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Thought Leaders

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Martin S Kenney

Martin S Kenney

Martin Kenney & CoThird Floor, Flemming HouseRoad Town, TortolaVirgin Islands, BritishVG 1110
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Thought Leader

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

Questions & Answers

Martin is a specialist fraud investigation and asset recovery lawyer based in the BVI and a member of ICC FraudNet. Accolades include holding an ACFE Cressey award for lifetime achievement in combatting fraud. OffshoreAlert says: “Martin is perhaps the best-known fraud and asset recovery attorney in the world.” Wired magazine asserted he is one of the “sharpest fraud-busters in the world”. The 2017 edition of WWL named Martin a Top 40 Thought Leader globally, and in both 2017 and 2018 the number one asset recovery lawyer in the offshore world.

What attracted you to specialise in fraud and asset recovery law?

In 1991, I was an associate at an English firm in New York. I was tasked with a fraud and asset recovery case perpetrated on an institutional victim in Canada. Using a multidisciplinary and multi-jurisdictional model, and an array of pre-emptive remedies, we successfully turned a “sow’s ear” into a “silk purse”. I chose to specialise in fraud and asset recovery as it is professionally challenging.

How has the area developed since you began your career?

Twenty-five years ago, no one called our specialism “fraud and asset recovery”. One improvement we have seen is the accessibility to third-party funders willing to take a risk on behalf of a victim of fraud who ordinarily would be denied justice. Other significant developments include the anonymity of moving money in the blink of an eye across the world with globalisation, the introduction of a global standard in the fight against money laundering, big data analysis by artificial intelligence, and the internet as a store of vast data.

What was the most challenging part of establishing your own firm?

Fraud and asset recovery, as a practice area, was unheard of in 1995 when I set up my own firm for the first time – in New York City where I lived then. We faced a deficit in understanding by clients, lawyers and judges for the area. The practice lies in the intersection between cross-border insolvency; comparative pre-emptive remedy law (to secretly find and freeze assets); complex transnational commercial litigation; and the law of private investigations. A major development was the establishment of ICC FraudNet in 2004 by the International Chamber of Commerce. Now my boutique of 20 people in the BVI has surge capacity and global reach with 75 specialists in 65 countries in the discipline.

What can creditors and victims in larger developing nations do to become better acquainted with their rights to recover value?

I have witnessed how little creditors know of their rights abroad in countries such as Brazil and India. Creditors in jurisdictions with historical rule of law challenges have negative expectations of how they will be treated abroad; as a result, many creditors in emerging markets take no action to recover assets as they believe it to be pointless. It is incumbent on experienced asset recovery professionals to educate and show creditors in developing nations that their rights can be vindicated abroad.

Are there any technical developments in recent case law that are of importance to the field?

We have been conducting some work in India regarding “wilful defaulters”. Our team provided technical assistance to the draftsman of the new Indian Bankruptcy Code. This Code has transformed the old bankruptcy laws, levelling the playing field. Previously, tactical bankruptcy in India favoured the defaulter, but not any more.

As a team, we identified potential weaknesses in the Code and we provided our input on a pro bono basis.

Jurisdictions such as Dubai, Singapore and Hong Kong are becoming increasingly important in the asset recovery space – what would you say is driving this trend?

Fraudsters have identified weaknesses in these jurisdictions that favour their ability to operate. There are big opportunities to launder money and hide assets in Dubai and Singapore. Remedies for victims before “onshore” courts in Dubai are somewhat limited. Consequently, many of the UK’s largest “carousel fraudsters” have chosen to make a run for cover there. The UAE is not big on extradition, so it is unsurprising that the fraudsters are gravitating there.

What is the most memorable case you have worked on?

A Canadian bank was victimised in a circular US$720 million cheque-kite scheme. The origin of the scam was in the Bahamas. The culprit was the son of a wealthy deceased Montreal businessman. The suspect traded on the good reputation and wealth of his late father, persuading the bank to give his offshore company immediate credit for cheques drawn on its account in Nassau. Despite there only being a US$100 credit balance at the beginning of the fraud, he eventually uttered 1,552 rubber-cheques, totalling US$720 million in value and allowing him to take US$1.4 billion of risk on the stock market. The bank got nervous and shut down the concession, minimising the loss to only US$5 million (potential losses were as high as US$60 million). Within 180 days of being engaged by the bank, I was able to effect a full recovery of the bank’s loss through asset freeze orders, search orders and an aggressive campaign of litigation in New York, Florida and the Bahamas.

What is the best piece of career advice you can offer to others?

Work hard. Read the papers at your feet. Conduct a thorough preliminary open source information (OSI) inquiry. Build a recovery model bespoke tailored to the facts. Accurately budget for costs. Use a multi-disciplinary team. Make each team member accountable for tasks and time. Use secrecy orders to find and freeze concealed assets. Be unrelenting.

Don’t be naïve. In our line of work, we are in a battle of wits with clever adversaries. By their nature, fraudsters are highly intelligent. Whenever it appears they are about to lower their guard, it is time for you to raise yours.

