Litigation

In your corner

‘Best-in-class technical expertise and commercial savvy’ – Legal 500

As the global business environment continually changes, so does the nature and extent of legal and regulatory risk facing businesses. Our commercial litigators act for a wide client base, across a range of industries. Our broad experience allows us to anticipate, and remain at the forefront of, legal developments in the New Zealand market.

Our litigators are first and foremost experienced advocates, and we have acted in some of New Zealand's most high profile disputes. We also recognise that our courtroom experience is often of most benefit to our clients in providing strategic advice and risk analysis to identify and maximise commercial opportunities.

We have extensive experience:

  • As advocates before the courts at all levels, in arbitration and other forms of dispute resolution; and in specialist areas of litigation, such as class actions, tax disputes, court-approved schemes of arrangement, and product liability disputes and investigations.
  • Assisting clients to pro-actively address emerging legal or regulatory requirements, such as anti-money laundering and workplace safety legislation, trade sanctions and financial market rules. 
  • Engaging with regulators, whether through early pro-active engagement, or in litigation.
  • Assisting clients, in particular boards of directors, with controversy, conflicts and managing internal investigations.

Recent highlights include acting for:

  • Credit Suisse in defending the ongoing $200m class action arising from alleged prospectus misrepresentation in the 2004 Feltex IPO.  
  • Westpac, TrustPower, Vector, and Michael Hill in a series of recent leading tax cases at High Court and appellate level.
  • Kiwibank, in a test-case dispute with a money remitter arising from Kiwibank's obligations under New Zealand's Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Act.
  • Trustpower in its $3.8 billion demerger, and Allnex SA in its recent takeover of NZX and ASX listed Nuplex Industries, both by way of court-approved scheme of arrangement.
  • Heart of the City and Auckland Airport investigating significant frauds by officers, including in associated freezing order (Mareva) proceedings.
  • Siemens NZ, in a significant breach of confidence claim against General Electric, including in urgent injunction proceedings.
  • Several trading banks, assisting with compliance policies and appropriate terms and conditions to address New Zealand's Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Act.
  • Samsung NZ in a significant contract dispute in relation to its New Zealand call centres.
  • Bath Street Capital in High Court litigation against Pyne Gould Corporation arising out of the sale of Perpetual Trust.
  • Vector Limited and Auckland International Airport Limited in their merits review appeals of the Commerce Commission input methodologies for price control and information disclosure.
  • Mrs Jean Hubbard, and the late Mr Allan Hubbard, throughout the process of statutory management, including litigation in the High Court.
  • Fonterra on a wide range of commercial matters, including significant contract, companies, securities, insurance and regulatory disputes.
  • Spark, in a wide range of matters, including commercial, media, competition and regulatory disputes.
  • Progressive Enterprises, in a wide range of matters, including commercial, competition and property disputes.
  • Ports of Auckland, in a wide range of matters, including commercial and property disputes. 
  • Shell NZ in New Zealand's leading insider trading case, arising out of the takeover of Southern Petroleum by Fletcher Challenge.
  • Auckland International Airport Ltd in major court proceedings under the Public Works Act 1981.
  • PricewaterhouseCoopers in connection with the receivership of one of the Capital + Merchant group companies.
  • Several leading retail banks in complex tax litigation relating to structured finance arrangements.

Class actions

Already a billion-dollar industry in Australia and the United States, class actions (also known here as 'representative proceedings') have been increasing in prominence in New Zealand. The lack of a governing framework for such proceedings locally puts a premium on experience as litigators negotiate a fluid legal space with few concrete precedents.

Our litigators have argued cases dealing with fundamental features of class actions such as the nature of representative orders, class constitution mechanisms, litigation funding arrangements, security for costs, limitation restrictions and stays of proceedings.

Our teams in finance, consumer law, telecommunications, resource management and public utilities provide the industry specific knowledge to deliver effective representation in a class action. Given our reputation as a leader in this developing field, we also provide advice on the implications of current or threatened class actions for clients’ businesses.

Our experience includes:

  • Acting for Credit Suisse in the Feltex litigation, New Zealand’s first securities class action, in which 3000 represented claimants are seeking $200m in damages arising out of a 2004 IPO.
  • Acting for Kiwibank in the class action brought by 7000 represented claimants challenging a range of credit card and deposit account banking fees.
  • Advising industry bodies and other clients on the strategic and legal implications of proposed class actions.

Product liability

With the manufacture and supply of products, both in New Zealand and globally, increasingly subject to regulatory attention, our lawyers have broad experience helping clients to enhance trust in their products, build resilience and agility, and advise on regulatory compliance and civil claims.

If your business does become aware of a defect in a product, we can assist in determining what legal action may need to be taken, and crucially, ensuring the right steps are taken to maintain the confidence your customers have in your business.

With a wide variety of clients, both in New Zealand and worldwide, we provide advice on a particular position under New Zealand law and often work collaboratively with manufacturers, distributors, insurers and other overseas law firms, when responding to regulatory investigations or consumer claims.

Additionally, partners Sarah Armstrong and Joe Edwards recently co-authored the Product Liability and Safety in New Zealand chapter for the 2018 Thomson and Reuters Practical Law guide.

Our experience includes advising on:

  • Developing product recall plans, including for a well-known international electronic goods manufacturer.
  • Compliance with regulatory notification requirements for a defective product.
  • How to manage corrective action.
  • Compliance with regulatory requirements in specific product areas such as food, medical products and motor vehicles.
  • Civil claims and negligence.
  • Health and safety for staff.
  • Insurance implications.

Arbitration

Arbitration is a common form of dispute resolution in New Zealand. It is the norm in lease disputes (including rent reviews) and in certain industries, such as the natural gas industry. Arbitration has many acknowledged benefits, such as confidentiality and choice of arbitrator and procedure. It can also be cheaper than litigation in the courts.  However, there are certain mandatory rules under the New Zealand Arbitration Act 1996, which can prove problematic if parties are not aware of them or how they apply.

Our dispute resolution team has not only acted as counsel in a wide range of arbitrations, but have considerable experience acting in matters concerning the interpretation of the New Zealand Arbitration Act 1996, and are experts in their field.

Our experience includes acting on:

  • A wide range of lease disputes, such as rent reviews and damages claims. We have represented tenants and lessors, including large property holders and national retailers, in significant and complex rent review arbitrations, including in relation to Auckland's redeveloped waterfront. Additionally, we work closely with and support valuers and other experts.
  • Several significant arbitrations in the natural gas industry, including between joint venturers, parties to gas supply agreements and operational contracts.
  • Arbitration in relation to the terms of access to infrastructure assets.
  • Court applications in support of domestic and international arbitration, such as interim measures applications and in applications for review or appeal from arbitral decisions.
  • Advice to firm clients on drafting dispute resolution clauses in commercial contracts.
     

 

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