Who's Who Legal
Who's Who Legal
New to Who's Who Legal?
New to Who's Who Legal?
Menu
User Menu
New to Who's Who Legal?
Thought Leaders

Thought Leaders

Mark McDonald

Mark McDonald

Grant Thornton171 Main StreetThe Barracks, 2nd FloorRoad Town, TortolaVirgin Islands, British

Thought Leader

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

WWL says

Mark McDonald stands out as “a big name for contentious matters” and is “the go-to in the BVI”. He is “very well respected by his peers” for his excellent work when it comes to litigation and strategy.

Questions & Answers

Mark leads Grant Thornton’s office in the British Virgin Islands, where he has been based for over 12 years. He has over 17 years’ experience of insolvency, specialising in contentious cross-border insolvency often involving fraud investigation, asset tracing and litigation across a number of jurisdictions. He is frequently appointed by courts in the BVI and the wider Eastern Caribbean. In 2018, he was recognised as the number-one offshore Thought Leader by Who’s Who Legal: Asset Recovery.

Describe your career to date.

I qualified in New Zealand as a lawyer and accountant and started my professional career with PwC as a tax consultant. I then moved into the more exciting field of insolvency and for the past 15 years have lived in Cayman, England and the BVI working on cross-border insolvency matters. I manage a team of 10 people based in the BVI, and we focus on asset recovery assignments in the BVI and throughout the Eastern Caribbean, which involve us tracing and recovering assets across the globe.

What motivated you to specialise in asset recovery and insolvency?

I wanted to do interesting and challenging work that used my legal and accountancy training. I enjoy tasks that require a commercial and pragmatic approach and asset recovery and insolvency certainly lends itself to someone with this skillset. I consider myself very lucky to work in this field primarily because the work we get to do is extremely interesting, varied and challenging.

How has the market changed since you first started practising?

The quality and experience levels of the professionals practising in this area has increased dramatically. There is increased competition among the legal and accountancy firms for this work and it has become a truly international job. The professionals in this space have become more innovative and flexible in the approach to fees on these assignments.

As head of Grant Thornton’s practice in the BVI, what are your main priorities for the firm’s development in the region over the next five years?

My primary focus is to assist in driving Grant Thornton’s reputation in this space, and to be known as the leading professional services team for international asset tracing and investigation assignments. To achieve this we need to continue to recruit and retain the best people.

Practitioners have noted a push for transparency surrounding offshore jurisdictions. What impact is this having on your practice?

The full impact of the transparency push remains to be seen; however, there are signs that this will create increased opportunities for our business. For example, there may well be increased economic activity on the island and, in turn, a need for the increased involvement of professional services firms.

I believe that the offshore jurisdictions will continue to adapt and retain their importance on the global business stage.

Working in asset recovery from the BVI involves collaborating with colleagues across the globe. What skills are needed in order to work effectively with practitioners across different jurisdictions?

The ability to build relationships across various cultures; strong project management skills in driving a team of professionals; communication; and leadership of teams. For example, having responsibility for large cross-border insolvency matters requires, in addition to many other responsibilities, you and your team to oversee and deal with the efforts of multiple sets of lawyers across the globe. This means you need to understand complex foreign law issues, instruct the lawyers accordingly and oversee the often-scarce resources of the liquidation estate to ensure they are being spent appropriately.

Looking back on your career what has been your proudest achievement?

Two things stand out for me. First, the excitement of working on some of the largest and most complex insolvencies, including the world’s second largest Ponzi scheme and cases connected with the Icelandic banking collapse. These have certainly been challenging and intensive cases, but also very professionally rewarding because of the people I have worked with and the extraordinarily diverse range of issues that arise.

Second, opening Grant Thornton’s office in the BVI in 2007 and working hard over the past 12 years to establish the market-leading team in the BVI and Eastern Caribbean in the field of asset recovery. I am really proud when I see that progress that we have made over this period.

WWL says

Mark McDonald is “a very impressive expert” who “has great authority, and is a calm, measured and very experienced professional”. He “combines great knowledge with excellent judgement”.

Questions & Answers

Mark leads Grant Thornton’s office in the British Virgin Islands, where he has lived since 2006. He has over 18 years’ experience of insolvency, specialising in contentious cross-border insolvency – often involving fraud investigation, asset tracing and litigation across a number of jurisdictions. He is frequently appointed by courts in the BVI and the wider Eastern Caribbean. He has been listed as an offshore Thought Leader by Who’s Who Legal: Asset Recovery (2017 to 2020). 

