Who's suing who

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The Independent Online
Cherie Booth QC, wife of the Prime Minister, is set to represent over 200 former employees of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) who are being sued by the liqudiators of the crashed bank for over pounds 30 million.

October has been inked in for the court hearings, although nothing has been confirmed yet.

Mr Justice Lightman was appointed by the Vice Chancellor before Christmas to clear up legal claims relating to staff loans and mortgages which the former employees took out before regulators closed the bank down in 1991.

Tony Blair's wife will be assisted by two other barristers, Isaac Jacob and Ajmalul Hossain, all of whom hail from different chambers.

Ms Booth specialises in all aspects of employment law including trade union rights and discrimination law. Her chambers are at 4-5 Gray's Inn Square,with Miss Elizabeth Appleby QC and the Honourable Michael Beloff QC.

She was also the Lawyer magazine "Legal Personality of thee Year 1997", and lives in Downing Street.

Mr Justice Lightman has a reputation for being businesslike and efficient, and lawyers involved in the case are looking forward to an early resolution.

The liquidation of the bank, which opeated in over 60 countries, has probably been the most complicated ever. Liquidators Deloitte and Touche, led by partner Chris Morris, are also suing BCCI's former auditors Price Waterhouse, and the Bank of England, one of three regulatrs of BCCI.

The ex-employees, who are all being provided with legal aid, are being represented by seventeen different firms of solicitors. Leading the case will be Beale & Co, with partner Anthony Smith and his assistant Kim Whaley. Beale will represent around 80 ex-employees, as will Lucas Baron Jacobs. Cawdrey Kaye Fireman will deal with another score of cases, while many individuals have hired their own firms.

The liquidators are using law firm Lovell White Durrant, and will be represented in court by Richard Sheldon QC.

Considering the complications of the case, it is anyone's guess whether this seven-year old case will finally reach court this year.

The Investors' Compensation Scheme (ICS) and two investors' groups are seeking over pounds 40m in damages from the West Bromwich Building Society (WBBS) in a case which begins in court on Monday 9ths February.

The case revolves around the sale of Home Income Plans by a firm of Indepedent Financial Advisers called Fisher Prew Smith, which went into liquidation in 1991. Many of the plans were financed via WBBS.

Mr Justice Evan-Lombe will hear opening speeches, then adjourn for a fortnight as he has a sabbatical. The ICS is joined by two sets of investors, titled collectively "Alford" and "Armitage", representing around 380 individual investors covering over 200 mortgages.

The case involves Fisher Prew Smith, a firm of independent financial advisers registered under Fimbra, the regulator under the Financial Services Act 1986.

FPS sold around 700 Home Income Plans (HIPs), mostly through the WBBS. The HIPs involved the investors taking out a mortgage with the WBBS. Part of the mortgage proceeds would provide a lump sum which the investors could spend as they wished. The rest of the money was invested.

In September 1991 Ernst & Young were sent in as liquidators of FPS. The ICS refunded the clients of FPS. Investors were still left with mortgage interest to pay, and they are now seeking to have these mortgages abolished. There was court hearing last year to decide who had the right to sue the WBBCS over what.

The court must now decide whether the WBBS had notice of what kind of products were being sold to investors, and whether they should have know that the products would produce the losses that they did.

WBBS are claiming that they didn't have such notice, and that they were only providing the financing for the HIPs.

The trial is likely to last around four months.

The Law Society is suing six solicitors who were members of Stephens, a firm shut down by the Solicitors Complaints Bureaux six years ago, for a total of pounds 1,845,294.

The Society's writ has been issued but not served. The money represents sums claimed by over 590 former clients of the firm and paid out by the Solicitors Compensation Fund, an "emanation" of the Law Society, after Stephens was closed.

According to the Society's writ, the former clients of Stephens "suffered loss as a result of defalcations in respect of the firm's client account."

The six former members of Stephens named in the writ are John Harte, David Moss, Lynda Greenwood, Antony MacLaren, Gareth Jones and John Theaker.