly those against directors of insolvent companies, and claims in relation to defrauding creditors/putting assets beyond the reach of creditors.

He has also been instructed in relation to challenges to court judgments (both UK and foreign) on the basis that they had been obtained by fraud.

Cases of note

  •  Haederle v Thomas [2016] EWHC 1866 (Ch): Acted for the Applicant in a long-running committal application arising out of a company law dispute.  Henderson J held that it was not possible to found committal proceedings on a breach of a term in a freezing order where in one instance the figure describing the limit beyond which the Respondent was prohibited from dealing with his assets had been inadvertently left blank by the court in drawing up the order.  A few months later in the same case, Nugee J ruled that committal proceedings could be brought in relation to an allegation of swearing an untruthful affidavit even though, in breach of CPR 32 PD 5.2(1), the affidavit had not been signed by the deponent personally. To see Alaric’s article on this decision, click here.
  • Halliwells LLP v Austin [2012] EWHC 1194 (Ch): Acted for the Joint Liquidators of a major law firm, led by Lexa Hilliard QC (see under Insolvency), in relation to an application that turned on the scope of the fraud exception (in particular with reference to equitable fraud) in the retirement deed of a former member of the LLP.

Commercial Litigation

Alaric’s practice covers litigation and arbitration dealing with all forms of commercial relationships, including contracts for the supply of services or sale of goods, joint ventures, commercial property disputes (including rights of access), agency (including commercial agents) intellectual property disputes and misuse of confidential information.  One area that has thrown up a number of disputes is in relation to commercial contracts for waste disposal and recycling.

He is frequently instructed in relation to interlocutory relief in this field, including freezing orders and other injunctions that commonly arise in commercial disputes and in particular in the context of restraint of trade, restrictive covenants and misuse of confidential information.

Cases of note

  • ID Medical Group Ltd v Unified Medical Ltd and Ors [2018] EWHC 850 (Ch): Acted for C on an application for an injunction (including springboard relief) where the head of one of C’s main divisions had left to start up a rival business taking a large proportion of C’s staff and apparently its confidential information.  Zacaroli J granted injunctions and ordered specific disclosure by affidavit; on the return date before Daniel Alexander QC the Respondents offered full undertakings and were ordered to pay costs.
  • L T Logistics Ltd v Kerridge & Anr (2017, QBD): Acted for C on an application for an injunction to enforce restrictive covenants.  Dove J, granting the injunction, rejected Ds’ arguments that the covenants did not bind them because (a) a new contract that did not contain any such covenants had been agreed shortly before D1 left C’s employ, (b) in any event the covenants were too wide and (c) C had delayed too long. .
  • Nectar Group Ltd v Maze Procurement Ltd & Ors (2016, QBD): Acted for Ds (both corporate and individual) in a case concerning alleged breaches of duty owed by former employees and/or independent contractors to their employer/principal, involving an injunction to restrain commercial activities in the absence of restrictive covenants.
  • Sandhu v Sharma (2015, ChD): Acted for D, a seller of commercial property, in a claim by a property agent who sought security or payment into court of an alleged “specified fund”, in reality seeking injunctive relief; the case was eventually settled through mediation.
  • Greenshores Properties Ltd v Andrews and Ors [2013] EWHC 3399 (QB): Acted for two out of three Ds in a debt claim, in which C had obtained a without notice freezing order and proprietary injunction, alleging a joint venture and breaches of trust; on the return date, succeeded in having the freezing order/injunction discharged for material non-disclosure and the failure to establish a good arguable case.
  • Green Recycle Ltd v SITA UK Ltd (2012): Acted for C in an Arbitration before Graham Read QC in relation to a long-running dispute over a commercial recycling contract within a waste-disposal site.
  • Stepford Homes Ltd v Lee and Ors [2012] EWHC 4433 (Ch): Acted for D2 in Injunction proceedings brought by a property developer to restrain the activities of a former employee (D1) and a competitor (D2), alleged to be in collusion, where C persisted in bringing the matter to court even after reasonable undertakings had been offered, resulting in a wasted costs order against C.

Companies, Joint Ventures & Partnerships

Alaric offers advice and advocacy in relation to a range of company law issues and in particular in connection with directors’ duties and rights, shareholder disputes, unfair prejudice petitions and derivative claims.  He has considerable experience in the related areas of insolvency and directors’ disqualification, in relation to which please see those parts of his profile.

