Masoud Zabeti is Head of the Finance & Banking Disputes Group. He focuses on complex litigation and arbitration, as well as regulatory matters. Much of his work is multi-jurisdictional, with a particular focus on the Middle East, Russia and the main offshore financial centres.
Mishcon de Reya is a firm that thinks outside the box. In pursuit of our clients’ commercial objectives, we devise strategies and implement solutions all over the world that others do not consider or reject as impossible. That’s why I wanted to work here.
I was born in Tehran, Iran, so I feel a close connection with the Middle East. Throughout my 20 year career (having started at the age of 7!), I have always worked with Middle Eastern clients. I have also advised foreign organisations investing in the region, such as banks that have entered into joint ventures with Middle Eastern banks to set up operations there.
What’s unusual is that we work for and against financial institutions. In our market place, some law firms refuse to act against the interests of financial institutions and others tend only to act against financial institutions. On a case by case basis, we will act for and against financial institutions. This suits all our clients. Ultimately, clients come to us because we are robust and results driven litigators who have a specialist and in-depth understanding of the financial services industry, the operation of financial institutions, complex financial products, and financial regulation and enforcement.
We know what buttons to press to reach a resolution. If you’re a corporate or a business owner and have a big dispute with a bank, having a lawyer who has worked for banks and who understands the way they assess risks and make decisions is incredibly helpful.
If clients want to keep disputes confidential, arbitration is a good way to go. That way, all their sensitive business information isn’t made public.
I was once called mid-morning on a Friday by a financial institution client, who had mistakenly paid millions of pounds into an account at another financial institution, and believed the holder of the account had started withdrawing the funds. We went before a High Court Judge without any papers and obtained a freezing injunction, which was served on the other bank and account holder the same day.
Since January, I must have been to the Middle East eight or nine times. We have a lot of active cases there at any one time. Because of the nature, the size and the sensitivity of the disputes, we often prefer to see our clients face-to-face and to deal with issues on the ground.
A lot of disputes that we previously dealt with in Dubai, for example, were around the financial crisis. Construction projects were a huge part of what was going on there – I recall acting for a large bank that had invested money in infrastructure and building projects in Dubai that had gone wrong. These kinds of disputes have been resolved over the years.
The nature of our regional work just depends on the cycle of development each region is going through. We have to be alive to the changes that are taking place. And if one thing is guaranteed in the Middle East, it is that change is never far away.