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Oliver Hyams
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Oliver has an established practice with a focus on commercial disputes, insolvency as well as fraud and asset recovery.

He is particularly experienced in cases involving allegations of wrongdoing or dishonesty by directors, trustees, and other fiduciaries, and is regularly instructed in shareholders’ disputes.

Oliver has significant experience in high profile, high value and complex disputes.  He is known for providing strategic and practical advice. He is a robust advocate and often appears against more senior counsel, both in interim applications and at trial.

Oliver welcomes instructions as sole counsel or as part of a team and has appeared both led and as sole counsel in the Chancery Division, the Commercial Court and the Court of Appeal.

Before coming to the Bar, Oliver worked at the European Commission in Brussels, where he specialised in retail banking and pensions reform.

Commercial Litigation

Oliver offers advice and representation in a wide variety of commercial disputes. He has particular expertise in fraud cases and is experienced in obtaining orders for urgent interim relief, such as disclosure orders and freezing orders.

The increasingly international nature of his practice gives him experience of cross-border disputes and jurisdiction challenges.

His work specifically in fraud, companies, joint ventures. partnerships and insolvency is covered in those other parts of his profile.

Recent work:

  • General Insurance Brokers UK plc v Bupa Insurance Ltd: a claim for breach of contract by an insurance intermediary specialising in health insurance for oil workers in Libya, where losses total c.£3m (led by Michael Collett QC).
  • Bibby Financial Services Ltd & Ors v Moraes & Anr: a claim under guarantees, indemnities and a legal charge seeking to recover approx. £1.1m, arising out of the failure of a previously fashion company. Successfully resisted a summary judgment application and later successfully opposed various attempts to amend the claim.
  • Acted for the claimant, a manufacturer of laser hair removal products, in a substantial damages claim. The claimant alleged that the defendant was falsely holding itself out as an authorised seller of the claimant’s products and passing off used goods as new.
  • Acted for the claimant in a claim to rescind an option to purchase a portfolio of 72 investments properties for misrepresentation.
  • Acted for the defendants in a claim to recover £3m under guarantees, which the claimant discontinued after service of the defence.

Companies, Joint Ventures & Partnerships

Oliver has extensive experience of shareholders’ disputes, including: unfair prejudice petitions under s.994 of the Companies Act 2006; petitions on the just and equitable ground; claims in relation to the beneficial ownership of companies; and other company law issues.

He is commonly involved in disputes where the parties have issued, or have threatened to bring, several connected claims, often in different jurisdictions.

Recent work:

  • LA Micro Group (UK) Ltd & Anr v LA Micro Group, Inc. & Ors: a dispute focusing on the beneficial ownership of shares in a successful computer hardware company, involving both jurisdictional issues and cross-border elements (led by Paul Strelitz).
  • Stone Futures Ltd v PJ Mullan & Sons Ltd & Anr: A claim for an account arising out of a failed joint venture for the redevelopment of a milk depot.
  • Re Pre-War Car Parts Ltd: a winding-up petition on the just and equitable ground concerning a classic car restoration business, and a cross-claim for declaratory relief as to the beneficial ownership of the shareholding in the company.
  • Re Astha Ltd: An unfair prejudice petition (and two related claims) in relation to a regional care home business that has been ongoing for 4 years.
  • A claim for a specific performance of an agreement to grant an option over valuable shares in an artificial intelligence start-up targeting ‘unicorn’ status.
  • A claim arising out of a failed recycling plant project where investors alleged breaches of a shareholders’ agreement and misfeasance by the directors.

Civil Fraud & Asset Tracing

Oliver has extensive experience in dealing with domestic and international civil fraud cases. He has obtained pre- and post-judgment freezing orders, other interim injunctions, such as proprietary injunctions, and has acted in committal proceedings where parties have breached such orders. He has recently secured the discharge of passport delivery-up and travel restriction orders in a substantial fraud claim.

Oliver often appears in commercial claims involving allegations of deceit, conspiracy, inducing breach of contract, and unjust enrichment, and is particularly interested in claims involving misappropriation by fiduciaries, including directors and trustees.

