I head the firm’s Corporate Disputes and Director Services team, regularly acting for SMEs, directors, shareholders, insolvency practitioners and private clients on a broad range of commercial litigation proceedings.
Clients enjoy my belief in them and desire that justice is done to their case. They also appreciate my honesty and the fact that I always explain my reasons for adopting a particular strategy and align it with their objectives.
I focus on what the client ideally wants: a positive outcome with minimal cost. Where such an outcome is not easy to obtain, I get them there as quickly and efficiently as possible.
By combining my understanding of financial matters and business (from my previous career as an ACCA accountant) with a high level of legal technical expertise, I am able to find a solution in most circumstances – I will not accept an instruction where I cannot add value, either by meeting the client’s personal or business needs or by reducing their loss/increasing their recovery by more than my legal fees.
My areas of expertise include:
- corporate governance disputes
- bringing and defending claims by liquidators and administrators
- defending director disqualification claims
- bringing and defending claims related to tax avoidance schemes
- HMRC enquiries relating to Personal Liability Notices (PLNs), VAT security demands and PAYE/National Insurance (NI) security demands
I also advise clients on the different legal funding methods and contingent payment arrangements available to them based on the strength and complexity of their cases and their desired outcomes.
The Expert the experts ask
I write as an expert for Lexis Nexis, producing extensive practice notes on Loan Charge legislation.
These Practice Notes form a library of guidance notes on the impact of the loan charge legislation brought in by the Finance Act (No 2) 2017 and the Finance Act 2020.
The Lexis Nexis guidance notes are designed to inform professional tax advisors, accountants and lawyers of the implications of these changes, where exceptions arise and the necessary requirements arising under this legislation to make such loan charges enforceable.
If you require advice and assistance in respect of any correspondence you have received from HMRC regarding the loan charge, or in relation to any unlawful drawings or disguised remuneration paid, then please do not hesitate to contact us.
SME, director & shareholder highlights:
- never having lost a director disqualification claim brought to trial
- never having failed to obtain section 17 leave for a director under the Company Directors Disqualification Act – indeed, I have obtained leave for numerous directors
- defending three directors at trial who had been accused of misconduct for withdrawing cash and assets from an insolvent company. The claim was defeated on the basis that the company was not on notice of insolvency when the drawings were made
- defending a director accused of trading to the detriment of HMRC, a claim which was defeated on the basis of a cash accounting profile
- obtaining leave for a director subject to prosecution by Companies House for failing to file accounts
- negotiating an exit payment of £0.5 million for a shareholder who was being moved out of his business and considering leaving the company without compensation
Private client highlights:
- defending a number of clients from claims by liquidators, including one facing a wrongful trading claim which eventually went to trial, ending in a successful defence and the client being awarded most of his legal costs
- defending numerous directors from HMRC enquiries and PLNs imposed following their companies’ insolvencies, consequently saving them each between £100 and £500,000 for unpaid PAYE or NI
- defending several clients in respect of PAYE/NI security sought under recently introduced amendments to tax legislation, including an estate agent chain seeking to trade but hampered by security demands – I was able to remove the requirement for security
- acting for the director of a new company facing a large VAT security demand based on his previous company’s trading income (a company which had since entered insolvency). I was able to show that the new company was slightly different and did not have the income of its predecessor, and to have the security demands dropped
Insolvency practitioner highlights:
- acting for numerous mid-tier insolvency practitioners on claims for the repayment of director’s loan accounts, breaches of fiduciary duties/misfeasance, antecedent transactions and the unwinding of Employee Benefit Trusts (EBTs) and Employer-Financed Retirement Benefit (EFRB) schemes
- advising in relation to the well-known Rangers FC EBT case with regard to the recovery of gross payments made and taxes for which the company had become liable
- assisting with the successful recovery of a director’s loan account by undermining a sham trust set up by the director to protect a property which was subsequently taken possession of and sold
I have been very impressed with the work of Stephen. He has diligently progressed the matter despite the many bumps in the road along the way, and offered practical and commercial solutions throughout. I would heartily recommend his assistance to my colleagues within the profession.Nick Cusack, Director & Licensed Insolvency Practitioner at Parker Andrews
Having instructed Stephen in regards to a dispute in my capacity as trustee of a bankrupt estate, I would, without hesitation, recommend his services to other IPs. He is not only very technically able but also a commercially minded and personable lawyer.Nick Wood, Partner at Grant Thornton
Stephen provided an experienced and proactive input. He advised and assisted us in bringing matters up to date and negotiated with the Companies House prosecution solicitors that the prosecution proceedings would be withdrawn in their entirety (and our company safeguarded as a result). We are very grateful for these legal services, especially as there are very few solicitors who deal with this area. Our company continues to trade, partly as a result of the legal services provided.Company directors Stephen defended against prosecution for late filing of accounts
We are extremely happy with the service provided to us by Stephen. He assisted and led us through a very lengthy and involved process involving a director disqualification and obtaining leave to be a director. This culminated in a substantially reduced disqualification period whilst simultaneously he conducted an application for leave to be granted to continue act as a director of our family business, despite the disqualification. We would strongly recommend him to anyone in our situation.Family business owners that Stephen defended against a director disqualification claim