Alaric’s practice also covers a range of issues in relation to partnerships and limited liability partnerships (LLPs), including partners’/members’ duties, expulsion from and dissolution of partnerships and also professional negligence claims for professionals operating within partnership and LLP structures.  Many of the cases within this practice area are highly sensitive and/or confidential.   Where insolvency issues are also involved, please see his  Corporate Insolvency profiles (eg Re Halliwells LLP).

 

Cases of note

  • Bird and Ors v Kennedy (2015, ChD): Acted for the majority shareholders of a company (and in the latter stages of the case, the company itself) in a dispute over the make-up of the board and the validity of various allotment of shares; the case turned on the proper statutory interpretation of the relevant provisions of the Companies Act 1985, the Companies Act 2006 (CA’06) and the transition provisions that brought the latter into effect; succeeded in having what the court found to be unlawful allotments of shares set aside.
  • Kang v Kang[2012] EWHC 2828 (Ch): Acted for one of the directors of a company of which the remainder of the board were refusing access to certain records and information pertaining to the running of the company; the case concerned the limits of the duties and rights that directors owed each other, both at common law and under s 388 of CA’06, regarding access to such records and/or information.

Employment & Executive Disputes

Alaric’s practice covers a range of employment law issues, particularly those arising in connection with his other areas of practice (notably insolvency and commercial).

He offers advice and advocacy in relation to claims and interlocutory relief arising out of breaches of contract in employment contexts (including post-termination restrictive covenants/restraint of trade), the misuse of confidential information/commercially sensitive material and the extent of duties (including fiduciary duties), owed to and by senior employees and executives.  He also deals with issues arising in connection with TUPE, redundancies (including protective awards) and unfair/wrongful dismissals.  He has a particular expertise in this area in the context of the insolvency of the employer.

Cases of note

  • See under Commercial Litigation, including the cases of ID Medical Group Ltd v Unified Medical Ltd (2018, ChD) and L T Logistics Ltd v Kerridge & Anr (2017, QBD), dealing with the enforcement of restrictive covenants, and Nectar Group Ltd v Maze Procurement Ltd & Ors (2016, QBD), concerning an injunction against former employees/independent contractors, in the absence of restrictive covenants, in which issues of employment status and the nature and extent of duties (fiduciary or otherwise) owed by employees and/or contractors to the employer/principal were to the fore.
  • Wentworth Computer Holdings Ltd and Ors v Rabheru and Ors (2011, ChD): Acted for the defendants in a case involving multiple claims (between multiple parties) alleging, among other things, breaches of employment contract, breaches of fiduciary duty, knowing receipt, unlawful inducement to breach contract, proprietary claims and passing off; succeeded in getting all the causes of action save for the alleged breaches of employment contract struck out; the case went on appeal but settled (including the employment issues) before the appeal was heard.

Corporate Insolvency

A leading insolvency junior (Legal 500), Alaric deals with all aspects of corporate insolvency, including statutory demands, winding-up petitions, injunctions to restrain presentation/giving notice of the petition, validation orders, rescission, problems in relation to out-of-court appointments, removal of liquidators, issues relating to assets (such as vesting, realization, disclaiming onerous property), antecedent transactions (preferences, transactions at an undervalue, transactions defrauding creditors), public and private examinations, proofs, challenges to the office holder’s decisions and/or expenses, misfeasance, wrongful trading and the use of prohibited names.

He has a particular specialism in in the interrelationship between corporate recovery and employment law, especially in the context of administrations, including adoption of contracts, transfer of undertakings (TUPE), redundancies and protective awards (including the significant case of Day v Haine [2008] EWCA Civ 626 [2008] BCC 845 on the provability of protective awards).

Alaric has made an in-depth study of the Insolvency (England & Wales) Rules 2016 and the problems that they engender.  In 2017 he headed up the Hardwicke team that completely revised the 2017 Issue of Atkin’s Court Forms and he also drafted the court forms for use in company insolvency cases (as approved by Chief Registrar Briggs) that now appear on the Court Service Website.

Alaric also has considerable experience in the related areas of Civil Fraud & Asset Tracing and Directors’ Disqualification, Property Insolvency and Personal Insolvency, for which please see those parts of his profile.

