Brick Court Chambers

Ben Woolgar

Ben Woolgar

YEAR OF CALL: 2014

"He's the human equivalent of IBM Watson." "Renowned for being able to give advice above his level of call, he's extremely efficient and clever, and able to deal with complicated issues."
Chambers & Partners 2020
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Ben specialises in heavy-duty commercial litigation and arbitration. He has particular expertise in civil fraud and energy work, as well as jurisdiction battles, banking, mining and insurance disputes. He is frequently instructed as the sole or leading junior in major Commercial Court and Chancery Division cases, and has appeared in the Supreme Court, Privy Council and Court of Appeal.

He is recommended by Legal 500 as a leading junior in both Commercial Dispute Resolution (one of the ‘Top 10 under 8 years’ call’) and Energy, where he is described as ‘a truly impressive barrister, despite his young age..’ and as ‘bring[ing] high quality legal analysis, years ahead of his call.’ He has appeared in cases in The Lawyer’s Top 20 Cases list in each of 2016-2019.

Ben specialises in heavy-duty commercial litigation and arbitration. He has particular expertise in civil fraud and energy work, as well as jurisdiction battles, banking, mining and insurance disputes. He is frequently instructed as the sole or leading junior in major Commercial Court and Chancery Division cases, and has appeared in the Supreme Court, Privy Council and Court of Appeal.

He is recommended by Legal 500 as a leading junior in both Commercial Dispute Resolution (one of the ‘Top 10 under 8 years’ call’) and Energy, where he is described as ‘a truly impressive barrister, despite his young age..’ and as ‘bring[ing] high quality legal analysis, years ahead of his call.’ He has appeared in cases in The Lawyer’s Top 20 Cases list in each of 2016-2019.

Past leading cases include: the successful defence of the Candy Brothers in Holyoake v Candy [2017] EWHC 3397 (Ch) (led by Tim Lord QC and Thomas Plewman QC) in a £132m claim alleging conspiracy in relation to a property transaction;  Property Alliance Group v RBS [2016] EWHC 3342 (Ch) and [2018] EWCA Civ 355 (led by Tim Lord QC), the leading case on a number of key issues in banking law including swaps mis-selling and LIBOR rigging;  Pinchuk v Bogolyubov & Kolomoisky (led by Mark Howard QC), a multi-billion dollar dispute between Ukrainian oligarchs concerning ownership of an iron ore mine which settled on the eve of trial, and Bluewaters v Ecclestone, BLB & Ors : (led by Tim Lord QC) a US$550m claim arising out of the corrupt sale of Formula 1 in 2005 by Bernie Ecclestone brought by disappointed bidder Bluewaters (settled after the CMC);

Major matters Ben is currently instructed in include:

  • PJSC Commercial Bank Privatbank v Kolomoisky : (led by Mark Howard QC) a US$2.6 billion claim (and associated freezing order) against two oligarchs concerning loans from Ukraine's largest bank (jurisdiction challenge successful before Fancourt J, and heard by the Court of Appeal in July 2019);
  • Avonwick Holdings v Azitio & Ors : (led by Neil Calver QC) in a US$1.1 billion claim about the sale of the Industrial Union of Donbass involving three of Ukraine's richest men (trial in October 2019);
  • Federal Republic of Nigeria v JP Morgan & Shell and Eni : (led by Roger Masefield QC) in a series of actions by Nigeria concerning the bribery of Nigerian official in connection with the grant of a multi-billion dollar oil licence;

Ben graduated from the University of Oxford, winning the Gibbs Prize for the Best Thesis in Politics, and then studied law as a Karmel, Bedingfield and Lord Reid Scholar of Gray’s Inn. He has considerable advocacy experience (including, within the last 12 months, acting as sole counsel in two week-long arbitrations concerning sums exceeding US$5m), and is a former Best Speaker at the World Universities’ Debating Championships.

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  • Commercial M

    Ben has a broad commercial practice, encompassing banking, insurance, shipping, energy, civil fraud and international arbitration. His current and recent instructions include:

    • Pinchuk v Bogolyubov & Kolomoisky: A multi-billion dollar dispute between Ukrainian oligarchs concerning ownership of an iron ore mine, this was one of The Lawyer's Top 20 Cases of 2016 (led by Mark Howard QC)
    • and Gerald Metals v Timis [2017] EWHC 1375 (Comm): (led by Ali Malek QC and Alan Gourgey QC) in a US$100m deceit unlawful means conspiracy claim concerning a mining transaction, raising complex jurisdiction and governing law issues.

