Jonathan Ellis is “a superior expert” who is held in high esteem by sources, one of whom says, “His judgement, experience and confidence have impressed me.”
Jonathan Ellis is a managing director with Secretariat and is based in Singapore. He has had broad forensics, litigation and arbitration experience over the past 15 years. He specialises in the quantification of damages and valuations, in particular in dispute contexts. He has testified on many occasions, in both court and arbitration, undertaken expert determinations and has been engaged as a tribunal-appointed expert.
What drew you to practise in Singapore? How is Singapore’s growth as a centre for alternative dispute resolution impacting the cases you are coming across?
My parents lived in Singapore when I was growing up, so I was always watchful of the developments in the market. The increase in case numbers and law firms on the ground were a big draw to moving here.
The cases that I have seen reflect the “hub” nature of Singapore, bring disputes from the region and more recently further afield.
How has covid-19 impacted cases and claims you have been part of this year?
In my experience there have been two impacts to the cases I have been involved with. There is an initial practical/ procedural impact, which involve the logistical challenges with working remotely (specifically the clients who struggle with remote working and critical operational issues taking higher precedence). In general, opposing parties and tribunals were very understanding, as everyone was experiencing similar difficulties. As we have all adapted, we have mostly overcome these challenges and have created efficient ways of working in the “new normal”.
The other impact is the potential effect on the calculations of claims. There are multiple considerations and factors that an expert will need to carefully unpick, in the context of the legal and factual matrix of the claim.
Should more be done to improve the transparency of arbitration proceedings?
I am going to sit on the fence with this question, as I am not sure that I really have the answer! I think that one of the major benefits of arbitration is a party’s privacy to resolve their dispute. However, I do like to see how tribunals have considered the factual matrices of previous matters, to understand their rationale for decisions.
How would you assess the efficiency of virtual hearings and online proceedings?
There is undoubtably increased efficiency in virtual hearings, the ability to schedule hearings (short or long) without the need for travel is a huge boon. For procedural and case management hearings I have seen these work very well. However, I am still undecided whether virtual hearings are commensurate to in-person hearings when it comes to substantive hearings with cross examination. I personally like the rapport that you build with the stakeholders when the hearings are in person, both under cross examination and with witness conferencing.
How has the role of an expert witness changed since you started your career?
I have seen the role of an expert develop to be earlier in the dispute process. Clients have begun to bring experts onboard earlier in the dispute, especially where they are seeking third-party funding for their claims. Additionally, I have seen more tribunals directing joint expert statements, before expert reports have been shared. This early collaboration has meant the substantive work needs to be completed much earlier in the process.
If you could implement one reform in international arbitration, what would it be?
I am a great fan of joint expert statements, especially after the experts have stated their positions and just before the hearing. They are sometimes not easy, but I have seen great value when experts engage in this process, with the tribunal and counsel having a roadmap to each expert’s final position (including areas of agreement and disagreement). I would suggest all tribunals consider the benefits of this process, to tease out the actual differences between the parties and experts and ensure that the hearing can be as efficient as possible (at least from an expert perspective).
What did you find most challenging about entering the field of international arbitration?
I decided early on that forensic accounting was a world that I wanted to enter. After this decision was made, the difficulty was finding the right firm and securing a place there. Once I started my career, the move into international arbitration was a natural progression since the disputes I was involved with were so international in nature, something that I must thank my mentors for!
What advice would you give to younger practitioners hoping to one day be in your position?
Having a good mentor is essential. I have been very fortunate to have worked with some brilliant practitioners who have allowed me to learn and develop. I am hugely appreciative for the guidance and support that they gave, which has allowed me to be where I am today. I hope that I will provide these opportunities to the staff that work with me, for them to learn and develop – there is no replacement for live case experience.
"Jon distinguishes himself as one of the few real experts in Singapore"
"He is a star in the market"
"He's an experienced testifying expert in international arbitration matters"
"He is very good at working with our legal team"
Jonathan Ellis is a Managing Director with Secretariat and is based in Singapore. He has had broad forensics, litigation and arbitration experience over the past 15 years. He specialises in the quantification of damages and valuations, in particular in dispute contexts, for litigation, arbitration and expert determination purposes.
Jonathan has worked on matters before the UK and Singapore High Courts as well as in ad hoc, SIAC, LCIA, ICC, HKIAC, UNCITRAL and ICSID arbitration forums. He has provided oral testimony on a number of occasions, in both court and arbitration, and has been engaged as a tribunal appointed expert.
Jonathan has provided advice and support in a variety of situations, including disputes, M&A transactions, corporate restructuring, financial reporting and expert determination. His advice encompasses a number of sectors including, energy, power, pharmaceutical, mining and manufacturing. His experience also includes providing consulting advice to two utility suppliers in the Middle East, in respect of both water and power. Additionally, he has experience of conducting independent accounting investigations and reviews.
Jonathan is a physics graduate of Imperial College London and has a master's degree in accounting and management science, with distinction, from the University of Southampton. He is a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), where he was previously the vice chairman of the energy and natural resources special interest group, and he is also a current member of the valuation and forensic groups. Additionally, he is a member of the Association of International Petroleum Negotiators (AIPN).
Since 2017 Jonathan has been recognised among the leading arbitration expert witnesses worldwide by Who's Who Legal and was classified as “Global Elite Thought Leader” for 2020: “the "superb" Jonathan Ellis is one of the most highly rated valuation experts in Asia” (2017), he has “wide-ranging accountancy experience and "works seamlessly with the legal and client teams”" (2019) and is "‘a superior expert’ who is held in high esteem by sources“ (2020).