How does one put a value on services rendered that have unjustly enriched another party? The UK Supreme Court wrestles with the issue in Benedetti v Sawiris,  UKSC 50, with Lord Neuberger noting the equation of price with value has 'echoes of Oscar Wilde's cynic'. The dispute arose from brokerage services performed by Benedetti in connection with the takeover of Wind, a telecommunications company. Benedetti claimed that he was owed €87 million for the services (nice work if you can get it) but was paid only €67 million (Sawiris and other parties in the acquisition group apparently having had concerns that Benedetti would misappropriate funds destined for others). Benedetti brought numerous claims against Sawiris and other parties, including breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, unconscionable receipt, quantum meruit and unjust enrichment.
All but the last failed at trial, where Benedetti was awarded the €75 million that Sawiris et al. had offered at one point. The Court of Appeal disagreed: not all of the defendants had been unjustly enriched, and the liability of the remaining two to Benedetti was only €14.5 million, based on the conclusion that Benedetti had been paid for 60% of the services rendered. Benedetti appealed, holding out for either the original €87 million or the €75 million that had been on the table. Sawiris countered that Benedetti was entitled to nothing, as he had been paid in full for his efforts. Benedetti's appeal failed in the UKSC, while the cross-appeal of Sawiris was successful.
In the UKSC, there was agreement as to the result but not on how to get there. Lord Clarke, giving the leading judgment, held that the value of the benefit unjustly received by a defendant for services rendered will normally be the market value of the services. This value may depend on the personal characteristics of the defendant, including his or her buying power in the marketplace -- and, for Lord Clarke, that value (and the claimant's entitlement) may be reduced where the defendant subjectively valued the services at less than their market value. Lord Reed took issue with that last point, suggesting that 'subjective devaluation' should not factor into the equation, while Lord Neuberger declined to express a view one way or the other. All agreed, however, that, 'save perhaps in exceptional circumstances', the claimant's award is not to be increased because he or she placed a higher value on the services at issue than they were worth in the marketplace. The 'exceptional circumstances' under which this kind of 'subjective revaluation' might occur are not fleshed out. On the facts of the case, the trial judge's conclusion that €67 million represented only 60% of Benedetti's entitlement was inconsistent with the evidence, and Court of Appeal's award of €14.5 million was simply wrong. Benedetti was fully compensated by the payment of €67 million.