James Drake QC

James Drake QC

Silk: 2011 | Call: 1998

“Attention to detail and incisive analysis makes him an excellent choice for complex arbitration work”

The Legal 500

Practice Profile


James Drake QC is an experienced advocate and arbitrator.

As counsel, James specialises in international commercial disputes, in court and in arbitration, and is qualified in London, New York and Australia.  He specialises in all areas of commercial law, with particular emphasis on the following areas: commercial fraud; commodities; distributorship/ franchise; insurance and reinsurance; partnership; sport; and all related interlocutory and jurisdictional issues.  He has appeared in courts and before arbitral tribunals in London, Sydney, New York, BVI, Antigua and Bermuda and maintains rights of audience in these jurisdictions.

As arbitrator, James is an experienced arbitrator in international commercial disputes, and is a member of the LCIA, a fellow of the CIArb and of ACICA, and a chartered arbitrator.  He has extensive experience in international arbitrations (whether as sole or co-arbitrator or chairman) under the auspices of the LCIA, ICC, CIArb, AAA, FINRA, SMA, Swiss Arbitration, and in ad hoc arbitrations.  James is also a member  of  various  panels  of  arbitrators,  including  the CIArb’s Presidential Panel, ACICA, AMTAC, and AIAC.

James is also a member of the panel of arbitrators for the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Lausanne) and a panel member of Sports Resolutions UK and in recent years has had extensive experience across a variety of sports arbitrations.

Before coming to the Bar, James practised extensively in the US (New York) and in Australia (Sydney and Adelaide).  He was a partner in Owen & Davis LLP (New York), since merged with Norton Rose, and an associate in the international firm of Baker & McKenzie (in their Sydney and New York offices).

James is also a qualified accountant, and worked with KPMG before the law. As a result, he has, unusually for the Bar, no fear of the mechanics of business and the commercial dimensions of legal disputes.

Commercial Cases:

A v S (2021-22): A dispute between commercial counterparties in Bermuda with allegations of commercial fraud.  The arbitration is pursuant to the LCIA Rules, with a sole arbitrator.

A v B (2019-20): Dispute between lessor and lessee of aircraft in relation to damage.  CIArb ad hoc arbitration.  Sole arbitrator.

Bank v XYZ (2021-22):  LCIA dispute between bank and Russian counterparties in relation to proposed IPO.  BVI law.  Three arbitrator panel.

C v D (2019-20): Dispute under Singapore Chamber of Maritime Arbitration Rules relating to a contract for the sale of steel between Swiss and Canadian counterparties.  New York law.  Sole arbitrator.

Germany v U (2020-21): A dispute under Swiss Arbitration Centre Rules in respect of a contract for the sale of steel.  Swiss law governs.  Three arbitrator panel.

H v M (2019-21): A £500m dispute between founding members of a fund manager, sole arbitrator under ad hoc agreement.  Sole arbitrator.

K v P and Ors (2021-22): A dispute under various LLP and related agreements between founder fund managers (€1 billion in committed capital).  Arbitration in London under LCIA Rules, with a panel of three arbitrators.

M v M & Ors (2015-22): A dispute between shareholders of a group of companies, it being alleged that the group’s affairs were being conducted in a manner that unfairly prejudices the claimant minority shareholder.  BVI law.  Arbitration in London under LCIA Rules.  A panel of three arbitrators.

N v H (2020-21): An ICC arbitration between a seller of oil and the Republic of Haiti.  Panel of three arbitrators, subject to New York law, with Houston seat.

O v IP (2019-21): An LCIA arbitration concerning the fraudulent conversion of art-works.  Three-member panel, English law.

S v C (2015-22): ICC arbitration, in London, with respect to a dispute between oil companies in relation to Nigeria concessions.  USD450m claims, English and Nigerian law.  A panel of three arbitrators.

S v M (2021-22): LCIA arbitration, in London, English law.  Dispute between shareholders in relation to JV for the supply of electricity and alternative energy.  Chair of panel of panel of  three arbitrators.

