’If I could invite Your Lordship to go to Bundle K2, tab 67.1…’ Such words will be music to the ears of whoever counts the beans at the top sets engaged for what is billed as Britain’s biggest ever civil fraud trial, which opened in a packed Court 15 of the Rolls Building last week.
The hearing is expected to run for nine months, including several 8pm sittings to take video testimony from California. At least four silks are among the 10 barristers instructed by City firm Travers Smith and magic circle firm Clifford Chance.
The case is brought by technology giant Hewlett-Packard, which accuses British software entrepreneur Mike Lynch of fraudulently inflating the value of his company Autonomy, which HP bought for $11bn in 2011. Lynch vigorously denies the accusation.
Fortunately for London’s reputation in the burgeoning global market in commercial dispute resolution, the proceedings opened smoothly with electronic bundles flashing up on cue on a forest of computer screens. The Honourable Mr Justice Hildyard seemed pleasantly surprised by the pace of proceedings, though in a discussion on timetabling he reminded the court of the limits of judicial power. Asking for plenty of notice of late sittings, he said: ‘I have to let the powers that be know when the court has to be open longer.’
So far there has been only one distraction. While Laurence Rabinowitz QC was explaining HP’s arguments about accounting models, a single unmistakeable snore rang out across the courtroom. All eyes turned, meerkat-style, to seek out the culprit – except for the judge and Rabinowitz, who valiantly kept going on the topic of hybrid sales revenues.
The case, needless to say, continues.