David Owen QC
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David Owen QC
"David has all the qualities of a successful mediator. He is smart, patient, kind, attentive and thoughtful. He is both a good communicator and a sensitive listener." - Client Feedback
David Owen is a Queen’s Counsel with over 30 years of experience of resolving commercial disputes. He mediates cases in a wide range of business sectors, often with an international dimension, including: banking/finance, insurance/reinsurance, shipping, international trade, and general commercial matters.
David’s combined experience as a mediator, arbitrator and barrister gives him an important practical perspective on the most effective ways of dealing with disputes. He has been regularly recommended as a leading practitioner in the UK legal directories. The Chambers’ UK Guide has described him as “a figure right at the heart of the commercial dispute resolution world”. He has mediated in England, continental Europe and the Middle East. He also has considerable experience of dealing with disputes connected with the Far East.
As a barrister, David has practised from 20 Essex Street, a leading set of chambers specialising in commercial law. He has gained experience of a wide range of industry sectors and of a huge number of different types of dispute. He has advised and appeared in many cases concerning shipping, energy and international trade. He acted for the successful party in the first reported case on the mis-selling of derivatives, and has since been involved in numerous banking/finance disputes, often relating to complex financial transactions. He has considerable experience of insurance/reinsurance matters, and co-edited a leading textbook on insurance law. He has also dealt with a diverse range of heavy, general commercial cases. His main areas of expertise are: banking/finance (including derivatives); insurance & reinsurance; international trade; shipping and energy; professional negligence, and other disputes relating to commercial contracts.
(Non-Neutral work in italics)
Banking & Finance
- ISDA cross border dispute: large freight futures claims.
- Derivatives: dispute between financial institutions: commodity basis swaps.
- Bank/adviser dispute over investment banking fees for projects in central Asia.
- Major banker/customer disputes: cross border mortgages and valuation issues.
- Private equity: dispute over investor sharing mechanism in bio-medical sector.
- Dispute over the private equity financing of a well-known leisure business, and the exercise of options by investors.Alleged negligence by portfolio manager in managing investments for high net worth individuals.
- Disputes over fees for corporate restructuring advice.
- Advising on Eur. 1 bn convertible bond issue, and providing opinion for overseas Court proceedings.
- Advising on valuation disputes involving exotic instruments used in repo transactions between banks arising from the credit crunch.
- Advising on dispute between bank and hedge fund relating to repo transactions, and margin/valuation issues (Sums in dispute approx. $300m).
- Advising on dispute between banks concerning repo financing: $28m at stake.
- Arbitration between bank and hedge fund concerning repo lending and other issues arising out of credit crunch. Approx. $30m in dispute.
- Acting as Counsel in numerous cases concerning allegations of mis-selling of complex financial products (various types of derivatives and collateralised debt obligations).
- Advising as Counsel on numerous issues under ISDA documentation.
- Recruitment/resource outsourcing: termination claims.
- Food processing: claims for fraud and breach of contract.
- Pharmaceuticals: distribution & supply dispute.
- Dissolution of a cross-border joint venture with shipping/maritime interests.
- Pharmaceuticals: dispute over distribution of drugs in England and Europe. Approximately $35m in dispute.
- Retail sector: claims and cross claims between suppliers and retailers involved in UK fashion industry.
- Book publishing: dispute concerning royalties relating to major non-fiction series of books.
- Share sale warranties: warranty dispute related to the sale of a company.
- Newspaper publishing: acting in Expert Determination concerning printing of national newspapers.
- Alleged fraud linked with property development scheme in England and Germany.
- Claims between company and director involving allegations of breach of duties and fraud.
Construction & Engineering
- Dispute between a main contractor and consulting engineers over services provided in relation to the construction of an £800m road causeway.
- Claim and multiple cross claims giving rise to issues as to compliance with building regulations and quantum of damages.
- Major Middle East infrastructure project dispute over fees related to the construction of a bridge.
- Counsel in large arbitration concerning Middle Eastern transportation project.
Energy & Natural Resources
- Cancellation of drilling operations in North Sea: termination of use of Platform Support Vessel.
- Gasoil contamination claim, involving chain of parties and approximately $6m claim.
Environmental: Dispute concerning testing services provided as part of an Environmental Agency programme to control pollution.
ICT – Information Communications & Technology
- Acted as counsel in long-running litigation concerning provision of mobile phone services in UK.
- Acted as counsel in major arbitration & court proceedings concerning satellite equipment.
- Mortgage fraud insurance claims: Disputes concerning settlement of a large book of mortgage fraud reinsurance claims, raising issues of legal construction and proof of loss.
- Liability insurance: Workplace accident – substantial claims against liability insurers – issues as to illegality.
- Reinsurance: disputes relating to pool accounting and duties of pool members.
- Personal accident: Complex insurance claims relating the quantum of loss payable to a championship athlete as a result of injuries sustained in an accident.
- Political risk and unfair calling cover: acting in an arbitration involving major Middle Eastern civil engineering project.
- Advising on bond risk insurance and reinsurance of approx. $50m, linked to projects in Libya.
- Counsel in case involving issues as to claims co-operation between parties to reinsurance, relating to large business interruption claim in Latin America.
Partnership & Shareholder
- Dispute over application of restrictive covenants, warranty claims and consultancy fees.
- Dispute between a consultancy company and a director concerning alleged breach of duties owed to company.
- Sole arbitrator in major dispute relating to an LLP in the financial sector.
- Shareholder/warranty claim arbitration (as arbitrator) concerning network of European companies.
- Claim against accountants for negligent preparation of accounts and tax advice.
- Counsel work in cases against accountants, ship brokers, insurance brokers and lawyers.
