Peers and clients say:
"Richard is an extremely experienced testifying expert"
"He is a very big name"
"His ability to synthesize economic and legal concepts in a coherent and clear way is unmatched"
Richard Boulton KC is a chartered accountant and barrister who advises clients on strategic, regulatory, economic, accounting and valuation issues, with particular expertise in the assessment and communication of complex damages. He has been engaged on over 300 cases, including many of the world’s largest commercial disputes, and has testified on 65 occasions.
What inspired you to pursue a career as an expert witness?
I qualified as a chartered accountant in 1985 and was seconded to the litigation services division in the New York office of Arthur Andersen. When I returned to London, I was one of the first accountants with experience of dispute work (New York being much more litigious than London in those days). So it was largely happenstance, allied to the fact that I found the work intellectually satisfying. With a couple of colleagues, we set out to make expert reports more sophisticated, emphasising complex modelling and economics over pure accountancy.
What are the most significant challenges you are anticipating expert witnesses to encounter over the next few years, and how are you planning to navigate them?
In 2021, the main challenge was diary management as cases spilled over from 2020 for covid-19 related reasons. I expect that to continue: counsel are now well used to virtual hearings, but arbitrators are very busy and it is often impossible to fix hearing dates that also work for the experts. I have not been on a plane for 20 months, but it looks like that will change in the coming weeks.
What are the advantages of having diverse geographical and sector experience? What benefits does it deliver to clients?
Most clients believe that you have to be an expert in their industry to be a good expert on valuation or damages. Whilst there is some truth in that, particularly in financial service industries, it can be overstated. I draw on experience gained across a wide range of geographies and sectors, and from a broad range of cases over the past 40 years, and I think that often brings valuable and sometimes unexpected insight.
How do you effectively coordinate on cases when working alongside experts with other areas of expertise?
It is important to carefully define the issues that each of you will address, and how they interrelate. As a damages expert, I often sit “downstream” of other experts whose evidence flows through into the valuation of damages. In those cases, it is critical to have a fairly final draft of the other expert’s report in time to reflect the conclusions in your own model and report. That sounds straightforward, but it isn’t!
How has the dynamic between arbitral tribunals and experts changed over the years?
Although most arbitral tribunals are comprised of lawyers, they are becoming more comfortable with valuation issues. There is still an unfortunate tendency for the quantum experts to be cross-examined on the final Friday afternoon with both sides running out of time, but tribunals are increasingly willing to grapple with the technical valuation issues. It is also very common to appear before the same tribunal members in multiple cases. This is welcome in some ways, because it helps the tribunal form a judgment as to who can be trusted; but that also has its dangers since the tribunal should be deciding issues on the evidence before it in that case. Some tribunals are hands-on when it comes to managing the expert evidence (eg, joint reports, hot-tubbing) and that is welcome.
What is the most memorable arbitration you have been a part of, and why?
Probably the ICC case between Dow Chemical and Kuwait’s state-owned Petroleum Industries Company, which resulted in an award of over $2 billion in damages arising from PIC’s withdrawal from a $17 billion joint venture in the middle of the 2008 financial crisis. The case raised lots of interesting and disputed quantum issues, including the impact of the withdrawal on Dow’s financing costs.
What underrated skills would you encourage the up-and-coming generation of arbitration professionals to develop?
Most of the key skills are well-known: analytical, and good oral and written communication skills. More underrated skills: be reasonable, know when to concede points, recognise the risks of becoming partisan.