Skip to main content

Disputes, litigation and arbitration

Defending against threats, managing the risks.

The world’s biggest businesses trust us to defend them against serious commercial and reputational threats. Why? Because we have advised on some of the most politically sensitive, high-profile disputes in recent history.

We are recognised as a market-leader in financial disputes, competition litigation, global investigations and risk management. Our own hard-won reputation for cross-border work means we regularly support organisations through complex multijurisdictional investigations.

We draw on our extensive experience to find innovative solutions to the most challenging problems, wherever and whenever they occur.

Client successes

Mr Weil was the most senior Swiss banker charged in the US Department of Justice's long-running investigation of Swiss banks and bankers for allegedly assisting US taxpayers in evading billions of dollars of US taxes on assets secretly held in Switzerland.

Freshfields secured a $1.39bn award on behalf of Canadian gold mining company Crystallex International Corporation – one of the largest awards in the ICSID's history.

The tribunal awarded Crystallex damages of $1.202bn plus pre- and post-award interest due to Venezuela’s unfair and inequitable treatment and unlawful expropriation of Crystallex's investment in the Las Cristinas mining project.

We not only defeated Sebastian’s entire $8bn counterclaim, but also obtained a judgment debt and costs award of over $300m ([2013] EWHC 3463 (Comm). 

These proceedings have since resulted in leading judgments on the English court’s jurisdiction to attach conditions to an appeal ([2014] EWCA Civ 1100) and in making one of the largest ever non-party costs orders ([2016] EWCA Civ 23).

Deutsche Bank (the bank) was then granted a Civil Procedure Rules Part 71 order, entitling it to cross-examine Mr Vik about Sebastian’s means of paying the judgment debt. The bank intends to apply for a suspended committal order against Mr Vik for giving untruthful evidence and failing to provide full disclosure of documents and information in that context.

In March 2017, the High Court handed down an important new judgment ([2017] EWHC 459 (Comm)), finding that 'special circumstances' existed to grant Deutsche Bank permission to serve its application for committal by alternative means.

We have also been helping the bank enforce the judgment debt against specific assets of Sebastian both in this jurisdiction and abroad, including proceedings:

  • in Norway aimed at enforcing all of the shares in a Norwegian company, which Mr Vik had first caused to be transferred from Sebastian to himself, and then to his father. The Oslo Enforcement, Bankruptcy and Probate Court handed down judgment in December 2016 dismissing Mr Vik’s father’s complaint, upholding an execution lien in the bank’s favour over the shares and awarding the bank all of its costs claimed; and
  • in England and Wales, by means of the bank’s successful application, in February 2017, for the appointment of receivers by way of equitable execution over interests in certain private equity partnerships that Mr Vik had caused to be transferred from Sebastian to closely connected entities. This receivership appointment was recognised by the Guernsey Court in March 2017.

In January 2015, the High Court decided that Sotheby’s, representing by Freshfields, had won its battle against Lancelot William Thwaytes, the former owner of an alleged ‘Caravaggio’ painting, ‘The Cardsharps’.

Read more about the dispute in our case study.