Who? Germana Lo Iacono-Smith, 45, commercial litigation and clinical negligence partner at London firm Seddons.
Why is she in the news? Won a High Court case for Italian local authority Comune di Prato after a four-year dispute with Italian investment bank Dexia Crediop.
The Comune entered into six interest-rate-swap contracts with the bank between 2002 and 2009. These swaps were intended to control borrowing costs in circumstances of rising interest rates. When rates fell to record lows in the post-2007 financial crisis, the local authority found that the contracts (governed by English law) were costing it a lot of money for no benefit.
The Comune chose to terminate the contracts, which prompted Dexia to pursue the authority through the courts to recover around £4.5m the bank claimed it was owed.
Mr Justice Paul Walker, sitting in the High Court, ruled that the contracts contravened an article of Italy’s consolidated law on financial markets and investment services. In particular, he pointed to the bank’s failure to tell the Comune about the statutory seven-day ‘cooling off’ period that applies after a financial services contract is agreed.
He declared the contracts void.
Thoughts on the case: ‘This is the first such judgment to have been secured on merit, rather than settled out of court or lost because of a procedural defect. As such, it will have widespread implications for any bank or financial institution in a dispute concerning the validity of such contracts. On the surface, the case looked simple: the bank was asking the High Court to declare a contract valid because, after all, both sides had signed it.
‘However, the court heard that the bank had not explained the full implications of the contract and so ruled it invalid. The court also denied the bank leave to appeal.’
Why become a lawyer? ‘It’s a challenging career, with the brain always working.’
Career high: ‘Probably this case, in particular because we were up against magic circle firm Allen & Overy.’
Career low: ‘The sense of powerlessness when you can’t help in clinical negligence cases involving children.’