Senior partner Mark Humphries appeared in The Lawyer Hot 100 for breaking the traditional law firm model with Humphries Kerstetter.
What’s your most vivid memory from being a trainee?
An early morning call to my principal by the RSPCA warning him that a warrant was being issued for my arrest on charges of cruelty to animals. I had been asked to oppose an application by a mortgagor for a second suspension of a warrant of possession of a hotel and had got lucky, flicking through the notes in the Green Book and discovering a jurisdiction argument that prevented the suspension being granted. I then took possession of the hotel on behalf of the private mortgagee, evicted the guests, shut off the services and changed the locks. What I had not realised was that there was a tank of tropical fish somewhere in the hotel and that they needed electricity to survive. Of course the threat of arrest receded when the full facts were revealed.
Who has been the most influential person in your career? Why, and how have they helped you?
Bill Park, former senior litigation partner of Linklaters. As a very junior associate Bill asked me to represent him in court in a case called Haarhaus v Law Debenture arising from his chairing of an important noteholders’ meeting at Wembley. I had arrived at Linklaters a year earlier with a rather unusual experience of articles involving almost daily appearances in courts and tribunals, sometimes with several interim hearings on the same day. After representing Bill in a week-long hearing the judge decided that the case was important enough to give judgment in open court.
This gave rise to a problem because, as a solicitor, I had no rights of audience in open court. The judge’s grant of permission and the subsequent reporting of the case set me on a course that later resulted in my involvement in spearheading the move towards rights of audience for solicitors and a career involving trial and appellate advocacy in the civil courts.
To read the whole article, visit The Lawyer’s website.
Humphries Kerstetter has been instructed by the liquidators of One Blackfriars Limited, the previous developer of the high profile London tower One Blackfriars, in relation to a multi-million pound claim against the former administrators of the company. Counsel are Simon Davenport QC, Tom Poole and Dan Lewis of 3 Hare Court.
The claim relates to the sale of the development site at an alleged undervalue in October 2011 by joint administrators appointed by the principal secured lender, RBS. The site was sold without a valuation on terms which sustained a large loss for the junior secured and unsecured creditors but saw RBS and the syndicate lenders paid out in full.
The substance of the claim is that the defendants, who are insolvency practitioners at accountancy firm BDO, effectively acted as bank receivers rather than administrators pursuing their principal statutory objectives. It is pleaded that, amongst other matters, they acted misfeasantly in engaging CBRE – who had previously advised RBS directly in relation to its wish to dispose of the site – as sole marketing and sale agent.
The site was sold for £77.4m without the benefit of an enhanced planning consent which was advised to be achievable by the company’s planning consultants. Further, the sale contract did not contain any overage provisions or conditionality. Shortly after exchange of contracts CBRE made a revised planning application on behalf of the purchaser, St George, which was granted. 18 months later St George ascribed a value of £232m to the site in its accounts.
The claim is being vigorously defended by insurers for the former administrators. The defendants first brought an application seeking to force early service of the particulars of claim and subsequently opposed the claimants’ application for permission of the court to commence proceedings. In so doing, the defendants took the novel position that an application by licensed insolvency practitioners for permission to bring insolvency proceedings against former officeholders must be supported by expert evidence served at a pre-action stage or it would otherwise amount to an abuse of process. Both applications failed.
The most recent judgment can be found here. The Judge held that the claims had a “proper foundation” and granted permission for them to proceed to trial. The judgment clarifies the law in relation to the commencement of insolvency proceedings by officeholders and the attendant evidential requirement. A fuller analysis of the judgment can be found here.
HK is pleased to have been nominated for Boutique Firm of the Year at The Lawyer awards, to be held in late June 2018. This is the third consecutive year that the firm has been nominated in this category, reflecting the continued success and growth of the firm in the field of complex commercial disputes.
Humphries Kerstetter is pleased to report that its senior partner, Mark Humphries, has been listed in The Lawyer Magazine’s “Hot 100” 2018. The directory gathers together “the most daring, innovative and creative lawyers” over the past year and states that the firm is “fast-becoming the place with the expertise for specialised big ticket litigation”.
HK LLP will occupy the top two floors of 90 – 94 Fleet Street from 1 March 2018. The new premises are approximately twice the size of HK’s existing Furnival Street offices. The extra space will permit additional and better client facilities and accommodate the firm’s projected expansion to beyond 20 fee earners by the end of the next financial year. The move enables HK’s steady recent growth to continue, whilst the firm remains at the heart of legal London and close to the courts.
