- Chambers & Partners 2013
“‘an excellent and very persuasive advocate,’ as well as ‘a great master of the detail.’”
- Chambers & Partners 2013
Michael Swainston QC has a broad commercial litigation and advisory practice in England and overseas across a range of subject areas including international trade, fraud, energy litigation, insurance, reinsurance, banking (including Islamic banking), financial services, shipping (both wet and dry claims), jurisdiction disputes and commercial human rights. He has particular experience in litigation connected with Russia and CIS countries, and recently acted for the Russian Federation in the European Court of Human Rights.
Aside from his work in London, he is admitted and practices in the BVI and Dubai, and he also has extensive experience before International Arbitration panels including cases commenced under LCIA, ICC and Bermuda Form rules.
Michael Swainston QC is recommended by both Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners.
He is a past chair of the Bar Council International Relations Committee, and a founder member of the Anglo - Kazakh Law Association.
Michael Swainston QC has a very broad litigation and advisory practice in England and overseas. Particular areas of expertise include international trade, fraud, energy litigation, insurance, reinsurance, banking (including Islamic banking), financial services, shipping (both wet and dry claims), disputes over jurisdiction and governing law and commercial human rights.
He has particular experience in litigation connected with Russia and CIS countries, and recently acted for the Russian Federation in the European Court of Human Rights in the Yukos litigation.
He has been involved in some of the leading cases in all of his areas of specialism, including cases dealing with key issues of principle, such as the impact of Shariah law on banking contracts, and the extent of disclosure obligations in insurance in relation to published allegations, and the main recent decisions on aggregation of losses.
His practical experience includes asset tracing and cutting through corporate structures in the BVI, the theft of oil in India, alleged abstraction of the treasury in a Middle East state, forex issues, fraud in the banking, insurance and forfaiting markets, title disputes in relation to oil refineries in the Ukraine, recovery of investments in Russia, claims arising out of refinery and smelter explosions and derivatives disputes related to the 2008 financial crisis.
Aside from his work in London, he is also admitted and practices in the BVI and Dubai, and is also expert in international commercial arbitration.
His recent work includes:
- Leading Counsel for the Russian Federation in OAO Neftyanaya Kompaniya Yukos v. Russia
- Leading counsel in reinsurance disputes over Florida hurricane losses.
- Leading counsel in prominent "oligarch" litigation in London.
- Leading counsel in pipeline, infrastructure and licence disputes in the Middle East.
Michael also has an academic interest in the law, reflected in his appointment as one of the UK delegates to the European Commission Common Frame of Reference ("CFR") project aimed at review of the European law of contract.
Recent significant reported cases include:
- Cavell USA Inc and another v Seaton Insurance Company and another (CA)  EWCA Civ 1363;  All ER (D) 181 (Dec) - leading case on the meaning of "fraud".
- Yugraneft -v- R Abramovich & Ors  EWHC 2613 (Comm), - Dispute over the Sibneft-Yugra oil joint venture.
- Markel International Insurance Co -v- Surety Guarantee & Others  EWHC 1135 (Comm)- a case concerning fraud and breach of fiduciary duty, and the duties of a sub-agent.
Other important cases include
- IF P & C Insurance Limited (Publ.) -v- Silversea Cruises Limited and others, (Court of Appeal)  EWCA Civ 769, (Transcript: Smith Bernal)- re 9/11 losses.
- Brotherton and others -v- Aseguradora Colseguros SA and another, (Court of Appeal)  EWCA Civ 705,  2 All ER (Comm) 298 - leading case on materiality of published allegations in insurance law.
- Babcock International Limited -v- Mitsui Babcock Energy Limited, (Commercial Court)  EWHC 2728 (Comm), (Transcript) - takeover dispute re responsibility for Babcock asbestos losses.
- Sembawang Corp Ltd -v- Pacific Ocean Shipping Corp & Anr ("The Solitaire"), one of the largest arbitrations ever in London.
