Dominic Wreford
Office:
The Shard
32 London Bridge Street
SE1 9SG
City:
London
Country:
England
Tel:
+44 20 7089 4910

Questions and Answers:

Who's Who Legal Thought Leaders - Arbitration

Dominic Wreford is the EMEA leader of Duff & Phelps’ disputes and investigations practice. Dominic has undertaken forensic accounting and commercial dispute work on a full-time basis since 1997. He has particular expertise in high-value commercial disputes, in a wide variety of industry sectors, including: technology, construction, telecommunications, energy, financial services, professional services, insurance, pharmaceuticals, public sector/government and shipping. Dominic has often given evidence both in the UK High Court and at international arbitration.

WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO A CAREER FOCUSING ON DISPUTES AND INVESTIGATIONS WORK?

This type of work is characterised by bespoke assignments, where the subject matter and industry changes from job to job.  I have always wanted to have fresh challenges in my career – this industry constantly delivers them.

WHAT QUALITIES MAKE A SUCCESSFUL EXPERT WITNESS?

The ability to convey one’s professional opinion clearly in writing and with impartiality is a given. What is also needed is the ability to work closely with instructing counsel – often under demanding time constraints. I’ve found that a sense of humour, especially when under pressure, helps enormously in this.

Working closely with counsel also requires understanding the legal framework and its interaction with counsels’ needs regarding the scope of the expert report. 

Last, enjoying the process of cross-examination, while possibly slightly masochistic, is a definite help!

HOW HAS THE ROLE OF EXPERT WITNESS DEVELOPED SINCE YOU BEGAN YOUR PRACTICE?

When I started my career, being an expert witness was not a full-time job. By that, I mean that individual practitioners typically had other roles that occupied most of their time, with being an expert witness a subsidiary calling.

As time has progressed, many professionals (myself included) have established practices that are predominantly or entirely based on being an expert witness. This has led to clear benefits in terms of understanding the role of the expert, as well as drafting and testimony skills that have been honed through experience. 

AS A MANAGING DIRECTOR, HOW DO YOU ENSURE THE TEAM STANDS OUT AMONG ITS COMPETITORS?

The Duff & Phelps environment is exceptionally collaborative. Being able to leverage experience from across the globe quickly and seamlessly is a key differentiator. We are also an acquisitive business and recently acquired Kroll, the leading global risk and investigations firm. This has turned us into one of the largest disputes and investigations practices in the world.

HOW HAS THE COMPETITION FOR EXPERT WITNESS WORK EVOLVED SINCE YOU STARTED YOUR CAREER?

I trained with one of the very large firms of accountants. As the disputes and investigations field developed, the large and mid-tier accounting firms created groups that began to focus on this type of work. However, issues from conflicts of interest grew and this saw the breakaway of key practitioners to form smaller boutiques. More recently, over the last 10 years or so there has been a form of consolidation such that, while some boutiques remain, there are now a number of sizeable specialist practices with a global presence, such as my firm, Duff & Phelps.

The formation of the global specialist firms has helped address the ever more detailed requirements of counsel. In addition to seeking experienced experts, legal teams are, now more than ever before, looking to identify experts with niche skillsets or deep sector knowledge. This means that often I will work together with one of our in-house industry experts.

YOU ARE WIDELY RESPECTED FOR YOUR TESTIFYING WORK IN BOTH LITIGATION AND ARBITRATION PROCEEDINGS. TO WHAT EXTENT DOES YOUR APPROACH DIFFER DEPENDING ON THE FORM OF DISPUTE RESOLUTION?

Of course, many aspects are the same between the forms – for example, addressing a well-prepared cross-examination by having a thorough knowledge of the matter, one’s report and the underlying documents.

In terms of differences, first, arbitral tribunal members often have backgrounds that are directly relevant to the case – this can affect the style and content of answers to cross-examination questions put to me – answers can take their knowledge and experience into account. 

Secondly, some tribunal members, although possessing foreign-language skills far superior to my own, may not be native English speakers. I try to take care in such cases to frame responses to questions in a way that takes this into account. Although transcripts are useful, trying to ensure understanding at the time and allowing for contemporaneous follow-up questions from the tribunal is undoubtedly beneficial.

Last, the potential to be required to give direct evidence, often as a presentation, is a differentiator between the systems. However, direct evidence brings its own tension between conveying one’s opinion clearly, while not being seen as an advocate.

GIVEN THE INCREASING NUMBER OF YOUNGER EXPERTS TRYING TO BREAK INTO THE AREA, WHAT CAN SENIOR PRACTITIONERS DO TO HELP THEM STAND OUT?

I strongly believe that it is the duty of senior practitioners to bring on the next generation. It is all too easy to identify egotistical experts. However, in many cases, younger experts will have the abilities and skill sets that are perfectly suited to a matter. It is incumbent, I think, on senior experts to help promulgate this to potential clients. This is not just an aspect of being a professional helping to train and educate but is also a commercial position to take to help grow a firm’s practice by having a greater pool of more experienced experts.

Where appropriate, I suggest a younger expert to the client instead of myself and I take on the position of a “review partner”. I offer a discount on our fees if the younger expert is selected – explaining the commercial rationale to the client. The client has always been well served by the choice of the younger expert.

