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Thought Leaders

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Thought Leader

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

WWL says

Anthony Riem is recognised as a preeminent name for fraud investigation and litigation briefs, notably when it comes to representing banks in high-value litigation proceedings.

Questions & Answers

Anthony is consistently recognised as one of the leading experts in international asset recovery, having spent almost his entire career at PCB in running and managing complex multi-jurisdictional cases. Many of those cases have created new law or great interest in the countries where the cases have been fought. He is sought out by clients for his strategic evaluation of what is achievable within commercial parameters and then driving the solution to that conclusion. 

There’s been considerable buzz in the legal industry regarding PCB Litigation’s new deal with funder Burford Capital. Can you outline what this deal entails?

Burford has taken a 32 per cent equity stake in the firm’s success overall as a part of agreeing to make capital available and will finance a portfolio of matters going forward. 

What opportunities will this deal bring to the legal services PCB Litigation are able to offer? 

Burford develops innovative funding solutions for those in litigation or arbitration, which marries well with our expertise in fraud and asset recovery, insolvency and dispute resolution. 

In particular, this combination means we can provide world-class legal and financial solutions to clients that have books of bad debt. It is also generating interest with clients who have international arbitration and other disputes, which is all helping to fuel the firm’s continued growth.

What interested you in working with Burford specifically? 

Litigation financing is an essential element of any offering made to clients and we have long since considered it important to be able to offer a seamless service in respect of both legal advice and funding to clients, and to provide greater access to justice. This is of more importance now than ever given the additional financial challenges that parties may face in bringing claims.

We have also worked together with Burford for a number of years, and our teams have a strong relationship, the latest example of which is our work on the Akhmedova case, concerning the enforcement of a £450m judgment in several countries around the world. 

This made Burford our logical partner. It is the world’s largest finance firm focused on law with a proven track of providing innovative funding solutions, while we have an established track record in formulating and implementing creative legal solutions for clients to win cases and recover assets.

The transaction therefore provides us with a greater ability to penetrate the disputes market both domestically and internationally by offering products to clients that enable them to monetise their claims or share in the risk of recovery.

What types of cases and parties are you anticipating being most attracted to third-party funding? 

There is no limit to the types of cases or parties - so long as the case is meritorious, there is a realistic prospect of recovery in countries where litigation funding is not unlawful and the costs to quantum ratio makes it economically viable, for both funder and client.

We are already experiencing demand for our funding products from Asia, the Middle East, Russia and the FSU, particularly in the area of distressed debt.

What are the biggest misconceptions people have about third-party funding? 

Our experience is that clients are concerned about the cost of litigation financing, the time it takes for a funder to decide whether or not it will fund a case and whether they will control the litigation.

It is no party’s interest for the funder to take a disproportionate amount of any recoverable damages and Burford simply does not fund cases on that basis. Nor does Burford wish to control cases, its investment in PCB being passive. 

It can take funders a substantial amount of time to decide whether or not to fund a case. Not only can the evaluation and decision-making process take time, but it can then be necessary to arrange separate adverse costs coverage. In addition to Burford having its own ability to insure against adverse costs, we have streamlined the process of evaluating merits and prospects of recovery to expedite the funding decision.

Would you say that increased integration between litigation funders and law firms will play a more prominent role in the future of asset recovery?

This will depend upon how stakeholders in law firms and funders see their interests developing, and it may be that the market will wait to see how our transaction with Burford develops. The equation may be simpler in our case given that we deal exclusively in the dispute resolution field, and therefore it is simpler to align our interests with those of Burford. 

How are you expecting covid-19 to affect the nature of disputes you receive?

Regrettably, there will inevitably be covid-related frauds committed around the world by those who take advantage of government schemes to protect against the effects of covid-19, or those who use the opportunity to steal from their employers or businesses. These frauds generally take time to reveal themselves as and when governments and businesses return to pre-covid operational levels. 

In the meantime, the levels of non-performing loans which were already at very high levels pre-covid continue to escalate and we expect to see this area of work develop before the more covid-specific frauds come to light.

As managing partner of PCB Litigation, what professional challenges and opportunities are you anticipating over the course of 2021?

From the perspective of running a business, a balance will need to be struck between agile working, ensuring adequate training and supervision while maintaining the firm’s ethos and culture.

We are currently developing numerous opportunities, including those that have arisen out of the Burford deal, and notwithstanding the move to remote meetings, it is likely that there will need to be a need for physical meetings overseas, which will present its own challenges.

The firm has also gone through unprecedented growth in the last 18 months, increasing turnover by 65 per cent, and we have plans to develop the firm further during 2021.

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

WWL says

Anthony Riem is praised as “a fighter for his clients” and “a specialist asset tracer” who is “always seeking to innovate”.

Questions & Answers

Anthony is the managing partner of PCB Litigation and founding member of the Commercial Fraud Lawyers Association. He has specialised in international asset recovery for 30 years. During the course of his career, he has successfully devised creative strategies to attack assets hidden in complex structures in jurisdictions around the world. In doing so, he has built and managed teams of international experts, obtaining groundbreaking orders in several jurisdictions, including Cayman and the BVI as well as in England.