Qualifications & Appointments
Cambridge 1980 - 1983, MA (Law);
Oxford 1983 - 84, BCL (postgraduate law);
California Bar 1988 (inactive)
- Bencher of Lincolns Inn 2008
- UK Delegate to the European Commission Common Frame of Reference ("CFR") Project aimed at review of the European Law of Contract.
- Founder of the Anglo-Kazakh Law Association
- "Michael Swainston QC "is absolutely outstanding," according to impressed sources. This experienced fraud silk is "driven by the will to win and do well for his client." Commentators say that notwithstanding his great intellect and standing in the market he is "neither aloof nor arrogant" when dealing with clients." (Chambers & Partners 2013)
- "Michael Swainston QC is recognised for his leading commercial expertise, and handles international arbitration and related litigation with aplomb. Sources highlight his "tremendous experience of CIS matters before all kinds of tribunals," and consider him to be "an excellent and very persuasive advocate," as well as "a great master of the detail." " (Chambers & Partners 2013)
- "He has also developed a particular expertise in cases coming out of Russia and the CIS." (Chambers & Partners 2013)
- "The "frighteningly intelligent" Michael Swainston QC is a robust cross-examiner who "knows how to really put people under pressure." Instructing solicitors commend him as "a remarkably tenacious silk who will go through the papers, squeeze out every last point and fight to the last breath."" (Chambers & Partners 2013)
- Michael Swainston QC is singled out for his ‘ability to identify the core issues of a case and provide solid advice'. (Legal 500 2012)
- Michael Swainston QC is ‘an excellent and very persuasive advocate and a great master of detail'. (Legal 500 2012)
- Regarded as "bright, hard-working and very tenacious," (Chambers & Partners 2011)
- Michael Swainston QC is widely regarded as "extremely gifted and very hard-working with it." He is "a formidable advocate, who is proactive and a delight to work with." (Chambers & Partners 2011)
- "a real ideas man who consistently comes up with original lines of argument." Sources consider him to be "intellectually very able"(Chambers & Partners 2011)
- "Michael Swainston QC is ‘a genius and very hardworking with it'" (Legal 500 2010)
- " Swainston "uses forcefulness to his advantage in an incredibly smart way when in court." " (Chambers & Partners 2010)
- "Clients admire him as "a lawyer of great intelligence who backs up his brainpower with intense hard work." " (Chambers & Partners 2010)
- ""bright and tenacious advocate" is recommended for his determined approach: "He is one of the best choices if you have a case to be fought." " (Chambers & Partners 2010)
- 'fiery and determined' (Chambers & Partners, 2009)
- 'a hit at home and abroad' (Chambers & Partners, 2009)
- 'aggression and intelligence', 'launches into his cases with gusto', 'safe pair of hands' (Chambers & Partners, 2009)
- 'a top-class barrister who does well in whatever he pursues' (Chambers & Partners, 2009)
- 'takes bright, assertive points' (Legal 500 re Commercial Arbitration 2008)
- 'always on top of the case' (Legal 500, 2008)
- ‘has a very good nose for the best parts of a case' ‘persistent and bright' he's ‘ideal for certain cases where you need a fighter' (Chambers & Partners, 2008)
- ‘a man whose steel has been tempered in the fire of many heated courtroom exchanges' (Chambers & Partners, 2008)
- a ‘tough advocate' who's ‘easy to work with' (Legal 500 re Commercial Arbitration 2007)
- ‘a tough, clever barrister who will take advantage of a weakness in the other side's case in a very professional and effective way' (Chambers & Partners, 2006)
- ‘impressive' ‘he fights his corner hard' (Chambers & Partners, 2005)
- ‘isn't afraid to ruffle the feathers in promoting his client's case' (Chambers & Partners, 2004)
- a ‘tenacious advocate' (Chambers & Partners, 2006)
- ‘extremely able and tenacious, a man you want to have on your side' (Chambers & Partners, 2005)
- ‘he's one of the most difficult opponents I've ever had!' ‘he's a man to have on your side' (Chambers & Partners 2004)