PCB Byrne LLP
1 Plough Place
EC4A 1DE, London, England
Trevor Mascarenhas is a favourite among peers and clients in the asset recovery space, who say he is “a really fantastic, intellectual lawyer, with a great manner”.
With over 20 years of experience acting for claimants and defendants, Trevor Mascarenhas is one of the leading practitioners in global asset recovery cases. Highly regarded for his creative strategies and deep understanding of jurisdictional issues, Trevor has been involved in numerous ground-breaking, complex and high-value cases. Many of his cases involve freezing orders in multiple jurisdictions, search and disclosure orders and use of insolvency tools to trace, freeze and recover assets worldwide.
To what extent have you noticed a significant increase in the amount of covid-19-related fraud?
I think much of the high-value fraud has yet to emerge. The steps put in place by governments to prevent the economic collapse, such as to restrict winding up of companies, may well have delayed the discovery of a lot of covid-19-related fraud. I expect we will see a number of high-value frauds emerging over the next couple of years.
To what extent do you think there is enough uptake of technology by practitioners and firms to match the pace of technological development in the legal industry?
It is important to keep up to date as tools are developed that can bring greater efficiencies to the litigation process, as well as to assist in tracing of assets. However, not all products provide value for money, which can put off practitioners from investing in new technology.
What did you find most challenging about entering asset recovery as a practice area?
Unlike many practitioners who have sought to re-invent themselves as asset recovery lawyers, I have been dealing with asset recovery cases from the start of my career, in a firm that has been pioneering in the field. The biggest challenge from the outset has been the lack of a set template for how to develop an asset recovery strategy, as cases can vary widely in the difficulties they present. It requires a combination of experience and creative thinking and keeping up to date with developments.
What in your opinion, are the biggest challenges cryptocurrencies and the digital economy pose to lawyers working in this area?
There are big challenges as a result of the speed and ease with which digital assets can now move, without having to rely on intermediaries such as banks, who have anti-money laundering obligations and in whose hands the assets can be frozen effectively.
In recent years, have you noticed a diversification of asset recovery and if so, in what respects?
The use of insolvency tools has I believe increased significantly, with many claims now being brought based upon statutory provisions where assets have been transferred to put them beyond the reach of creditors. Liquidators are increasingly seeking recognition under cross-border insolvency regulations to enable them to bring claims and collect assets across different jurisdictions.
What would you identify as the most challenging aspect of working in a multijurisdictional practice area?
It is the challenges of multijurisdictional cases that make the work of asset recovery lawyers so interesting. Not everything will run smoothly in every jurisdiction throughout a case, and the key is to find solutions to the problems that do arise. This may be in a highly pressurised situation, whether acting for the claimant or the defendant, where there may be great urgency and a wrong move can be very damaging for the client. It requires choosing the right team, keeping on top of developments in the case and asking the right questions to find the way forward.
Where, in your opinion, does the future of the practice area lie?
I think the challenges will keep on coming, particularly with the increasing popularity of cryptocurrency. The tools to tackle those challenges will need to continue to develop, both in terms of technology and in terms of innovative orders from the courts. Third-party funders are also increasingly attracted to the high values involved in many asset recovery cases and their appetite for the risks involved seems to be growing. I think we can expect to see many more funders looking to purchase judgments and arbitration awards and bring enforcement actions.
As a partner of PCB Byrne, what advice would you give to younger practitioners hoping to one day be in your position?
I am a great believer in taking the time to think about cases, and in particular how to improve the client’s position. Sometimes it is about finding the winning argument or strategy, but much of the time it is about slowly improving the client’s position, for example by strengthening the evidential picture in the client’s favour or avoiding the pitfalls. Spending thinking time requires a level of interest and dedication. It is not for everyone, and if you are going to do it, make sure you enjoy it.