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

WWL says

Martin Kenney is “a great strategy man” according to peers who praise his work dealing with cross-border asset tracing, freezing and insolvency matters.

Questions & Answers

Martin is an international fraud and asset recovery lawyer. His firm has been described by Wired Magazine as being among the “sharpest fraud-busters in the world”. Martin is a founding member of ICC FraudNet, and winner of the 2014 ACFE Cressey Award in recognition of lifetime achievement in combating fraud; furthermore, Offshore Alert says he is one of the best-known lawyers of his type in the world.

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO PURSUE A LEGAL CAREER?

My late uncle Jack Kenney was a Bay Street lawyer in Toronto. He went on to become the general counsel and president of the Ontario Jockey Club – the epicentre of thoroughbred and standard bred horse racing in Canada. He was a bon vivant, raconteur and master teller of tales who inspired me to “do law”.

WHAT QUALITIES MAKE FOR A SUCCESSFUL ASSET RECOVERY LAWYER?

Tenacity. Persistence. Intelligence. An acute memory. Hard work. Courage while under fire. Lateral thinking. Psychological awareness of yourself and others. In particular, awareness of the foibles and expectations of judges, witnesses, opposing counsel and clients alike.

WHAT ARE YOUR PRIORITIES FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF MARTIN KENNEY & CO SOLICITORS IN THE NEXT FEW YEARS?

We are a small team of 16 people. I hope to grow the practice to 25. We have a surge capacity through our membership in ICC FraudNet. Investing in the continuing growth of FraudNet (now with 81 members in 67 countries) is of moment. We aspire to get stuck in on a major cross-border public corruption job. We also intend to branch out further in our work in Latin America, India, China and Africa.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE LOOKING TO START THEIR OWN FIRM?

Concentrate on articulating and implementing a strategic path towards growth. The most crucially important element of this is attracting and retaining people of good character and high intelligence, and who possess an abiding interest in asset recovery. Thought leadership through writing, speaking, mentoring and risk-raking is of equal importance in developing a positive brand. For example, I now publish regular blogs, op-eds and other articles that appear to be well received by the readership. These articles are being picked up by students who are citing them as part of their academic writing; in turn, this increases your internet footprint. If a potential client conducts a basic Google search on me as their potential lawyer, they are met with numerous links taking them to these articles; it is likely these references can only have a positive impact. Finally, set aside some spare time for pro bono work for the community.

HOW IS THE USE OF BIG DATA AFFECTING THE PRACTICE AREA OF ASSET RECOVERY?

E-discovery platforms are now de rigeur. They are an essential tool for organising dense material into a chronologically and e-searchable format at the blink of an eye. In asset recovery, a revolution is taking place. In the instance of one NGO in Washington DC, that my firm has a strategic partnership with, copies of the digitised public asset ownership records (eg, in respect of the ownership or control of companies, land titles, automobiles, planes and motor vessels) from over 100 countries are being placed into a single database to identify links between targets and assets.

WHAT, IN YOUR OPINION, CAN BE DONE TO IMPROVE DIVERSITY IN THE FIELD?

Leaders in asset recovery must encourage young people from diverse backgrounds to join their teams. Summer internship programmes need to be open to women and minorities in particular. Mentorship and teaching a diverse crew is imperative. We need more diversity in asset recovery. Leaders in the field need to accept responsibility for making this happen.

HOW DO YOU SEE YOUR PRACTICE DEVELOPING OVER THE NEXT FIVE YEARS?

More work will come from improving our risk management tools in asset recovery. Assembling portfolios of claims; bundling success fee contracts that shift the risk of loss in our work to professionals and securitising them with third party funds on a risk-shared basis; budgeting costs; and detailed task-by-task planning will all become essential tools to grow practices.

YOU HAVE ENJOYED A DISTINGUISHED CAREER SO FAR. WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO ACHIEVE THAT YOU HAVE NOT YET ACCOMPLISHED?

There are a number of lawyers out there in the field today – especially my 80 colleagues in ICC FraudNet. I feel it is incumbent on all of us to impart our knowledge and experience to those who may have the qualities to follow in our footsteps, especially the younger lawyers who may be unsure where to focus their long-term efforts. We need to win these individuals over for a career in asset recovery. In addition, the dynamic world that is asset recovery has seen many innovations over the years, but one that is sometimes overlooked is the availability of third-party funding that enables us to go after the assets lost to individuals who can no longer fund the litigation required to repatriate themselves with their assets. We recently ran a masterclass in third-party funding at a FraudNet conference, which was very well received. Finally, I’d like to conduct more pro bono work where appropriate, especially for matters affecting the local community.

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

Global Leader

Asset Recovery 2019

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

WWL says

Martin Kenney is a "real mover and shaker in the market", report market commentators, and he receives strong international endorsements in this year's guide.

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 79 leading fraud and asset recovery lawyers from 67 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.

Investigations

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Martin Kenney is a top name in the investigations space for his expertise in cross-border fraud and asset recovery proceedings.

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 10 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 senior courts of England and Wales, and the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court at the BVI and at St Vincent and the Grenadines; 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 75 leading fraud and asset recovery lawyers from 65 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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