Joseph Curl specialises in insolvency litigation. He was Company / Insolvency Junior of the Year at the Chambers UK Bar Awards 2019.
Chambers and Partners 2020 and Chambers Global 2020 ranks him Band 2 for Restructuring and Insolvency and says:
“He is sensationally good both on his feet and on paper – he fights his client’s corner very hard and very well”
“He is absolutely brilliant – his oral and written submissions really get to the point. His technical knowledge in this area is unparalleled, and his attention to detail and commitment to the case are really quite incredible.”
Legal 500 says:
“A superb advocate, who is very knowledgeable on the law and adept at thinking on his feet.”
Joseph was the only Chancery barrister identified in consecutive editions of the Premonition UK High Courts Report – a “big data” survey of objective success rates in High Court litigation. He was one of only four Chancery barristers identified by name in the 2017 edition (see page 11) and one of only two non-silks in the 2018 edition (see page 18).
He was Insolvency Barrister of the Year at the Turnaround, Restructuring and Insolvency (TRI) Awards 2017, having been first runner-up in 2016.
Between 2001 and 2007, Joseph worked in the restructuring department of DLA Piper UK LLP.
Joseph has extensive experience in insolvency and company litigation. He has particular expertise in actions arising from guarantees and has appeared with success in many reported guarantee cases, both on the debtor side (eg Dowling v Promontoria (Arrow) Limited  BPIR 1477) and creditor side (eg Wagner v White  BPIR 234).
He generally acts as sole counsel, although he has also had the benefit of being led by some of the stars of the company and insolvency Bar, including Guy Newey QC (now Lord Justice Newey), Michael Todd QC and Jonathan Crow QC.
During 2018 he appeared successfully in two ground-breaking reported cases concerning administrators’ duties: Davey v Money; Dunbar Assets plc v Davey  EWHC 766,  Bus LR 1903, a six-week trial before Snowden J concerning allegations of misfeasance against administrators and unlawful means conspiracy against a former bank; and Re Zinc Hotels (Holdings) Ltd  EWHC 1936 (Ch),  BCC 968, a five-sided application to appoint additional interim administrators against the wishes of the chargeholder.
To view further reported cases in which Joseph has appeared, click to expand the “Insolvency & Company” box below.
Re Implement Consulting Ltd (in liquidation); Toone v Ross
 EWHC 2855 (Ch),  All ER (D) 05 (Nov)
In the first tax avoidance-based misfeasance action to reach trial, Joseph successfully persuaded the court that the sums paid into schemes were in substance unlawful distributions of capital and void.
R v S
 EWCA Crim 1728,  1 WLR 109,  Lloyd’s Rep FC 529,  All ER (D) 114 (Oct)
Joseph appeared (against Kennedy Talbot QC and Pavlos Panayi QC) for the trustees of a debtor subject to an all-assets restraint order. This case saw the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) grapple with the difficult interface between the bankruptcy and POCA regimes.
Re Pantiles Investments Ltd (in liquidation) v Winckler
 EWHC 1298 (Ch),  2 BCLC 295,  BCC 1003,  All ER (D) 134 (May)
In the first detailed judgment for some years on s.213 fraudulent trading, a director was liable where a company’s business was carried on with the intent to defraud the bankruptcy creditors of a third party. Joseph appeared for the successful liquidator.
Re ARY Digital UK Ltd; Brewer v Iqbal
 EWHC 182 (Ch),  1 BCLC 487,  BCC 746,  BPIR 529,  PNLR 284
Joseph represented the successful liquidators in their application against a company’s former administrator for undersale of assets. Unusually, the court found a breach of fiduciary duty (not simply negligence) and awarded a substitutive performance (i.e. current value) measure of equitable compensation.
Wagner v White
 EWHC 2882 (Ch),  BPIR 234
Joseph (leading Professor Andrew Keay) appeared successfully both at first instance and on appeal before Nugee J, opposed by Richard Millett QC. The matter concerned a personal guarantee arising from the c.US$350m insolvency of Powa Group.
Abdulali v Finnegan
 EWHC 1806 (Ch),  BPIR 1547
Birss J upheld the trial judge’s finding that the statutory presumption of a “desire” to prefer had been rebutted. Joseph represented the successful respondent both at trial and on appeal.
