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.
The views expressed herein are those of the author and not necessarily the views of FTI Consulting, Inc, its management, its subsidiaries, its affiliates, or its other professionals.
Steve is a senior managing director in FTI’s economic and financial consulting practice. He is based in Dubai, having founded FTI’s damages expert witness practice in the UAE in 2013. Steve’s expertise includes the identification and valuation of lost profits, cost verification, the valuation of businesses and shareholdings, solving complex accounting issues and financial reporting. He has been instructed as expert in ICC, DIAC, DIFC-LCIA, ADCCAC, CAS, Swiss Federal Court and Hong Kong Court proceedings.
In which regions have you chosen to focus your practice on and why?
The majority of the matters that I am instructed on relate to assets or investments located in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), although my clients and instructing counsel are not necessarily based in the region. The petroleum industry and real estate development drive larger economies within the GCC. As a result, disputes in these sectors are not uncommon. I also frequently act in relation to disputes between owners and operators, in a variety of contexts. Often, such disputes involve one party headquartered outside of the GCC.
In assessing damages, an understanding of the wider economic context applicable to an asset or business can be important. As a result, I value being based in the UAE and retaining a geographic focus in my work.
How do you seek to maintain relevant and specific knowledge in relation to the diverse range of cases you work on?
As noted above, in general terms I think it is helpful that my practice is quite focused geographically. However, the nature of my work is that the questions I am asked to answer are typically unstructured, and emanate from specific circumstances. Consequently, the application of technical skills alone is not enough to provide a solution. It is equally important to understand and analyse relevant facts. This is only achieved through diligent work.
How frequently do you encounter experts operating in other disciplines and how do you seek to coordinate an effective strategy when working with them?
It is very common to work alongside experts in other disciplines, or for experts in other disciplines to be instructed by opposing counsel. These may be industry experts who are able to provide specific insight on market conditions, or technical experts who provide evidence on other specific issues. In the GCC many disputes revolve around construction or property development projects. In these cases quantity surveyors or civil engineers are often involved.
I imagine that the involvement of experts across different disciplines provides certain challenges to counsel, for example in terms of ensuring that instructions are consistent and information is shared appropriately. However, in my experience counsel are accustomed to dealing with these issues, which are relatively commonplace in international arbitration disputes.
Where do you think expert witnesses’ work is headed in the future?
Over the course of my career it is certainly the case that experts have increasingly developed specialisms within their field. I suspect this is a trend that will continue over time. The volume of data involved in cases has also increased. We have as a result developed processes and tools to analyse larger data sets. I can see that this development will also persist.
I also think that, at some point, the format of expert reports will evolve. In today’s society, consumers are accustomed to absorbing information through increasingly sophisticated digital media. As a result, new communication tools and formats are increasingly available. As these become established I am sure that experts will seek to harness them, as a key challenge for our profession is the communication of complex analysis and conclusions in a manner that can be easily understood.
Additionally, it is in my view inevitable that the practical challenges posed by the current spread of covid-19 will lead to the more widespread use of virtual hearings, and/or testimony by video. My experience of such proceedings to date has been positive.
What do you most enjoy about working in dispute resolution?
There are many things that 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 very best. I very much value working in that environment.
"Steve is very knowledgeable and confident in the witness box"
"He's really impressive"
"We recommend him as a great addition to any team - his experience gives him invaluable insights into strategy"
Steve has over 16 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, ICSID, UNCITRAL, 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.