Thomas Plewman QC
Year of Call: 2009; South Africa 1993 Silk: 2016; South Africa 2008
"Highly commercial and very authoritative in court." “He is a robust cross-examiner who offers clear and pragmatic advice to clients."
- Chambers & Partners 2017
"He is fantastic value, with a great track record on accountancy cases."
- Chambers & Partners 2017
A highly regarded South African silk who moved to London in 2010. His substantial advocacy experience quickly translated into a practice specialising in large commercial trials across a wide field, laying the basis for his appointment as a QC in 2016 after less than 6 years of London practice. The 2015 Legal 500 describes him as “a persuasive and subtly dominant advocate who picks apart the other side’s case with precision.”
He has an extensive commercial litigation practice and appeared in cases listed in The Lawyers’ top 20 for each of 2011, 2013 and 2015 - British Sky Broadcasting Limited and Others v Office of Communications  CAT 20; Deutsche Bank AG v Sebastian Holdings Inc  EWHC 3463 and in 2015, Cattles Group v PriceWaterhouseCoopers LLP, which settled after written opening submissions had been filed but before evidence was heard. He is now acting for amongst others Autonomy Corporation Limited in its actions to recover losses from erstwhile directors and others arising from Hewlett Packard's £8bn acquisition of Autonomy in 2011, and for Ticketus LLP in its attempts to recover the losses suffered on the advance purchase of Rangers’ season tickets following the Club’s liquidation. His breadth of experience equips him to act across wide ranging commercial fields, from banking and company law to competition, and auditors’ and solicitors’ professional negligence to breach of copyright and confidential information
Recent cases include:
- Cattles Group v PriceWaterhouseCoopers LLP – claims brought by Cattles and its subsidiary Welcome Financial Services attempting to recover damages of £1.6 billion from PriceWaterhouse for failing to detect its failing business model two years earlier than they did;
- GB Minerals Holdings Ltd v Short  EWHC 1387 (TCC), obtaining permission to bring contempt proceedings for making false statements under statement of truth;
- ALG v Grant Thornton and others – acting for Grant Thornton in defeating ALG’s attempt to hold it responsible for $200m of losses following its failed AIM listing, alleging breach of its duties as reporting accountant;
- Sarclad Ltd v APT Technology  EWHC 2640 (Ch), involving claims for breach of copyright and appropriation of confidential information following an underlying dispute over agency commissions and alleged corrupt payments in China;
- Astra Finance Inc v Reed Smith LLP, a claim for solicitors professional negligence in the running of a ship-building dispute;
- QOGT Inc v IOGT Ltd  EWHC 1628 (Comm) – relating to the termination of a fund’s investment management agreement after the joint managers fell into dispute with each other;
- Deutsche Bank AG v Sebastian Holdings Inc  EWHC 3463, and  EWCA Civ 1100 - the £8bn dispute over foreign exchange trading losses suffered by a company owned by Norwegian billionaire, Alexander Vik;
- Cavendish CF LLP v KIMS Propco Ltd  EWHC 1282 (Ch), defeating claims for a corporate finance success fee on a private hospital development;
- Fortress Value Recovery Fund I LLC v Blue Skye Special Opportunities Fund  1 All E.R. (Comm) 973 and  EWHC 1486 (Comm) – claims in conspiracy relating to the restructuring of the $200m Blue Skye investment fund;
- Leading the BT team in the pay-TV trial in the Competition Appeal Tribunal in British Sky Broadcasting Limited and Others v Office of Communications  CAT 20;
- Goldentree Finance Ltd v Collis and Whitehead 2012 (Unreported); claims for breach of directors’ fiduciary duty and mismanagement;
- Bethell Construction Limited v Deloitte and Touche  EWCA Civ 1321,establishing limitation defences against auditors negligence claims;
- Erlson Precision Holdings Ltd v Hampson Industries Plc  EWHC 1137 (Comm) involving claims for fraudulent misrepresentation on sale of a company;
- Everton Football Club Company Limited v Sail Group Limited  EWHC 126 (QB) defeating claims for breach of an alleged contract for a pre-season football tournament.