Zinc Hotels (Holdings) Ltd v Beveridge
 EWHC 1936 (Ch),  BCC 968,  BPIR 1840
Five-sided application to remove administrators on the grounds of conflict and unfair harm. Joseph (led by Marcia Shekerdemian QC) appeared for the successful security agent before Henry Carr J.
Ennis Property Finance Ltd v Thompson
 EWHC 1929 (Ch),  All ER (D) 181 (Jul)
Joseph appeared for the successful lender at trial in proceedings concerning a disputed personal guarantee.
Davey v Money; Dunbar Assets plc v Davey
 EWHC 766,  Bus LR 1903
Three-sided six week trial before Snowden J involving complex allegations of breach of administrators’ duties and conspiracy by a lender. Joseph (led by Tom Smith QC) acted for the successful lender.
Frosdick v Fox
 EWHC 1737 (Ch),  1 WLR 38,  BPIR 1194
Birss J struck out a bankrupt’s claim on the application of Joseph’s client trustee, agreeing with the trustee that a bankrupt has no standing under s.316 to require his trustee to elect to disclaim or affirm.
Re PV Solar Limited Solutions Limited (in liquidation)
 EWHC 3228 (Ch),  1 BCLC 58,  BCC 196
Joseph represented the liquidators at trial in successfully impugning as misfeasance several payments made into a purported EFRBS tax avoidance arrangement at a time when the company was of doubtful solvency.
Dowling v Promontoria (Arrow) Limited
 BPIR 1477
A creditor was unable to enforce summarily a purported guarantee on the grounds of limitation and the “purview” doctrine. Joseph represented the successful alleged debtor.
Re DP Holding SA; Hellard v Chen
 BPIR 687,  All ER (D) 21 (Mar)
The court examined the responsibilities of a BVI liquidator when seeking assistance from the English court pursuant to s.426.
Gaind v Dunbar Assets plc
 EWHC 3187 (Ch),  BPIR 667
The court rejected a borrower’s contention that a personal guarantee had been procured by misrepresentation. Joseph represented the successful lender at first instance and on appeal.
Re D’Eye (a bankrupt)
 BPIR 411,  BPIR 1174,  BPIR 598,  BPIR 883
Three trials against various associates of a bankrupt. Joseph represented the trustees in bankruptcy, whose claims to recover the remoter proceeds of void post-petition payments succeeded in full.
Harvey v Dunbar Assets plc
 EWCA Civ 60,  Bus LR 784,  BPIR 450 (Court of Appeal)
 EWHC 3355 (Ch),  Bus LR 1383,  BPIR 48 (Chancery Division)
A debtor was estopped from challenging a statutory demand using an argument that had failed in earlier proceedings on a different statutory demand for the same debt. Joseph (sole counsel on the first appeal; led by Michael Todd QC in the Court of Appeal) represented the successful lender.
Re Longmeade Ltd (in liquidation)
 EWHC 356 (Ch),  2 All ER 244,  1 BCLC 605,  Bus LR 506,  BPIR 666
Joseph represented the liquidator of a Lehman entity in a claim against the Official Receiver. Snowden J ruled that liquidators may discount the views of creditors who are influenced by extraneous considerations.
In re Cooke (a bankrupt)
 EWHC 1888 (Ch),  Bus LR 960,  Costs LR 781,  BPIR 1339
The only reported case on the costs of an unsuccessful appeal against a bankruptcy order. Joseph successfully showed that such costs may take effect as a post-bankruptcy debt.
Re Cre8atsea Limited (in liquidation)
 EWHC 2522 (Ch),  All ER (D) 149 (Oct)
Joseph represented the successful petitioner (Vodafone) in resisting an application to rescind a winding-up order.
Cooke v Dunbar Assets plc
 EWHC 579 (Ch),  BPIR 576,  All ER (D) 49 (Apr)
Appeal from a bankruptcy order on the basis that an offer to compound had been unreasonably refused. Joseph represented the successful petitioner both at first instance and on appeal.
Baker and another v LSREF III Wight Ltd
 BPIR 509,  All ER (D) 254 (Feb)
Application establishing that a triable issue arose in respect of an allegation that a bank had rendered itself a fiduciary for its borrowers.
Rowbury v Official Receiver
 EWHC 2276 (Ch),  BPIR 477,  BPIR 500,  All ER (D) 129 (Sep)
Examined when failure to adjourn a creditors’ meeting to consider an IVA will be a material irregularity. Joseph represented the successful dissentient creditors.
