Peers and clients say:
"He is always willing to tackle the difficult cases"
"David's approach is always measured and well thought-out"
"He's very impressive"
David trained and qualified as a chartered accountant with KPMG, starting his career in audit but transferring to the far more exciting world of recovery just in time for the recession of the late 1980s and working on some fantastic cases. David took his first insolvency appointment in 1995 having moved to a boutique insolvency firm before moving to Chantrey Vellacott in 1999 where he remained for almost 10 years. He joined Grant Thornton in 2008 to head up their proceeds of crime team. He continues to act in fraud-based insolvencies.
What motivated you to specialise in contentious insolvency and proceeds of crime?
I wish I could say it was a conscious decision to specialise in this field. The reality is that I took on several cases where fraud had resulted in the failure of the companies. Rather than bury the cases, I investigated the frauds and recovered assets for the victims and found that I rather liked the work. Before long I had developed a reputation for having an appetite for cases involving fraud and the need to trace and recover assets, so my area of specialisation was more through chance than design.
What qualities do you think make for a successful asset recovery expert?
I’m not sure that there’s a single quality that defines such an expert. The cliched “an enquiring mind” is certainly a necessary quality but attributes such as an ability to look at the wider picture and to recognise the extent and limitations of your own knowledge and skills is a necessary skill. I recognise that I know quite a lot about lots of things but equally know when I need to ask for appropriate professional assistance.
What types of matters have you worked on recently?
Investment frauds continue to keep me and my team busy. The alleged investment opportunities change to capture unsuspecting victims; a current trend is cryptocurrencies, which have had plenty of press coverage as their value appears to increase unabated. Whilst there is an awareness amongst the public of the existence of cryptocurrencies, there is less of a full understanding of how they operate and why their values fluctuate – an ideal breeding ground for fraud.
How have virtual assets and digital currencies changed the practice?
As mentioned previously we have seen a number of frauds based upon the promise of huge returns from such assets. We have also had cases where the wrong doers have held virtual assets and have been successful in seizing and converting them to cash for the benefit of the victims.
As head of the proceeds of crime team at Grant Thornton, what are your main priorities for the team’s development over the next few years?
Clearly, I wish to maintain the team’s position as the recognised leader in this field. I anticipate that, post-pandemic, there will be an increase in the level of detected fraud so I would wish to grow the team to meet these challenges and to explore other sources for this type of work, both in the UK and internationally.
What impact do you think the increased presence of third-party funders in the asset recovery space will have on the market?
I would hope that the increase in numbers of litigation funders will drive down the cost of funding which can be uneconomic for some, particularly smaller, cases. I would also hope that the increased demand will drive a shorter period of time between enquiry and funds. This will speed up proceedings, which, in turn, will increase the likelihood and level of return for victims. All-in-all an increase in third-party funders should be positive for the industry.
You have enjoyed a very distinguished career thus far, what do you hope to achieve that you have not yet accomplished?
Whilst it is very flattering to be recognised as a leader in the field of asset tracing and recovery, my, and my fellow practitioners’, work is never done as the level of fraud continues to rise. If there were just one thing that I would like to achieve it is the establishment of a genuine and sustainable working relationship between the private and public sector.
What qualities make for an effective asset recovery expert?
Undoubtedly a good understanding of both law, accountancy, insolvency and forensic techniques is essential for this type of work. I would recommend that anyone interested in contentious insolvency should work or train in an environment where you can understand how a business should run – my audit and accounting training has helped me enormously. Try to have an enquiring mind and don’t be afraid to speak up if there’s something that you do not understand, or something doesn’t look right. There have been many instances where a small detail picked up by a relatively junior member of the team has unlocked a fraud.