LOOKING BACK OVER YOUR CAREER, WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN THE PROUDEST OF?

I have been lucky to have been involved with a number of growing practices, including two from inception. I’m most proud to have helped grow them and to have seen those that I have worked with over the years go on to become senior practitioners in their own right.

Who's Who Legal Thought Leaders - Investigations

Dominic Wreford is the EMEA leader of Duff & Phelps’ disputes practice. Dominic has undertaken forensic accounting and dispute work on a full-time basis since 1997. He has particular expertise in high-value disputes, often involving substantial investigation elements, in a wide variety of industry sectors, including: technology, construction, telecommunications, energy, financial services, professional services, insurance, pharmaceuticals, public sector/government and shipping. Dominic has often given evidence in both the UK High Court and at international arbitration.

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT WORKING IN THE FIELD OF INVESTIGATIONS?

Unlike a lot of my work in the area of assessing commercial loss and economic damages, which regularly use hypothetical counter-factuals, often the output of a financial investigation is more definite. It is akin to starting with the pieces of the jigsaw but presenting the finished picture – I find it very rewarding when we manage to pull together disparate items of information into a coherent whole.

WHAT IS THE IDEAL PREPARATION WHEN IT COMES TO GIVING EXPERT EVIDENCE?

Investigation work in the context of a dispute tends to differ from the assessment of economic loss in that the team is often larger and may be geographically more disparate, coupled with challenges associated with multiple languages in which the expert may have little personal fluency. However, being closely involved in the work as it has progressed will always assist in preparation for evidence – as will considering throughout what contrary opinions or approaches may be possible. This will not only strengthen the investigation itself but will also, of course, demonstrate independence of opinion and thought.

HOW HAS THE CONCEPT OF WHAT CONSTITUTES AN INVESTIGATION CHANGED SINCE YOU BEGAN YOUR CAREER? IN PARTICULAR, WHAT IMPACT HAS THE INCREASING USE OF TECHNOLOGY AND BIG DATA HAD ON TRACING AND ISSUES OF IDENTIFICATION IN INVESTIGATIONS?

It may seem remarkable now, but in my first investigation, we undertook much of our analysis using pencil and paper. A lot of time and effort was needed to ensure that source data was properly referenced as, in document-heavy investigations, it was certainly possible to identify key information only to find that a mistaken reference meant that the proverbial needle had to be found again. This was also true when an investigation changed course and one had to relocate documents that were previously thought to be irrelevant.

Now we see and manipulate datasets involving hundreds of millions of transactions, with some matters involving millions of documents. The ability to use technology to search across both structured and unstructured data is a prerequisite but brings new challenges to the investigator in managing the output of such searches and ensuring the results are representative and meaningful.

WHEN IT COMES TO INVESTIGATIONS CAPABILITIES, WHAT MAKES DUFF & PHELPS STAND OUT FROM THE MARKET?

We recently acquired Kroll – a name synonymous with complex investigations around the world. Now that this team has been added to the pre-existing capabilities we had at Duff & Phelps, we have a physical footprint in 28 countries, together with coverage and deep experience of undertaking sensitive and far-reaching investigations around the world. We also have one of the largest groups of experienced, testifying experts of any firm. The combination of these skill-sets on this scale is a very powerful proposition.

HOW DOES AN EXPERT WITNESS ENSURE THAT THEY REMAIN INDEPENDENT DESPITE THE CLIENTS’ DESIRE FOR A SPECIFIC OUTCOME?

This is an occasional issue that doesn’t arise as much in commercial disputes. There the involvement of outside counsel, who are usually well versed in the role of the expert witness, helps the client understand the requirements on an expert. Where such pressures arise, in my experience, is in instances where a client seeks to use the results of an investigation, which was conducted on a narrow area for very particular reasons and possibly never in anticipation of legal proceedings, for a much broader, more litigious purpose.

However, I would suggest two key points: first, awareness and second, education. By awareness, I mean that if the investigator is aware that the matter may move into an expert witness phase then they can keep the need for independence front of mind throughout – this will help avoid pitfalls later on. By education, I consider that, while a client may apparently desire a specific outcome, they also typically desire a robust and reliable investigation. Educate them that the independence of approach of the investigator is not contrary to this and, indeed, is very much aligned.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO ASPIRING PRACTITIONERS IN THIS SPACE?

There is nothing that replaces learning from experienced practitioners. In particular, if someone aspires to be at the nexus of investigations and expert witness work, then I would suggest they seek out organisations that undertake both. As part of that, try to become a part of a team on a matter that goes to court – experience, even vicariously, what it is like to be an expert witness. It can be a very rewarding role but it isn’t for everyone.

YOU HAVE ENJOYED A SUCCESSFUL CAREER OVER THE LAST TWO DECADES. IS THERE ANYTHING YOU FEEL THAT THERE IS STILL LEFT TO LEARN?

