Helen Pugh

Year of Call:
2008
Direct Access:
Yes

Helen specialises in general commercial litigation, civil fraud, contentious insolvency and company law issues, and professional negligence.

Her practice has a strong international element with expertise in jurisdictional disputes and conflict of law issues, including as they arise at an interim stage in applications for worldwide freezing orders and service out applications or on the substantive claim, and in the cross-border insolvency context.

Helen is a member of Chancery Bar Association, Commercial Law Bar Association, the Professional Negligence Bar Association, Thought Leaders 4 Fraud, Insolvency, Recovery and Enforcement and the Female Fraud Forum.

Helen is also on the committees of the Inner Temple Bar Liaison Committee and the Tech Disputes Network, the pre-eminent forum for legal professionals working in the field of crypto and digital assets.

Expertise

Helen has a busy commercial and civil fraud practice, much of which has a cross-border element. She has a particular interest in disputes involving cryptocurrencies and digital assets and is one of a small number at the Bar with case experience in this area.

Helen’s general commercial practice encompasses a wide range of typical commercial and commercial circuit court cases including breach of SPA or asset purchase agreements, agency and other fiduciary intermediary disputes, supplier and distributorship disputes and other commercial contract disputes. Helen’s commercial practice often raises multidisciplinary issues in which her cross-over expertise – notably in professional negligence, company law and civil fraud – is a particular asset.

A significant proportion of Helen’s practice involves civil fraud and she is regularly instructed on interim injunction cases. Examples of Helen’s fraud experience are set out in the notable cases section below.

Helen is ranked in Commercial Litigation in Legal 500. “A tenacious, confident advocate who is incredibly switched on. Clients appreciate Helen’s determination, and her commitment to their case.” Prior to practise at the Bar, Helen taught commercial contract classes at the London School of Economics.

Notable Commercial & Civil Fraud cases


Ellis v Babushkin & ors; Ellis v Digit Europe Ltd

A multi-million pound bitcoin fraud against foreign-domiciled parties identified as potential recipients of the misappropriated bitcoin followed a disputed tracing exercise by blockchain analysis experts (sole counsel).

An application for an interim injunction to ‘hold the ring’ pending a claim based on wrongful termination of a contract of supply of goods and services (sole counsel).

A claim for repayment of a series of loans made to the defendant raising a variety of issues including the meaning of delivery of a deed, the scope of a purported settlement and limitation (sole counsel).

A £5m claim by a US company against an English company with high profile and high value IP rights concerning breach of warranty, breach of fiduciary duty and the fraudulent dissipation of monies (led by Aidan Casey KC)

A multi-party fraud action said to arise out of the misappropriation of luxury cars worth c£1.5m at a prominent London hotel and their unauthorised transfer to Switzerland (sole counsel).

Advising upon force majeure construction issues in light of Covid-19 in the context of a substantial long-lease of equipment in the Bahamas.

Baxendale-Walker v APL Management Ltd

A summary judgment matter involving a high-net worth individual concerning a £3.7m loan and issues of mistake, illegality, misrepresentation, res judicata and abuse of process. (led by Jonathan Seitler KC)

An arbitration concerning the supply of commodities in South America (led by Richard Samuel)

A claim by a Jordanian company against the supplier of nanotechnology for fraudulent misrepresentation (led by James Guthrie KC)

Helen is regularly instructed in all aspects of company and contentious insolvency matters.

She has significant experience of shareholder disputes across a range of sectors and industries. Helen is regularly instructed in unfair prejudice matters for minority shareholders or on cross-petitions. In addition she has been instructed on a number of derivative action matters, including McGaughey v USSL which is thought to be the first reported case of an attempt to bring an ESG derivative action.

Helen is routinely instructed in the full range of insolvency litigation. Her experience includes directors’ disqualification proceedings, misfeasance/breach of fiduciary duty claims, unlawful distribution claims, antecedent transaction challenges, beneficial ownership disputes and other specialist proceedings under the Insolvency Act such as petitions, annulment applications, suspension applications and applications for examinations. Her clients include many of the well-known insolvency practitioners and a market leading insolvency litigation funder.

Helen is ranked as a leading junior in Insolvency in the Legal 500 (2022 edition) and described as having “an enviable ability to grasp large amounts of information quickly and draft claims logically, thoroughly and with precision.”

Notable Company & Insolvency cases


McGaughey & anr v Universities Superannuation Scheme Ltd

Acted for the successful respondent in resisting an application for permission to pursue a multiple derivative action against the directors of a corporate trustee of a pension scheme on grounds including that the directors had failed to prepare a plan to divest the scheme of its investments in fossil fuels (led by Andrew Short KC).

A successful application to serve a winding up petition out of the jurisdiction on an overseas company in respect of debts owed to another overseas company and on the just and equitable ground.

Holland v Revenue and Customers Commissioners (Re. Paycheck Services 3 Ltd)

The leading Supreme Court case on de facto directors (led by Peter Knox KC).

A complex unlawful dividend and misfeasance claim against a former director of an insolvent company raising issues which include directorial a director’s responsibility where a company falls victim to a fraud.

