John is Senior Partner of Russell-Cooke.
John's area of particular expertise is regulation and public law. He specialises in the analysis and solution of complex regulatory problems, advising regulators, government departments, law enforcement agencies, charities and statutory and professional bodies.
Chambers UK (2008-2015) has described him as "an important figure", "highly intelligent and innovative" with "unsurpassed knowledge of regulatory powers", "particularly apt at handling complex and sensitive matters", "very bright indeed; very thoughtful".
He has elicited praise for his client care skills, with The Legal 500 (2012) commenting that he is "good with clients" and his "advice is always carefully considered and tailored, taking into account the particular nature of the organisation", The Legal 500 (2013). The Legal 500 (2014) note that he "is very impressive with a wealth of experience". Chambers UK (2012) state that he is singled out as being "pragmatic, easy to deal with and responsive to urgent issues". He "always takes a very broad look, takes all surrounding issues into account. He's very knowledgeable on regulatory and professional body issues. He can bring all this background knowledge into use when giving advice", Chambers UK (2013). Chambers UK (2014) describe him as "a formidable opponent" who is "very experienced in regulatory matters" and Chambers UK (2015) note that he is an "effective litigator". The Legal 500 described him as "towering" (2016) and "extremely wise" (2017). Sources in Chambers UK (2018) say, "he is incredibly thorough, very knowledgeable and very pragmatic. He's very good at looking at a case from all perspectives."
John has acted in over 45 reported cases, some of which established particularly important legal precedents. He has acted in several hundred matters for the solicitors' profession's own regulator since 1987. Many of these cases have had a high profile.
Other notable cases in the higher courts have included such varied issues as:
- the meaning of discrepancy in letters of credit
- the margin of non-negligent error in real estate valuations
- the relationship between private and public law
- the status of employment contracts upon the dissolution of a partnership
- the principles for distribution of a deficient investment fund
- the limits to the entitlements of wrongdoers to assets and the application of policies to decisions by public bodies
- the implications of the Services Directive for regulatory authorisations
John acted in the British Bankers Association v the FSA and the FOS which related to principle based regulation and was listed by 'The Lawyer Magazine' as one of the ten most important cases to be heard in 2011. The case led to the payment of billions of pounds of compensation in relation to payment protection insurance.
In 2014 another of his cases was listed as one of the most important cases of the year relating to aggregation in professional indemnity insurance. The case, in which John acted for the Law Society as the representative body of solicitors, concerns many millions of pounds and has potentially wide implications. In 2016 John successfully acted in an important Court of Appeal decision in the same area.
In relation to charities he has advised major international charities on issues regarding the regulation of fund raising, campaigning, judicial review and (acting for a large consortium of charities) an Attorney General's reference to the Charity Tribunal as to the meaning of public benefit. He has produced a wide ranging investigative report into issues of governance and management of a major UK charity.
Other recent cases concern a dispute with two foreign governments relating to state immunity and succession; the regulatory consequences of an insolvent offshore investment fund having allegedly misapplied in excess of £100 million; and an appeal to the Supreme Court acting for a significant group of statutory and public bodies including the Bar Standards Board and the Care Quality Commission. John is currently representing a number of barristers in relation to regulatory issues including an individual of international prominence.
Other significant current or recent projects relate to the development of detailed proposals for revisions to primary legislation on behalf of a public body; a review of the investigative and disciplinary regime for a statutory regulator; and advice in relation to the reputational and other issues arising from child protection concerns in an organisation, acting in judicial review proceedings in relation to historic allegations of child abuse relating to a well-known politician, advice and investigation concerning the use and storage of human tissue for research purposes, issues arising from allegations of misfeasance in relation to land transactions against members of a statutory corporation, acting for the regulator in an appeal which upheld the striking-off of a member of the Law Society’s Council and high profile regulatory proceedings arising from the Iraq war. He is currently acting for a public body with elected members in connection with a statutory enquiry.
One of John's particular areas of interest is complex financial schemes. He has played a leading part in investigations relating to investment, tax and pension schemes, international financial frauds, money laundering, organised criminality and the corruption of public officials. He has been appointed as an 'expert person' under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (FSMA), a court appointed partnership receiver and a court appointed supervisor of search and freezing orders. He has advised and served as an expert witness for, among others, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), the Financial Services Authority (FSA), the Magistrates Association (MA) and the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) in a variety of courts and tribunals including the Old Bailey. He is authorised by the FCA to wind up unauthorised collective investment schemes. He holds rights of audience in the higher civil courts.
John provides advice on and drafts legal structures, statutory powers, royal charters and professional rules, and advises on the implementation of European directives in the UK. He is Board Solicitor to the Architects Registration Board. He prepares independent reports on governance and related issues for public sector organisations. He has advised more than 40 sets of barristers' chambers on structures, mergers, dissolutions and disputes, and has advised in relation to political donations and expenses at the highest level. Many of his cases have attracted significant media interest. He often advises and reports in relation to situations which involve both legal and reputational issues for organisations.
John has long-standing experience of issues relating to legal practice, including advising many solicitors and well known practices on a variety of important issues.
He has led the senior management team at Russell-Cooke for more than 25 years. During that time Russell-Cooke has grown in turnover terms from less than £1 million to more than £30 million, more than 200 lawyers and a nationally significant reputation in many specialist areas of law.
John studied law at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge where he was awarded an Evan Lewis Thomas Law Studentship. He trained at Russell-Cooke and has been a partner since 1982. He is the author of The Law of Legal Services published by Jordan in 2015. The book has been described as authoritative by Lord Neuberger, President of the Supreme Court. He has written numerous articles in legal publications.
He is a former Governor and Vice Chair of the University of Greenwich and served as Chair of both the Strategy and Audit Committees. He is currently chairing an industry body to combat counterfeiting of fine wine.
John is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
John is listed in the Thomson Reuters 'London Super Lawyers' list 2015.
- Aggregation claims - John successfully acted for the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) intervening in the Court of Appeal in a case which is now the leading authority regarding aggregation relating to professional indemnity insurance for solicitors. The case arose out of 214 underlying claims by investors and beneficiaries of two trusts. The investors claimed against The International Law Partnership (TILP), a firm of solicitors, that the investment structure set up on behalf of TILP’s clients known as the Midas Group, resulted in ineffective security which resulted in losses to the investors. TILP subsequently went into liquidation and had no funds to meet the claims. Their professional indemnity insurers argued that all claims could be aggregated as ‘one claim’ and therefore refused to pay further sums beyond the £3 million limit of indemnity.
- Defending an appeal brought by struck off former Law Society Council member - John acted for the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) in disciplinary proceedings brought before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal in June and July 2015 and in subsequent appeal proceedings in April 2016. The appeal was brought by a former solicitor and former Law Society Council member, Richard Barnett, against the SDT’s order striking him off the Roll of Solicitors in 2015. Mr Barnett was struck off following findings of dishonesty, breaches of SRA principles 2, 3, 6, 7, 8 and 10, various SRA Accounts Rules and breaches of the SRA Code of Conduct.
- Sources in Chambers UK (2018) say, "he is incredibly thorough, very knowledgeable and very pragmatic. He's very good at looking at a case from all perspectives."
- Recommended in The Legal 500 (2017) as "extremely wise", with "vast experience", and "can see a case from all angles"