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Thought Leaders

Thought Leaders

Martin S Kenney

Martin S Kenney

Martin Kenney & Co Solicitors(PO Box 4740) Third FloorFleming HouseRoad Town, TortolaVirgin Islands, BritishVG 1110

Thought Leader

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

WWL says

Martin Kenney is applauded by sources who note, “His success in this field is directly related to the tenacity and effectiveness of his approach while wielding arcane points of law to crack the shell of otherwise inaccessible value.” 

Questions & Answers

Martin Kenney is ranked by WWL as one of the world’s leading asset recovery lawyers. Based in the British Virgin Islands, he is founder and managing partner of Martin Kenney & Co, Solicitors. He has received numerous plaudits: Wired characterised his firm as “the world’s sharpest fraudbusters”, while The Financial Times has deemed him a “top international asset chaser”. He is the recipient of the highest award given by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, The Cressey Award.

How has asset recovery evolved during the 30-year span of your career?

The whole fraud arena has changed enormously. In 1991 recovering the entire $5 million loss in a circular cheque kite run on a bank was considered a major success (and indeed formed my first major case). Today our cases aggregate in the scores, if not hundreds of millions – even billions – of dollars. Fraud litigators have an expanded arsenal too with litigation funding and the ability to go after not just the perpetrators’ concealed assets, but also the deep-pocketed enablers of fraud for damages.

What has been your most interesting case to date?

There have been many. In early 2021 we will commence a three-month trial against TD Bank in Canada for its alleged negligence in permitting disgraced financier Allen Stanford to perpetrate the world’s second largest Ponzi scheme. What sticks most in my mind is the reaction of victims when we recover their money. Many have lost everything they’ve worked for and it is always rewarding – even humbling – to see their gratitude.

Asset recovery has become increasingly international due to globalisation. How have you adapted your practice to meet this challenge?

The globe is, and always has been, our arena. Our work is complex, multi-disciplinary, and highly specialised. The ever-evolving nature of money laundering and corruption means that not only do we have to keep pace, but we also endeavour to stay ahead of the asset concealment models used by the other side, wherever those may be.

Which are the main considerations when developing strategies for the international search and recovery of assets?

Getting your team right is the number one priority. We’ve spent years building a tightly knit group of cross-disciplinary experts, ranging from pre-eminent lawyers across a range of countries, to top-flight investigators, forensic accountants, data and financial analysts, and a psychologist to help us penetrate fraudsters’ networks. That mix is essential to our success, as is keeping abreast of the latest developments in open source investigations, understanding big data, private prosecutions and the increasing use of cryptocurrencies.

You have claimed that openly publishing ‘ultimate beneficial ownership’ data for companies won’t necessarily prevent fraud or malfeasance: why?

It’s simple: crooks lie. Registers are only as good as the data within them. If they’re not properly policed or verified (there have been some shocking examples of fake details registered with the UK’s Companies House), how will they prevent fraud and corruption? We have verified and robust company register systems here in the BVI, which law enforcement and other authorities can access with proper authorisation. These are far more useful in the battle against economic criminals than a toothless but ‘fully open’ system. If we railroad through changes without thinking about consequences, then fraudsters will simply put up ‘straw men’ to front their company details.

What impact will the covid-19 crisis have on the legal sector and will frauds rise as a result?

The pandemic unfortunately offers the perfect breeding ground for fraud.  As recession bites, some people can become easy prey for con artists. We know that so-called ‘furlough frauds’ have risen, too. The State of Washington has, for example, reportedly lost $600 million in fraud on its unemployment insurance benefits system. While high street law firms may be impacted by the downturn, luckily our firm remains as busy as ever, given that our cases often take years to come to completion and thanks to the backing we receive from our funders and clients.

What are some of the most challenging jurisdictions and issues facing asset recovery lawyers today?

Relics from the cowboy era of offshore of the 1980s and 90s – Nevis and the Cook Islands come to mind with their fraudster-friendly asset protection trust laws. Under these laws, a victim has one to two years from the date of a secret fraudulent transfer into trust to sue to claw it back. The victim has to post $100,000 in automatic security for costs; meet the criminal law burden of proof (beyond a reasonable doubt); and operate their case on an entirely in camera basis. Also, no trust asset freeze orders are available. Nevis and the Cook Islands need to be held to account over these outrageous fraudster laws.

In which direction would you like to steer your practice in the next five years?

To continue to invest in young people; educate public policy makers about the perniciousness of fraud and corruption; and to bring some more large-scale ne’er-do-wells (including enablers of fraud) to book.

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

WWL says

Martin Kenney is applauded by sources who note, “His success in this field is directly related to the tenacity and effectiveness of his approach while wielding arcane points of law to crack the shell of otherwise inaccessible value.” 

Questions & Answers

Martin is one of the world’s leading asset recovery lawyers, ranked by WWL as the number one asset recovery lawyer in the offshore world. Based in the British Virgin Islands, Martin is founder and managing partner of Martin Kenney & Co Solicitors. He has received numerous plaudits: Wired characterised his firm as “the sharpest fraud-busters in the world”, while The Financial Times deemed him a “top international asset chaser”.

How has the market changed since you first started practising as a fraud and asset recovery lawyer?

Over the past 29 years, the whole fraud arena has changed enormously. In 1991, recovering all the loss in a US$5 million circular cheque kite was considered a major success (and indeed was my first major case). Nowadays, our cases aggregate to tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars in assets. Some even run into the billions. Additionally, our arsenal has expanded through litigation funding and the ability to go after not only the perpetrators, but also the enablers of fraud. 

Which cases most stick in your mind and why?

