PricewaterhouseCoopers Ceska republika sro
140 00, Prague, Czech Republic
Sirshar Qureshi is appreciated by sources for “delivering excellent work” and as an expert who “always has the upper hand in witness conferencing”.
Sirshar leads PwC’s Dispute Advisory Centre of Excellence. He has over 31 years of experience, which covers many aspects of accounting and financial matters, including loss of profits claims, construction claims, M&A disputes and insurance claims. He has prepared many expert reports for local arbitration, courts and for international arbitration cases involving issues in Africa, CEE, CIS, Middle East, North America and Western Europe. He has been instructed to act as an expert on behalf of claimants, respondents, the prosecutor's office and for tribunals; has been involved in commercial and investor-state disputes and in criminal proceedings; and has been asked to act as an expert determinant on share purchase agreement disputes.
Sirshar regularly testifies in international arbitration cases, having testified in London, Paris, Bucharest, Beirut, Belgrade, the Hague, Munich, Zagreb, New York and Washington DC, and has been instructed by many of the top international law firms. Sirshar is a regular speaker at international arbitration conferences on the topic of damages; and is a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW).
In PwC, Sirshar co-ordinates efforts of partners and staff globally to ensure clients find the right expert from PwC’s extensive network.
Describe your career to date.
I started my career in London, working at a small accounting firm, where I qualified as a Chartered Accountant. There were many options in the accounting field to pursue, and eventually, I joined Coopers and Lybrand (now “PwC”) directly into the forensic department in 1997. During my time in London, I was also seconded to the Department of Trade and Industry, working in the Companies Investigation Branch. In 2001 I moved to Prague to develop PwC’s forensic services team in CEE/CIS. I had worked on a few expert witness engagements whilst in the UK and continued to work on cases in CEE. In 2007 I became a partner, and around the same time had the opportunity to testify on an investment treaty case for the Czech Republic, one of the most sued states in the world at that time. During my 21 years in CEE, I have had various roles in PwC, and now I lead PwC’s Dispute Advisory Centre of Excellence, coordinating efforts around International Arbitration globally, am the forensic services co-leader for EMEA and am part of our global forensic leadership team.
What do clients look for in an effective expert witness?
Legal counsels tend to be looking for someone who understands the process, is able to grasp the most important issues and focus on them, can present the case in a clear way and is credible in front of a tribunal. Then again, there are differing views on what is effective amongst clients, as opposed to legal counsel, so something that needs alignment of what is best needed for the case.
How has the dynamic between arbitral tribunals and experts changed over the years?
Personally, I find that tribunals engage more with experts now and understand the concepts well. This means the quality of questions from the tribunal is better — and that’s positive. However, in a few instances, I have found that the tribunals may not have read the expert reports, which becomes clear when the experts are called. So I am always left with the sense that the process could have been more efficient. Also, it is usually not helpful when the tribunal tries to recalculate the damages assessed — such a task should be left to the quantum experts.
What challenges do you face with the increased volume of data being used in disputes, and how are you navigating them?
We find more and more cases where a large volume of data needs to be analysed. The critical issue is to ensure we efficiently and effectively review that data to find what is relevant for the case. We tend to have two options here. The first one is to use technology — either forensic analytical tools or tools to transfer hard copies to soft copies to be analysed more easily. Assuming we cannot use technology, our second option is to use our service delivery centre to process data into a form that can be analysed — and this proves to be a cost-efficient approach. Whichever option we take, we still need to ensure our analysis is quality checked.
What steps can be taken to increase diversity in the arbitration field?
In order to encourage diversity, I would suggest that we should promote equal representation and support women experts by giving them the opportunity to testify. The best way, we find, to get their first appointment is to work as joint experts with more seasoned experts. Interestingly when discussed with legal counsel, they tend to be supportive. Focus on this issue in the arbitration press and organisations such as Equal Representation for Experts is also of a huge help in increasing diversity.
How do you coordinate on cases when working alongside experts with other areas of expertise?
We, as quantum experts, usually rely on specific industry experts or technical experts for certain inputs (assumptions) into our loss assessment. It is necessary that both we and the other experts have access to the same information regarding the case and we follow the same instructions from the legal counsel. As our work should obviously not be contradictory, it is important for us to understand the work of the other expert and to regularly update each other on the results, which is obviously much easier when the other expert is internal rather than external to the firm. It is also helpful if we can directly communicate with each other — so the legal counsel does not serve as the intermediary for all technical issues, although their involvement is, of course, important in terms of the direction of our work.
What key skills and traits would you encourage the next generation of arbitration experts to develop?
Two key skills and traits for me to mention. First, “You can’t see the wood for the trees” — do not get lost in the analysis, which is easy to do when stuck in the details, and then it becomes hard to explain to others in a simple way. And second, know your audience — in your report and the hearing, you are speaking to the arbitrators — this is important to get it engrained from the start of the engagement and not just at the hearing.
Looking back over your career, what has been your proudest achievement?
Seeing the team grow and develop into strong professionals, so all parts of an expert assignment are executed to a high quality: from analysis, developing a valuation model, drafting the expert report to providing support in hearings. Also prepared joint reports with new experts — who now have their first case — so giving them a chance to win further engagements as experts by themselves.