Steve is a senior managing director in FTI’s economic and financial consulting practice. He is based in Dubai, having founded FTI’s accounting and valuation expert witness practice in the UAE in 2013. Steve has 15 years’ experience as a forensic accountant, focusing on identifying and quantifying loss in the context of commercial disputes, across a range of industries. His expertise includes the assessment of lost profits, business valuation, cost verification and solving complex accounting issues.
DESCRIBE YOUR CAREER TO DATE.
I began my career in BDO’s forensic accounting department in London, where I worked on accounting investigations and expert witness mandates. I moved to FTI Consulting in 2009, and have since focused almost exclusively on expert witness work. Many projects involve intensive periods of work undertaken by relatively small teams, and throughout my career I have been fortunate to work alongside a number of eminent experts, each with their own styles of communication and problem-solving. In 2013, I moved to Dubai to establish a presence for FTI Consulting in the UAE, as part of our approach to establish a globally coordinated team working across major arbitration centres. This provided a degree of autonomy within a large organisation, which I have enjoyed, as well as the opportunity to work within a growing, vibrant and close-knit regional arbitration community. It has been a pleasure to be a part of FTI Consulting’s growth in the field of expert witness work over the past decade.
WHAT DO YOU MOST ENJOY ABOUT WORKING IN DISPUTE RESOLUTION?
There are many things I enjoy in my career. I appreciate the blend of technical knowledge and pragmatism that is required to solve complex damages questions, in circumstances and contexts that can themselves be absorbing. I also enjoy the variety that comes with project-based consulting. Above all, however, I think that the competitive environment of dispute resolution processes pushes participants to perform at their best. I very much value working in that environment.
WHAT DO CLIENTS LOOK FOR IN AN EFFECTIVE ARBITRATION EXPERT WITNESS?
Clarity, common sense and – above all – honesty.
HOW HAS YOUR ROLE AS AN EXPERT WITNESS CHANGED SINCE YOU FIRST STARTED PRACTISING?
Cross-border trade and investment has increased significantly compared to when I started as a graduate approximately 15 years ago. Alongside this, the framework underpinning international arbitration as a method for dispute resolution has evolved rapidly. Consequently, international arbitration disputes are much more prevalent than when I started my career, and I work on a more diverse range of cases than I would ever have thought possible. This diversity relates to the assets and investments that are the subject of disputes; the governing law that is applied; the parties to disputes; and the practitioners who determine disputes or act as counsel. Simultaneously, the volume of data involved in expert mandates has increased significantly. As a result, damages assessment in today’s environment can often be a multi-disciplinary exercise, requiring the application of one or more specialist analytical techniques alongside industry and/or regional knowledge or familiarity. Effective expert witness practices have become more sophisticated to deal with these demands.
HOW DO YOU PREPARE FOR A TESTIFYING CASE?
The ability to communicate clearly is obviously key. This is only possible if analysis is logical and soundly premised. In terms of preparation, simple though it may sound, it is key to be able to explain the reasons behind decisions and judgement calls, and to be familiar with the relevant documents.
WHAT IS THE MOST MEMORABLE MATTER YOU HAVE BEEN A PART OF?
For over two years I was case manager on a large matter involving allegations of complex financial impropriety, which culminated in proceedings before a criminal court in continental Europe. Over a period of several months, the expert was required to give direct testimony for over 10 sitting days, before a particularly attentive and inquisitorial judiciary. The testimony, delivered in English, was translated contemporaneously by court translators. On one occasion, the appointed translator could not be present at short notice, and to avoid delay was replaced by an English teacher from the local primary school. The translation of complex financial terminology provided for a torrid experience, no doubt amplified by the flurry of lawyers who rose to their feet every time the translator struggled to translate one or two frequently recurring (and confusing) terms. The wry smiles of the bench only made sense to me when I heard them conversing in perfect English at a later stage during a break in the proceedings.
WHAT TRENDS ARE YOU NOTICING IN THE PRACTICE AREA AT THE MOMENT?
In recent years I have certainly noticed an increase in DIFC-LCIA and DIFC Court proceedings in the UAE. Additionally, our current workload is less heavily oriented towards disputes arising from delayed or terminated real estate development projects than it was a few years ago. Overall, we are seeing more disputes, which relate to a wider range of industries and investments, more widely dispersed across the region.
WHAT IS THE BEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU HAVE EVER RECEIVED?
Be confident in your own style.
Steve Harris is an “excellent” expert and forensic accountant, specialising in the quantification of economic loss, the valuation of companies and the resolution of complex accounting disputes.
Steve Harris is a senior managing director in FTI Consulting's economic and financial consulting practice. He is based in Dubai, having founded FTI’s damages expert witness practice in the United Arab Emirates in 2013. Steve has also worked in FTI Consulting’s offices in London and Singapore.
Steve has over 15 years' experience as a forensic accountant and damages expert, identifying and quantifying loss in the context of commercial disputes, across a broad range of industries. Steve has been instructed as expert in ICC, DIAC, DIFC-LCIA, SCC, CAS, Swiss Federal Court and Hong Kong Court proceedings. He has worked on a wide range of cases providing accounting support to legal advisers and clients in the course of international arbitration, litigation, and regulatory and commercial fraud investigations. His particular areas of expertise include the identification and valuation of lost profits, cost verification, the valuation of businesses and shareholdings, solving complex accounting issues and financial reporting.
Steve's recent work includes damages assessment in relation to disputes concerning the sale and purchase of businesses, joint ventures, delayed real estate development projects, the fair value of shareholdings in businesses, the pricing and supply of natural resources, construction projects, hotel operations, fraud and false accounting.