In South Africa he acted in many fields including:
- auditors’ professional negligence, regularly acting for the big 4 firms including Thoroughbred Breeders' Association v Price Waterhouse 2001 (4) SA 551 (SCA) and Axiam Holdings Ltd v Deloitte & Touche 2006 (1) SA 237 (SCA), and both for and against the Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors
- insurance, including Van Zyl NO v Kiln Non-Marine Syndicate No. 510 of Lloyds of London 2003 (2) SA 440 (SCA), Coetzee v Attorney's Insurance Indemnity Fund 2003 (1) SA 1 (SCA) and David Trust v Aegis Insurance Co. Ltd 2000 (3) SA 289 (SCA)
- company law, in a number of shareholders disputes in private arbitration, in scheme of arrangement proceedings including the De Beers / Anglo American restructuring in 2001 and in the derivative action proceedings in Joseph Forman Holdings (Pty) Ltd and another v Forim Holdings  3 All SA 204 (W)
- in confidential information and corporate espionage disputes including the damages claims brought in Frangos v Corpcapital which were resolved three weeks into the trial and the underlying Anton Piller proceedings 2004 (2) SA 643 (T) .
- banking disputes, acting for Standard Bank, FirstRand and Investec, including in the Commission of Inquiry into the fall of the value of the Rand; and in NBS Boland Bank Ltd v One Berg River Drive CC 1999 (4) SA 928 (SCA)
- in large mining disputes, including the 2009 arbitration Kumba Iron Ore Ltd v Mittal Steel over the rights to the Kolomela mine and the platinum rights dispute Bafokeng Tribe v Impala Platinum Ltd 1999 (3) SA 517 (BH) as well as acting for Anglo American in the silicosis claims brought against it by employees of its subsidiaries mining;
- software development disputes including the claims bought by Old Mutual against Accenture and by Neil Harvey and Associates against Medscheme Holdings Ltd;
- telecommunications, representing Vodacom against the Independent Communications Authority;
- intellectual property, including obtaining injunctions against patent infringement in Pfizer Ltd v Cipla-Medpro 2005 BIP 1 (CP) and acting for Pfizer in the subsequent damages claims, patent amendment proceedings to avoid revocation in Smithkline Beecham Biologicals (SA) v Chiron Corporation (2009, unreported), trademark proceedings in Levi Strauss & Co v Coconut Trouser Manufacturers (Pty) Ltd 2001 (3) SA 1285 (SCA) and copyright claims in Morris v Benson and Hedges 2000 (3) SA 1092 (W).
He continues to advise English clients on South African law and acted as an expert witness in proceedings in Jersey in Investec Trust (Swizerland) S.A. v the Philip Gutman Family Trust.
Barrister and Senior Counsel for the Republic of South Africa. He took silk in South Africa in 2008 and relocated to London taking up tenancy at Brick Court in 2010.
Thomas was engaged in substantial commercial litigation throughout his 16 years of practice in Johannesburg, in both courts and arbitration, and has rapidly developed a commercial trial practice in London including a number of the largest cases in recent years.
Thomas acts in commercial, professional negligence and arbitration matters.
He is heavily engaged in financial services disputes, having spent most of 2013 acting in the $8 billion dispute in Deutsche Bank AG v Sebastian Holdings Inc  EWHC 3463, and its aftermath including the application in the Court of Appeal for security for the judgment  EWCA Civ 1100; and before that in Fortress Value Recovery Fund I LLC v Blue Skye Special Opportunities Fund  1 All E.R. (Comm) 973 and  EWHC 1486 (Comm). He is now acting for Autonomy Corporation Limited in its actions to recover losses from erstwhile directors and others arising from Hewlett Packard's acquisition of Autonomy in 2011.
Recent cases include a successful application for permission to bring contempt proceedings in GB Minerals Holdings Ltd v Short  EWHC 1387 (TCC ); the successful defence of claims for repudiation of an investment fund management agreement, QOGT Inc v IOGT Ltd  EWHC 1628 (Comm), and resisting a corporate finance success fee in Cavendish CF LLP v KIMS Propco Ltd  EWHC 1282 (Ch).
Judgments in other cases in which he has recently appeared include: Sarclad Ltd v APT Technology  EWHC 2640 (Ch); British Sky Broadcasting Limited and Others v Office of Communications  CAT 20; Brit Inns Ltd (In Liquidation) v BDW Trading Ltd 145 Con LR 181; Erlson Precision Holdings Ltd v Hampson Industries Plc  EWHC 1137 (Comm) and Everton Football Club Company Limited v Sail Group Limited  EWHC 126 (QB).
For more than 10 years, Thomas was briefed in most of the big auditing cases for the big four auditing firms in South Africa as both a junior and a silk. Having a first degree in accountancy and economics, he is very well-versed in underlying accounting issues.