It’s hard to pick just one. As at June 2020, we’re about to commence a three-month trial against TD Bank in Canada for US$4.5 billion for its alleged negligence in permitting Allen Stanford to perpetrate the world’s second-largest Ponzi scheme. In many of our cases, the victims have lost everything that they worked so hard for during their lifetimes. The gratitude and relief that they express when we recover their money is always rewarding. 

What new types of fraud are you seeing emerge and develop during the covid-19 pandemic? 

The pandemic sadly, but unsurprisingly, presents a perfect opportunity for fraudsters. Some are taking advantage of the urgent need for medical equipment and protective gear, and we have already seen an uptick in frauds involving so-called ‘furlough’ schemes, too. As a recession bites, some people – especially the most vulnerable – can all too easily become easy prey for con artists. 

 How significant will the use of litigation as an asset recovery tool be in a post-covid-19 world?

Firms like ours have always employed a robust litigation capability as part of the asset recovery strategy, and that capability will continue to be vitally important in a post-covid-19 world. Many of our cases settle without significant litigation, once the perpetrators of the fraud realise the strength of the case that we’ve built. For those cases that do go to trial, we must be very thorough and vigilant in our preparations for trial before we enter the courtroom. 

Covid-19 will likely be followed by a financial crisis. What impact will this potentially have on external funding?

The types of cases that we tackle often run for several years. Funders continue to back well ‘risk managed’ asset recovery actions, and indeed their support can be necessary. We have strong relationships with a number of litigation financiers, and they have remained committed to pursuing recovery throughout the pandemic. And, as noted previously, the pandemic has been a boon for fraudsters. Our business remains as strong as ever.

What advice can you offer on how to act effectively when pursuing cross-border assets?

Get your team right. We’ve built a set of cross-disciplinary experts – from pre-eminent lawyers to top-flight investigators, forensic accountants, data and financial analysts, and even a psychologist – to help us penetrate the bad guys’ networks. That mix is key, as is staying abreast of trends in open source investigations, the use of big data, private prosecutions and the increasing use of cryptocurrencies. 

 In which jurisdiction would you  like to develop your firm’s practice and why?

The globe is our arena. Our work is complex and highly specialised. The nature of money laundering and corruption means that we have to not only keep pace, but stay one step ahead of the asset concealment models used by the other side, wherever they choose to operate. The support of specialist networks, such as ICC FraudNet, is essential. 

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

Follow the money. Read the papers at your feet. Double the pace of your work. 

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

Global Leader

Asset Recovery 2020

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

WWL says

Martin Kenney is applauded by sources who note, “His success in this field is directly related to the tenacity and effectiveness of his approach while wielding arcane points of law to crack the shell of otherwise inaccessible value.” 

Biography

Martin Kenney is the managing partner of Martin Kenney & Co Solicitors in the BVI. The firm's asset recovery work lies at the intersection of cross-border insolvency, creditors' rights and complex commercial litigation. WIRED magazine has named the firm among the “sharpest fraud-busters in the world”.

Leading a team of 15 lawyers, investigators and forensic accountants, Martin Kenney is regarded as a ground-breaker in the use of pre-emptive remedies, multidisciplinary teams and professional litigation funding in response to global economic crime, to uproot bank secrets and freeze hidden assets in multiple jurisdictions. He is a practising solicitor-advocate of the courts of England and Wales and the BVI, a non-practising barrister and solicitor of British Columbia, and a licensed foreign legal consultant in the state of New York.

Mr Kenney is the BVI member of ICC FraudNet, a specialist international network of 84 leading fraud and asset recovery lawyers from 71 countries, which is administered by the commercial crime services division of the International Chamber of Commerce.

OffshoreAlert of Miami said: “Martin Kenney is perhaps the best-known fraud and asset recovery attorney in the world, having worked on a number of high-profile international cases.” Mr Kenney was given the 2014 Cressey Award by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE), an organisation with 85,000 members in 160 countries. The Cressey Award is the highest honour given by the ACFE for lifetime achievement in combating and detecting fraud.

Mr Kenney has been recognised by Who's Who Legal as a top offshore asset recovery lawyer since 2017 and as a Global Elite Thought Leader since 2018. He is once again featured as a Global Elite Thought Leader by Who’s Who Legal for 2020.

Investigations 2020

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Martin Kenney is admired for his analytical approach, and his exceptional awareness of challenges facing clients when tracing assets on a global scale.

Biography

Martin Kenney is the managing partner of Martin Kenney & Co Solicitors in the BVI. The firm's asset recovery work lies at the intersection of cross-border insolvency, creditors' rights and complex commercial litigation. Wired Magazine has named the firm among the “sharpest fraud-busters in the world”.

Leading a team of 15 lawyers, investigators and forensic accountants, Martin Kenney is regarded as a groundbreaker in the use of pre-emptive remedies, multidisciplinary teams and professional litigation funding in response to global economic crime to uproot bank secrets and freeze hidden assets in multiple jurisdictions. He is a practising solicitor-advocate of the senior courts of England and Wales; and the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court at the BVI, and St Vincent and the Grenadines. He is also a non-practising barrister and solicitor of British Columbia, and a licensed foreign legal consultant in the state of New York.

Mr Kenney is the BVI member of ICC FraudNet, a specialist international network of 80 leading fraud and asset recovery lawyers from 68 countries, which is administered by the Commercial Crime Services Division of the International Chamber of Commerce.

OffshoreAlert of Miami said: “Martin Kenney is perhaps the best-known fraud and asset recovery attorney in the world, having worked on a number of high-profile international cases.” Mr Kenney was given the 2014 Cressey Award by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE), an organisation with 75,000 members in 160 countries. The Cressey Award is the highest honour given by the ACFE for lifetime achievement in combating and detecting fraud.

WWL Ranking: Recommended
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