Nick specialises in UK and international insolvency, asset tracing and recovery. He has over 25 years’ experience in tracing and recovering assets from jurisdictions including the Caribbean, the Far East and EMEA (the main financial centres), as well as Russia and the CIS regions. Recently he has been involved in assignments acting for state and commercial banks on their non-performing loan portfolios in India, Africa and the Middle East. Nick has particular expertise in de-risking the recovery exercise for clients using various funding and insurance products.
DESCRIBE YOUR CAREER TO DATE.
I graduated in law. My first job was in audit before moving on to insolvency and then specialising in fraud and asset recovery. I have been involved in a wide variety of cases, from being liquidator of an Antiguan offshore bank to being trustee of the Boris Berezovsky estate.
WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO SPECIALISE IN ASSET RECOVERY AND INSOLVENCY?
I like the enforcement and asset recovery side of insolvency, as you are inevitably going after the bad guys. The challenge is to formulate a strategy that will force them to come to the table. The powers of an insolvency practitioner are incredibly powerful to cut through some of the asset protection structures put in place. We have been pioneers of many of these asset recovery tools.
HOW HAS THE MARKET CHANGED SINCE YOU FIRST STARTED PRACTISING?
There are fewer assets in an insolvent company these days to enable funding to pursue fraudulent and antecedent transactions. Therefore, you need to be alive to the various funding and de-risking structures available, to enable you to pursue claims and maximise returns to creditors.
WHAT ARE THE MAIN CHALLENGES AND RISKS WHEN RECOVERING ASSETS FOR CLIENTS?
One of the main challenges is the lack of funding and litigation fatigue. Frequently clients approach us when they have spent years, and millions of pounds, obtaining a judgment but have run out of money and the motivation to enforce it. Our job is to reinvigorate the claim, obtain funding and de-risk it for the client. The strategy is to find a quick and efficient route to the money, cutting through the opaque offshore asset protection structures that the defendant has put in place. It is important to have the right lawyers on the case who are experienced in asset recovery, as well as experienced in the local jurisdiction. Having the right team on the case is vital.
HOW DO YOU PREPARE FOR YOUR ROLE AS A COURT-APPOINTED RECEIVER? WHAT ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT SKILLS REQUIRED?
The key is to emphasise to the client that, as a court-appointed receiver, I am an independent officer of the court and answerable to the court once I am appointed. Therefore, it is essential to establish my powers and responsibilities from the outset and ensure these are enshrined in the court order. It is important to be open and transparent at all times. It is a very underused but powerful tool and can be adapted to a wide variety of situations.
WHAT MAKES GRANT THORNTON STAND OUT FROM ITS COMPETITORS IN THE MARKET?
We are the only truly global network with the specific skills and expertise to undertake major asset recovery in multiple jurisdictions, particularly in the offshore financial centres. We don’t just find the assets, we work closely with the client and the lawyers to put together an efficient and effective recovery strategy. We also work closely with our forensic investigation and digital forensic colleagues to trace and recover the assets.
LOOKING BACK OVER YOUR CAREER, WHAT IS THE MOST INTERESTING CASE YOU HAVE BEEN A PART OF?
I have a plethora of stories to tell! They are all interesting cases in their own way – whether it is the characters involved, the vagaries of the different jurisdictions or the strategy that we employed with the lawyers. We had one fraudster who came hobbling in on crutches for an interview. Half-way through he got up to go to the washroom and walked normally out of the door before realising he had forgotten his crutches, which caused some amusement!
YOU HAVE ENJOYED A VERY DISTINGUISHED CAREER SO FAR. WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO ACHIEVE THAT YOU HAVE NOT YET ACCOMPLISHED?
Enforcement of non-performing loans for banks in emerging markets is a very exciting opportunity in the market. We are working hard to assist these banks with their recovery strategies and return funds to shore up their balance sheets.