16 March 2021

London international disputes boutiques combine to create fraud law 'champion'  

The High Court in London

The High Court

PCB Litigation and Byrne & Partners forge 15-partner firm with blessing of PCB's part-owner Burford Capital

Two leading London litigation boutiques – Byrne and Partners and PCB Litigation –  have agreed to merge, creating a fifteen-partner firm with 49 fee earners.  

The deal, which puts the combined firm on a more equal footing with larger London rivals such as Signature Litigation, Cooke Keidan & Young and Stewarts, is due to go live in April, when PCB Litigation will move into its merger partner’s London office.

The two sides said they were “like-minded, dynamic market leaders” for whom the merger was “a landmark moment”, enabling the new disputes-focused practice, known as PCB Byrne, to grow its client base in Asia, the Middle East, Russia and the CIS.

PCB’s highest-profile names include its co-senior partners, international commercial fraud and banking litigation specialists Anthony Riem and Trevor Mascarenhas. Byrne & Partners’ work, meanwhile, is split between a five-partner white collar criminal defence and regulatory practice, which includes senior partner Michael Potts and managing partner Sara Teasdale, and a three-partner commercial litigation team, with a strong civil fraud bias, headed by Nicola Boulton.

Last June, PCB agreed an innovative deal for litigation funder Burford Capital to take a 32% stake in the firm as part of a larger portfolio funding deal. Riem said the two firms had started talks before the deal and the funder had been “extremely supportive throughout as they want to see the firm grow”. 

He said the merger’s goal was to establish a fraud law champion and a platform from which to grow their combined corporate crime, arbitration, banking and insolvency claims capabilities. He cited last month’s arrival of arbitration lawyer Uliana Cooke at PCB as a partner from Allen & Overy as an example of this added pulling power. 

“We do have ambitious plans to win new business,” he added. “By way of example, we are in discussions with several financial institutions about running portfolios of cases. The strength in depth and financing options that the merged firm brings will enable us to roll this out more.”

The combined firm’s high-profile work includes the enforcement of the UK’s largest divorce award – the Akhmedov case – across courts in multiple jurisdictions, a $200m dispute between two of Russia’s largest banks, and a multi-million pound SKAT litigation in the Commercial Court. 

Ahead of the merger, however, both firms had experienced high-profile departures. In December last year, PCB insolvency partner David Harby left to head Collas Crill’s disputes practice in the British Virgin Islands while founding partner Stephen Phillipson left in 2019 after 40 years to join Israeli law firm Asserson as head of international fraud. 

Last year veteran commercial litigation partner Yvonne Jeffries retired from Byrne and Partners. She had acted in the Yukos and Boreh litigations; the bitterly contested multi-million pound fraud claims involved states and oligarchs.  

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