Commercial court litigants up by 22%, survey finds

Kazakhstan: Big fan of English courts

London’s commercial courts were busier than ever last year, with a 22% rise in the number of litigants and 7% increase in the number of cases heard, a survey has found.

The survey highlighted strong demand from both Russia, third in terms of the number of litigants, and Kazakhstan, which came second on the list behind the UK with 31 litigants.

Researchers from communications consultancy Portland studied 158 cases heard in the commercial courts between March 2017 and April 2018.

London’s continuing role as a “destination of choice” for commercial litigants was confirmed by a rise of three in the number of countries represented in the past year to 69.

Despite the difficult diplomatic background, Russia featured for the third time in a row as one of the top three users of the commercial courts, alongside the USA, with 20 litigants each.

“City law firms will undoubtedly continue to watch Russia’s relationship with the commercial courts,” researchers said. “Tensions between London and Moscow show little sign of easing.

“Despite this, current high-profile proceedings with Russian litigants look likely to maintain the country’s prominence in the courts for the coming year.”

Germany came in fourth place for the number of litigants with 18, followed by two countries with their own rival commercial courts – the UAE and Singapore.

Researchers said the appearance of Cyprus in seventh place “may be due to the Russian-Cypriot Double Tax Agreement, which grants favourable tax provisions for Russian businesses”.

Panama and India had 12 litigants each in the commercial courts, the Netherlands and Luxembourg 11 and Switzerland and Jersey 10.

The most common pairings in the courts were UK v UK cases (47), Russia v Russia (6), Kazakhstan v Kazakhstan and UAE v Jersey – both with five cases.

Commenting on the “increasingly competitive” market for international litigation, researchers said Singapore in particular had been used as a model for other jurisdictions.

China announced the opening of commercial courts similar to the Singapore International Commercial Court to manage disputes from the Silk Road trade route, part of its “one belt, one road” initiative.

“Dubai meanwhile is well established as a regional trade hub and is attracting an increasing number of international litigants, with a notable focus on Africa.”

Portland said the London courts faced a potential challenge closer to home, from a so-called ‘hard-Brexit’ and the risk that rulings made in London might no longer be enforceable in the European Union.

“This could in turn make London a less attractive litigation destination. Potential litigants may look to other European Union courts for relief.”

Researchers added that there was a record number of litigants from EU countries in the commercial courts last year – 105.

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