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. Martin 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”.
What do you enjoy most about working in fraud and asset recovery law?
The world of fraud and asset recovery is dynamic and ever-changing. No case is the same, and you are pitching your wits against some of the most accomplished criminal and legal minds. Every day is a challenge, thinking strategically is mandatory. The work can be exhausting yet rewarding.
How does Martin Kenney & Co Solicitors distinguish itself from the competition?
We have the experience and knowledge that makes a difference. I have surrounded myself with a team that has deep knowledge in a highly specialised field. We are selective about which cases we take on; we don’t take on defence work, opting to represent only those who have been wronged.
Strategy is an important aspect of asset recovery work. How do you go about deciding what approach to take for a case?
No two cases are the same; the multi-jurisdictional issues alone demand a variety of approaches. Each case has to be dealt with on its merits. I need to identify which team members will be best for the task; we need square pegs for square holes. The troops need to be assigned to the right tasks. Like a game of three-dimensional chess, out-thinking our opponent is assisted by experience.
What role are you now seeing third-party funders (TPFs) play in asset recovery-related litigation?
We have been using TPFs since 1997. They enable victims who simply no longer have money, or who are not prepared to take risks to mount a case to get justice. But it is a complex world and experience is essential, otherwise you simply fail to convince the funders that their investment will reap rewards. TPFs are the future, and we must work together to not only look after the client, but also to make a case commercially viable.
With the increased use of big data and e-discovery in asset recovery, what new skills do lawyers require to provide effective counsel to clients?
The world of big data demands an understanding of IT and software capabilities. That’s why we have individuals on the team who understand the complexities and capabilities of the systems. We are currently beta testing a new system that searches for links between banks and email addresses globally. The results are promising. Being able to illustrate the software potential to the client is sometimes essential to moving a case forward.
What particular challenges are faced when working on cases that have lasted 20 years or more?
Keeping the team motivated is a challenge. Lawyers are no different to anybody else; they are always looking towards the next new case. I don’t want them to become stale so there has to be a balance between maintaining the old cases and letting them loose on the new.
Where, in your opinion, does the future of the practice area lie?
I think TPF is an area we must develop. We need to not only educate lawyers in our field, but also to identify and formulate better, more detailed claim summaries and financial projections before tendering them to TPFs. Understandably they don’t part with their funds easily. We need to give them the confidence to invest in us.
Looking back over your career, what has been your proudest achievement to date?
A little over two years ago, the BVI was shattered by Hurricane Irma. My offices, along with people’s homes, were severely damaged; members of my team were evacuated back to the UK, the USA, etc, and the future looked grim. We lost a number of clients who understandably couldn’t wait for us to rebuild. We have rebuilt our homes and the firm. In fact, today our firm is as busy as it has ever been.
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.
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.”
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.
Martin Kenney is admired for his analytical approach, and his exceptional awareness of challenges facing clients when tracing assets on a global scale.
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.