He is increasingly involved in claims to recover assets post-judgment, including where judgment debtors and third parties have used sophisticated means to avoid recovery.

Recent work:

  • Atkinson and Mummery & Anr v Varma & Ors: acted for the successful fourth defendant, who was alleged to have misappropriated £2.5m of company money. An array of claims were pleaded against him, including unjust enrichment and dishonest assistance. Oliver appeared at various interim applications, including contested amendment applications, and a successful application to discharge a passport delivery-up and travel restriction order.
  • The Universal Wealth litigation (led by Brie Stevens-Hoare QC): represented 29 claimants in their claim against a professional trustee and his associates, who had misappropriated up to £25m of trust money from around 200 clients and had persuaded thousands of people to transfer ownership of their properties into his name. Obtained worldwide freezing and proprietary injunctions; money judgments for £4.5m; and associated relief under the Trustee Act 1925. Oliver was subsequently involved in a global asset tracing exercise.
  • Reynolds v Long [2018] EWHC 3535 (Ch): part of the Universal Wealth litigation. Sole counsel in a contested application to commit the professional trustee for breach of his disclosure obligations under several freezing orders. He was sentenced to 8 months’ imprisonment.
  • Wolff v Trinity Logistics USA Inc [2018] EWCA Civ 2765; [2019] 1 WLR 3997 (led by Michael Collett QC): a claim relating to the import of clothes into the UK from Bangladesh in deceit, unlawful means conspiracy and procuring/inducing breach of contract. The appeal and cross-appeal concerned the elements of the economic torts; whether the court has the power to make a declaration of indemnity; and the circumstances in which a respondent requires permission to cross-appeal.
  • Hughes Jarvis Ltd v Searle [2019] EWCA Civ 1; [2019] 1 WLR 2934: an appeal concerning committal for contempt in the face of the court. Oliver also appeared in Hughes Jarvis Ltd v Searle [2018] EWHC 2018 (Ch): an application to stay enforcement of a payment on account of costs pending appeal.
  • Acting for a bookmaker in a claim against it worth £1m+ in knowing receipt and unjust enrichment.

Financial Professionals, Insolvency Professionals, Directors & Officers

Oliver is regularly instructed in disputes relating to breaches of duty by directors, particularly in the context of broader disputes between parties, or by office-holders in insolvencies.

He is also instructed by insurers to advise on accountants’ liability for negligence, and increasingly acts in such disputes both for and against accountants/insolvency practitioners.

Recent work:

  • A claim for a declaration that a director was a bad leaver by reason of his breaches of duty, thereby disentitling him to substantial payouts under an SPA.
  • Advised on the application of the creditors’ interests duty under section 172(3) of the Companies Act 2006 in the context of a failed construction company.
  • Advised on a dispute arising out of government grants to a regional development project.

Corporate Insolvency

Oliver regularly appears in the Insolvency and Companies List of the Business and Property Courts. He acts for office-holders, companies and individuals in litigation, and is often instructed in commercial disputes with an insolvency angle.

He has experience of injunctions to restrain the presentation or advertisement of a winding up petition; applications for, or to extend, administration orders; claims under the Insolvency Act 1986 against third parties (e.g. preference claims; transactions at an undervalue; transactions defrauding creditors); misfeasance claims; and many other types of insolvency application.

He is already well versed in issues involving the Corporate Governance and Insolvency Act 2020, including the moratorium procedure, and its application by the courts, and now often advises office-holders in relation to disputes with landlords.

Recent work:

  • Re Ebbsfleet United Football Club Ltd: represented the club in relation to two winding up petitions presented by HMRC.
  • Re Meliden Ltd: An application to rescind a complex agreement between administrators/receivers and various third parties for misrepresentation, with a cross-application for enforcement of the agreement.
  • Re SK Performance Cars Ltd: Acted for the liquidator in a claim to unwind preferences and to set aside transactions defrauding creditors, where the company (a car dealership) was involved in a large-scale commercial fraud, paying substantial sums to connected third parties.
  • Re Learning Enterprises Organisation Ltd: A contested application for an administration order. Acted for a director of the respondent, who made serious allegations of misconduct against the applicant and the board of the respondent company.
  • Hieber v Duckworth [2017] 6 WLUK: acted for the successful applicant. The court set aside a Tomlin order on the grounds of duress / undue influence and by reason of the rule in ex parte James.