What skills are needed to successfully collaborate with lawyers, experts and authorities in different jurisdictions?

Insolvency practitioners (IPs) involved in cross-border insolvencies need to have very good project management skills to manage and oversee teams of professionals.

IPs need not be legal experts, but must be able to understand complex legal issues and make decisions based on advice received, so a commercial and legal background is helpful. 

IPs need to be excellent communicators – both written and verbal. Creditors and stakeholders of insolvencies demand clear communication from IPs. 

It is invaluable for an IP to be commercial and pragmatic – IPs often have to make decisions based on limited information and imperfect situations, and you simply have to make the best decision at that point in time, in the circumstances. 

What are the main challenges currently facing experts working in the investigations and asset recovery space?

Access to funding necessary to carry out the steps required to recover assets is often the biggest challenge we face. 

Technology is providing more avenues for people to hide assets – for example, cryptocurrencies and the lack of regulation surrounding them presents challenges for asset recovery specialists.

What makes Grant Thornton stand out from its competitors in the market?

Grant Thornton provides a truly global offering for clients. The Grant Thornton team collaborates globally, shares resources and works together to achieve results. This is a distinguishing feature from other international firms that often work in silos. 

How do you effectively use technology to assist in investigations?

Use of technology requires the IP to make pragmatic cost-benefit assessments as to when technology can be used effectively on a job – whether that be analysing large amounts of information or reviewing documents for litigation. 

What advice would you give to young experts hoping to one day be in your position?

Go for it! It is rare in the field of professional services to have a career as varied as an IP dealing with international cases – one day you’re dealing with the sale of a piece of land; the next you’re involved in legal proceedings and attempting to recover value for your estate; and the day after that you’re involved in meetings with government officials to discuss the release of frozen funds. The variety of tasks we get exposed to is a fantastic aspect of the job. In addition, as another unusual feature for the professional services sector, we get to make decisions on tangible issues that have a real financial impact on the matter. Often professional advisers are advising other parties, but here we receive advice if necessary and make those decisions ourselves. 

What is the most memorable case that you have been a part of?

Working on the world’s second-largest ponzi scheme. This provided fantastic experience working with an international team of lawyers and experts across 15-plus countries. The exposure to different cultures and court systems, and managing a case of this magnitude, has certainly been my most memorable case to date. 

Global Leader

Asset Recovery - Experts 2020

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

WWL says

Mark McDonald is “a very impressive expert” who “has great authority, and is a calm, measured and very experienced professional”. He “combines great knowledge with excellent judgement”.

Biography

Mark McDonald leads Grant Thornton’s office in the British Virgin Islands, where he has resided since 2006. He has over 18 years’ experience of insolvency, specialising in contentious cross-border insolvency often involving fraud investigation, asset tracing and litigation across several jurisdictions. He is frequently appointed by courts in the BVI and the wider Eastern Caribbean. He has been listed as an offshore Thought Leader by WWL: Asset Recovery (2017-2020).

Mark started his career in New Zealand, where he qualified as a lawyer and accountant, before moving overseas to work in Cayman Islands and England. He settled in the BVI in 2006.

Mark has vast experience of contentious cross border insolvency matters. He is the liquidator of the world’s second largest Ponzi scheme, Stanford International bank Limited, where his role is to recover value for 20,000 victims who lost over US$5 billion. He previously acted as a liquidator of two BVI financing vehicles that advanced over US$2 billion to the OAS Construction Group in Brazil; OAS were forced to reorganise following their role in a massive corruption scandal. Mark sought Chapter 15 recognition in the US as the foreign officeholder of the BVI vehicles and this application was strongly opposed by the OAS Brazilian parties. This led to a contested hearing before the US Bankruptcy Court in New York in which Mark was deposed and cross-examined. The parties subsequently reached a consensual resolution which allowed the Brazilian reorganisation to proceed. 

Mark is known for his efficient pursuit of cases, and his commercial and pragmatic approach.
WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader
Law Business Research
Law Business Research Ltd
Meridian House, 34-35 Farringdon Street
London EC4A 4HL, UK
© Law Business Research Ltd 1998-2020. All rights reserved.
Company No.: 03281866