Debevoise Advises Sberbank in High Court Victory

7 July 2021

Debevoise & Plimpton LLP represented Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank of Russia, in its victory in the High Court of England and Wales, successfully challenging the jurisdiction of the English courts to hear a $300 million conspiracy claim brought by a subsidiary of Russia’s second-largest bank, VTB.

The dispute arose from the insolvency of one of Russia’s largest oil refineries (“Antipinsky”). Sberbank is Antipinsky’s largest creditor, and VTB ranks highly among its other creditors.

The case concerned an attempt by VTB to expand existing English court proceedings it had commenced against Antipinsky, to include additional allegations that Sberbank had conspired with Antipinsky and another party to “double sell” gas product that had already been sold to VTB.

Sberbank denied the claims, and challenged the jurisdiction of the English courts to hear them for a number of reasons, including that Russia, not England, was the correct forum to hear the dispute.

A three-day virtual hearing took place at the beginning of May 2021, in which Debevoise partner Lord Goldsmith KC argued on behalf of Sberbank before Mrs. Justice Cockerill.

Handed down on 2 July 2021, Mrs. Justice Cockerill’s judgment upheld Sberbank’s jurisdiction challenge in full. A copy of the decision can be found here.

Debevoise’s cross-office London and Moscow team advising Sberbank was led by partner Chris Boyne, with Debevoise partner Lord Goldsmith KC arguing the case in court. The team included international counsel Gavin Chesney in London and Evgeny Samoylov in Moscow, and associates Catalina Diaconeasa, Anastasia Magid, Olga Nesterova and Dmitry Stakheev.