There is always something to learn or skills to improve. Data sets are still increasing – how does the investigator stay on top? Predictive coding is generating a lot of interest in the e-disclosure arena – but to what extent can algorithmic approaches assist the financial investigator and, when that investigation reaches a litigation stage, how far can the expert opine on what, of that algorithmic approach, is within their expertise. As an example, in the financial services world, there are reports of some anti-fraud algorithms flagging transactions where a non-mathematician is unable to understand the reasons the algorithm triggered a review. This doesn’t matter so much if it introduces an extra layer of checks for the bank’s customer but does matter for the expert witness if they don’t possess the requisite skill-sets to explain to the court why data is considered anomalous.

Biographies:

Who's Who Legal Arbitration: Expert Witnesses

Since 1997, Mr Wreford has specialised in forensic accounting work, including commercial litigation and arbitration, fraud and financial investigations.

His primary area of focus is high-value commercial disputes. Mr Wreford has worked with clients across a range of industries, including manufacturing, technology, telecommunications, energy, financial services, construction, professional services, insurance, pharmaceuticals, public sector/government and shipping.

Mr Wreford has been the expert in many high-value and high-profile matters. Mr Wreford has worked on, and has given evidence in, numerous arbitrations involving substantial claims of commercial loss.

Over the past few years, these have included a claim for around €1 billion in the nuclear power sector, a €200 million claim in the thermoplastic sector, a claim in excess of US$700 million in the telecommunications sector, and a claim in excess of US$500 million for interruption to a renewable energy business.

Mr Wreford's work typically involves international elements, often with assessments of profits, whether historical or hypothetical/counter-factual positions. These have included cross-border sales of finished goods, shipping contracts, the supply of raw materials between entities in two different countries. In addition, Mr Wreford has worked on post-acquisition disputes where issues of accounting for intra-group sales have arisen.

He is a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, a chartered fellow of the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment, a fellow of the Royal Statistical Society and a member of the Academy of Experts. He is a British national.

WWL says: Dominic Wreford is "an excellent expert witness who is easy to work with and always comes up with top-quality work".

This biography is an extract from Who's Who Legal: Arbitration which can be purchased from our Shop.

Who's Who Legal Consulting Experts: Experts - Investigations - Forensic Accountants

Since 1997, Dominic has specialised in forensic accounting work, including commercial litigation and arbitration, fraud and financial investigations.

His primary area of focus is high-value commercial disputes. Mr Wreford has worked with clients across a range of industries, including manufacturing, technology, telecommunications, energy, financial services, construction, professional services, insurance, pharmaceuticals, public sector/government and shipping.

Mr Wreford has been the expert in many high-value and high-profile matters. Mr Wreford has worked on, and has given evidence in, numerous arbitrations involving substantial claims of commercial loss.

Over the past few years, these have included a claim for around €1 billion in the nuclear power sector, a €200 million claim in the thermoplastic sector, a claim in excess of US$700 million in the telecommunications sector, and a claim in excess of US$500 million for interruption to a renewable energy business.

Mr Wreford's work typically involves international elements, often with assessments of profits, whether historical or hypothetical/counter-factual positions. These have included cross-border sales of finished goods, shipping contracts, the supply of raw materials between entities in two different countries. In addition, Mr Wreford has worked on post-acquisition disputes where issues of accounting for intra-group sales have arisen.

He is a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, a chartered fellow of the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment, a fellow of the Royal Statistical Society and a member of the Academy of Experts. He is a British national.

WWL says: In London, Dominic Wreford is widely endorsed as “the star of the market” by peers, who say: “He is very technically strong, sensible and commercial, provides sound advice, and is easy to work with.”

This biography is an extract from Who's Who Legal: Consulting Experts which can be purchased from our Shop.

Who's Who Legal Consulting Experts: Experts - Financial Advisory and Valuation - Quantum of Damages

Since 1997, Dominic has specialised in forensic accounting work, including commercial litigation and arbitration, fraud and financial investigations.

His primary area of focus is high-value commercial disputes. Mr Wreford has worked with clients across a range of industries, including manufacturing, technology, telecommunications, energy, financial services, construction, professional services, insurance, pharmaceuticals, public sector/government and shipping.

Mr Wreford has been the expert in many high-value and high-profile matters. Mr Wreford has worked on, and has given evidence in, numerous arbitrations involving substantial claims of commercial loss.

Over the past few years, these have included a claim for around €1 billion in the nuclear power sector, a €200 million claim in the thermoplastic sector, a claim in excess of US$700 million in the telecommunications sector, and a claim in excess of US$500 million for interruption to a renewable energy business.

Mr Wreford's work typically involves international elements, often with assessments of profits, whether historical or hypothetical/counter-factual positions. These have included cross-border sales of finished goods, shipping contracts, the supply of raw materials between entities in two different countries. In addition, Mr Wreford has worked on post-acquisition disputes where issues of accounting for intra-group sales have arisen.

He is a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, a chartered fellow of the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment, a fellow of the Royal Statistical Society and a member of the Academy of Experts. He is a British national.

WWL says: Dominic Wreford is well versed in handling a range of complex commercial disputes, where he provides oral and written testimony relating to loss and claims valuations.

This biography is an extract from Who's Who Legal: Consulting Experts which can be purchased from our Shop.

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