Humphries Kerstetter successfully represented Simmons & Simmons LLP in proceedings in the Commercial Court in London in which the court gave summary judgment in favour of Simmons & Simmons on a claim made against it for declaratory relief. This was an unusual case where a firm of solicitors was joined as a defendant to proceedings against its client arising from its representation of that client. See  EWHC 3097 (Comm).
Humphries Kerstetter has successfully settled a funded claim on behalf of 48 investors against the law firm Locke Lord (UK) LLP on confidential terms. The claims were primarily for damages for fraudulent misrepresentation in connection with a private placement of shares which was alleged to be a Ponzi scheme. Locke Lord (UK) LLP has recently been fined £500,000 by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, the largest fine ever issued at tribunal.
Humphries Kerstetter has been recommended in the Legal 500 2017 as a “first class, niche practice with enviable, high-quality City work”. Mark Humphries provides “excellent, strategic advice” and Kristopher Kerstetter and Christopher Braithwaite are also highly rated.
Humphries Kerstetter has been instructed by a number of leading retailers and local authorities, including a major supermarket, in a new round of competition law claims against Visa and Mastercard. The claims, which are worth in excess of £350m, relate to so-called “interchange” fees levied by Visa and Mastercard over which merchants have no control. Humphries Kerstetter has significant experience in interchange litigation and has previously been instructed by Tesco and WH Smith. The claims are substantially different to those previously advanced by other claimants and are being funded by Therium Capital Management, with whom Humphries Kerstetter is working on a portfolio of cases.
Immunotherapy research is a form of alternative cancer treatment that is little known in the UK but has a good track record in other countries. On 18 March 2017 Mark Humphries will be walking from Porto to Sanitago de Compostela covering a distance of 260km in memory of his late wife Anne Humphries and with a view to raising funds for immunotherapy research in the UK. Donating to the research in this field could improve survival rates, reverse cancers and save lives. We would greatly appreciate any contributions to this cause.
Please see the attached for further details.
Following the 2015 settlement of Tesco’s interchange claims against MasterCard, Humphries Kerstetter has settled Tesco’s interchange claims against Visa. The firm continues to act for WH Smith and a number of other companies making claims for allegedly unlawful overcharges of interchange fees in breach of competition law.
Mark Humphries comments on the Centre for Policy Studies report on the cost of civil and commercial litigation. See his commentary here.
Humphries Kerstetter is acting in two of the Top 20 cases for size and impact in the English High Court selected by The Lawyer magazine. Both the Interchange litigation in which Humphries Kerstetter is acting for Tesco Stores Limited and WH Smith group and the professional negligence action in which Humphries Kerstetter is acting for Khanty-Mansiysk Recoveries Limited against Forsters LLP were selected by The Lawyer for inclusion in the list. The Lawyer said: “This is going to be a bumper year for the UK disputes market, with the High Court gearing up to host some of the most high-value and headline-grabbing litigation matters in a decade“.
Humphries Kerstetter is acting for WH Smith High Street Limited and other WH Smith companies in connection with substantial claims against MasterCard and Visa in the interchange fee litigation in which the firm also acts for Tesco Stores Limited and other Tesco group companies.
Humphries Kerstetter is acting for Khanty-Mansiysk Recoveries Limited in a professional negligence claim against Forsters LLP claiming damages in excess of £70 million.
Mark Humphries has been named in the Modern Law Awards shortlist in the Lawyer of the Year category, the results of which are to be announced at a ceremony on 19 November 2015.
Humphries Kerstetter LLP, acting for Old Hunstanston Parish Council in an application under section 288 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, obtained the quashing of the decision of the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government granting planning permission for an affordable housing development. Lang J refused permission to appeal.
Old Hunstanton Parish Council -v- Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and others  EWHC 1958 (Admin).
Humphries Kerstetter LLP has settled the claims brought by Tesco Stores and other Tesco group companies against MasterCard in the bank interchange fee litigation. The firm continues to represent the UK’s largest retailer in ongoing claims against Visa.
Humphries Kerstetter LLP has been included in The Lawyer’s short list for this year’s Boutique Firm of the Year – City Award, the results of which are to be announced at the awards ceremony on 23 June 2015.
Humphries Kerstetter LLP defeated a summary judgment application by MasterCard in the ongoing banking interchange fees litigation.
Tesco Stores Ltd and others -v- MasterCard Inc. and others  EWHC 1145 (Ch).
Mark Humphries of Humphries Kerstetter LLP received the Highly Commended Award for Solicitor Advocate of the Year at The Law Society’s Excellence Awards 2014.