Latest Upper Tribunal Decision on compensation following business extinguishment

Charles Lazarevic was the Acquiring Authority’s expert at the Upper Tribunal hearing on the compulsory purchase compensation due on extinguishment of a waste transfer and skip hire business – Welcocks Skips Limited v Network Rail Infrastructure Limited [2019] UKUT 0162 (LC) ACQ/84/2017.

The case was heard over 6 days in January before Her Honour Judge Alice Robinson and Mr A J Trott FRICS and involved extensive scrutiny of trade and financial data, with detailed examination of both forensic accountants and specialist waste industry experts.

In its 47-page Decision the Tribunal awarded compensation of £7,581,636 for the value of the business. The case is interesting because of the size of the claim and the fact that compulsory purchase compensation cases rarely reach the Tribunal.

Please contact us for further details: enquiries@veroconsulting.expert

Financial review in central Europe

Charles Lazarevic advised in Serbia

Charles Lazarevic, an Award-winning Chartered Accountant, recently completed a financial review in Serbia with support from a leading firm of accountants locally.

Charles was asked to use his financial expertise and language skills to prepare a report to forensic accounting standards for his client, a major corporation.

This exercise builds on his previous experience in the country with financial reporting to international accounting and auditing standards, and advising on privatisations.

Charles has carried out forensic accounting assignments for corporates in many parts of the world as well as sensitive investigations for various UK government agencies.  Further details of his experience are available here.

Charles Lazarevic in Belgrade, Serbia
Charles carried out a forensic investigation in Belgrade, Serbia

While most assignments are conducted in English, the team at Vero in London has consultants with a working knowledge of German, French, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Romanian, Serbian and Croatian.

Further details of his and his team’s expertise is available at here.

If you would like consult him for a business financial review or a forensic investigation anywhere in the world, please contact him at enquiries@veroconsulting.expert.

2 July 2019

Charles Lazarevic given Lawyer Monthly Awards in two finance categories

Charles Lazarevic
Charles Lazarevic, an award winning expert witness

I am thrilled to announce that I was nominated, voted on and won Expert Witness Awards in two categories by Lawyer Monthly: Chartered Accountancy and Fraud Accountancy. 

These Awards recognise the success that I and my firm have achieved since we established this specialist forensic firm in 2016.

Every case requires a tailored approach to deal with its own uniqueness. I am pleased that these Awards recognise the passion that my team and I apply in resolving each case. We present often complex financial issues in a clear, authoritative and comprehensive way that assists the parties, courts, tribunals and arbitrators. 

Further details about my firm’s services may be found here.

Details of Lawyer Monthly’s point-based evaluation system, which is based on twelve parameters to ensure fairness and accuracy, are set out here.  Lawyer Monthly will be publishing an Awards edition shortly.

Expert Witness Award
Charles Lazarevic – 2019 Award winner

Charles Lazarevic

 

5 June 2019

High standards of expert evidence support London’s pre-eminence as the global dispute resolution centre

If there was any doubt, the first London International Disputes Week 2019 (#LIDW2019) certainly demonstrated why London is the premier centre for major dispute resolution by showcasing the impressive range of legal and support skills available here. 

My own professional interest as a frequent expert witness on damages was particularly drawn to Mr Justice Roth’s keynote address in the final session of the week on Competition Disputes.  Competition cases require extensive use of expert evidence and Mr Justice Roth’s address set out the tools and sanctions on experts in recent cases such as the three interchange disputes, BCMR, PayTV v Sky Sports and Britned disputes. 

Mr Justice Roth speaking to a room of international lawyers and expert witnesses with an interest in competition disputes
Mr Justice Roth’s Keynote address

Mr Justice Roth, a Justice in the Chancery Division of the High Court of England and Wales and President of the UK Competition Appeal Tribunal described the framework that has evolved in England for securing impartial expert witness evidence, starting from the principles which Mr Justice Cresswell had laid down in his judgment in The Ikarian Reefer ([1993] 2 Lloyd’s Rep. 68 shipping case. 

He mentioned the increasingly common practice of instructing experts to meet before they prepare their first reports to agree the scope and thus avoid addressing irrelevant issues.  He went on to describe how useful the tribunal recently found asking experts to present a “teach-in” at an early stage of the hearing in Britned Development Ltd v ABB [2018] EWHC 2616 (Ch).  This practice will become even more important as Judges conduct more concurrent expert evidence (better known as “hot-tubbing”) sessions, a process he recognised created much more work for Judges but did shortened the overall hearing. 

