‘Jim Oulton is one of the grandees of the professional negligence world. Jim is relentless in his pursuit of the right answer and clients always know they have a real battler in their corner.’Legal 500 2023
Jim Oulton is a partner in the Litigation & Dispute Resolution practice of the London office. He is particularly well known for his work in the professional liability field. He regularly advises in claims in the English courts concerning accountants and auditors, insolvency practitioners, lawyers, trustees, tax professionals and many other professions. Jim's work includes managing and supervising overseas claims — particularly in offshore jurisdictions where he has very broad experience.
Recent work includes successfully defending Insolvency Practitioners at trial in a £250m claim in relation to alleged negligent failures to rescue the Company as a going concern and/or to sell its development site at appropriate value (In the matter of One Blackfriars Ltd), defending and successfully striking out claims made against Insolvency Practitioners alleging they had colluded with RBS in the dishonest sale of a hotel, defending a UK based audit firm against allegations of negligence following the collapse of a Caribbean Insurance Company, defending a Caribbean based member of an international accounting network in a USD 100 million claim in respect of allegations of a negligent failure to detect fraud in an investment fund and successfully defending an international law firm in claims arising from allegedly negligent advice in a multi-jurisdictional (UK, USA and Italy) bond issue which failed to come to market. He also advises large accounting practices in relation to requests for documents and information from Insolvency Practitioners, the SFO and other regulatory bodies. He has defended many claims arising from allegedly negligent tax planning and tax mitigation/deferral schemes. Jim also advises professional firms and individuals in the accounting and insolvency fields in relation to their regulatory responsibilities and in connection with investigations and disciplinary proceedings instigated by regulatory bodies.
Jim has also often acted in disputes relating to the valuation of assets (including freehold and leasehold property interests), advising those who have allegedly negligently advised as to value or are alleged to have sold at an undervalue. Jim has also defended insurance brokers who are alleged to have negligently failed to procure a policy in accordance with their clients' instructions and/or to provide appropriate advice in relation to insurance coverage arrangements.
He has also often been instructed to act as a strategic adviser in relation to claims already on foot and/or monitoring/supervising counsel where professional clients, insurers or excess layer insurers want to review or refresh the strategy or tactics being used, or to seek a second opinion.
Jim's coverage work includes advising insurers in relation to claims arising in the context of the collapse of a high profile firm of Insolvency Practitioners and assisting one of the world's largest professional services businesses in a dispute with its captive. He is advising insurers in relation to D&O policies in the hospitality, natural resources, media and financial sectors. His past experience in this sector includes disputes in the international oil sector, offshore investment companies and funds and sports businesses.
- Acted for the successful Insolvency Practitioners, striking out claims made against them relating to the sale of a hotel (in the matter of Coniston Hotel (Kent) LLP (In Liquidation – upheld in the Court of Appeal, with permission to appeal to the Supreme Court refused).
- Defending Caribbean auditor in respect of USD 100m audit negligence claim arising from failure to detect fraud.
- Acting for an international law firm in a very complex matter involving allegations of negligence in relation to a debt push down structure.
- Successfully defending international law firm in relation to claims arising from a failed bond transaction involving issues of English, New York and Italian Law.
- Acting for insurers and providing strategic advice in relation to a claim that an auction house had negligently failed to identify a valuable artwork prior to its sale.
- Successfully defending a negligence claim against a well known firm of actuaries arising from sex equalisation and re-drafted scheme documentation.
- Advising the insurers of an international law firm in relation to strategy and conduct of the defence of a claim concerning alleged negligence in a cross border transaction involving multiple advisers.
- Advising a well known accounting firm in relation to allegations of negligence in relation to tax planning advice.
- Advising "Top 6" firm of accountants as to obligations to produce documentation to SFO in respect of investigations of third parties.
- Conduct of numerous disputes between auditors and clients as to the extent of auditors' duties to detect fraud.
- Represented Spread Trustee Company in its successful appeal to the Privy Council confirming its ability to rely on exculpatory provisions in Trust Deeds and the ability of trustees in England & Wales to exclude liability other than for fraud.
- Advising member firm of international network of accounting firms in respect of claims arising from investment by third parties in an alleged Ponzi scheme.
- Advising excess layer underwriters in respect of claims made against an international law firm arising from alleged fraud in property related transactions, including negotiation of settlement of inwards and recovery claims.
- Advising excess layer insurers of substantial professional firm in respect of policy response following discovery of fraud by one of its partners.
- Advising Top 10 Accountancy firm in respect of issues arising relating to tax mitigation schemes.
- Defending national firm of Insolvency Practitioners in respect of claims made by a director of insolvent companies as to allegations of breach of duty and failure to advise in respect of Phoenix Companies issues.
- Advising Nationwide Building Society and its insurers in relation to recovery actions following multi-million pound mortgage frauds (Nationwide Building Society v Dunlop Haywards Limited and Anor, Nationwide Building Society v Eversheds LLP and Nationwide Building Society v Browne Jacobson LLP).
- Advising Professional Indemnity Insurers in a coverage dispute following the collapse of a Cayman domiciled fund (Somerville and Anor v LB Limited and Ors).
