Plans have been announced for a new, specialist ‘Financial List’, which will hear significant claims relating to financial markets. The intention behind the new List is to provide a faster, more efficient and more economical forum for financial dispute resolution and to promote London as a venue for international disputes in the financial services sector.
Types of claim to be heard
The Financial List will hear finance claims either over £50 million in value or which raise issues of general importance to the financial markets (equity, derivatives, FX and commodities markets). The list is a joint initiative between two divisions of the High Court: the Chancery Division and the Commercial Court (part of the Queen’s Bench Division). Under plans previously put to consultation, claims to be assigned to the Financial List could be started in either the Chancery Division or the Commercial Court and would be assigned to one specialist judge from commencement of proceedings through to full trial and enforcement (if required).
New test case procedure
The Financial List will also be used for an innovative new test case procedure, which is designed to provide swift and authoritative English law guidance on an issue of general importance to the markets. Under proposals, a ‘qualifying claim’ could be brought by parties with opposing interests, without the need for any actual dispute to have arisen between them. Other interested parties, such as trade bodies or associations, could be joined as parties or otherwise represented. Importantly, the proposed general rule is that the parties involved in a test case will bear their own costs, as otherwise bodies may be discouraged from bringing or joining proceedings for fear of having to bear the costs of others if the Court disagrees with them.
The specialist expertise of judges will be key to the success of the Financial List. The pool of judges will be drawn from both the Chancery Division and the Commercial Court and will receive specialist sector training. Depending on the nature of the dispute, parties may look to have a case assigned to a judge drawn from either of these divisions.
The benefits of greater flexibility and access to specialist judges will be welcomed when it comes to resolving often highly complex issues relating to financial markets. The Lord Chief Justice, announcing the plans on 8 July 2015, commented that he expects the new Financial List to set “an international benchmark.” The hope is that “setting the bar high here will help to raise the bar high across the world.” As a more immediate aim, in the face of competition from other international centres including New York and Singapore, this initiative is aimed at bolstering London’s offering as a venue of choice for high-profile and high-value international disputes.