Ridsdale v Bowles
 BPIR 1275
A bankrupt applied for annulment, alleging that the petition was abusive because a third party had paid the petitioner to procure the bankruptcy. Joseph represented the trustees in bankruptcy.
Dunbar Assets plc v Butler
 EWHC 2546 (Ch),  BPIR 1358,  All ER (D) 138 (Sep)
Joseph represented the successful appellant lender. It was held that a triable issue of fact is insufficient to set aside a statutory demand: the issue must also disclose a defence.
Sands v Singh and others
 EWHC 2219 (Ch),  BPIR 1293,  All ER (D) 304 (Jun)
Addressed the effect of section 283A of the Insolvency Act 1986 (the “use it or lose it” provision) where an application was not issued within the three year time limit.
Stella v Harris
 EWHC 4492 (Ch),  BPIR 926
Considered whether to grant permission to continue proceedings despite the existence of an interim order to facilitate an IVA proposal.
Ace Paper Ltd v Fry and others
 EWHC 1647 (Ch),  All ER (D) 192 (Jul)
Joseph represented the successful asset-based lender both at first instance and on appeal. The court concluded that a contested book debt remained the property of Joseph’s client by applying “business common sense” to the contract.
Re Mark Irwin Forstater
 BPIR 21
A proposal for an IVA was deemed rejected where the creditors’ meeting was improperly suspended. Joseph represented the successful petitioning creditor.
Relfo Ltd (in liquidation) v Varsani
 EWCA Civ 360,  1 BCLC 14
Joseph (led by Peter Shaw) represented the successful respondent to this appeal concerning laundering, tracing, knowing receipt and unjust enrichment. Arden LJ held that money substitutions may be traced in equity even where they do not occur in chronological order.
Hellard and Wade (trustees of Mireskandari) v (1) Chadwick (trustee of Tehrani) (2) Jami Tehrani
 BPIR 163 (first instance)
 EWHC 2158 (Ch),  BPIR 1234 (appeal)
Trustees in bankruptcy commenced transaction at undervalue proceedings against another bankruptcy estate. Joseph successfully persuaded the court at first instance and on appeal that the claim constituted a debt provable in the respondent estate and should be stayed.
Bramston v Riaz
 BPIR 42
A rare reported use of s.342(1)(b) of the Insolvency Act 1986. The court declared that assets represented “the application” of a transaction at an undervalue and ordered that they be vested in a trustee in bankruptcy without further order. Joseph represented the successful trustee.
Credit Lucky Ltd v National Crime Agency
 EWHC 83 (Ch),  All ER (D) 235 (Jan)
The director of a money transfer company believed to have been used by organised criminals to launder the proceeds of crime to China applied to rescind a winding up order. Barling J dismissed the application. Joseph represented the company’s liquidator.
Re Harvest Finance Limited (in liquidation)
 BPIR 1020
Detailed consideration of the jurisdiction to order disclosure against a company’s former solicitors under sections 234 and 236 of the Insolvency Act 1986 in circumstances where a strong prima facie case of fraudulent conduct is established. Joseph represented the successful liquidators.
Hellard v Kapoor
 EWHC 2204 (Ch),  EWHC 2496 (Ch),  BPIR 745
Joseph represented the successful trustee in bankruptcy in this fiercely contested application to suspend discharge, which raised complex issues concerning purported family trusts. Indemnity costs were awarded to Joseph’s client.
The applicant wife challenged as shams trust arrangements between the husband and his son. Joseph successfully resisted an attempt by the husband and son (each separately represented by leading counsel) to exclude the husband’s trustee in bankruptcy from the proceedings.
Allen and another (joint liquidators of Rhinowheels Ltd) v Cowham
 EWHC 1319 (Ch),  All ER (D) 223 (May)
Freezing injunction in support of director’s misfeasance and transaction at undervalue proceedings. Joseph represented the successful liquidators.
Harvey v Dunbar Assets plc
 EWHC 2890 (Ch),  BPIR 66 (Chancery Division)
 EWCA Civ 952,  BPIR 722 (Court of Appeal)
Joseph successfully resisted a first appeal to the Chancery Division, where it was held that a personal guarantee could be enforced despite an allegation that a co-guarantor’s signature was forged. Joseph was led by Peter Arden QC on a second appeal to the Court of Appeal.