Personal Insolvency

Oliver has extensive experience of bankruptcy proceedings. He regularly acts in applications: to set aside statutory demands; for validation orders; for an order for sale; to unwind preferences, and all manner of other insolvency applications. He also has experience of inquiries into the bankrupt’s dealings and property.

Recent work:

  • Vald Nielsen Holding A/S & Anr v Baldorino & Ors: acted for the judgment creditors (owed £15m+) in negotiating IVAs with the judgment debtors over a period of 4 months. Later acted on the successful bankruptcy petition of one judgment debtor.
  • Acted for the debtor, who owed £42m to a Russian bank, in bankruptcy proceedings.
  • Acted for the joint supervisors to a failed IVA in their successful petition to bankrupt a former England footballer.

Contentious Probate & Inheritance Act Claims

Oliver is experienced in claims for and against personal representatives, and claims by disappointed beneficiaries.

He is frequently instructed in actions to remove executors and trustees; actions for an account; claims under the ‘75 Act; and claims involving the validity of testamentary documents.

Many of Oliver’s cases raise issues of fraud or impropriety (see also his experience in Fraud & Asset Recovery).

Recent work:

  • Stevanovic v Knyvett & Ors [2019] EWHC 381 (Fam) and [2019] EWHC 685 (Fam). Instructed by the claimant to make a late application for relief from sanctions to reinstate a claim against an £8m estate under the ’75 Act. Subsequently instructed in relation to costs issues.
  • Downing v Willett & Anr: A successful application to remove executors and trustees. The defendants were deprived of their indemnity, and their claim for Beddoe relief was struck out.
  • Orji & Ors v Ukpene & Ors: A claim to set aside a Tomlin Order entered into in proceedings under the ’75 Act by reason of fraud.
  • Obiorah v Obiorah & Anr: Successfully represented the defendants in a 5-day trial, where it was alleged that they forged the deceased’s will, and that the deceased in any event lacked testamentary capacity.

Trusts

Oliver has a particular interest in and experience of trust litigation. His expertise encompasses a wide variety of disputes including claims between trustees and beneficiaries, claims between beneficial co-owners, and disputes where trusts are imposed by the law.

Recent cases

  • Ball v Ball & Anr: Successfully resisted an application for summary judgment in an action for an account against co-trustees (instructed by Wright Hassall, trial judgment reported as [2020] EWHC 1020 (Ch)).
  • Kocot v Chetibi: A successful claim for repayment of monies held under a Quistclose trust for the claimant.
  • Re Auksoraitis: Acted for the trustee in bankruptcy in a contested application in relation to the beneficial interest in the family home.
  • A claim for an account and an inquiry against a trustee alleged to have misappropriated the income generated by trust property.
  • Acted for a stakeholder in relation to a claim to recover a substantial quantity of gold bullion held in a vault in Switzerland

Professional associations

Chancery Bar Association
COMBAR
ConTrA
R3 Associate Member

Awards

2013    Levitt Scholarship, Lincoln’s Inn
2012    Brussels Internship Scholarship, Lincoln’s Inn
2011    Hardwicke Entrance Scholarship, Lincoln’s Inn
2011    The City Law School BPTC Scholarship
2010    Lord Haldane Scholarship, Lincoln’s Inn

Qualifications

2012      Called to the Bar (Lincoln’s Inn)
2010      University College London, Human Rights (MA)
2009      University of Durham, Philosophy, Politics and Economics, BA (Hons) 2.1

Languages

French

CSR

Oliver is a trustee of Pro Bono Community, a charity that works to improve the availability and quality of pro bono legal advice by providing lawyers with training in different areas social welfare law, before placing them in legal advice clinics.

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