The Year in Review 2023
The Year in Review:
Manolete CEO, Steven Cooklin
This time last year, I remember we were still looking over our shoulders at the Covid restrictions and the ‘drag’ it was having on case enquiries for Manolete. I’m glad to say those concerns are very much in the rear-view mirror now.
I am gratified to say we have had an exceptional year with record enquiries and case numbers; we recorded our landmark 1,000th case. Up to the end of September, we had invested in almost 1,200 insolvency litigation claims with over 800 concluded leading to the recovery of £124m. After paying legal fees of £38m, we were able to return £55m to insolvent estates.
In the first half of the financial year we backed 179 new cases for IPs, 116% higher than the same period last year. The re-bound looks in full effect!
The Insolvency Service statistics show there are still a great many companies facing strong headwinds. The liquidations figures have been high and the level of administrations have also started to grow back strongly.
Of course, our huge workload requires a high quality and expanding team. We have added to our Net Worth team given the increasing demand for checking the finances behind each claim. I couldn’t be more delighted with the additions to our legal team which now stands at 18 in-house lawyers. We are represented in every region of the country and now those regional hubs are being strengthened further.
By date of joining us, our new in-house lawyers are: Jean Boldero (North West), Andrew Murphy (South), Caleb Bompas and Stuart Lindley (both in the London Team). They bring considerable additional capacity to our outstanding team of lawyers. I am indebted (as ever) to Mena Halton, our Managing Director for marshalling these terrific lawyers’ talents so effectively.
Manolete has also branched out into new areas. Our pilot with Barclays handling Bounce Back Loan cases has gone very well and our Competition Law cases are also progressing well.
We were very proud to see the publication of the Chambers Guide 2023, where for the third year running Manolete was named as the only firm in Band One for Insolvency Litigation Funding. In addition, Mena Halton has been rightfully recognised as a Band One lawyer by Chambers. These accolades are only possible because we are privileged to work with so many talented and committed IPs and insolvency lawyers throughout the year.
As soon as New Year celebrations are over, we shall be looking forward to a busy and exciting year ahead. And we wish all our readers a very safe and happy Christmas and a healthy and prosperous 2024.
Andrew Cawkwell - Q and A
What is your legal background?
I qualified as a solicitor in 2003 so it is 20 years since I first started doing Insolvency work. I practiced at three different firms in the North-East and specialised in all aspects of contentious and non-contentious insolvency work.
How long have you been at Manolete?
I joined Manolete in May 2019 as an Associate Director in the North-East. Since that time, the region has developed really well and we now have Alexandra Withers and Kelly Jordan also working in the North East. In May 2022, I was very pleased to be asked by the Manolete Board to take up the role as Head of Business Development. In conjunction with the day job of sourcing new enquiries and running cases for my region, I work with all of the other Manolete lawyers in their regions to support them to deliver new enquiries for the business. I enjoy the huge variety of the role and ability to work with colleagues across the country together with my own business referrers. In addition, we carry out a substantial amount of business development with Insolvency Practitioners and their lawyers which I enjoy very much.
What have been your main impressions?
The Manolete team is extremely strong and diverse and we now have 18 lawyers operating across the UK. We get together at least once a quarter as a legal team and it is refreshing to be able to have a laugh and a couple of drinks with colleagues to gel the team together.
What are the other highlights?
I have really enjoyed not having the rigid structure of time recording and monthly billing which allows the genuine opportunity to invest time in developing personal relationships. I have also enjoyed contributing to our success as a collective across a team which is really at the vanguard of insolvency litigation and from time to time seeing our name in reported cases.
What do you do outside of work?
I am a huge Newcastle United fan and season ticket holder and enjoy watching them at every opportunity. I really enjoy hiking and have become a volunteer for a charity specialising in providing guides for walking events. My children are also very active and I provide the usual lifts to and from their extra-curricular activities.
Associate Director for the North-East and Head of Business Development
Stephen Baister Writes...
Artificial intelligence – the good and the bad
Artificial intelligence has its good and bad sides.
Earlier this year, Lord Justice Birss said publicly that he had once used an AI tool to provide a summary of an area of law:
“I asked ChatGPT can you give me a summary of this area of law, and it gave me a paragraph. I know what the answer is because I was about to write a paragraph that said that, but it did it for me and I put it in my judgment. It’s there and it’s jolly useful. I’m taking full personal responsibility for what I put in my judgment, I am not trying to give the responsibility to somebody else.”
We can be confident that the AI used by Birss LJ was in good hands. Like many intellectual property lawyers, Birss studied science at university before taking to the law. He knew what he was doing. It is more dangerous in the hands of a layperson, as the case of Harber v Commissioners for His Majesty's Revenue and Customs  UKFTT 1007 (TC) demonstrates.
Mrs Harber had disposed of a property but failed to notify HMRC of her liability to capital gains tax. HMRC issued a failure to notify penalty of £3,265.11. Mrs Harber appealed it on the basis that she had a reasonable excuse for her failure by reason of a mental health condition from which she was suffering and/or her ignorance of the law. In support of her arguments she relied on case law, providing the tax tribunal with the names, dates and summaries of nine First-tier Tribunal decisions in which the appellant had been successful in showing that a reasonable excuse existed. The problem was that none of the authorities were genuine: they had been generated by artificial intelligence.
Mrs Harber did not take that finding lying down. The tribunal’s judgment records: “Mrs Harber…asked how the Tribunal could be confident that the cases relied on by HMRC and included in the Authorities Bundle were genuine. The Tribunal pointed out that HMRC had provided the full copy of each of those judgments and not simply a summary, and the judgments were also available on publicly accessible websites such as that of the FTT and the British and Irish Legal Information Institute (‘BAILII’). Mrs Harber had been unaware of those websites.”
The tribunal accepted that Mrs Harber had not known the cases were not genuine; but, unsurprisingly, it found against her.
Welcome to our new colleague
Associate Director (London)
Stuart joined Manolete’s London team as an Associate Director earlier this month, having most recently been an insolvency partner at the London office of a large national solicitors firm. He has over 20 years’ experience of contentious insolvency matters, acting predominantly for Insolvency Practitioners. Stuart has held an individual ranking in Chambers and Partners for personal insolvency for the last nine years, most recently being described as, “…an excellent lawyer. He has excellent knowledge of personal insolvency and he's easy to deal with."
The Manolete Model in Action
Manolete periodically releases anonymised case studies that highlight the outstanding benefits of our unique model.
This case concerned a company providing private medical procedures which entered into CVL in December 2020. The IP had identified claims against the director and connected parties in breach of duty and in debt with a headline value of £274k. A letter before claim was sent on behalf of the liquidator in October 2022, and liability was denied.
The claims were assigned to Manolete in September 2023 and were settled in December 2023 at £190k.
The key point to takeaway from this case is evidence of the ‘Manolete effect’ given the speed at which it was settled following assignment (within three months).
To kickstart the new year, R3 in Scotland is hosting a fun-filled Burns Night Supper on Thursday 25 January.