What do you enjoy most about working in international asset recovery?

Undoubtedly, the challenge of unravelling what has happened in terms of the fraud and finding the assets. Invariably, this involves working with fellow experts in jurisdictions across the world – not just lawyers but investigators, forensic accountants and experts in the particular subject matter of the fraud. Bringing together a team of like-minded experts is both stimulating and challenging, and it is the fostering of dialogue within the team that often leads to the creation of groundbreaking strategies that win cases for clients in difficult cases.

What are the challenges involved in recovering assets internationally and across borders?

One of the main issues is the differing approaches of jurisdictions to asset recovery. This is not about the respective merits between common law and civil law legal systems, as both provide a route map by which fraudsters can be targeted. Unfortunately, there are certain countries that appear quite content to allow fraudsters to game their legal systems and protect their assets, which can make the task of effective asset recovery that much more difficult and time-consuming.

It has always been the case that the ability to act quickly can often make the difference between recovering assets and not doing so. The growth of cybercrime, with money being stolen from bank accounts by fraudsters interposing themselves as the recipients of transfers, and the use of cryptocurrencies both accentuate that need. While cryptocurrencies are traceable, speed is of the essence as otherwise they can become lost once they are transferred into countries whose systems make effective asset tracing very difficult.

Another major issue is access to justice, an issue that is likely to have even greater resonance in the light of covid-19. Third-party funding may well prove to be fundamental, and may make the difference between victims of fraud who have such access and those who do not. It is for this reason that we have spent considerable time developing our own funding capacity.

Do you think there would be some benefit for having a model law in asset recovery?

There is certainly some benefit in having a model law. This was discussed at an UNCITRAL meeting of experts convened by the UN, and we presented a paper on the matter. While it may take time to draft a model law, for it to work, it is essential that there are effective sanctions to punish jurisdictions that do not adopt it, and that victims of fraud have access to a legal system that they can afford to use. 

There is an increasing cross-over between white-collar crime, regulatory and asset recovery law. What common threads do you see between these areas?

Victims of fraud may not be limited to bringing civil claims to recover their assets. Where there have been breaches of criminal law, we have commenced criminal investigations and involved regulators as well as taken advantage of criminal convictions to obtain recoveries. Similarly, frauds have exposed weaknesses in systems where we have created policies to be put in place to ensure both regulatory and criminal compliance. This is a growing area of our practice.

What impact are sanctions having on asset recovery practices? 

While sanctions can have an impact on the ability to act on behalf of certain persons, they also provide sources of work – not only in relation to challenging the legitimacy of those sanctioned, but also in drafting regulatory compliance programmes. This is another growing area of our practice.

What has been your greatest achievement to date?

Building a pre-eminent asset recovery practice over the past 30 years, which we have now expanded to cover white-collar crime, regulatory and compliance matters as well as sanctions advice. 

What advice would you give to aspiring asset recovery lawyers? 

Asset recovery is a vocation, not a job. It requires absolute dedication because fraudsters do not abide by the rules. They are dedicated in their desire to defeat your client. You have to be even more dedicated to defeat them. If that challenge is for you, then asset recovery is for you!

What is the best piece of career advice you have received?

Never forget we deal in the business of law. It reminds me that our role is not only to provide the best commercial advice, but also to run our practices as businesses. 

Global Leader

Asset Recovery 2020

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

WWL says

Anthony Riem is recognised as a preeminent name for fraud investigation and litigation briefs, notably when it comes to representing banks in high-value litigation proceedings.

Biography

Anthony is the managing partner of PCB Litigation LLP and has specialised in international asset investigation and recovery for 30 years. His expertise is recognised in Chambers, The Legal 500 and WWL. Most recently, in December 2019, he was invited by UNCITRAL to participate in its inaugural colloquium on asset tracing as an acknowledged expert in the field.

The directories describe Anthony as a “stellar practitioner” who “navigates complex structures and transactions with ease”, a “wonderful operator with particular expertise dealing with, and against, offshore firms”, “tremendous” and “great for complicated cases” with “magnificent client handling skills” while being “very energetic and active in pursuing his goals”.

Anthony’s cases often involve the management and coordination of proceedings in several jurisdictions at any one time, and many have been high-profile and groundbreaking in England and abroad, and reported in the legal press. He is currently leading the international enforcement of a US$600 million judgment where the defendant has taken elaborate steps to avoid payment; and a US$250 million claim where he has successfully joined new parties to the claim, having previously secured the continuation of a US$250 million worldwide freezing order. Anthony has also successfully defended clients in cases where there have been allegations of fraud. Most recently, he has defended one client in a US$100 million claim where the court found the claimant had been paid to give untrue evidence about his client; and another client in a US$200 million claim where the court set aside service on him because it found the bribery claim against his client had no reasonable prospect of success.

The directories have identified PCB as a leading litigation practice, and describe the team as “constantly appearing in high-quality work", “simply outstanding”, “extremely skilled” and a “highly regarded litigation boutique”. The Times describes PCB as "solicitors to the banking community" and “operating across a global landscape, recovering and protecting clients’ assets over borders and through multiple jurisdictions”.

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