Kate McMahon
Office:
35 Cock Lane
EC1A 9BW
City:
London
Country:
England
Tel:
+44 (0)207 583 8392

Questions and Answers:

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Kate is a specialist private prosecutor. She has significant experience prosecuting (both publicly and privately) some of the UK’s largest and most complex frauds particularly in complex, cross-jurisdictional fraud and bribery and corruption prosecutions. Kate is a founding partner of the UK’s only private prosecution firm. In 2017, The Lawyer recognised Kate as one of the “Hot 100” lawyers in the UK. This award acknowledges the “best lawyers in the UK – the most daring, innovative and creative”. The Legal 500 (2016) describes Kate as “a fearless and energetic prosecutor” who has “a relentless commitment to justice”.

Describe your career to date.

I started as an advocate in Australia and quickly realised that some of the largest fraud cases in the world are litigated in the UK. I read a fascinating bribery and corruption case prosecuted by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and immediately applied to work there. Realising the asset recovery powers which could be used in the criminal jurisdiction, my partners and I decided to set up a firm that would act as a sort of privatised SFO with the aim of being quicker, extremely effective and sufficiently funded.

What do you enjoy most about working in asset recovery?

It’s fascinating to match wits against clever people and often, the fraudsters we chase are exceptionally sophisticated. It’s always interesting to work out what has happened (despite significant efforts being taken to hide the truth). It’s also extremely satisfying to uncover the mistakes made and obtain evidence that begins to unravel the secret internal workings of the fraud. I also love the international aspect of our work – each jurisdiction presents a new challenge with its attendant pluses and minuses!

How has the marked increase in cybercrime and cyber fraud-related work affected your practice in recent years?

At any time, 30 to 50 per cent of our work is cyberfraud or cyberfraud-related. This is a significant increase on even seven years ago, when our firm started.

You have recently been very active in the oil and gas sector – what are the main challenges associated with asset recovery within this area?

Two central problems in such cases are usually: investigating in developing economies; and enforcing in developing countries. However, we do typically find that significant assets in frauds of this scale are usually in “easier” jurisdictions to enforce within. Investigating can be very difficult and sometimes downright dangerous. Also, often witnesses have a significant fear of cooperating and may suffer a significant financial penalty (including dismissal). Any “closed shop” is harder to investigate and the oil and gas industry is rather closed!

How does your previous experience as a prosecutor for the SFO enhance your work as a private practice lawyer in the asset recovery space?

I think that as a government prosecutor, you are expected to share your expertise; to be open-minded and discuss options; and to trust and value other team members (including non-lawyers). In the areas in which I worked, there was often little precedent or case law to inform our next steps – such as the first global plea agreement. A fraud and corruption prosecutor also spends a lot of time liaising with international police forces and prosecutors and strategically identifying the best “road map” and jurisdiction for chasing fraudsters. That sort of strategic and cohesive approach means that I am used to working with international multi-disciplinary teams (investigators, forensic accountants, lawyers and press advisers) to get the best evidence and litigation result possible. It also means that I do not simply rely upon being a UK lawyer to get a job done: I understand each task requires a different skill set.

What motivated you to set up your own firm?

My partners and I learned a great deal from prosecuting for the state. However, in private practice, there are far greater opportunities to be creative. Considering the immense powers of the criminal courts, and using these effectively, can only benefit victims of fraud. With police resources in decline, setting up our own firm seemed to be a good idea. We are stunned by the growth in the private prosecution market and delighted to have been the firm who created it.

What makes Edmonds Marshall McMahon stand out from competitors in the market?

We are a firm staffed by highly experienced ex-prosecutors and lawyers who have spent their careers chasing the most evasive and talented fraudsters in the world. We have an in-house investigation team and excellent civil litigators. We have a wealth of experience in the criminal courts. We are comparatively tech-savvy. However, the thing that really sets us apart from others is that we are incredibly creative and extremely determined. We have set precedent in a number of areas, not simply in the legal market. Our legal and investigative specialisms, combined with that rare determination, mean that our clients are often similarly determined and innovative. This type of client is often fed up with lawyers who simply follow a process rather than thinking, “What is it I can do to get this client’s money back as quickly and effectively as possible?”

Looking back over your career, what has been your proudest achievement?

I work with a wonderful team of extremely talented lawyers who are supremely dedicated to our clients. I also work in a developing area of law, which is completely new and unchartered. Our lawyers are genuinely excited by the new or innovative ways we adopt to help our clients recover their money. Our office is often abuzz with discussion about the law. My partners are some of the best lawyers I have ever worked with.

It’s not always been easy: we have had some extremely stressful and difficult cases, that have tested our abilities and confidence. However, the firm’s culture of genuine enthusiasm and dedication has meant there is always an atmosphere of support and optimism. When we have ultimately won those difficult cases, it always feels like a firm victory, rather than an individual one. I feel really honoured to have, with my partners, created a firm that sets precedent, has created an innovative market and does it all with a real commitment to our clients and lawyers.

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