Sports Cases:

Akmal v Pakistan Cricket Board (CAS; 2021): Appeal by Mr Akmal against the decisions banning him for his failure to disclose approaches by bookmakers.   Sole arbitrator.

Coleman v WADA (CAS; 2021): An appeal by champion US sprinter, Mr Coleman, against his ban for whereabouts failures (in advance of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games).  Chair of three member panel.

K v K (CAS; 2021): A dispute between national and international karate federations with respect to the termination by the IF of the NF status.  Chair of three member panel.

L v World Athletics (CAS; 2021): A challenge by Russian Olympic highjumper against the World Athletics Council decision to suspend the ‘Authorised Neutral Athlete’ scheme for Russian athletes (ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games).  Chair of three arbitrator panel.

Leeper v International Association of Athletics Federations (CAS; 2020): An appeal by a double-amputee 400m sprint athlete against the decision by the IAAF to preclude him from competing in the 2020 Olympic Games.  Chair of three arbitrator panel.

Players A and B v Club (Sports Resolutions; 2021): A dispute between players and club in relation to the contractual entitlements of the players upon the expiration of their contracts and related disciplinary sanctions.  Chair of three arbitrator panel.

Rehm v International Olympic Committee and World Athletics: (CAS; 2021):  An appeal by Mr Rehm, a renowned Paralympian in the long-jump event, against the decision of the IOC and World Athletics precluding him from competing in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.  Sole arbitrator.

Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee v WADA (CAS; 2020-21): An appeal by the TTOC against the ban of an athlete for whereabouts failures. Sole arbitrator.

Y v International Tennis Federation (CAS; 2021): An application for preliminary relief by a tennis player in respect of a provisional suspension.  Sole arbitrator.

Various athletes v WADA (CAS; 2021-22): Various appeals by various Russian athletes against the bans imposed upon them pursuant to the so-called Russian doping scandal.  Chair of three member panels/ sole arbitrator.

Selected cases:

  • Celestial Aviation v Andalus Linea Aereas: James acted for the owners of two aircraft leased to the defendant, a regional airline based in Malaga, Spain in a dispute with the lessees; injunctive relief; difficult questions as to the role of the English court in support of foreign proceedings under s25 of the Civil Jurisdiction and Judgments Act 1982.
  • B v A: James acted for the buyer of a jet aircraft in a dispute with the manufacturers and sellers as to the termination of the sale and purchase agreement. The matter was subject to ICC arbitration in London. The matter concerned the proper construction of the purchase agreement, including in particular the ability of manufacturers/ sellers to retain purchase price instalments. The dispute was settled (favourably) before the hearing.
  • Mohamed v Dassault Aviation SA: James acted for the buyer of a Falcon jet aircraft against the manufacturers, Dassault Aviation SA, the French aircraft manufacturer, in relation to the repudiation of the agreement. James has also represented British Airways with respect to a number of matters concerning their insurance and reinsurance programme.

James has been involved in a number of commercial fraud cases in recent years. By way of recent example:

  • Commodities & Minerals Enterprise Ltd (Zurich/ BVI) v C.V.G. Ferrominera Orinoco C.A. (Venezuela). This was a USD350m dispute involving arbitrations taking place in (a) New York, (b) Miami, (c) Zurich, and (d) London under the auspices of various arbitral institutions (ICC, LCIA, SMA).  James was counsel for a state-owned Venezuelan entity responsible for the production and sale of iron ore in Venezuela.  The claimant company brought a claim against Venezuela, which was defended on various grounds including fraud and corruption on the part of the claimant and representatives of the Venezuelan government.
  • Orb v Ruhan & Ors. This was a complex and high value (£250m) multi-party commercial fraud dispute.  James was leading counsel, instructed by a team led by Sean Upson at Stewarts.  Principal dispute compromised before trial.  There was a raft of interlocutory skirmishes, including various applications for freezing injunctions, unless orders, and Norwich Pharmacal and related relief in respect of criminal wrongdoing: see eg 2015 EWHC 830 (26.2.16) before Cooke J; 2015 EWHC 830 (15.4.16) before Popplewell J; and [2016] EWHC 361 before Popplewell J.

