Anthony has specialised in international asset recovery for over 25 years and is recognised in Chambers, The Legal 500 and WWL as a leading expert, having been instructed on many global, high-profile, ground-breaking cases. These guides describe Anthony as a “stellar practitioner” who “navigates complex structures and transactions with ease”, and who has “magnificent client-handling skills”. He is managing partner of PCB Litigation, widely regarded as one of the world’s leading asset recovery law firms.
How has asset recovery work practice changed since you started practising?
The structures used by fraudsters have become ever-more exotic – both in terms of the complexity of the structures used to hide assets and their geographical location.
What motivated you to specialise in asset recovery work?
It is a fascinating and challenging area of law in which to practise – you are always getting to grips with allegations that would not look out of place in a blockbuster novel, while being involved in and developing the cutting edge of the law.
Is it your experience that frauds tend to emerge from insolvencies? What is your experience of this, how does it pan out in practice, and what is driving this trend?
Yes – we are frequently instructed in cases where the defendant (this might be a company, a bank, a joint venture) has collapsed because it has run out of money and the client (a creditor of the defendant) considers that this has happened because the ultimate owner or senior management has stolen it. Then the question becomes “How can this be proved?” and, just as important, “How can any judgment be enforced?” This usually requires careful investigation that involves obtaining disclosure orders in various jurisdictions, the instruction of investigators and forensic accountants, and the creation of a strategy that maximises the prospects of establishing the facts and the location of assets which can be frozen.
Are there any complementary insolvency tools asset recovery specialists can use in their cases?
There are numerous tools. These include S423 Insolvency Act 1986 that provides a remedy where a transaction has been made for the purpose of putting assets beyond the reach of creditors. S423 has become a particularly effective weapon and has even been used to attack lawfully paid dividends but which had been paid for the purpose of putting assets beyond the reach of creditors.
How does PCB Litigation stand out from competitors in the space?
We have been practising in this specialised area of the law for over 25 years and have therefore built up a deep repository of expertise, having acted in numerous heavyweight international asset recovery cases – a number of which established new law and remedies for the victims of fraud. This means that we can point to a track record of success. The nature of our work also means that we attract high-quality lawyers who are attracted by, and thrive upon, the particular challenges that are thrown up by international asset recovery work.
With Brexit on the horizon, how do you think this is changing client demands and practitioners’ approaches to asset recovery work?
In the short term, there has been no change because when a client discovers a fraud, it is important to act quickly and effectively to maximise the prospects of recovery. This is all the more so if there are to be changes to the ability to serve documents, to take evidence and to enforce judgments within the EU as a result of Brexit. Clients should take advantage of the current regimes that seek to streamline and harmonise these processes. Therefore there is every incentive to move quickly, rather than await the outcome of Brexit. Depending upon the shape of Brexit, we will see whether the UK will continue to be in the forefront of asset recovery or whether the lack of an EU coordinated structure means that the UK will be seen by fraudsters as a safe haven for hiding assets.
What are the main challenges you face when securing recognition of judgments in overseas jurisdictions, and how do you ensure you are prepared to meet them?
At the outset of any case it is important to identify the locations where assets are believed to be held, and which judgment is likely to be enforced. This is because, in deciding in which jurisdiction to bring the substantive claim, one of the factors to consider is how enforceable that judgment will be in countries where those assets are located. This will involve consideration of factors such as: whether the defendant is likely to submit to the jurisdiction of the court where the substantive claim is being brought, as this may be a bar to enforcement in certain countries; or whether the form of the freezing order must identify specific assets that are frozen as opposed to more generic descriptions of those assets. It is also important to recognise that there are certain jurisdictions where civil remedies are less developed or accepted as a recognised means of asset recovery, but where it may be possible to achieve a similar result by working with the local police or regulatory authorities. However, in the latter case, it is also important to check that this will not result in the state confiscating any monies it has frozen, rather than returning it to the victim of the fraud.
How would you like to see your firm develop over the next five years?
The methods used by fraudsters to steal money and other assets continually changes to take account of the rapid changes in technology, such as the use of cybercurrencies. Our firm has been growing for a number of years. To take account of those changes, our plans include accelerating that growth by encouraging our next generation of lawyers to be at the forefront of future developments in international asset recovery, and further developing our services in complementary areas of the law.