- Advising National firm of Chartered Surveyors in respect of allegations of negligent valuation of a proposed residential property development.
- Advising Chartered Surveyors in relation to valuation dispute arising from underlying mortgage fraud and claims against other professionals involved in the same transactions (Northern Rock plc v Gerald Eve, Gerald Eve v DLA).
- Successfully defending a firm of Chartered Surveyors to whom property management functions had been outsourced in a multi-party dispute arising from the impact of rent review provisions forming part of a lease agreed in a sale and lease back transaction (Kwik Fit Properties Ltd v Landau Nock, Rapleys and Ors).
- Advising Offshore Trustees in respect of claims arising from Trust Asset Management including failures to diversify.
- Advising Professional Indemnity Underwriters on coverage issues following the collapse of a "claims farming" company.
- Advising insurers in relation to liabilities following failures in customer and passenger IT systems in rail and airport sectors.
Leeds University, BA (Hons)
CPE/Law Society Finals
Consistently ranked as a key individual by the legal directories:
- Listed as a Leading individual for Professional Negligence and a key lawyer for Fraud, he is 'one of the grandees of the professional negligence world' and is well known for his work for insolvency practitioners, accountants, lawyers and auditors. ‘Jim Oulton is one of the grandees of the professional negligence world. Jim is relentless in his pursuit of the right answer and clients always know they have a real battler in their corner.’ (Legal 500 2023).
- Jim Oulton acts on a wide array of professional negligence claims on behalf of accountants, insurance brokers and insolvency practitioners. He has further strength in solicitors' liability, with notable experience of multi-jurisdictional matters. "He is very detailed, and stays very calm and on an even keel. He keeps people at ease while being quite forensic." "He is a tour de force." (Chambers UK 2022).
- Listed as a 'Leading individual' and key lawyers for Professional Negligence, 'Jim Oulton is well-regarded for his work for insolvency practitioners, accountants and auditors'. ‘Jim Oulton is one of the leaders in this corner of the market: phenomenally knowledgeable, with a laser-like commercial brain, he consistently delivers the goods for his clients.’ (Legal 500 2022).
- Listed under 'Other key lawyers' for Insurance and Reinsurance Litigation and as a 'Leading individual' and under 'Other key lawyers' for Professional Negligence. ‘Jim Oulton is exceptionally skilled in ensuring that the last drop of excellence is squeezed out of a case. With excellent judgement and great client skills, he is the go-to lawyer for difficult professional negligence cases and commands deep respect from insurers placing difficult cases.’ He ‘has huge experience in defending claims against accountants, auditors and insolvency professionals. His understated manner conceals a steely determination to achieve the best possible result for his client, and a brilliant strategic mind.’ ‘Jim Oulton and Tim Shepherd really stood out for us in a large recent case. We have also been blessed by excellent secondees.’ (Legal 500 2021).
- Jim Oulton acts on a wide array of professional negligence claims on behalf of accountants, insurance brokers and insolvency practitioners. He has further strength in solicitors' liability, with notable experience of multi-jurisdictional matters. "He is a very personable lawyer with excellent communication skills. He is very clever, a strategic thinker, and reliable." (Chambers UK 2021).
- Listed as a 'Leading Individual', and under 'Other key lawyers', 'Jim Oulton heads a strong team which is proactive'. He 'is extremely hands-on' (Professional Negligence). He is also listed under 'Other key lawyers' for Fraud (Legal 500 2020).
- Jonathan Oulton acts for defendant professionals in fields such as accounting, legal and tax. One source says: "He is very good at seeing the wood for the trees, and getting to heart of complex issues." (Chambers UK 2019);
- The "very intelligent" James Oulton is "able to look at a very complicated case, extract what's important and then explain it in very clear, succinct language." His clients include large accountancy firms and he is well known for his expertise on negligence related to trusts. (Chambers UK 2018);
- "Well, I would say again, relationship-wise, he’s very strong, so he’s very good at relationship-building, very user-friendly, sensible commercial advice, but actually very strong technically too." (Acritas Stars™ 2017);
- Jim Oulton has "a fantastic reputation" (Legal 500 2016);
- James Oulton is highly recommended for handling insurance-related negligence claims and policy disputes. He has a strong track record acting for construction and IT professionals as well as trustees. (Chambers UK 2016);
- Jim Oulton has "a fantastic reputation" (Legal 500 2015);
- He is "incredibly hardworking" (Legal 500 2014);
- He is "remarkably persistent for his clients" and is often instructed on the most difficult cases (Chambers UK 2014);
- He is noted for his "pragmatic" approach (Legal 500 2013);
- "technically excellent’" (Legal 500 2012);
- Jim is admired for his ability to "distil complex academic and legal arguments in a succinct way." He has "a brilliant legal mind but is also aware of the commercial ramifications" (Chambers UK 2012);
- He is "able to cut across complex legal argument to explain in a succinct and intelligible manner" (Legal 500 2011);
- "is very thorough and gets great deals for his clients" (Chambers UK 2011);
- "Extremely thorough and relentless in his coverage of a case, and leaves no stone unturned" (Chambers UK 2010);
- Jim is "one of the brightest solicitors around, and always has valuable input" (Chambers & Partners UK Directory 2009).