Harris harneys

The judge certainly did.

Harneys gave a client "plainly wrong" advice which "served only to generate fees" for the offshore firm, a judge has said.

Justice Jonathan Harris made the highly critical findings as he ruled on the winding up of an energy company, China Oil Gangran Energy Group Holding Limited, in the Hong Kong High Court.

Judge Harris said restructuring the company's Hong Kong-governed debt by establishing a scheme of arrangement in the Cayman Islands had "no utility", but that Harneys "advised the opposite".

Chai Ridgers, Harneys' Head of Restructuring in Asia, had told the liquidators that “Pursuing parallel schemes of arrangement in both Hong Kong and the Cayman Islands...remains favourable" in an email which the judge said "makes little sense" and "certainly does not reconcile the inconsistency in Harneys' advice".

Judge Harris said recommending a Cayman Islands scheme was "plainly wrong" and suggested the only effect of doing so was to rack up fees for the firm.

"It is difficult not to conclude that in framing his advice Mr Ridgers’s aim was to persuade [the liquidators] that it was necessary to instruct his firm to cause a scheme to be introduced in the Cayman Islands", said the judge, and was "not to provide an accurate answer to the question on which Harneys’ advice had been sought".

"In my view a scheme in the Cayman Islands was plainly not necessary in the present case and served only to generate fees for Harneys and reduce the amount available for Scheme Creditors", he ruled.

Phillip Kite, Co-head of Harneys Global Litigation, Insolvency and Restructuring team, told RollOnFriday, "While we note the Learned Judge’s opinion, we respectfully disagree with a number of points raised in his findings". 

"We agree that parallel schemes of arrangement should only be pursued where they are necessary, and maintain that such a scheme was required in this matter. As such, we stand by the advice provided at the time, which was based on established case law, and our fees were commensurate with that advice”, said Kite.

Harneys, which has delighted readers with its branded colouring book and its Managing Partner Ian Mann's conviction for misconduct, has not been resting on its ASS unit in the wake of its court drubbing.

This week Mann and Ridgers "decided to release" a new "position paper" on, wait for it, "the Harneys 'Schemario Rules'".

"What are Schemarios?" they ask.

According to Mann and Ridgers, "Schemarios are 'scheme-scenarios' which form governing rules to establish when a parallel scheme of arrangement is necessary".

Readers might have assumed that Harneys was the one firm which should not be holding itself out as an expert on schemes of arrangement right now, but Mann and Ridger venture that "the Schemarios will be helpful to practitioners of cross-border restructuring around the world".

Especially as, they say, "knowing when to initiate a parallel scheme of arrangement has become a hot topic of late" - although modesty prevented them from spelling out why that might be.

Tip Off ROF


Anon 11 June 21 10:25

In light of this ruling, Harneys should self-report to the SRA. Philip Kite is an English solicitor and the London office, where he is based, is an SRA-regulated entity. It is also likely that many of the other lawyers working on this matter are also English solicitors.

Pedant 11 June 21 11:14

The judge's title is "Mr Justice Jonathan Harris", not "Justice Jonathan Harris" or "Judge Harris", both of which are Americanisms.

Offshore firms 11 June 21 11:41

I'm told that:

1. Harneys has mixed reputation.

2. Maples and Walkers are the 'Offshore Magic Circle'.

3. Other firms are variable.

To what extent is that true, and any advice about other firms (from the perspective of someone looking to move offshore next year)? 

Casual bystander 11 June 21 11:45

Good to see that Chai Ridgers is taking his role as head of the ASS unit seriously by making a total ass of himself.  

Comment 11 June 21 12:29

Harneys continues to do itself, and the wider offshore legal market, no favours at all. Such behaviour confirms what everyone suspects, which is that offshore lawyers are dodgy second-raters.

Anon 11 June 21 12:35

11 June 21 11:41: Offshore firms are all equally mediocre, because they are packed with people who have failed in their home jurisdictions. If you have any ambition, or talent, you remain onshore. Or face a life where everyone looks down on you and you spend your days as a post box for onshore lawyers. There is no dignity in that.

Anonymous 11 June 21 12:40

Maples number 1.

Walkers number 2.

Others of varying quality depending on office - i.e. Carey for Jersey, Harneys for BVI, Appleby for Bermuda ...

Anonymous 11 June 21 13:12

11 June 21 11:41: Offshore firms are all equally mediocre, because they are packed with people who have failed in their home jurisdictions. If you have any ambition, or talent, you remain onshore. Or face a life where everyone looks down on you and you spend your days as a post box for onshore lawyers. There is no dignity in that.

Says the man who got bullied at school, university and the LPC:

This attitude can only stem from one thing - jealousy. The fact that you hold this view is evidence of the fact that you rarely deal with offshore firms (probably a mediocre lawyer in a mediocre firm scrapping around for mediocre work). 

Anon 11 June 21 13:32

Anonymous 11 June 21 13:12: that attitude can indeed only stem from one thing - an accurate knowledge of the legal market.

Who wakes up one morning and thinks, "Things are going so well. I've got a good chance of Silk/I'm on the partnership track. I know, I'll throw that all away and become a post box for onshore law firms!"

The reality is that offshore is for those whose careers have not worked out. 

