Ermelinda Beqiraj
Firm:
PwC
Office:
1 Embankment Place
WC2N 6RH
City:
London
Country:
England
Tel:
+44 20 7213 2013

Questions and Answers:

Who's Who Legal Thought Leaders - Arbitration

Ermelinda is a partner in PwC UK with over 17 years of experience as a forensic accountant. She leads PwC’s transaction disputes practice in the UK. She has been recognised as a leading damages expert witness in international arbitration by Who’s Who Legal from 2014 to 2018. She has quantified damages in arbitration and litigation cases in a range of industry sectors and has testified in arbitration proceedings and other dispute resolution processes. She regularly advises corporates and private equity houses on M&A disputes, such as breach of warranty, completion accounts and earn-out disputes. Ermelinda also has extensive experience of disputes arising in CEE, Russia and CIS.

DESCRIBE YOUR CAREER TO DATE.

I joined PwC’s forensic accounting team as a graduate in London in 2000, having previously worked with PwC on a high-profile investigation of pyramid schemes in my native Albania. Soon after qualifying as a chartered accountant, I had the opportunity to go on secondment to PwC’s Central and Eastern Europe firms, helping set up our forensic practices in the region and working on high-profile investigations and disputes across the region for nearly five years. I returned to London in 2008 to focus specifically on disputes, acting both in an advisory capacity and as an expert witness. Since 2013 I have been leading PwC’s transactions practice in the UK, focusing on both expert witness work and providing advisory and expert services in expert determination processes.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO FOCUS YOUR PRACTICE ON DISPUTES?

Mainly because I love the intellectual challenge and jousting (perhaps inevitable if you grow up in a country where people love a good argument!). I also enjoy the variety of work and the international nature of it.

WHICH INDUSTRY SECTORS ARE THE BUSIEST IN YOUR PRACTICE AT THE MOMENT? WHY DO YOU THINK THIS IS?

We have seen more disputes arising from complex projects in infrastructure, natural resources, and real estate. We have also seen more disputes arising from investments, joint ventures and M&A activity in emerging markets and elsewhere. The factors contributing to these trends won’t come as a surprise. The larger and more complex a project the greater its risks and chances of a dispute arising. As to disputes arising from emerging markets – this reflects the greater flow of investment to and from those markets over the past 10 years, coupled with greater risk associated with those markets, often due to a more volatile business environment than might be the case in more established economies.

WHAT ARE CURRENTLY THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES FACING EXPERTS INVOLVED WITH DISPUTES IN EMERGING MARKETS?

It is difficult to generalise, but I would call out a couple. The quality and reliability of information available to an expert can be more challenging when dealing with emerging markets disputes. Another issue is that in some instances, businesses in emerging markets have different business models to those in developed economies – this can present some interesting challenges when it comes to comparability and establishing a reliable baseline for the assessment of damages.

HOW HAS THE ROLE OF EXPERT WITNESSES IN ARBITRAL PROCEEDINGS CHANGED IN RECENT YEARS?

I think the fundamentals are the same, but the complexity of issues that experts have to deal with has increased, due to a number of factors. First, the complexity of business arrangements and transactions is far greater today than it was 20 years ago. Assessing the financial consequences of disputes arising from these complex business arrangements is, unsurprisingly, more complex. Second, the experience and sophistication of dispute resolution practitioners has increased, leading to greater understanding but also scrutiny and challenge of aspects of expert evidence that in years gone by would, perhaps, have been less well understood. And lastly, the proliferation of electronic data and the new technologies available to harness it represent a huge leap forward, but, at the same time, add complexity.

WHAT QUALITIES MAKE FOR A GOOD EXPERT WITNESS?

In my view, it is a combination of intellectual curiosity and agility, ability to present complex ideas clearly, good stakeholder management and, increasingly, cultural dexterity.

LOOKING BACK OVER YOUR CAREER, WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR PROUDEST ACHIEVEMENT?

I feel honoured and proud to lead PwC’s transaction disputes practice, a market-leading practice with an incredibly talented and diverse team of people, serving clients from across the world in a range of complex disputes. Also, when I started my career, people often spoke of a select international arbitration “club”. Today, it feels a privilege to be considered a thought leader in it.

HOW DO YOU SEE YOUR PRACTICE DEVELOPING OVER THE NEXT FEW YEARS?

In the short term, I expect that we will continue to experience growth in both our advisory and expert witness parts of the practice, driven by the continued high levels of cross-border complex investment and M&A activity. I envisage us continuing to build on the diversity of the people that we employ and the technologies that we use. In the medium to long-term, our practice will be influenced by the megatrends that are changing the entire ecosystem around us: the shifts in global economic power, continuing disruption to traditional business models driven by technological breakthroughs and more interventionist governments, to name a few. As a practice, we are continually looking at these megatrends and how we can evolve our business in order to be successful in the next 10 to 20 years. So, whatever the future brings, I am confident that it will be exciting and fun.

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