Michael Barnett is one of the UK’s leading financial markets litigators. He is a commercial litigator with almost 30 years’ experience, the last seven of which he spent as head of litigation at a leading international law firm, which experienced substantial growth during his leadership.
Michael is a specialist in high-stakes financial markets disputes. He also has considerable experience in complex fraud and international commercial litigation. He led teams on some of the highest profile cases arising out of the 2008 global financial crisis, including industry-wide banking scandals.
Michael acts for the full spectrum of financial markets participants, corporate and high-net-worth investors in securities and structured financial investments and state-owned entities, seeking and resisting recovery of assets.
Michael’s reputation for strategic acuity, leading successful teams in high profile cases and strong client management skills has been recognised by his clients and the legal media. He has fought and won major international and domestic cases for his clients in the UK High Court, up to the Court of Appeal, the UK Supreme Court and the European Court of Justice.
In the Matter of Sova Capital Ltd
 EWHC 452 (Ch)
Partner Michael Barnett successfully acted for a major creditor of Sova Capital Limited, in a high-profile case involving the acquisition of £274 million of Russian securities in England’s first “unsecured credit bid”.
Morley (t/a Morley Estates) v Royal Bank of Scotland Plc
 EWCA Civ. 338
Michael successfully defended RBS against a complex £30 million claim in the Court of Appeal, where he successfully resisted an attempt to overturn the trial judge’s decision against the claimant, who argued he had agreed to sell its property portfolio to the Bank as a result of duress and breach of duty.
Asset recovery claim
Acting for a large, overseas state-owned entity on a claim worth over £300 million in seeking recovery of loans and assets from the corporate vehicle of the high-profile former Chairman.
Morley v The Royal Bank of Scotland Plc
 EWHC 88 (Ch) (27 January 2020)
Acting for RBS in a three-week trial which resulted in a successful defence of Morley Estates’ £100m duress, intimidation and breach of duty claim. The claimant sought to set aside an agreement for the sale to the Bank of its property portfolio, arising out of wider allegations of misconduct of the Bank’s former Global Restructuring Group. The case was covered extensively in the financial and legal media, and involved extensive witness and documentary evidence, including from senior personnel.
UBS AG (London Branch) & Anor v KWL GmbH
 EWCA Civ 1567 (16 October 2017)
Michael acted in this leading case regarding the validity of complex structured credit derivatives contracts sold to a German water authority, one of the more celebrated cases of the financial crisis. Following the longest Court of Appeal hearing this century, Michael’s team successfully resisted UBS’s appeal against the trial judge’s setting aside of a series of complex structured credit derivatives valued at EUR350m, in favour of Leipzig’s Water Authority, liaising with KWL’s German lawyers and board throughout. The decision broke new ground in relation to liability for the consequences of bribery.
UBS AG (London Branch) & Anor v KWL GMBH
 EWHC 3615 (Comm) (04 November 2014)
Michael acted for the Leipzig Water Authority in their defence of a EUR 350 million claim following a 16-week trial. He successfully defended a claim by three investment banks for payment under a series of complex structured credit derivatives, establishing findings of negligent portfolio management, fraud, and breach of fiduciary duty against the banks. The case highlights the importance to investment banks of maintaining and policing rigorous compliance policies, being one of a number seen as defining post-credit crunch litigation.
BVG Anstalt des öffentlichen Rechts v JPMorgan Chase Bank NA, Frankfurt Branch
Acting for the Berlin Transport Authority against JPMorgan in a lengthy jurisdiction battle which involved hearings and appeals in the UK and Germany, as well as a reference to the European Court of Justice, regarding the former’s challenge to the jurisdiction of the English courts under Articles 22(2) and 27 of the Judgment Regulation, following JPMorgan’s claim against Berlin under a US$220m Collaterised Debt Obligation, and subsequently defending the substantive claim at trial.
Barclays Bank Plc v UniCredit Bank Ag & Anor
 EWCA Civ 302 (20 March 2014)
Successfully resisting Italian banking giant’s appeal against the trial judge’s finding in favour of Barclays EUR80m claim for outstanding fees following the termination of a regulatory capital support trade (see below). The case is seen as an appellate benchmark for exercise of contractual discretion in the context of the expression “commercially reasonable”.
Barclays Bank Plc v UniCredit Bank AG & Anor
 EWHC 3655 (Comm) (21 December 2012)
sucessfully establishing the lawful termination by Barclays, at a 2 week trial, of a substantial structured trade to support Unicredit’s regulatory capital base, made following the Lehman Brothers collapse. The case was important as it dealt with issues as to the circumstances in which contractual discretion could be exercised to in order to terminate commercial contracts.
Office of Fair Trading (OFT) v Abbey National plc & Ors
 UKSC 6 (25 November 2009)
One of the seminal cases in the financial services industry this century, Michael acted in the test case litigation for Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banks in the UK Supreme Court (and the courts below) in the case brought by the OFT against eight financial institutions, in which it sought unsuccessfully to argue that so-called “unauthorised overdraft charges” were unlawful penalties or unenforceable under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations. The case demonstrates Michael’s deserved reputation for large-scale, industry-defining litigation involving financial institutions.
Michael Barnett “is very good at organizing large-scale litigation, … He’s very calm under fire, very direct and good at client handling,” notes one client, while another says: “He’s incredibly experienced [with] amazing client skills.”
This, says another client, is because “He really knows what clients want, he’s very responsive and he delivers”, in advising clients. They add that Michael is “very strategic, is not afraid to give a strong view, knows when he needs to take charge of things, is innovative on costs and is also very good at managing matters”
He is “highly regarded for his expertise in banking disputes involving investment banks, derivatives and structured finance matters,” notes Chambers UK, not least because he is a “brilliant team leader and strategic thinker on the complex cases… Really understands what makes opponents tick. He obviously knows the financial markets inside out.”
That helps ensure “…he always delivers the right result,” because he is “great with strategy and very strong on the technical side… he was excellent at ensuring that I knew what I needed to know”:
“Michael Barnett is a star performer who brings his vast experience of business disputes to bear on the cases he litigates. His ability to think out of the box and divine the other side’s Achilles heel is just as impressive as his in-depth knowledge of law and procedure”, notes the Legal 500.
Acknowledged as a “leading expert in finance litigation”, particularly as “an investment banking heavyweight,” Michael is “one of the best litigation lawyers in London,” who is “as bright as they come”, and “a top performer” who is “experienced and highly intelligent”, experienced in “[handling] very heavy litigation”.
Education and Admissions
The University of Cape Town, South Africa
(BA English and Private Law)
Nottingham Trent University
(Common Professional Examination)
(Law Society Final Examination)
Solicitor of the Superior Courts of England & Wales
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