Since commencing practice in London he has continued that specialisation. In the last 18 months he has acted for the defendants in the £1.6bn claim in Cattles Limited v PriceWaterhouseCoopers LLP which settled after opening submissions were filed in October 2015; in American Leisure Group v Grant Thornton (dismissed for failure to comply with interlocutory orders in April 2015) and in Festive Products v KPMG (settled in 2014). Earlier cases include Bethell Construction Ltd v Deloitte and Touche  EWCA Civ 1321.
Recent South African cases include Axiam Holdings Ltd v Deloitte & Touche 2006 (1) SA 237 (SCA) (concerning auditors duties to third parties). He also appeared in the leading case on auditor's contractual liability, ThoroughbredBreeders Association v Pricewaterhouse 2001(4) SA 551 (SCA). In addition he acted regularly in South Africa for the Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors and SA Institute of Chartered Accountants.
Thomas regularly acted in insurance matters in South Africa. Reported judgments of insurance cases in which he acted include Van Zyl NO v Kiln Non-marine Syndicate No 510 2003 (2) SA 440 (SCA) and David Trust v Aegis Insurance Co Ltd 2000 (3) SA 289 (SCA).
Thomas Plewman SC regularly acted in arbitration matters in South Africa, including as the junior silk for Sishen Iron Ore Company in a well-publicised arbitration over long term ore supplies to ArcelorMittal South Africa, in which Sishen defeated ArcelorMittal's claims to be contractually entitled to a substantial portion of the new Kolomela iron ore mine.
Since moving to the UK he has continued to act in both South African and UK arbitration claims.
GB Minerals Holdings Ltd v Short  EWHC 1387 (TCC )
Sarclad Ltd v APT Technology  EWHC 2640 (Ch)
QOGT Inc v IOGT Ltd  EWHC 1628 (Comm)
Cavendish CF LLP v KIMS Propco Ltd  EWHC 722 (Ch) and  EWHC 1282 (Ch)
Deutsche Bank AG v Sebastian Holdings Inc  EWHC 3463 (Comm) and  EWCA Civ 1100
Fortress Value Recovery Fund I LLC v Blue Skye Special Opportunities Fund  EWHC 1486 (Comm) and  1 All E.R. (Comm) 973
British Sky Broadcasting Limited and Others v Office of Communications  CAT 20
Brit Inns Ltd (In Liquidation) v BDW Trading Ltd 145 Con LR 181
Bethell Construction Limited v Deloitte and Touche  EWCA Civ 1321
Erlson Precision Holdings Ltd v Hampson Industries Plc  EWHC 1137 (Comm)
Everton Football Club Company Limited v Sail Group Limited  EWHC 126 (QB)
L G Blower Specialist Bricklayer Ltd v Reeves and another  1 W.L.R. 2081 (CA)
Prebble v Costa  EWCA Civ 717
B Com (UCT, cum laude); LLB (Wits, cum laude); BCL (Oxon). Graduated as top LLB student in his year and was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship for South Africa in 1990.
- "He is fantastic value, with a great track record on accountancy cases." (Chambers & Partners 2017)
- "Highly commercial and very authoritative in court." "Thomas is a very hard-working, tenacious barrister who is incisive and clear-thinking in his advice, both orally and on paper. He is a robust cross-examiner who offers clear and pragmatic advice to clients." (Chambers & Partners 2017)
- "A very hardworking, tenacious barrister, who is incisive and clear-thinking." (The Legal 500 2016)
- "Very knowledgeable." (The Legal 500 2016)
- “A well-regarded advocate with particular experience in financial services, banking, professional negligence, intellectual property and mining law. His heavyweight presence in the London market follows on from his success as a commercial silk in South Africa.” (Chambers & Partners 2015)
- "Extraordinarily good." "Pugnacious, straightforward and straight-talking."(Chambers & Partners 2015)
- “Handles a heavy commercial litigation caseload. His strength lies in acting for financial services companies in high-value negligence claims.” (Chambers & Partners 2015)
- "His knowledge is excellent, as is his advocacy. He shows good judgement as to how to engage with judges and he is good tactically." "He is fantastically good value because he's really experienced and happy to get involved with the clients." (Chambers & Partners 2015)
- "A persuasive and subtly dominant advocate who picks apart the other side’s case with precision." Legal 500 2015)
- "A pugnacious yet charming man, with very persuasive qualities and a very client-friendly approach." (The Legal 500 2014)
- “Senior counsel at the South African Bar and now a junior at Brick Court, Thomas Plewman SC has a great track record as a litigator. Sources who have seen him in action in the UK say Plewman is ‘highly analytical, very clever’ and possessed of ‘very good judgement.’” (Chambers & Partners 2013)