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Senior UK Judges Meet To Discuss Reforms In Wake Of BCCI Case

by Robin Pilgrim, LawAndTax-News.com, London

02 November 2006


A high level group of no less than a hundred senior judges, lawyers and QCs on Monday attended an invitation-only meeting to discuss putting in place legal reforms aimed at preventing a repeat of long-running court battles such as that between BCCI and the Bank of England, which collapsed last year.

Accounting firm Deloitte, which acted as liquidator for BCCI, launched the lawsuit against the central bank, which was the UK's financial regulator at the time of the collapse, in an attempt to secure some form of compensation for the bank's 6,000 British depositors.

The liquidator claimed that the Bank of England consistently ignored wrongdoing at BCCI, contributing to the US$10 billion in debt that it left when it collapsed.

One of the main charges levelled by Deloitte was the fact that the Bank of England knew that BCCI's main place of business was London (despite its being registered in Luxembourg), and that armed with that knowledge, the central bank should have been more vigilant in its regulation of BCCI.

Deloitte finally threw in the towel in November 2005, unconditionally withdrawing the case after a 12 year battle.

In his written judgement, presiding judge, Mr Justice Tomlinson stated at the time that:

"I warned the lord chief justice that I feared the case had the capacity to damage the reputation of our legal system", and supported an assertion made by the Bank of England that the liquidator was "prepared to make wild fanciful allegations, which were plainly unsupported by and/or inconsistent with the documents and, when confronted by the hopelessness of an allegation, twisted and turned so as to preserve the allegation or the ability to put it to cross-examination".

The creation of a cross-profession group tasked with proposing reforms to prevent a re-run of the BCCI case was agreed at the summit on Monday, and a further meeting of senior Commercial Court judges took place on Wednesday to appoint the working group's members.

Issues likely to receive scrutiny by the body are said to include restricting the length of witness statements, the US-style assignation of a single judge to supervise a case throughout its time in the courts, and the introduction of stricter timetables for litigation.


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