GRR 100 2021

Collas Crill

Collas Crill

Professional notice

Secured a novel appointment of receivers over a promissory note in Jersey

Head of practice:Stephen Leontsinis, David Harby
Partners in restructuring team:17
Restructuring lawyers in Who’s Who Legal:6
Active cross-border restructuring and insolvency matters:36

History of the practice

A relatively new firm in its current form, Collas Crill was established in 2011 after the merger of Collas Day in Guernsey and Collas Crill in Jersey. The newly merged firm immediately opened an office in Singapore in 2011, followed by one in the Cayman Islands after acquiring Charles Adams Ritchie & Duckworth in 2015 and another in the BVI after acquiring Farara Kerrins in 2016.

But its insolvency and restructuring practice really took off after the Cayman office hired former Kobre & Kim principal Stephen Leontsinis, who now heads Collas Crill’s dispute resolution practice.

The hires of partners Matthew Dors in 2016, Jennifer Colegate in 2017, and Rocco Cecere in 2019, all in Cayman, further bolstered the restructuring and insolvency team.

In December 2020, Collas Crill appointed David Harby as partner and head of its dispute resolution team in the BVI.

Network

The firm’s Guernsey, Jersey and Cayman operations have the largest number of partners in their restructuring practices, supported by a smaller team in the BVI.

Who uses it?

Mostly court-appointed officers such as liquidators, provisional liquidators and receivers – particularly EY and FTI Consulting; but also dissenting creditors and company directors. Among the latter is Arif Naqvi, the former chairman of UAE investment group Abraaj, which was placed into provisional liquidation in June 2018 and then official liquidation in August 2019 after it became embroiled in allegations of misuse of investors’ funds.

Historic track record

As a practice that's still in relative infancy, Collas Crill already has an enviable list of case milestones.

It represented a group of investment vehicles called Highland Capital Management as a dissenting creditor in the Cayman courts during the proposed US$3.6 billion restructuring of submersible oil rig operator Ocean Rig and its subsidiaries in 2017. Leontsinis was lead partner acting for Highland in what was a precedent-setting restructuring through a pre-appointment centre of main interests shift and four inter-conditional schemes – the first Cayman schemes sanctioned for a foreign group. Collas Crill worked with US firm Reid Collins & Tsai and UK counsel to help Highland challenge the schemes in the US; in the Cayman Islands, where it submitted objections about the classification of notes it held; and finally in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, where Ocean Rig’s parent company was initially incorporated. Though unsuccessful in challenging the schemes, Highland persisted and later brought fraudulent conveyance claims against Ocean Rig officers and subsidiaries in the Marshall Islands.

Between 2016 and 2018, Collas Crill also provided advice from a Cayman perspective on share transfers, in specie distributions and provision of legal opinions for DuPont International as part of a US$1.7 billion global restructuring. It later also advised on the appointment of a voluntary liquidator for Dupont’s Cayman Islands subsidiary. 

The firm acted for the EY joint official liquidators of Cayman-registered Caledonian Bank, which sought to recover US$64 million in loans in multiple jurisdictions including the BVI, the Bahamas, South Africa and Switzerland. In 2016, the liquidators applied to the Bahamian Supreme Court for recognition, but failed because Bahamian law states that recognition applies only to “relevant foreign countries” designated by a liquidation rule committee, for which there had never been any supporting legislation. Despite the ruling, the Supreme Court of the Bahamas allowed the liquidators to access funds for its Cayman estate using common law principles.

In the BVI, Collas Crill senior adviser Gerard St Claire Farara QC sat on an insolvency committee set up in 2017 by Chief Justice Dame Janice Pereira, which was charged with making recommendations and implementing the Judicial Insolvency Network’s Guidelines for communication and cooperation between courts.

Leontsinis and Simon Hurry acted as lead counsel to the joint official liquidators of Oprah-IS Fund, a segregated portfolio company that fed the Herald Fund master feeder fund to Bernard L Madoff Investment Securities. Herald and Oprah both suspended their operations after the Madoff fraud’s discovery. From 2017 to 2019, Collas Crill advised the liquidators on the potential recovery of over US$30 million in losses – including against Oprah’s former administrator and custodian – and identified several potential trust claims from subscribers to a segregated portfolio of the fund who were never issued share certificates or included on the shareholder register.

