The UK is to introduce a new means of resolving high value or complex financial disputes, to be known as the Financial List. This will be a specialist list for the following types of claims:
- Financial claims of £50 million or more
- Cases that raise issues of general importance to domestic and international financial markets (defined as the equity, derivatives, FX and commodities markets)
The Financial List will also include an innovative test case procedure for the resolution of market issues with no previous authoritative English precedent.
How will the Financial List work?
The new Financial List was announced by Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas on 8 July 2015, who described it as setting an “international benchmark”. Assuming the proposals in the consultation paper are adopted, proceedings in the Financial List can be commenced in either the Commercial Court or the Chancery Division. Wherever the proceedings are lodged, they will be dealt with by a docketed single judge, who will manage the case all the way through to enforcement if necessary. It is currently expected that there will be ten experienced business judges allocated to the Financial List, five from each of the Chancery Division and the Commercial Court. These judges will undergo specific market development training.
As noted above, provision also has been made for a new test case procedure. This would be a pilot scheme in the first instance, and its key features would be:
- A “qualifying claim” can be brought by parties with opposing interests without the need for there to be an actual dispute between those parties
- A “qualifying claim” is defined as a claim that raises market issues in relation to which immediately relevant authoritative English law guidance is needed
- Relevant trade bodies or associations may join as a party or otherwise be represented
- The general rule is that there will be no order as to costs
What are the implications of the new Financial List?
This is clearly a move by the English courts to seek to maintain London’s status as a venue for resolution of international, complex financial disputes. In particular, the Financial List appears designed to achieve a number of aims. It seeks to capitalise upon one of the perceived strengths of the English court system, namely the quality of the judiciary, by creating a specialist corpus of judges to hear complex financial matters. Further, by the new test case procedure, the new Financial List allows matters to be expedited, and each party will, as a rule, bear their own costs, allowing them to manage their costs exposure more efficiently. The English courts, which are in a competitive marketplace for dispute resolution venues, will see this as a welcome innovation and will hope that potential litigants do likewise.