Dunbar Assets plc v Fowler
 BPIR 46
A personal guarantor opposed a bankruptcy petition and argued that there was no petitionable debt. Joseph represented the successful lender. It is the only reported case on r.6.12(7) of the Insolvency Rules 1986 concerning delay between demand and petition.
Relfo Limited (in liquidation) v Varsani
 EWCA Civ 560,  1 WLR 1402,  3 All ER 1045,  1 BCLC 71
The leading authority on the meaning of “usual or last known residence” for the purposes of service. Joseph was led by Guy Newey QC (now Mr Justice Newey) at first instance ( EWHC 2297 (Ch),  All ER (D) 30 (Oct)) and by Peter Shaw in the Court of Appeal.
R (Coke-Wallis) v Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales
 UKSC 1,  2 AC 146,  2 WLR 103,  2 All ER 1
Joseph addressed oral argument to the Supreme Court (reported at  2 AC 146, 149B-E, 150E-F) on each of the points on which the appeal was allowed, opposed by Michael Beloff QC for the respondent.
(1) Haig (2) Shires (3) Lewis (4) Platinum Developers Ltd (in administration) v Beasant
Application by receivers for a declaration that a director had no beneficial interest in a lease granted prior to a company’s insolvent administration. Joseph acted for the successful administrators.
Hooper (trustee in bankruptcy of Chowdhary) v Duncan Lewis (Solicitors) Limited
 BPIR 591
Trustee in bankruptcy’s application for disclosure against third parties. Addressed legal professional privilege and third party disclosure under the insolvency regime.
Parkinson Engineering Services PLC (in liquidation) v Swan
 EWCA Civ 1366,  Bus LR 857,  BPIR 437,  1 BCLC 163
Court of Appeal decision (led by Peter Shaw) concerning amendment of a negligence claim against administrators after expiry of limitation.
New v Gromore Limited
 EWHC 2807 (Ch),  1 P & CR D50,  All ER (D) 81 (Nov)
Trespass to land and wrongful interference claim arising from the unauthorised demolition of a sculptor’s premises containing valuable works of art.
Penfold v Fuller
 EWHC 1195 (Ch),  All ER (D) 312 (Oct)
Determined the correct interpretation of “the claimant” for the purposes of the Civil Proceedings Fees Order 2008 and CPR rule 3.7.
Chambers and Partners 2019 and Chambers Global 2019 says:
“He achieves excellent results, is responsive and integrates himself into the teams that he works with. His drafting and in-court advocacy are equally accomplished.”
“He is absolutely brilliant to deal with and gets to grips with the case really really quickly. He is superb.”
Chambers and Partners 2018 and Chambers Global 2018:
“He’s great with clients, knowledgeable and very hard-working. He’s a real team player. He’s technically very gifted but also very approachable. He’s aggressive when he needs to be.”
Chambers UK Bar 2017 and Chambers Global 2017:
“He’s clever, commercial and reliable.”
Legal 500 2016:
“A superb advocate, who is very knowledgeable on the law and adept at thinking on his feet”
Chambers UK Bar 2016:
“A highly regarded junior who acts on behalf of sizeable lenders and pre-eminent insolvency practitioners in insolvency litigation.
Strengths: ‘He is excellent in court, particularly when required to think on his feet and his written submissions are also first class. He is also instinctively able to see the commercial implications of every twist and turn in a piece of litigation.’”
Legal 500 2015:
“…very responsive, easy to work with, and a tenacious litigator.”
Chambers UK 2015:
“…developed a strong reputation as a technically adept and client-friendly junior…a good all-rounder, who provides excellent advice and presents very well on his feet…
Expertise: ‘He provides advice in an extremely unstuffy manner, and has extremely good insolvency expertise.’ ‘He is clever, commercial and reliable.’”
Chambers UK 2014:
“A busy junior with a growing reputation in the restructuring and insolvency market. Praised for his technical acumen, he regularly acts for lenders and insolvency practitioners.
Expertise: ‘Has a highly collaborative approach to his work; he is flexible, responsive and a pleasure to work with.’ ‘He has a fantastic legal brain, and displays excellent attention to detail and sound judgment.’”