- Dispute involving transfer of tenancy between commercial companies, and issues as to proper parties to make, and settle, claims.
- Dispute between parties to a property development joint venture in London. Claims of £2.7m plus shares in £60m fund.
- Counsel to Far East Government in major arbitration concerning property development.
Sale of Goods & Services
- Rice trading: issues as to authority and terms of contract.
- Iron ore trading: banking/trading dispute.
- Fuel purchase dispute: contamination claims. Complex issues as to specifications and analysis results, $1-$2m in dispute.
- Commodities – long-term trading contracts – failure to take delivery – allegations of improper business practice. Approximately $6m in issue.
- Public procurement dispute – National Health Service.
- Ship performance claims: speed & consumption.
- Time charter disputes, e.g. effect of lack of oil major approvals.
- Ship sale dispute: claim for approx. $16m, with major damages issues.
- Chartering claim for $15m; delayed delivery and complex damages issues.
- Charterparties: chemical attack to vessel and repairs. Dispute with multiple parties. Claims for several million dollars.
- Demurrage claim, with cross claim for breach of obligations as to oil major approvals. $4m in dispute.
- Charter party underperformance claims.
- Fuel cargo contamination claims, involving complex technical issues as to cause of contamination.
- Involved as Leading Counsel and as Arbitrator in various shipbuilding disputes, with claims up to approximately $100m.
- Advising on effect of war in Libya on obligations under charter parties.
- Charter party: arbitration concerning seizure of drugs on board a cargo vessel.
- Ship conversion/barges: advising on complex disputes concerning contracts for a pipe-laying barge. Approximately $20m at stake.Advising on issues as to freight forward agreements (FFAs) in the shipping context.
- Arbitration appeal concerning duties of FOB buyers in international sale contracts, raising issues of general importance regarding nominations and inspections of vessels.
Other Dispute Resolution Experience
David is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. He is a member of the Civil Mediation Council, and Bar Council ADR Committee. He is also a member of the London Court of International Arbitration, the London Maritime Arbitrators’ Association (Supporting Member), and is a panel arbitrator for the Singapore Chamber of Maritime Arbitration and the Kuala Lumpur Regional Centre for Arbitration. He sits on the Management Committee of ARIAS, the insurance and reinsurance arbitration society.
He was Chair of the Board of, and had management responsibility for, a London mediation service, for many years. He enjoys lecturing and training, and has lectured on mediation and related topics in London, continental Europe and Singapore. He also trains and assesses mediators in England and abroad.
David uses his legal expertise to help the parties to analyse the real issues, test positions, and explore realistic outcomes. His background enables him to carry out robust reality testing where appropriate, and to manage the mediation process effectively. He also aims to provide constructive input into commercial negotiations. Feedback suggests that parties appreciate his firm, patient style; his attention to detail, his ability rapidly to deal with complex issues, and his patience in assisting the parties to reach satisfactory outcomes.
Feedback – Clients
- “David has all the qualities of a successful mediator. He is smart, patient, kind, attentive and thoughtful. He is both a good communicator and a sensitive listener.”
- “The best I have encountered during my career of 14 years since qualification. Since using Mr Owen as a mediator, I have recommended him to colleagues on every occasion when a recommendation is sought.”
- “David Owen is a wonderful mediator. He is extremely intelligent and adept at using it to both sides’ benefit in mediations. He gets results cleverly.”
- “Exemplary mediator…approachable (to the clients), direct and thoughtful. Another very important attribute…is that you were not (or did not appear to be) bored by, or disinterested in, all the inevitable haggling. (Some mediators are.)”
- “David was particularly good at reality testing in relation to litigation risk in a way which was non-confrontational and allowed the parties to move from stated positions.”
- “He came to the mediation incredibly well-prepared, and he quickly grasped the issues presented. He also appreciated and dealt effectively with the significant emotional aspects of the case.
- “David’s approach to a difficult dynamic within the mediation was both flexible and first-class. He recognised the drivers for the key individuals, and was able to facilitate a successful resolution as a result.”
- “He only had sight of the papers at the last moment, but gave the impression of being familiar with the case, and referred to dates and names in a way which is always reassuring to the parties.”
- “Conscientious and hard-working mediator…I was impressed by his ability and skill to bring two very reluctant parties to the negotiating table and eventually persuade them to resolve their differences.”
- “Did a brilliant job on the day by keeping focus on quantum, which kept the parties talking even when we appeared poles apart.”
Feedback – Directories
- "… a skilled litigator, arbitrator and mediator of shipping disputes. Favoured by solicitors as he is really good to work with, and has a great response time."
- "… a measured and persuasive mediator who sources say is both an excellent lawyer and highly tactful. Solicitors favour him in a range of shipping, insurance, energy and international trade disputes."
- "20 Essex Street's David Owen QC has a broad mediation practice, with a particular focus on cases with an international element. His areas of expertise include shipping, trade, finance and general commercial disputes. Sources note his attention to detail and commercial mind-set."
Prior to becoming a barrister David obtained a First Class degree in History from Merton College, Oxford (1976-1979). He subsequently worked as a civil servant, in the Treasury (1979-81), on defence projects, public procurement, and international finance. Subsequently, in training to be a barrister, he was awarded various prizes (Astbury Scholarship, Ver Heyden Prize in Advocacy, Lloyd Jacob Exhibition).
He was called to the Bar in 1983, and joined Chambers in 1985. He became a Queen’s Counsel in 2006.
For many years, he was an editor of MacGillivray on Insurance Law, a leading insurance law textbook.
He is a member of Combar, the commercial barristers’ association, and served on its Executive between 2001 and 2004. During that time he organised continuing education courses for commercial barristers.
David conducts mediations in English, but has working knowledge of French.
Updated: September 2015