Cases of note

  • TST Millbank LLC & Anr v Resolution Real Estate Ltd (2018, ChD): Successfully acted for the Claimants in obtaining permission for them to continue an action where the Defendant had filed a notice of intention to appoint an administrator, notwithstanding the interim moratorium imposed by paragraph 44 of Schedule B1 to the Insolvency Act 1986.  Nugee J found that, given the proximity to trial (the NOI was filed a few days prior to the start of the trial widow) and the fact that the costs for trial had largely been incurred and given that the Claimants were on any view the most significant unsecured creditor, the balance favoured granting permission.
  • Re Prism Power Ltd (2017, ChD): acted for company (P) to restrain advertisement of winding-up petition and have petition struck out; Proudman J stood the matter over for 7 days, granting a validation order to P in the interim; the petition was subsequently withdrawn before the return date.
  • Re Payroll Workshop Ltd (2016, ChD): acted for the Liquidators of a company in CVL (P) seeking directions for the stay of proceedings commenced by two companies (C) formerly trading with P.  C had made payments by mistake to P at a time when P was already in Administration and were claiming for the moneys to be returned.  Their pleaded claim was for money had and received, but immediately prior to the hearing of the stay application they asserted they had a proprietary interest in the moneys.  Snowden J granted a 4 month stay and gave directions to assist resolution of the dispute within the liquidation.  In April 2017, no resolution having been found, the Liquidators issued an application for directions that C opposed.  The matter was eventually compromised in early 2018 before the final hearing of the application.
  • Re Halliwells LLP (In Liquidation) [2012]: Acted for the Joint Administrators/Liquidators (instructed by Addleshaw Goddard LLP, led by Lexa Hilliard QC) in relation to the insolvency of a major law firm, involving numerous and interlocking issues of insolvency and LLP law including issues of repayment of drawings and allegations of embezzlement.

Personal Insolvency

Alaric is a leading insolvency junior (Legal 500), dealing with all aspects of personal insolvency, including statutory demands, petitions, annulment, issues relating to assets (such as realizations, co-ownership, vesting, disclaiming of onerous property, etc.: see further under Property Insolvency) and avoidance of antecedent transactions (preferences, transactions at an undervalue, transactions defrauding creditors), public and private examinations, proofs, challenges to the trustee’s decisions and/or expenses, as well as a range of problems arising in or in connection with IVAs.  He acts for debtors and/or members of their family, for creditors and for office-holders.

Alaric has made a thorough study of the Insolvency (England & Wales) Rules 2016 and the problems that they engender.  He was one of a panel of presenters in the well-attended and highly acclaimed half-day Seminar on the New Rules in March 2017.

Alaric also has considerable experience in the related areas of Civil Fraud & Asset Tracing, Property Insolvency and Corporate Insolvency, for which please see those parts of his profile.

Cases of note

  • Re Bailey (Dickinson & Anr v Bailey & Ors) (2017, ChD): acted for Trustees in Bankruptcy of B on an application to set aside legal charges granted by B in favour of his then solicitors just prior to bankruptcy in circumstances where those solicitors had been acting for B under a CFA and there had neither been any “success” nor any termination of the CFA for breach. After long dispute, shortly before trial the chargees threw in the towel and accepted that the charges should be set aside.
  • Re Gilmer (2016): acted for the Respondents (the Debtors, their daughter and an associate) in relation to a claim by the Trustees in Bankruptcy seeking various and extensive relief, largely but not exclusively dealing with issues of co-operation and the provision of information. Partly the issues turned on the degree of co-operation that was reasonably required and delays and failures to take action on both sides.
  • Re Schwebel (2014, ChD): Acted for the debtor in obtaining an annulment of his bankruptcy on grounds that the petition debt (arising out of an award in the Beth Din) was not a liquidated sum, there was a cross-claims arising from the same award exceeding the petition debt and there were in any event issues of res judicata and abuse of process including misleading statements in the petition.
  • Raithatha v Williamson [2012] EWHC 909 (Ch) [2012] 1 WLR 3559: Acted for the debtor on this ground-breaking and controversial decision on whether, on an application for an income payments order pursuant to s 310 of Insolvency Act 1986 (“IA”), a trustee in bankruptcy was entitled to require a debtor to exercise his pension rights (which remained vested in the debtor by reason of s 11 of the Welfare Reform and Pensions Act 1999, “WRPA”) against his will and for the benefit of his creditors, notwithstanding that the pension was not in payment. The case turned on the meaning of “entitled” in s 310(7) of IA and on words inserted by WRPA into that subsection. The Judge himself gave permission to appeal, but the case settled in the Court of Appeal. It has finally been overturned by the Court of Appeal in Horton v Henry [2016] EWCA Civ. 989, in which Alaric’s arguments in Williamson have at last been vindicated.  In the interim, however, Williamson had spawned a series of similar cases, on several of which Alaric has advised. To see Alaric’s article click here.
  • Re Samson (2011) ChD: Acted for the Trustee in Bankruptcy on a case concerning the validity of the Trustee’s disclaimer of onerous property pursuant to s 315 of IA and the correct statutory interpretation of time limits in relation to such disclaimers under s 316 of IA.
  • R (Singh) v Revenue & Customs Commissioner [2010] UKUT 174 (TCC), [2010] BPIR 933: Acted for the Trustee in Bankruptcy (intervening) on an attempt by a bankrupt to challenge by way of Judicial Review the refusal of HMRC (the petitioning creditor) to review his debt; succeeded in persuading the court that the debtor had no locus standi.