In the Channel Islands, in 2019 a team led by consultant Ian Kirk in Guernsey acted for the liquidators of a local special purpose vehicle that was building a London hotel project in a complex case concerning whether room buyers who had taken out long-term leases on the hotel were secured or unsecured. The result was that the buyers were secured under English law, but unsecured under Guernsey law.

Collas Crill also acted for non-executive directors of bankrupt investment fund Carlyle Capital Corporation in what was the largest trial ever heard in Guernsey, brought by the fund’s joint liquidators against multiple former directors and its investment managers. The US$2 billion trial started in 2016 and lasted six months. In April 2019, the Guernsey Court of Appeal upheld a lower court’s ruling dismissing a host of breach of fiduciary duty and breach of contractual or tortious obligations claims against seven respondents, including the non-executive directors whom Collas Crill represented.

Recent events

Collas Crill promoted Cecere and Colegate from of counsel to partner in2020. Michael Adkins transferred to the BVI from Guernsey in the same year, becoming head of dispute resolutions and managing partner in that office. Harby, formerly of PCB Litigation, then joined the BVI office at the end of that year to take on the role of team lead.

In September 2020, senior associates Rupert Stanning in the Cayman Islands and Christian Hidalgo in the BVI were elevated to of counsel. Daisy Bovingdon and Quentin Bregg, based in the BVI and Guernsey respectively, were promoted from associate to senior associate, while Jersey’s Sam Williams was also promoted to group partner.

Genevieve White joined Collas Crill as an associate from HopgoodGanim in Australia. Other additions to the team include senior associate Charlotte Walker from Campbells, and Dave Marshall from Travers Thorp Alberga. White and Walker are based in Cayman, while Marshall is situated in the BVI.

It was not all hires and promotions in 2020 at Collas Crill, with senior associate Farrah Sbaiti departing the firm for Ogier.

Top cases of the research period

The firm is acting for the joint liquidators appointed to wind down Cayman fund PPVA, which was managed by the collapsed US$1.3 billion hedge fund Platinum Partners. PPVA’s liquidators successfully applied for Chapter 15 recognition in New York in November 2018. At around the same time, they filed a complaint against 90 defendants with claims of fraud and breach of fiduciary duty, seeking damages of US$1 billion; and in June 2019 the liquidators started pursuing a suit in the Delaware Court of Chancery claiming that a transaction at an undervalue had stripped PPVA of its most valuable asset to the tune of US$300 million. All the while, a Collas Crill team led by Dors has been applying to the Grand Court in Cayman on the liquidators’ behalf for permission to enter into funding agreements, start proceedings and enter into settlements with defendants. It has already implemented one deal with 50 purportedly secured creditors holding unenforced claims worth US$70 million plus interest. Platinum Partners’ chief investment officers Mark Nordlicht and David Levy were convicted of securities fraud, securities fraud conspiracy and wire fraud conspiracy in New York in July 2019.

In another matter that is still ongoing, Dors has been advising a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) receiver appointed over unsecured loans provider Direct Lending Investments Group, as well as the voluntary liquidators of one of its offshore feeder funds incorporated in the Cayman Islands. His team is currently helping to coordinate between parallel Cayman and US proceedings: the SEC began proceedings against the Direct Lending group and its principal in March 2019, alleging that he had engaged in a long-term fraud.

Collas Crill is acting as Cayman counsel for sovereign wealth fund GIC Private Ltd (GIC) in the Cayman liquidation proceedings of Chinese investment holding company G3 Exploration (G3E). GIC is the second largest creditor of G3E, with a US$50 million convertible bond The wealth fund has presented a petition for the winding up of G3 Subsidiary Green Dragon Gas (GDG) in order to appoint independent officeholders over it, but a competing creditor has disputed the guarantee and opposed the petition. The matter includes active proceedings in England and the Cayman Islands, as well as litigation in China.

In September 2017, a Jersey court appointed James Toynton and Alan Roberts of Grant Thornton as receivers over a promissory note, a trust asset, in the value of €52 million in order to recover the amounts due under it. The appointment of the receivers was a ground-breaking decision in Jersey and arose out of the long-running litigation involving the Italian Crociani family. Hurry led a Collas Crill team acting on behalf of Roberts and Toynton in a global effort with legal proceedings in Mauritius, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. The matter ended in December 2020 after the Jersey court sanctioned a confidential settlement.