     

    • Property Alliance Group v RBS: A complex banking dispute concerning swaps misselling, LIBOR manipulation and RBS's controversial Global Restructuring Group, another of the The Lawyer's Top 20 Cases of 2016 (led by Tim Lord QC). This is the first civil claim in relation to both LIBOR and GRG to come to trial.
    • Other claims against banks concerning restructuring units (including GRG), Swaps mis-selling and LIBOR manipulation.
    • BT Cornwall v Cornwall Council [2015] EWHC 3755 (Comm), a two-week trial concerning the Council's right to terminate a c.£160m IT contract (led by Duncan McCall QC)
    • OPERS & Ors v. Petrobras, a series of applications for evidence in the UK for New York proceedings concerning $97bn of securities affected by the scandal over Brazil's state-owned oil company Petrobras (led by Charles Hollander QC)
    • Chamonix v Caledonia [2015] EWHC 3290 (Comm), a multi-million pound private equity dispute about breach of confidentiality and exclusivity (led by Alec Haydon).
    • A c.$40m insurance arbitration concerning loss of a cargo ship (led by Simon Salzedo QC)
    • A c.$20m shipbuilding arbitration raising complex issues of restitution and misrepresentation, and the ensuing challenges under s.68 & 69 Arbitration Act 1996 (led by Richard Lord QC)
    • A multi-million dollar claim to enforce a foreign judgment against a defence ministry, raising issues of sovereign immunity and construction of the Judgments Regulation (unled)
    • A six-figure shipping arbitration concerning demurrage and force majeure clauses (unled)

    He also has extensive experiencing advising in all areas of commercial law. Recent areas in which he has advised include:

    • Obtaining disclosure and deposition evidence under the Evidence (Proceedings in Other Jurisdictions) Act 1975 and the Hague Convention
    • Interpretation of a substantial joint venture agreement concerning a business in Southern Africa (with Daniel Jowell QC)
    • Quantum of damages in a case concerning a shipping collision (with Richard Lord QC)
    • The governing law of direct claims against insurers (with Simon Salzedo QC)
    • Expert evidence on banking and insolvency law issues for use in French proceedings (with Tim Lord QC)
    • Expert evidence in a series of investment treaty arbitrations involving questions of EU law (with Kelyn Bacon QC)
  • Reported cases M

    Chamonix v Caledonia [2015] EWHC 3290 (Comm)

    SeaFrance v CMA [2015] UKSC 75

    BT Cornwall v Cornwall Council [2015] EWHC 3755 (Comm)

  • Education and Qualifications M

    Education:

    2013-2014: BPTC, City Law School (Outstanding)

    2012-2013: GDL, City Law School (Distinction, 4th in year)

    2009-2012: MA, Philosophy, Politics and Economics, University of Oxford (Balliol College) (First Class, Gibbs Prize for Best Thesis in Politics)

    Scholarships and Prizes:

    University of Oxford:

    Gibbs Prize for Best Thesis in Politics 2012 (Best finals thesis in the university)

    University Alumni Society Award 2011

    Balliol College:

    James Hall Prize for Outstanding Academic Achievement 2011

    James Hall Scholarship 2011-2012

    College Exhibition 2010-2011

    Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn:

    Lord Reid Senior Scholarship 2014 (awarded to the Inn’s top four pupils)

    Bedingfield Scholarship 2013 (the Inn’s top award for the BPTC)

    David Karmel Scholarship 2012 (the Inn’s top award for the GDL)

    Other:

    Best Speaker, World Universities Debating Championship 2012

    Grand Finalist, World Universities Debating Championship 2011

    European Universities’ Debating Champion 2011

    Best Speaker, English National Debating Championships (ESU Mace) 2012

    World Schools’ Debating Champion 2008 (and 2014 as coach of the English national team)

    Human Rights Law Association Judicial Review Moot Winner 2014

    2nd place, OUP-BPP National Mooting Competition 2012-13

    Bar European Group Phoenicia Scholarship 2015

  • Directory quotes M

    "He's the human equivalent of IBM Watson." "Renowned for being able to give advice above his level of call, he's extremely efficient and clever, and able to deal with complicated issues." Chambers & Partners 2020 (Commercial Dispute Resolution)

    ‘Brings high quality legal analysis, years ahead of his call.’ Legal 500 2020 (Commercial litigation)

    ‘A truly impressive barrister, despite his young age, his analytical skill is impressive.’ Legal 500 2020 (Energy)