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Practice Summary

Michael Watkins’ practice covers the broad spectrum of company and commercial work in litigation, international arbitration, expert determination and ADR. He has experience in heavy and complex, high value claims (working as part of a larger team), as well as advising and appearing in smaller cases as sole counsel, before the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal, the High Court and various County Courts. He also has significant experience of international arbitrations under the LCIA, ICC and UNCITRAL rules.

Michael is recommended by legal directories as a leading junior in commercial litigation and the energy sector (Chambers UK and Legal 500). In 2013 he was identified by Legal Week as a “Star of the Bar”, in an article profiling highly rated juniors under ten years call. Recent directory recommendations include the following:

Chambers UK 2021 (Commercial Dispute Resolution) "A very clever lawyer who is very strategic and has incredibly good judgement." "He is an easygoing, excellent lawyer who is fully committed to his case."

Legal 500 (Commercial Litigation) 2020 "Fantastic on the law, has great judgement, deeply commercial and easy to work with. He is a star."

Legal 500 (Energy) 2020 "Careful, competent and reliable, he is a deep thinker who is strong on technical legal arguments."

Legal Week’s 2013 “Stars at the Bar” (profiling highly rated barristers under ten years call):

“A magic circle partner says he is “truly clever, incisive, drafts very well and has a natural feel for crafting witness examinations and cross examinations”, but is also “highly collaborative and user-friendly”. Another praises his “willingness to work closely with instructing solicitors as part of a combined team”.

“One silk says Watkins “has great judgment beyond his years, incredible perseverance and a fluid clear writing style”. He is not easily fazed, either, handling “difficult and at times pressured cases”, notes one lawyer, before adding that Watkins retains “a great sense of humour and fun throughout, as well as doing his ‘day job’”.

Recent cases include:

  • Acting (with Laurence Rabinowitz QC and Richard Mott) for the Defendants to a claim for enforcement of an equity commitment letter arising out of the non-completion of a contract to acquire a hotel in Gran Canaria. The case gives rise (amongst other things) to questions as to the implications for the underlying contract of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the Spanish tourist sector. The case has also given rise to interlocutory disputes about expedition and whether the proceedings should be stayed in favour of the Spanish Courts: Lopesan Touristik SA v Apollo European Principal Finance Fund III (Dollar A) L.P and others [2020] EWHC 2642 (Comm) (Foxton J)
  • Acting (with Laurence Rabinowitz QC, David Mumford QC, Conall Patton QC and Henry Hoskins) for Tesco plc defending high-profile claims against Tesco by certain shareholders seeking damages under schedule 10A of FSMA 2000 arising out of the publication by Tesco in September 2014 of a historic profit overstatement. The litigation gave rise to a number of interlocutory judgments: SL Claimants and MLB Claimants v. Tesco plc [2020] EWHC 2106 (Ch); [2019] EWHC 3312 (Ch); [2019] EWHC 3315 (Ch); [2019] EWHC 2858 (Ch); and [2019] EWHC 109 (Ch).
  • Acting (with Mark Howard QC, Richard Gillis QC and Alex Polley) for the Respondents in a confidential ICC arbitration involving claims for breach of an accounting warranty and deceit arising out of the sale of a business to a private equity firm.
  • Acting (with Peter Oldham QC and Cristopher Knight) for the Governing Body of Christ the King College on an appeal to the Court of Appeal arising out of the judgment of Foxton J concerning the defences of counter restitution and change of position to unjust enrichment claims arising out of benefits conferred pursuant to an ultra vires contract: School Facility Management Ltd (and others) v Governing Body of Christ the King College [2020] EWHC 1118 (Comm and [2020] EWHC 1477 (Comm).
  • Acting (with David Wolfson QC) for Ashurst LLP defending a claim for breach of warranty, misrepresentation and breach of trust arising out of a Solicitor’s Confirmation letter given by Ashurst to the seller of certain loans and associated security. The litigation gave rise to an interlocutory dispute about privilege which was resolved in Ashurst’s favour at first instance and on appeal to the Court of Appeal: Raiffeisen Bank International AG v. Asia Coal Energy Ventures Ltd & Ashurst LLP [2019] EWHC 3 (Comm) (Moulder J) and [2020] EWCA Civ 11 (Lewison, Males and Baker LJJ). The claim was dismissed at trial (David Wolfson QC and Adam Rushworth acting for Ashurst): [2020] EWHC 2606 (Comm) (Moulder J).
  • Acting (as sole counsel) for E.ON UK Energy Services Ltd defending a claim for breach of contract arising out of the mismeasurement of electricity supplied to a bakery in Manchester giving rise to contested applications for reverse summary judgment and a subsequent appeal: Fine Lady Bakeries Limited v. EDF Energy Customers Ltd & E.ON UK Energy Services Ltd [2020] EWHC 87 (QB).

Historically, Michael has appeared and/or advised in a number of market-leading cases, including: Singulars Holdings Ltd v. Daiwa Capital Markets Europe Ltd [2019] UKSC 50 (Supreme Court proceedings about the attribution of fraud to a one man company); The Dow Chemical Co v. Petrochemical Industries Co KSC [2012] EWHC 2739 (Comm) (major ICC arbitration proceedings arising out of a USD multi- billion JV between two petrochemical companies and in the subsequent s68 challenge before the Commercial Court); Re: Klöckner Pentaplast Group (a market-leading (€1.2 billion) restructuring in which a consortium of junior lenders successfully implemented a restructuring in the face of opposition from senior lenders); Price Review Arbitrations (for an international energy major in parallel USD billion price review arbitrations); and London Underground Ltd v. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer & Anr (for D1, in (ultimately settled) professional negligence proceedings arising out of the public private partnership for the London Underground).

Michael has taught a variety of private and commercial law courses alongside his full-time practice, including: the Law of Contract at King’s College London (2008-9); Restitution of Unjust Enrichment (BCL) at Oxford University (2011-2014); Commercial Law at University College London (2014-2015); and The Law of Unjust Enrichment at UCL (2015-2018).  He is a contributor to the Journal of International Banking & Financial Law.

Mike speaks reasonably fluent French and has a working knowledge of Spanish.