At this point it is worth quoting from The Honourable Mr Justice Marcus Smith’s Judgment following the costs hearing in the Britned case, where he observed that:

“the interchange between the experts and the battle between their different approaches, I found (as I hope the Judgment makes clear) incredibly useful. I do not consider that I would have been able to reach so clear a conclusion regarding Mr Biro’s approach had I not had the benefit of understanding why Dr Jenkins’ approach was flawed. The manner in which the experts’ views were tested in the crucible of cross-examination was very helpful indeed.”

In Mr Justice Roth’s view these developments, when combined with the courts willingness to criticise experts in their public judgments (as demonstrated above) and, in extreme cases to report them to their professional body, are a sufficient threat to ensure that experts present evidence impartially.   

He also mentioned developments in tailored proportional disclosure rather than simply mechanically applying standard disclosure, which include using Redfern Schedules and Scott Schedules, such as in the air cargo anticompetition case.  He also referred to new ways of assessing aggregate damages and their distribution in collective actions, which shows how London’s courts are responding to the changing nature of large-scale litigation.

Mr Justice Roth closed by suggesting these strengths means that Brexit will not make London any less attractive as a place for settling major international disputes, in spite of attempts by other countries to attract business by setting up English speaking courts.

Having acted as an expert since before the Woolf reforms in 1999, I have seen these rules gradually develop thanks to various working parties and committees of practitioners.  I share Mr Justice Roth’s opinion that London has a comprehensive set of tools designed to ensure that courts and tribunals can rely on robust and impartial expert evidence. 

Charles Lazarevic

31 May 2019

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Does kissing an expert witness suggest too close a relationship?

Readers will not need reminding that an expert’s duty is to help the court on matters within their expertise and this duty overrides any obligation to the person from whom experts have received instructions or by whom they are paid (CPR 35.3 and CrPR 33.2).  As one would expect, the expert is required to approach their work with total independence (PD35 2.1). 

The kiss

This requirement was brought into question at the trial of a Mr Mick Wills at Wellingborough Magistrates Court last year. Having been accused of illegally hunting a fox with dogs, the expert evidence for the prosecution was provided by Professor Stephen Harris, a self-described vulpophile and one of Britain’s leading authorities on foxes and a longstanding opponent of fox hunting.  It was reported to the Judge that a prosecution witness had kissed the expert witness when they met just before court.  When challenged, Professor Harris’s explanation for this behaviour was that he merely knew the lady and had not seen her in 20 years!

Judge Daber’s reaction on being told

On being informed of this incident, Judge Daber took a rather stern view of this incident, concluding that: “If a relationship exists between a proposed expert and the party calling that expert which a reasonable observer might think is evidence of bias, then he must be excluded on the grounds of public policy. Justice must be seen to be done.”

Kissing the expert witness
Has this expert witness compromised his independence?

The judge’s response to this rather unusual event should remind experts and those appointing them to take great care to avoid even the appearance of being too close. 

Those promoting the inquisitorial system’s approach to expert witness will say this case reinforces their argument that experts should always be appointed by courts or tribunals.

Experts must be seen to be unbiased

From my own experience of long and complex court and arbitration hearings, experts are often required to attend many days of evidence and to work extremely closely with those appointing them and their legal team in order to share their opinions on a broad range of evidence within their expertise.  One consequence of such a close working relationship is that an outside observer could interpreted the familiarity between the expert witness and those appointing them as implying bias. Indeed I have seen expert evidence dismissed by an arbitrator merely because the witness entered, sat with and left with the legal team each day. To the tribunal the expert witness appeared to be a member of the legal team and so an advocate for their client’s case.

In order to avoid even the appearance of bias the cautious expert should remain slightly aloof from the party that appointed them. This could include even entering the tribunal room separately and throughout the hearings sitting slightly apart from the party that appointed them.  Perhaps they should even go as far as to stay in different hotels and have their meals separately? All this should be designed to reassure the tribunal that the expert was approaching the work and evidence with total impartiality.

Why not share your experiences?

If readers have come across other examples of expert evidence being excluded for small indiscretions, and how this appearance of bias can be avoided, I would like to hear about them and the consequences for the case.  Please drop me a line.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Charles Lazarevic

27 May 2019

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