Insights

David Takes on RBS Goliath

Written by Dean Nicholls
02/12/2013

Who? Dean Nicholls, 43, commercial litigation consultant at London firm Gordon Dadds.

Why is he in the news? He is acting for property developer John Morris, in a defended claim against Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) which alleges the bank steered his business towards insolvency so that it could seize the company’s assets and sell them at an undervalued price to its own property portfolio.

Morris was building 32 ‘super-prime apartments’ in Ascot jointly funded by his own money and a loan from RBS. After some of the properties had been sold, in October 2008 he asked RBS to allow him to recycle £2.5m of the proceeds from the sales so he could complete the development. His request was refused, in what Morris alleges was a breach of contract, and his company went into administration in May 2009.

Thoughts on the case: ‘We accept that any entity is entitled to resist a claim if it has a case, but the bank’s stonewalling was unacceptable. It wouldn’t even give Mr Morris bank statements or tell him to which company it had sold the development. As it turned out, it had been sold to West Register, which is RBS’s own property portfolio.’

(RBS declined to comment on this case, but has announced a review into the treatment of distressed customers, led by Clifford Chance).

Why become a lawyer? ‘David and Goliath – to help the underdog confront some of the biggest corporations in the world.’

Career high: ‘A 55 working-day trial when sometimes we worked around the clock. It was difficult to sustain, but we got a good result for the clients and were better lawyers for it, able to deal with whatever was thrown at us in future.’

Career low: ‘I was a trainee and sent to what I was told would be a directions hearing. It turned out to be a final hearing of all the issues and I was expected to cross-examine in a case I knew nothing about. As a trainee, I didn’t even have rights of audience. Getting the hearing adjourned saved the day.’

Contact the Author

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Dean Nicholls

As a commercial dispute resolution lawyer, I specialise in complex, high value litigation which often involves an international element. After reading law at the University of Manchester, I worked at Baker Tilly before completing my Law Society Final Examinations at the College of Law in York. My experience is wide ranging, but includes banking and finance disputes (where the claims can run into the hundreds of millions), director and shareholder disputes, international arbitrations through the LCIA and the ICC Court of Arbitration, fraud and professional negligence. Although I have extensive trial experience, I strive to resolve disputes at an early stage, to include through mediation, when possible. I often deliver seminars and recently presented to the St Petersburg Chamber of Advocates. Outside of work, I enjoy running, football, going to the cinema, playing guitar and photography.  

Gordon Dadds