Early dismissal of a £39m Commercial Court fraud and conspiracy claim

12 Dec 2018

Cunningham v Ellis & Ors [2018] EWHC 3188 (Comm)

A £39 million Commercial Court fraud and conspiracy claim has been struck out and summary judgment entered in the Defendants’ favour.The Claimant had been majority shareholder of Allerton Group Limited (“AGL”), the parent of a group involving steel fabrication and bridge building. The group entered administration in 2009 as a result of cashflow pressures. The Claimant alleged that there had been a conspiracy between three of the group’s directors (“the Directors”), AGL’s bank and the administrators, Ernst and Young, to render AGL insolvent so the directors could purchase the business themselves at an artificially deflated value.

Following a four-day hearing in the Commercial Court, Teare J struck out the claim in its entirety and gave summary judgment in favour of the defendants. He held:

  1. The Particulars of Claim were inadequate for the purpose of alleging conspiracy to injure by unlawful means or fraudulent misrepresentation, having failed to plead primary facts from which it can be inferred that the Defendants were party to a deliberate and unlawful conspiracy;
  2. The allegations had no realistic prospect of success
  3. The claims were time-barred (save where the claims fell within section 21(1)(a) Limitation Act 1980).

William Buck and David Gregory acted for the Directors.

The judgment can be found here.