Money in the Bank

Several years ago I knew a merchant family in the Gulf, who became involved in litigation against a large Western company.

They engaged the most feared and prestigious firm of New York litigation lawyers to represent them, and duly won the case.

The lawyers’ fees came to nearly $10 million – a sum that is easily reached in commercial litigation. Payment was not forthcoming.

So the New York firm dispatched a junior associate, who had been involved in the case, to the Gulf to collect the money. It was a mistake to send a junior. The senior partner might even have succeeded.

The young associate was greeted warmly, treated royally, thanked profusely, and invited to lunch with the head of the family. Whenever he raised the subject of the outstanding fees, this was brushed aside: “Don’t worry, we’ll go to the bank this afternoon.”

Lunch is drawn-out affair in the Gulf, and few Westerners are used to eating so much. So the young lawyer was relieved when lunch finally ended and the head of the family escorted him to a chauffeur-driven Bentley waiting outside.

The car went to the city centre and pulled up in front of the marble head office of the national Bank. The lawyer made to get out of the car, but the merchant stopped him. He pointed to the Bank and said: “Tell your partners not to worry. The money is in the bank.”

The Bentley then dropped the lawyer at the airport, in plenty of time for the long trip back to New York.

Chris Thorpe

Chris Thorpe is a respected independent lawyer in the upstream oil and gas industry, and an established lecturer and author. Chris has a LLB in law from Magdalene College, Cambridge and trained as a barrister in London. He worked for eight years' as an in-house lawyer for BP and Marathon. Since 1991, Chris has run his own upstream legal practice, CPTL, which has acted for many upstream clients. He has extensive experience of international upstream transactions, principally in the North Sea, the FSU, Africa and the Middle East. Chris has spoken at many UK and International Conferences and Seminars, both public and in-house. His most popular current lecture is Fundamental of Upstream Petroleum Agreements, a two-day course with accompanying book.