171 Main Street, The Barracks, 2nd Floor
Road Town, Tortola, British Virgin Islands
Peers and clients say:
"He is well-respected in the space"
"I regard him to be an important practitioner in asset recovery"
"He is adept at using great technology and rigorous forensic procedures"
James is an experienced professional in the field of forensic accounting and financial investigations.
He heads Grant Thornton's forensics practice in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), Cayman Islands and the Eastern Caribbean. With over 27 years of experience, including 21 years with a big four accountancy firm, James has developed a wide range of skills and expertise.
He holds the designations of Chartered Professional Accountant (CA, CPA), Fellow of INSOL and Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE).
What aspect of asset recovery work is most rewarding?
Global asset tracing and recovery presents new challenges with every case. While there are common offshore structures and preferred jurisdictions used to hide assets from legitimate creditors and judgment holders, every case seems to introduce a slightly new or unique nuance that demands the asset recovery team be at its best. From a professional perspective, it can be extremely satisfying to get the jump on a subject by turning up a critical document or fact about an asset they thought was buried deep in a complex structure. Having heard personal stories from victims of economic crime over many years, it is most rewarding when our clients enjoy a successful monetary result that may, in some small way, offset the personal and financial trauma they have suffered.
How has the Russian invasion of Ukraine impacted the sector?
The sanctions applied by the international community in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine have added a layer of complexity to an already complex sector. Practitioners must be highly aware of the immediate and wider implications of sanctions as they take on new clients and initiate proceedings against certain assets.
If you could change one aspect of international asset recovery law, what would it be and why?
One of the most interesting but challenging elements of international asset recovery law is that, while there are commonalities, there are both extreme disparities and very nuanced differences to laws legal processes around the world. These differences, big or small, are among various factors that impact on the predictability of outcomes. While initiatives such as the UNCITRAL Model Law of Cross Border Insolvency and others like it help to reduce uncertainty when undertaking foreign asset recovery proceedings, our clients and victims of economic crime would be better served, and the cost of such proceedings would be reduced, if (however unlikely) there were broader adoption of common legal principles.
As a director, what are your goals at Grant Thornton and how will you go about achieving them?
Continuing to grow Grant Thornton’s forensics practice in the BVI and Cayman Islands as well as expanding our reach throughout the wider Caribbean Region is an important consideration for me as a director heading up this practice area. The key to our growth and expansion lies in collaboration with subject specialists practising in our UK and US firms and with our well-established insolvency and asset recovery teams in the BVI and Cayman. Our history has demonstrated that our complementary experiences and skills lend themselves well to helping each other achieve successful results for our clients.
How has Grant Thornton adapted to increasing environmental scrutiny and concerns? Are there any new initiatives that have been introduced?
Grant Thornton has always been a leader in environmental, social and governance issues and since I joined the firm in 2019, I’ve seen that their commitment is more than words. Among other social and environmental initiatives, GT is committed to achieving the goals we’ve set to reduce carbon emissions in support of UN Global Compact Environmental Principles and comply with the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme. We demonstrate our commitment to communities by working with local social enterprises and key business networks to raise both funds and awareness of social challenges and share out talent and skills.
What traits would you look for in an up-and-coming expert hoping to join the firm?
Asset tracing and recovery requires investigative and forensic accountants to be curious and methodical, and to take pride in all aspects of their work. The asset recovery path is rarely linear, so critical thinking is needed to anticipate and defeat a subject who has had a head start on hiding or obfuscating assets and value. I look for these characteristics and for someone who understands how their findings fit into the wider picture and can apply that understanding to recommend or undertake next steps.
What advice do you have for the next generation of experts in this field? What skills should they start developing in order to succeed?
I would advise someone who is coming up in the profession to learn all they can from others whom they work with. I believe it’s important to invest in oneself by spending the extra time learning about different aspects of the profession and learning from other professionals in the field, such as the legal team, investigators, forensic technology and subject matter experts. While it’s not necessary or practical to become an expert in every aspect of recovery, having a strong understanding and appreciation of, for example, applicable legal concepts or discovery tools available in various jurisdictions, will allow a more fulsome understanding of each case and the strategic and tactical options that are available.