Selected cases:

  • R (on application of Manchikalapati) v Financial Services Compensation Scheme.  James is leading counsel in this judicial review of a decision by the FSCS not to pay compensation to a number of insureds in circumstances where the insurer went into administration and failed to pay on the policies.
  • United Agencies Limited SA & Anor v Globe Marine Services Co.  James acted in this matter for UAL, a subsidiary of MSC SA, the shipping giant based in Geneva.  This was a boardroom dispute concerning MSC’s joint venture partner in Saudi Arabia.  The Saudi joint venture partner sued seeking to set aside certain changes to the corporate structure (and voting rights) and to force the sale of the underlying shares in breach of an arbitration agreement and a share sale agreement subject to English law.  Settled after the arbitral hearing but before award.
  • Orb A.R.L. v Ruhan: This was a complex and high value (£250m) multi-party commercial fraud dispute.  James was leading counsel, instructed by a team led by Sean Upson at Stewarts.  Principal dispute compromised before trial.  There was a raft of interlocutory skirmishes, including various applications for freezing injunctions, unless orders, and Norwich Pharmacal and related relief in respect of criminal wrongdoing: see eg 2015 EWHC 830 (26.2.16) before Cooke J; 2015 EWHC 830 (15.4.16) before Popplewell J; and [2016] EWHC 361 before Popplewell J.
  • Commodities & Minerals Enterprise Ltd (Zurich/ BVI) v C.V.G. Ferrominera Orinoco C.A. (Venezuela). This was a USD350m dispute involving arbitrations taking place in (a) New York, (b) Miami, (c) Zurich, and (d) London under the auspices of various arbitral institutions (ICC, LCIA, SMA).  James was counsel for a state-owned Venezuelan entity responsible for the production and sale of iron ore in Venezuela.  The claimant company brought a claim against Venezuela, which was defended on various grounds including fraud and corruption on the part of the claimant and representatives of the Venezuelan government.
  • A v Z: James represented an options trader against a high street brokerage house for claims that the house unlawfully closed down the put options positions for failure to pay margin. The matter involves the proper construction of the terms and conditions and the proper measure of damages in contract and conversion.
  • Icon SE LLC v SE Shipping Lines Pte Limited: James represented the defendant shipowners in a dispute with lenders pursuant to the terms of a loan facility in respect of the purchase of newbuild vessels. The matter concerned the proper construction of the loan facility and the tit-for-tat allegations of repudiation.
  • Jennington International Inc & Ors v Assabauyev & Ors Insurers v Solicitors  (Chancery: Vos J): James represented one of the defendants (sellers) in this complex $450 million dispute as to the sale of a Kazakh gold mine. He appeared before Vos J on a number of thorny interlocutory applications including (a) whether a party should be subjected to medical examination in order to test his failure to adhere to court orders and (b) the disclosure of CCTV footage.
  • Michael Wilson & Partners, Limited v John Emmott: James represented the claimant law firm in long-running proceedings on claims for the dishonest breach of fiduciary duty by members of the firm by, amongst other things, the illicit diversion of corporate opportunities.  Proceedings in London, Sydney, BVI.

James has acted in a wide range of insurance and reinsurance cases.