Acting for liquidators of a company wh

Acting for liquidators of a company which had engaged in a ponzi land-banking fraud in the US targeting UK investors.

Representing a formerly high-net worth individual in successfully resisting a trustee’s application to suspend his bankruptcy discharge.

Advising in conjunction with local lawyers on winding up proceedings in the Isle of Man on the grounds of a petition debt based on an Indian arbitration award undergoing challenge in the Delhi Supreme Court.

An unfair prejudice petition arising out of an acrimonious breakdown of trust at a construction company.

Acting for a liquidator pursuing claims against directors of a company which went insolvent as a result of a fine imposed by the company’s regulator.

Helen undertakes a range of banking and finance work as part of her broad commercial practice. She is often instructed in guarantee disputes, on questions of priorities and security matters and in other creditor matters. Helen’s cases often involve cross-over issues in insolvency, civil fraud and professional negligence. In particular, she has been instructed in a number of professional negligence cases against financial and insurance intermediaries.

Helen is regularly invited to speak on topics related to banking and finance, including Quincecare claims and cryptocurrency. She has been published on a range of topics in the Journal of International Banking and Financial Law and other leading publication.

Notable Banking & Finance cases


Advising a finance company upon the enforceability of its loan agreement and associated guarantees against husband and wife co-directors. The case raises a number of issues not atypical in cases where the debtor company is a family-run business, including questions of authority and forgery.

Acting for a high profile, high net worth individual in an action to recover a significant loan raising issues including the validity of a deed, promissory estoppel and limitation.

Advising a high net worth foreign national in connection with a claim against his former solicitors arising out of multi- million losses due to issues relating to deeds of priority and the registration of charges between competing lenders, and a claim against another lenders.

Advising the former spouse of a company director upon the validity and enforceability of an all-monies guarantee provided to an institutional lender to secure her former spouse’s failing business.

Acting for a client in an action for breach of MCOB rules in a typical ‘interest-only’ mortgage mis-selling case.

Helen has extensive experience across the breadth of professional negligence actions including firms of solicitors, surveyors and valuers, insurance and other brokers or intermediaries, and accountants. Helen is regularly named in the Professional Negligence category of Chambers & Partners and Legal 500, and is currently ranked in the Legal 500 [2022] edition as a leading junior in this area “Helen has a fantastic grasp of the intricacies of professional negligence, and an approachable and understanding demeanour which helps to build a quick rapport with clients.”

Notable Professional Negligence cases


Advising a high net worth foreign national in connection with a claim against his former solicitors arising out of multi- million losses due to issues relating to deeds of priority and the registration of charges between competing lenders, and a claim against another lenders.

Symrise AG v Baker & McKenzie

A commercial court trial against a city law firm arising out of negligent Mexican tax advice (led by William Godwin KC).

A claim against an accountant for various breaches of duty, including a failure to implement a tax efficient members’ voluntary liquidation in advance of an adverse change in entrepreneur’s relief.

A claim against a mortgage broker for misselling an interest only mortgage in breach of the then applicable MCOB rules.

A claim against conveyancing solicitors arising out of a planning permission defect.

A claim against a well-known firm for advisory failures in connection with a multi-million pound asset purchase agreement.

Related updates

Helen Pugh is regulated by the Bar Standards Board (BSB) and holds a current practising certificate. If you are not satisfied with the service provided, please click here.

"Her strengths are great attention to detail and not being afraid to give negative advice."

Insolvency, Legal 500 2023

"She is unflappable and has the advocacy touch and tactical judgement of a barrister with much more experience."

Commercial Litigation, legal 500 2023

"Helen has a fantastic grasp of the intricacies of professional negligence, and an approachable and understanding demeanour which helps to build a quick rapport with clients."

Professional Negligence, Legal 500 2023

"Helen has a fantastic grasp of the intricacies of professional negligence, and an approachable and understanding demeanour which helps to build a quick rapport with clients."

Professional Negligence, Legal 500 2022

"A tenacious, confident advocate who is incredibly switched on. Clients appreciate Helen's determination, and her commitment to their case."

Commercial Litigation, Legal 500 2022

"Has an enviable ability to grasp large amounts of information quickly and draft claims logically, thoroughly and with precision."

Insolvency, Legal 500 2022

"She is very bright and able."

Legal500 2019

"She is extremely able and highly regarded."

Legal500 2019

"She has excellent attention to detail and offers very good tactical advice."

Chambers and Partners 2019

"Her written advice is always well argued and thought out, and she is a persuasive advocate."

Chambers and Partners 2019

To find out more, contact Matt Sale +44 (0)20 7427 4910 or George Bennett on +44 (0)207 427 0807 for a confidential discussion.

Our dedicated practice management team can help you identify the right barrister for your case.

  • COMBAR (Commercial Bar Association)
  • ChBA (Chancery Bar Association)
  • PNBA (Professional Negligence Bar Association)
  • Female Fraud Forum
  • R3 (the Association of Business Recovery Professionals)
  • Thought4Leaders FIRE Community Member

  • Basic – conversational German and French

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