Property Insolvency

Alaric’s practice covers a wide range of property-related insolvency work, including co-ownership and trusts of land and issues arising in connection with realisations, such as mortgages, subrogation, the equity of exoneration, equitable accounting, vesting, re-vesting of the bankrupt’s home and issues connected with disclaiming of onerous property.

Alaric also has considerable experience in the all other aspects of Corporate Insolvency and Personal Insolvency, for which please see those parts of his profile.

Cases of note

  • Re Robinson (2018, ChD): Acting for the Trustee in Bankruptcy in a complex case involving successive bankruptcies, disclaimer, mortgages and subrogation.
  • TST Millbank LLC & Anr v Resolution Real Estate Ltd (Feb 2018, ChD): Acted for Cs to obtain permission to continue their claim as landlords against a tenant for unpaid service charges notwithstanding the moratorium imposed by paragraph 44 of Schedule B1 to the Insolvency Act 1986 following filing of a notice of intention to appoint an administrator.  (See further under Corporate Insolvency.)

See also under and Personal Insolvency for:

  • Re Bailey (Dickinson & Anr v Bailey & Ors) (2017, ChD);
  • Re Gilmer (2016, Kingston County Court);
  • Re Schwebel (2014, ChD);
  • Re Samson (2011, ChD).

Directors’ Disqualification

Alaric is experienced in handling directors’ disqualifications proceedings, including applications for permission under s 17 of the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986.

Cases of Note

  • Re Sterling Helicopters Ltd (2015, ChD): Acted for respondent directors in this Directors’ disqualification proceedings in which the Secretary of State made very serious allegations of misconduct and was seeking a minimum of 12 years’ disqualification; succeeded in negotiating a settlement by which the clients gave undertakings for considerably shorter periods without admissions of serious misconduct.

Costs Litigation

Alaric’s practice includes advocacy and advice in connection with a range of costs issues, including Part 36 offers, CFAs and issues relating to third-party funding and ATE insurance (often particularly relevant in insolvency cases).  He appears in costs proceedings in the SCCO in connection with the detailed assessment of inter-party costs and solicitor-client costs.

Languages

  • French

Professional associations

  • Chancery Bar Association
  • R3

Publications

Alaric headed up the Hardwicke team that completely revised the 2017 Issue of Atkin’s Corporate Insolvency Court Forms.

He also drafted the court forms for use in company insolvency cases (as approved by Chief Registrar Briggs) that now appear on the Court Service Website.

Qualifications

  • BA (University of Bristol)
  • PhD (King’s College London)
  • CPE (University of Sussex)
  • ADR ODR Accredited Mediator

Recommendations

Alaric is recommended as a leading Insolvency & Restructuring barrister in Legal 500: he is “an exceptionally capable advocate” and “always mindful of the commercial as well as technical and legal issues”

A hands on practical approach to problem solving” – Legal 500

“His calm and effective advocacy is impressive” – Legal 500

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