  • X v Y. Collapse of a North Sea pipeline, causing substantial property damage to the pipeline (and leaking hydrocarbons) and significant business interruption losses. The total claim was circa USD500m.  James acted for the claimant insured.  Policy was governed by New York law.  The insurers declined the claim on various grounds, including (a) that it was excluded on the proper construction of the policy terms and (b) the loss would have happened in any event.  After a contested hearing, the tribunal found in favour of the insured in all respects.
  • British Amateur Gymnastics Association v Zurich Insurance and Brit Insurance & Ors. James represented the British Amateur Gymnastics Association.  A member of a local club in Northern Ireland sustained serious (neck) injury in a calisthenics accident at the club.  Insurers declined cover.  The Association sought declarations of cover from insurers, and a claim over against their brokers.  There followed a dispute about whether or not a claim had been made, by whom and under which policy; and as to the professional conduct of the insurance brokers.  The matter was settled on the eve of trial for a complete recovery for the insured.
  • Starlight Shipping Company v Allianz Marine & Aviation Versicherungs AG & Ors, [2011] EWHC 3381 (Comm); see also [2012] EWCA Civ 1714; [2014] EWCA Civ 1010; and [2013] UKSC 70. James, leading Emma Hilliard, argued the matter in the Commercial Court for the owners of The Alexandros T, which was lost at sea in May 2006 with significant loss of life.  Shipowners commenced various claims in Greece which the defendants alleged were in breach of the jurisdiction agreements set forth in various earlier settlement agreements.  An important decision on the proper construction of jurisdiction clauses and on the operation of Articles 27 and 28 of the 2001 Regulation.
  • Cotesworth & Co Limited. James represented the members of two Lloyd’s syndicates in a claim under  the Lloyd’s Members’ Compensation Scheme for losses sustained by reason off the fraud and dishonesty on the part of the underwriting agents.  Successful settlement for the members.
  • In the Matter of Sompo Japan Insurance Inc (Chancery): James represented the French aircraft and space insurers in relation to an application by their reinsurers (Sompo) to the Chancery Court under Part VII of the Financial Services & Markets Act 2000 for the Court’s approval of the proposed transfer by their business to a UK subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway.

James has had extensive recent experience in commercial arbitrations of all shapes and sizes.

  • X v Y. Collapse of a North Sea pipeline, causing substantial property damage to the pipeline (and leaking hydrocarbons) and significant business interruption losses. The total claim was circa USD500m.  James acted for the claimant insured.  Policy was governed by New York law.  The insurers declined the claim on various grounds, including (a) that it was excluded on the proper construction of the policy terms and (b) the loss would have happened in any event.  LCIA arbitration, New York law.  After a contested hearing, the tribunal found in favour of the insured in all respects.
  • United Agencies Limited SA & Anor v Globe Marine Services Co.  James acted in this matter for UAL, a subsidiary of MSC SA, the shipping giant based in Geneva.  This was a boardroom dispute concerning MSC’s joint venture partner in Saudi Arabia.  The Saudi joint venture partner sued seeking to set aside certain changes to the corporate structure (and voting rights) and to force the sale of the underlying shares in breach of an arbitration agreement and a share sale agreement subject to English law.  Settled after the arbitral hearing but before award.

James has been involved in an array of sports-related disputes over the years.  By way of example, he represented the Surf Life Saving Club of Australia against Kellogg’s in relation to the rights for “Iron Man”.  More recently, he also represented  the British Amateur Gymnastics Association of the UK in a commercial dispute with its insurers in relation to the severe injury of one of its members.

  • “attention to detail and incisive analysis makes him an excellent choice for complex arbitration work” Legal 500 2011. International Arbitration
  • James is a member of the London Court of International Arbitration, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, a Fellow of the Australian Centre for International Arbitration, and a Chartered Arbitrator.  James is also a panellist on the KLRCA panel of arbitrators, ARIAS (UK), and AMTAC. James accepts arbitral appointments, and is regularly appointed (as sole arbitrator, chairman, or co-arbitrator) in both domestic and international arbitrations (current examples include ICC, LCIA, CIArb and ad hoc).

    James is also a member of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Lausanne) panel of arbitrators and a panel member of Sports Resolutions.

  • University of South Australia: BA (1980); University of Adelaide: LL.B (Hons) (1985); Columbia University of New York: LL.M (1991).