Lawyers for litigation funder Vannin Capital and 8,000 Royal Bank of Scotland shareholders involved in a £14m dispute are preparing for a trial despite being 'in the dark' about another key party's involvement, it has emerged.
The row arises from Vannin Capital's provision of funding for a claimant group, known as the 'SG Group', in high-profile litigation over a 2008 rights issue in the bank. A seven-day trial is scheduled to take place in March. A pre-trial hearing at the Rolls Building this week was attended by the legal teams for Vannin Capital, the claimant in the present case, and the SG Group of claimants who settled with RBS in 2017. However another defendant, AGC, a limited company formed to investigate and manage the litigation, did not attend.
The court heard that neither the claimant nor the SG Group know whether AGC will be participating in the trial and whether it wishes to cross-examine their witnesses.
For Vannin Capital, 3 Verulam Buildings' Christopher Harris QC (instructed by Reynolds Porter Chamberlain), told Mr Justice Mann that his team would invite the court to strike out AGC's defence if it failed to appear. However, Mr Justice Mann said he did not think he could make a debarring order.
For the SG Group, Fountain Court Chambers' Ben Valentin QC (instructed by Signature Litigation) told the judge his legal team was 'in the dark' about AGC's participation and representation.
If AGC does not serve a skeleton argument ahead of the trial, remedies will be open to the trial judge, Mr Justice Mann said. 'But I'm minded to say, unless they inform the two of you [by a certain date] whether or not they intend to call witnesses, who they call... then they be debarred from calling witnesses without permission of the trial judge... You do not want to go down a route that would open up grounds of procedural appeal.'
Mann J said he would ensure the orders were fair from AGC's point of view. 'The timetable should be laid down'. While it would assume the defendant would participate it should be subject to adjustment, he said.
Towards the end of the hearing, counsel raised the issue of keeping certain shareholder details confidential during proceedings. Though Mr Justice Mann was not required to decide the issue, he told the court he was not 'particularly impressed' by the arguments. 'Confidentiality is raised far too often inappropriately in this court these days,' he said.