Chambers UK Bar Guide 2013:
“The ‘incredibly user-friendly’ Joseph Curl… a corporate and individual insolvency specialist who is described as ‘good news – he has buckets of enthusiasm, is quick with his paperwork and effective in all he does.’”
Chambers UK Bar Guide 2012:
“Joseph Curl ‘is calm under pressure and has an excellent eye for detail.’ He is ‘able to understand complex issues with little effort and spots the commercial angle quickly.’”
Chambers UK Bar Guide 2011:
“is commended for his ‘technical excellence’. He is ‘very thorough and quick to respond.’”
- Insolvency Legislation: Annotations and Commentary (LexisNexis, 7th ed.) (Managing Editor)
- Tolleys Insolvency Law Looseleaf: “Death or Incapacity of the Debtor” (Chapter author)
- Administrators: Conflicts of interest and removal (with Marcia Shekerdemian QC)
International Corporate Rescue (2019) 16(1)
- Don’t presume to save your MC Bacon! (with Séamas Gray)
Recovery, Winter 2018
- Administration of insolvent estates of deceased persons: recent legislative changes bury the application of s 284 of the Insolvency Act 1986 (with Steve Leslie)
Corporate Rescue and Insolvency, (2018) 1 CRI 26
- Equity and the Launderers: the Triumph of ‘Backward Tracing’
Gore-Browne on Companies, Special Release 2016
- Staking a claim: Longmeade (with Paul Allen and Andrew Foster)
Recovery, Winter 2016
- Who pays? The costs of an appeal from a bankruptcy order (with Faith Julian)
Corporate Rescue and Insolvency (2016) 6 CRI 212
- Tackling Laundering: the implications of Relfo Limited (in liquidation) v Varsani (with Peter Shaw)
International Corporate Rescue (2015) 12(3), 156
- TOUSA: Reckless Restructuring
Corporate Rescue and Insolvency (2013) 6(1), 15
- Bankrupting personal guarantors: recent developments
Insolvency Intelligence (2012) 25(2), 17
- Challenging the trustee’s remuneration: a new right for bankrupts?
Insolvency Intelligence (2011) 24(1), 5
- The Spouse v the Creditors: A Turn Against Creditors?
Insolvency Intelligence (2010) 23(6), 81
- “Use it or lose it”: section 283A after Lewis v Metropolitan
Insolvency Intelligence (2010) 23(5), 74
- A purposive approach to the rule against foreign revenue enforcement
International Corporate Rescue (2010) 7(2), 137
- Who can apply to rescind a winding-up order?
Insolvency Intelligence (2009) 22(10), 145
LLB (1st Class Honours) (London) – Law – 2006
BA (1st Class Honours) (London) – Politics, Philosophy & History – 2003
Scholarships and Prizes
Wolfson Pupillage Scholarship – Lincoln’s Inn 2007
Lord Denning Major Scholarship – Lincoln’s Inn 2006
Hardwicke Entrance Scholarship – Lincoln’s Inn 2005
Cavendish Prize for Best Law Degree – Birkbeck, University of London 2006
Helena Kennedy Prize for Best Dissertation – Birkbeck, University of London 2006
Wildy’s Bookshop Prize for Tort – Birkbeck, University of London 2005
Pearson Publication Prize for Contract – Birkbeck, University of London 2004
Ede & Ravenscroft Prize – Birkbeck, University of London 2002
Chancery Bar Association
Insolvency Lawyers Association
R3: Association of Business Recovery Professionals
R3 (Association of Business Recovery Professionals) – Member of Council (elected)
R3 (Association of Business Recovery Professionals) – General Technical Committee
Chancery Bar Association – Member of main committee (elected)
Chancery Bar Association – Academic Liaison Subcommittee (chair)
LexisNexis Restructuring & Insolvency Consulting Editorial Board
Visiting lecturer, Birkbeck (University of London)
Joseph Curl is an independent self-employed barrister registered with the Bar Standards Board of England (ref. no 51595); whose practice is governed by the Code of Conduct of the Bar of England and Wales which code can be found at www.barstandardsboard.org.uk; has full professional liability insurance provided by the Bar Mutual Indemnity Fund Limited (ref BM 2930/056) (details of the world-wide cover are provided at www.barmutual.co.uk); is registered for VAT (reg. no. 938 9512 78); and can be contacted during chambers opening hours by telephone at 02074045055 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.