Paul is a solicitor (qualified in England in 1990, and Hong Kong in 1993). He has specialised in commodities, physical trading and shipping, commodity finance and commodity derivatives for his entire career. He was previously a pupil barrister at 20 Essex Street Chambers, a solicitor at Reed Smith (formerly Richards Butler) for 5 years, and at HFW for 7 years (Partner 1998). He subsequently worked in senior roles as in-house counsel at Enron, ABN Amro and BNP Paribas (global head of commodities legal for 8 1/2 years).

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The Complete Commodities Lawyer

Paul’s aim early in his career was to become a “complete” commodities lawyer, to understand thoroughly all aspects of the industry, across all types of commodities (energy, metals and agriculturals): physical trading and shipping, derivatives hedging, commodity finance – how it fitted together, the applicable legal and regulatory infrastructure and the different market players.

In the legal world he realised that commodities lawyers typically came from one of four law firm practice “stables”: (1) physical commodity trading and shipping, (2) capital markets, (3) banking and finance or (4) regulatory. His observation was that the major law firms are typically organised in a compartmentalised structure around legal skill sets rather than the industry they service. While this works for some client types (eg. financial services for banks), his experience working for commodities banks and trading firms in-house suggests that this is not especially useful for the range of activities conducted by a typical commodities house.

Shipping

Paul started out in shipping and commodities law as a pupil barrister at 20 Essex Street Chambers with Tim Young QC, and was fortunate enough to work closely with luminaries of those chambers who subsequently went on to become High Court and Court of Appeal Judges (and in one case a Law Lord in the Supreme Court). Following a year’s pupillage he  joined Richards Butler (now Reed Smith) as a newly qualified solicitor, working closely with the senior partner, then a leading London practitioner in shipping law (now retired), for Greek, Japanese and Korean shipowners, most of the leading P&I and Defence Clubs, and latterly for senior members of the commodities group, then the leading specialist commodities legal group amongst the City firms. Following 5 years at Richards Butler, Paul moved to HFW where continuing this part of his practice in particular for the UK P&I Club and its members. Paul practiced shipping law (and physical commodities) as a substantial part of his practice for 7-8 years until the focus shifted to commodities work in the late 1990s.

Commodity Disputes and Arbitration

Commodities and shipping litigation, arbitration and contested regulatory investigations have been a feature of Paul’s 30 year legal career. He started off his professional life at the Bar, and went onto practice litigation and arbitration for 10 years at two of the leading firms in this field, Richards Butler and HFW, including stints for each firm in Hong Kong, where representing clients in Court was a staple part of litigation practice. Since then he has handled multiple disputes at the institutions at which he has worked in house – Enron (notably the largest corporate insolvency involving significant litigation in metals and other commodities), ABN Amro and BNP Paribas, where he also ran a number of regulatory investigations, including some involving maturing long commodity futures positions and consequential physical delivery.


Career Background

  • BNP Paribas
  • ABN Amro
  • Enron
  • Holman Fenwick & Willan
  • Richards Butler (now Reed Smith)
  • 20 Essex Street Chambers

Notable Matters

  • Paul was the principal lawyer responsible for establishing and developing a global physical base metals trading platform in Europe and Asia (including China)
  • Paul led the introduction of new, market leading protections for financing banks in re-po documentation
  • Crisis management in relation to a vessel breakdown carrying a client’s cargo of perishable agricultural products purchased FOB and sold CIF en route from Los Angeles to Ho Chi Minh City
  • Legal set up and integration of MG Plc into Enron Group following their acquisition in 2000. Including reorganising and redrafting entire physical commodity transactional processes and documentation for incorporation into new deal capture system generating auto confirms per trade, and ability to monitor trading positions per commodity in real time
  • Numerous structures based on trade flows/inventory (metal, agri products), providing finance and liquidity to developing country banks or traders more cheaply than available locally
  • Review and re-design trade finance product suite and documentation for global implementation of UCP 600.
  • Re-financing of a precious metals mine  (Russia), sale of physical metal to re-financing Bank with monthly physical offtake, and OTC hedge (ISDA based) with two FI counterparties, and further Options written for additional trades
  • 10 year option with Aluminium smelter in NW coast US, dedicated plant production capacity allocated on declaration of option, for payment of a daily fee (no option premium)
  • Wind down of Enron Metals entire physical book, termination of positions with minimum liability possible (with analysis of market price movements for most financially beneficial timing)

Credentials

Education
  • Reading University, LLB Law (2:1)
Admissions
  • Barrister, England & Wales (Middle Temple)
  • Solicitor, England & Wales
  • Solicitor, Hong Kong
  • Registered foreign lawyer, Singapore