Trio of UK firms advise as judge OKs Facebook High Court claim first

Clyde & Co, Stephenson Harwood and Memery Crystal are all advising on a case that has seen what is thought to be the first High Court claim served via Facebook.

The case, involving a $2.1m (£1.3m) claim brought by investment-managers AKO Capital and AKO Master Fund against former broker TFS Derivatives, has seen Mr Justice Teare approve the use of Facebook to locate former TFS employee Fabio de Biase.

The investment managers allege that the broker significantly overcharged them; however, the broker denies liability and has argued that if held liable, it is entitled to recover a contribution from former AKO employee Anjam Ahmad and de Biase, who handled the relationship.

De Biase has not participated in the proceedings to date and the parties involved have been unable to locate him.

Following pre-trial discussions held last Friday (17 February), Teare granted Stephenson Harwood permission to serve de Biase with a claim via Facebook after it had not been possible to locate him.

The move is understood to mark the first time a claim has been served in the UK using the social networking site at the level of the High Court. A court order and injunction have previously been served via Facebook and Twitter respectively in Britain in lower courts.

Clydes is advising AKO Capital and AKO Master Fund with a team headed up by commercial dispute resolution co-head Neil Jamieson, while Memery Crystal is acting for Ahmad led disputes associate Jenni Jenkins.

Meanwhile, Stephenson Harwood is advising TFS with property litigation partner Paul Thwaite taking the key role.

Teare has given de Biase 14 days to respond to the claim from the day it was served – sometime between last Friday and today (21 February) – an increase on the usual two days permitted due to uncertainty over how often he checks his Facebook account.

The case is expected to go to trial in January 2013.

The news comes after Ahmad was handed a 10-month suspended sentence and fined £50,000 in May 2010 for insider trading at AKO.

On the case, DLA Piper litigation partner Hugh Evans commented: “We live in a world where business at its highest level is conducted 24 hours a day, seven days a week, without regard to national borders and often involving countries with less well developed legal systems as ours.

“The decision to permit service by Facebook demonstrates that the judges in London’s commercial court are prepared to deploy modern technology and changing social behaviours in support of litigants needing to serve opponents. In doing so they are continuing to enhance the reputation of London as a venue for the global business community’s high value and complex disputes.”