Kiran Sequeira is a “very smart” practitioner and “a superstar” who “will make plain any complex financial issue to any audience”.
Kiran is a founding partner of Versant Partners, where he serves as an expert witness on damages in international disputes. He has provided expert evidence in over 60 matters before tribunals organised under most major arbitral institutions and rules. Kiran’s project experience spans the globe and cuts across all major verticals. Given his background in finance and engineering, Kiran has developed particular expertise in capital-intensive sectors such as energy, mining, infrastructure, manufacturing, real estate, telecommunications and construction.
What qualities make for an effective arbitration expert witness?
First and foremost, the quantum expert must embrace his or her role, which is to remain objective and independent, and assist the tribunal in arriving at an informed view on damages. After all, the expert role exists because the tribunal needs assistance in navigating and clarifying difficult quantum issues. In turn, it follows that the expert should: 1) provide evidence that is well founded and supported, and communicated clearly and concisely; clients are increasingly looking for experts who bring clarity to tribunals and cut through the noise that can detract from the damages assessment; 2) perform well under pressure, especially under cross examination; 3) where possible, find areas of agreement with the opposing expert; this allows the tribunal to focus on fewer (and more substantive) areas of disagreement; and 4) stay deeply involved and engaged throughout the entire process: experts add the most value when they master the relevant case facts and can offer a 360-degree perspective on the key issues impacting quantum.
In your opinion, what are the benefits and challenges of virtual hearings and virtual hot-tubbing proceedings?
Virtual hearings have become common in the current covid-19 environment. There are some obvious benefits, such as the flexibility it affords participants in managing their respective schedules, the cost savings resulting from participating remotely, etc. A virtual hearing, which is run efficiently with no technical issues, can effectively simulate an in-person hearing. Nonetheless, the energy and pulse of the hearing room is hard to replicate, and it is at times easier for an expert to read between the lines when addressing questions/issues in-person.
Having established your own firm, what do you find to be the benefits that specialised dispute firms like Versant bring to the table?
I can think of at least three. First, it is easier to define the firm’s culture and core values, and leverage that into success. There is a high level of collaboration, synergy across our entire team: all of us live and breathe international arbitration, and there is a great depth of knowledge, both on quantum issues and strategic/tactical decisions impacting the damages claim. Second, our experts remain actively involved throughout the planning and execution of their engagements, from the initial kick-off all the way to oral testimony and post-hearing briefs. This decreases risks in our projects and ensures there are no surprises along the way. Third, being a highly focused and specialised practice, we do not have the same level of overhead as most of our peers and are therefore better positioned to deliver a higher-quality work product at a better value to our clients.
What impact has covid-19 had on your work as a damages expert?
To be honest, not a whole lot. We are fortunate in that we can execute our work seamlessly even when working remotely. And with the increasing use of tools like Zoom and Webex for meetings and even hearings, it is possible to progress our engagements just as effectively. We are also fortunate to have a close-knit team, many of whom have been working together for over a decade, which makes remote collaboration much easier. In terms of the impact on future case load, there have been significant business disruptions in many different sectors due to covid-19, such that contractual obligations cannot be honoured. Certain measures taken by governments to deal with the pandemic may also be viewed by investors as breaching investor protections. We expect this will lead to new claims being filed in the coming months and years.
What impact will the increase in third-party funding have on disputes in the coming years? What will it mean for the way you will have to execute cases?
We have seen an increasing number of third-party-funded claims in recent years, with the trend accelerating over the past few years (both for investor-state and commercial arbitrations). Funded cases tend to have well-defined costs, timelines and budgets (since the cost is an investment upon which the funder seeks a financial return). This generally requires experts to exercise discipline in undertaking their work – both in terms of the scope of work and the costs incurred to complete the work. Overall, this is a good trend, since it makes the overall process more efficient. However, the dynamic of third-party funding can sometimes exert pressure on damages experts to take aggressive positions that increase the quantum of loss claimed. Experts must resist such pressures, if needed by raising awareness among clients of the importance of maintaining independence and objectivity, and the risks of losing credibility by taking aggressive positions.
What advice would you give to individuals hoping to one day set up their own firm?
Believe in yourself and be willing to take a risk. When we started Versant in 2017, we were just three partners with no staff. We did not know where exactly the work would come from, how quickly it would ramp up, or how we would scale our practice. Today, we continue to grow our core team of over 20 that works seamlessly from offices in the US and the UK, with law firms and clients across the globe. Success is heavily driven by the quality of your team. If you invest in great people who do great work, your firm will succeed.
"I was impressed by his analytical skills and first-rate performance on cross-examination"
"He has an excellent grasp of what makes a convincing quantum report"
"Kiran can break down complex financial and damages issues into an easily digestible format for tribunals and clients"
"He is one of the best and very easy to work with"
Kiran is a founding partner of Versant Partners, where he serves as an expert witness on damages in complex, high-stakes international disputes. He has over 20 years of experience advising clients in international commercial and investor-state arbitrations. Kiran has provided expert testimony on financial, economic, accounting, valuation, and damages issues in over 60 matters. This includes matters before all major arbitral institutions, as well the US and UK courts.
Kiran has been elected to the Expert Witnesses section of WWL every year since 2013. Since 2017, he has been named annually as one of only a few "Most Highly Regarded Individuals" by WWL. He was also recently elected to Who’s Who Legal’s “Thought Leaders – Global Elite 2020.”
Kiran brings a hands-on approach to working with clients and counsel, with a focus on identifying practical solutions based on in-depth knowledge of the key issues impacting the case. Kiran’s industry experience includes the energy, mining, telecommunications, financial services, infrastructure, construction, real estate, manufacturing and services sectors. Geographically, his experience spans the globe, with a focus on emerging economies in Asia, Africa, Middle East, Latin America, Russia/CIS and East Europe. Kiran has substantial experience valuing companies and investments in India.
Kiran has an MBA with a concentration in finance from Johns Hopkins University and a MS in Civil Engineering from Syracuse University. He is also a licensed professional engineer. As a licensed engineer, Kiran combines expertise in valuation and damages with a solid understanding of the technical issues that underpin many complex disputes. He is able to integrate these insights into expert evidence that can be relied upon by tribunals.