The firm is representing the Bank of New York Mellon in its capacity as Indenture Trustee of convertible notes in the matter of Luckin Coffee. The notes issued by the company amount to US$460 million. Luckin Coffee, which has operations in Hong Kong and mainland China, is currently in provisional liquidation in the Cayman Islands.

About Us

Collas Crill is a top ten offshore law firm with offices in BVI, Cayman, Guernsey, Jersey and London. Our clients include some of the world's leading financial institutions, international businesses, trusts and funds, as well as high-net-worth individuals and families.

Our Bold Approach

Collas Crill’s insolvency and restructuring team work to achieve the most beneficial outcomes for financially distressed companies in need of restructuring and reorganisation. Our team brings a wealth of experience from a range of diverse backgrounds to give quick, accurate, commercial advice, primarily across the financial services sector.

Currently working on some of the largest and most complex cross-border insolvencies in our jurisdictions, we frequently advise top law firms from the People’s Republic of China, the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, Singapore and other jurisdictions. We are regularly briefed by Sovereign Wealth Funds and Fortune 500 companies, as well as by investment managers from Europe, Asia, the United States and Russia.

At whatever stage we are engaged, our involvement will assist in identifying the on-going risks facing a client and enabling that client to continue to identify and effectively manage their relationships with creditors, financiers, investors and other interested parties.

Our Experience

Milestone cases include :

  • Acting for a sovereign wealth fund in the liquidation proceedings of G3 Exploration Ltd and its subsidiary, Green Dragon Gas Ltd., which include active proceedings in England and the Cayman Islands, and subsidiary litigation in China.
  • Acting for the indenture trustee of convertible notes in the matter of Luckin Coffee.
  • Advising in respect of the winding up of two cryptocurrency funds - Virgil Sigma Fund, LP and VQR Huttistrategy Cayman Feeder Fund Ltd – following SEC intervention due to fraud perpetrated by the founder of the fund.
  • Advising the SEC receiver appointed to TCA Global Credit group of companies, in connection with the realization of assets.
  • Representing Highland Capital Management in its capacity as a dissenting creditor in the proposed $3.6bn restructuring of Ocean Rig and its subsidiaries.
  • Acting for the Joint Provisional Liquidators and subsequently Joint Official Liquidators of the collapsed £1.1bn Platinum Partners Value Arbitrage Fund, one of Cayman's largest and most complex liquidations in recent years.
  • Acting for the Receivers in the Crociani matter under a £52million promissory note.
  • Acting for EY as Joint Official Liquidators of Caledonian Bank, seeking to recover $64m in loans in multiple jurisdictions including BVI, Bahamas, South Africa and Switzerland.
  • Acting for the former chairman and CEO of the Abraaj Group, which was placed into provisional liquidation in June 2018 and then official liquidation in August 2019.
  • Advising the SEC Receiver appointed to the Direct Lending Investments group in connection with the appointment of voluntary liquidators to one of the group companies incorporated in the Cayman Islands and the application for the liquidation of that company to continue under the Court's supervision.
  • Acting for FTI Consulting (Cayman) Limited as provisional and then official liquidators of companies in the New Media group with interests located in Russia, Ukraine, Switzerland and New York. 
  • Acting for the voluntary liquidators and joint official liquidators to wind up Guernsey, Jersey and Cayman Islands entities in the Thomas Cook group of companies, following the collapse, restructure and liquidation of that global group.
  • Acting for the administrators/liquidators of Landsbanki Guernsey Limited, a £120m Guernsey bank that collapsed in 2008 after the failure of its Icelandic parent in the midst of the Global Financial Crisis.
  • Acting for the Non-Executive directors of Carlyle Capital Limited in the successful defense of proceedings brought by Liquidators of the $1bn Guernsey fund.
  • Acting for a director of J&P Overseas Limited, the Guernsey topco of a huge multinational failed construction conglomerate (16,500+ employees, bank debt $2.3bn), which went into administration, then liquidation, in 2018.
  • Acting for the Guernsey liquidators of CanArgo Limited, the holder of 50% Joint Venture interests of the vast majority of Georgia's oil and gas fields, in the contentious sale of JV assets and subsequent directions applications.

To find out more visit www.collascrill.com.

Get unlimited access to all Global Restructuring Review content