The English judiciary’s commitment to maintaining the English courts as preeminent in international financial dispute resolution has been further demonstrated this year by the introduction of a specialist financial court, which will begin to operate on 1 October 2015. Competition from other financial dispute resolution centres, including those in Dubai and Singapore, has no doubt added to the impetus for the English courts to adapt in response to ever-changing financial markets.

The Lord Chief Justice has explained that the objective of the new “Financial List” is to provide a “faster, more efficient and economical forum” for resolving financial disputes. The Financial List will offer a specialist court for complex financial litigation with the benefit of building upon the already well-established procedures of the English High Court. Since these procedures are familiar to its practitioners, this will reduce the time, effort and cost required for implementation.

A claim will qualify to be heard under the Financial List if it meets one or more of the following criteria:

  • It is related to the financial markets and has a value of more than £50million or equivalent.
  • It requires particular expertise in the financial markets.
  • It raises issues of general importance to the financial markets.

The intention is to draw from the courts’ existing significant financial expertise in order to both handle cases more efficiently and provide the technical expertise that sophisticated international litigants expect and require. Each claim will therefore be allocated a judge nominated from either the Chancery Division or Commercial Court and who is authorised to try Financial List claims. The allocated judge will then preside over the case from the commencement of proceedings until enforcement. This approach seeks to ensure consistency and efficient case management.

Proceedings may be commenced in the Financial List by parties lodging claims in either the Commercial Court or the Chancery Division. A new CPR rule will come into force on 1 October 2015 with practice directions and a new guide. Procedures will broadly follow those in the Commercial Court with the intention that no new learning process will be required. From a practical point of view, it has also been proposed that new court forms will be available online.

Pilot test case scheme

In addition to hearing complex high-value financial disputes, the Financial List will hear market test cases under a two year pilot scheme that will also run from 1 October 2015. The draft practice direction on test cases specifies that a qualifying claim will be one that raises market issues in which “immediately relevant authoritative English law guidance is needed.”

Claims may be brought by market participants with opposing interests and by mutual agreement, while relevant trade bodies or associations may be joined into proceedings. A claim can be heard without the existence of an actual dispute between the parties. The general rule will be that each party will bear its own costs.

These initiatives demonstrate the English judiciary’s determination that the English courts remain at the forefront of international financial dispute resolution. The Financial List will provide a specialist forum for high-value, complex financial litigation overseen by experienced judges and ensuring consistency of decision making from a case’s inception through to enforcement, if necessary. Making available a market test case procedure to provide English law guidance illustrates an intent to meet business needs and ensure robust guidance in dynamic international financial markets.