Anthony Riem specialises in complex international and fraud litigation cases, managing proceedings in multiple jurisdictions to identify and freeze assets. He has obtained a number of cutting-edge orders both in England and overseas to unravel complex structures used by fraudsters to hide their assets. He is the UK representative of FraudNet, the International Chamber of Commerce’s Network of Asset Recovery Specialists, and is top ranked in asset recovery in all the major directories.
WHAT IS YOUR MOST MEMORABLE CASE TO DATE AND WHY?
In this area of the law, each case is memorable because each case is unique with its own individual challenges, complexities and solutions. The current case I am working on is particularly memorable as it involves recovering assets for my client in the UK’s biggest divorce award across several jurisdictions, where every step has been taken to try to thwart the enforcement of the award made in her favour and where the spouse has described the English judgment as “toilet paper”!
IN WHAT WAYS DOES PCB LITIGATION DISTINGUISH ITSELF FROM THE COMPETITION?
We have been specialising in asset recovery for over 25 years. We have therefore built a wealth of expertise and experience in this area, on which we can draw to solve the most complex of cases.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR CURRENT ROLE?
The ability to develop the next generation of asset recovery specialists.
YOU PREVIOUSLY HIGHLIGHTED THAT LITIGATION FUNDING WAS HAVING A PROFOUND EFFECT ON THE ASSET RECOVERY SPACE. HOW HAS THE SIGNIFICANT INCREASE IN INSTRUCTIONS CAUSED BY FUNDING AFFECTED THE MARKET?
Judging by the number of approaches we have had from litigation funders, it appears that funders are increasingly focusing on instructing specialists, particularly when it comes to the asset preservation and recovery elements of cases.
WHAT QUALITIES DO ASSET RECOVERY SPECIALISTS NEED TO SUCCEED?
Creativity to solve complex issues, perseverance to see those solutions through, and perception to take account of the ever-changing landscape of any asset recovery case.
HOW HAS BEING A UK MEMBER OF THE ICC FRAUDNET ENHANCED YOUR ASSET RECOVERY WORK?
The brand is well known and respected. It has enabled us to develop relationships with our fellow members and resulted in receiving significant instructions.
YOU HAVE HAD A DECORATED CAREER SO FAR. WHAT ELSE WOULD YOU LIKE TO ACHIEVE THAT YOU HAVE NOT YET ACCOMPLISHED?
The ways of committing fraud are ever evolving and law firms must constantly evolve if we are to be able to continue to combat it. The objective is to meet that challenge by continuing to develop the firm with the next generation of lawyers, who can lead the way in combating fraud in the future.
WHAT ARE THE GREATEST CHALLENGES FACING ASSET RECOVERY SPECIALISTS IN THE NEXT FIVE YEARS?
Undoubtedly, there is greater competition from other lawyers attracted by this area of work but the use of technology is likely to fundamentally change how we operate. How we use that technology is likely to be an important differentiating factor for clients when selecting their lawyers.
Anthony Riem is praised as “a fighter for his clients" and "a specialist asset tracer" who is “always seeking to innovate”.
Anthony has specialised in international asset investigation and recovery for over 25 years and is recognised in Chambers, The Legal 500 and Who’s Who Legal as a leading expert in this area. In 2016, he was named as one of the five most highly regarded asset recovery lawyers in Europe. He is the English representative of Fraudnet, the ICC's global network of asset recovery specialists, founding member of the Commercial Fraud Lawyers Association and member of the Law Society working party on civil fraud.
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” whilst being “very energetic and active in pursuing his goals”.
Anthony’s cases often involve the management and co-ordination of proceedings in several jurisdictions at any one time, and many have been high profile, ground-breaking in England and abroad and reported in the legal press. He is currently leading the international enforcement of a US$600 million judgment, having successfully defended a client in a US$100 million claim where the court found the claimant had been paid to give untrue evidence about his client.
The directories have identified PCB as a leading litigation practice, describing the team as “constantly appearing in high quality work", “simply outstanding”, “extremely skilled” and a “highly regarded litigation boutique”. The Times describe PCB as "solicitors to the banking community" and “operating across a global landscape, recovering and protecting clients’ assets over borders and through multiple jurisdictions”.