Rank 11 June 21 14:51

Offshore firms 11 June 21 11:41: Ranking seems an odd thing to ask for. It is like being asked to rank Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan as holiday destinations. I mean, you could rank them relative to each other, but what would be the point?

Anonymous 11 June 21 15:50

11 June 21 11:41: Offshore firms are all equally mediocre, because they are packed with people who have failed in their home jurisdictions. If you have any ambition, or talent, you remain onshore. Or face a life where everyone looks down on you and you spend your days as a post box for onshore lawyers. There is no dignity in that.

The above is an example of projection. 

Lawyer with integrity 11 June 21 15:53

This is disgraceful. There should be automatic sanctions for a firm which engages in conduct of this kind as ruled by a court

BVI lawyer 11 June 21 16:19

Yes, heading offshore to non-stop sunshine, 28c every day, beautiful beaches and better working hours was the worst decision of my life...

All too common 11 June 21 16:38

The only unusual thing about this is that the judge called them out on it. Anyone who has dealt with US law firms will have realized that the endless concalls attended by 5-10 lawyers from one firm asking each other's opinion about relatively straightforward issues to "add value" is not being done for the client's benefit. 

Anonymous 11 June 21 17:08

"The above is an example of projection"

Yes. Projecting some much needed reality onto the situation.

Anonymous 11 June 21 17:38

"Yes. Projecting some much needed reality onto the situation."

Consider whether your attempts to affirm your own life choices by reference to simplistic negative assumptions about others' is the product of a contented person. 

Anonymous 12 June 21 07:42

If offshore lawyers are merely a postbox for their onshore counterparts, then presumably the decision here to promote parallel schemes was ultimately that of the onshore lawyers who were advising the JPLs.  Why isn’t their role in this debacle being critiqued?  The Harneys advice aside, competent onshore lawyers would have told the JPLs there was no need to scheme in Cayman in the absence of debt outside of Hong Kong. A bit of offshore bashing is always fun, but the reality is there are some very good offshore lawyers – particularly those based in Hong Kong – and there are also some pretty average ones.  But the same can be said of any onshore jurisdiction.

Anon 12 June 21 13:05

Anonymous 12 June 21 07:42: offshore lawyers are all mediocre (that’s why they are offshore) but some are indeed less bad than others. I have found that those in Hong Kong, or indeed anywhere other than in Cayman or BVI, are the worst. 

Anthony Travers OBE 12 June 21 16:22

Some particularly inept commentary here.  Of course there are first class lawyers offshore. But you have to know how to find them 

Barrister 12 June 21 18:51

The only thing worse than lawyers at offshore firms are London silks and chambers who have to have an offshore practice in order to survive in commercial practice areas. All the downsides of offshore law (being looked down upon by other lawyers) with none of the upside (not having to pay tax). 

anon-y-mous 13 June 21 11:05

Anon 11 June 21 12:35 When you fail to crack the nod for partnership in the City come join the rest of us in the tax havens instead of sobbing into your warm pint. 

You may look down on us, but we don't care because living offshore (a) allows you to continue your career in a meaningful way, (b) pays a metric f*** ton, (c) gives you a work life balance that a high street solicitor in the Shetlands would be envious of and (d) gives you a balanced world view which you clearly don't get when you spend your days running round the City pretending you are master of the universe.

Anon 14 June 21 09:45

anon-y-mous 13 June 21 11:05: you do care that we look down on you - otherwise, you wouldn't write such chippy nonsense.

Anonymous 14 June 21 16:55

We are all merely service providers. If you love it then fine, stay onshore. If you tolerate it then why not tolerate with a tropical backdrop. 

Bar leaver 15 June 21 13:45

I got a call from a recruitment agent with a job offshore, I looked around me and thought ‘Do I really want to become and turn into these people around me in chambers?’ The answer was no and offshore I went. If it comes to a choice of being looked down upon or turning into a fawning, oleaginous, grasping, sycophant, I’ll choose being looked down upon by fawning, oleaginous, grasping, sycophants.

City 15 June 21 17:00

The very worst offshore lawyers are those who headed there in the 1970s and 1980s. In that era, you were guaranteed partnership in London if you had even an ounce of ability. 

Bar 15 June 21 21:06

Bar leaver 15 June 21 13:45: you left the Bar because your career did not develop. The offshore world is full of failed barristers.

Anon 15 June 21 21:08

City 15 June 21 17:00: there are some absolute shockers who went in the 1990s, too. Zero ability.

Offshore tyrant 16 June 21 09:22

City 15 June 21 17:00: Going by that logic, wouldn't that make the first movers to offshore in the 70s and 80s all the more impressive?

They were bold enough to leave a cushy and guaranteed partnership ladder to start a practice from scratch without all the advantages of an established firm platform and client base. 

City 16 June 21 11:14

Offshore tyrant 16 June 21 09:22: no, by that logic, it would make the first movers offshore in the 70s and 80s the least impressive, as they managed to fail onshore in an era when getting partnership onshore was very easy; in other words, you had to be catastrophically bad to need to head offshore then.

Anonymous 16 June 21 13:36

Who care. All dead in end. You think anyone is gonna remember you at your firm. Soon you’ll be a random name on a file site email glanced at by a trainee or perhaps a robot. 

MagicCircleJane 17 June 21 21:38

Bit harsh to suggest all failed lawyers go offshore when some pivot to run legal news websites. 

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