Hugh leads the Disputes group in Sydney. He is a trusted adviser to sector leading companies and boards focusing on disputes and investigations.
Hugh regularly assists sector leading clients to resolve strategic or high value issues involving regulatory engagement, investigations and disputes. Clients value his depth of financial understanding, commercial sophistication and commitment to client service.
Hugh has acted for leading companies in banking and insurance, mining and energy, technology, pharma and private equity, across a range of commercial disputes as well as regulatory investigations involving ASIC, APRA, AFCA and the ATO. He works closely with clients to develop a strategy for managing and resolving investigations and disputes. This includes conducting litigation in Courts and Tribunals across Australia but also involves resolution through direct negotiation or use of ADR processes such as mediation, arbitration and expert determination.
Hugh conducts matters before Courts and Tribunals across Australia. He holds Bachelor of Commerce (Finance) and Bachelor of Laws degrees from the University of New South Wales and a Master of Laws from the University of Sydney. He holds a postgraduate diploma in Applied Finance and Investment. He is a Chartered Tax Adviser as recognised by the Tax Institute of Australia.
Hugh has significant market recognition in both commercial litigation and tax disputes, having been recognised by Best Lawyers, Legal 500, Doyle’s Guide, International Tax Review and Who’s Who Legal. Chambers quotes clients who describe him as “top of the top shelf,” “absolutely brilliant; and a strategic thinker,” and one client who praised Hugh’s “clear and concise advice, his responsiveness and his ability to be clearly across the issues.”
Experience & expertise
Corporate and finance litigation and arbitrations
- Tabcorp in its successful application for preliminary discovery against Entain and AHA NSW resulting in discovery orders being made in favour of Tabcorp by the Supreme Court of NSW;
- Metlife in its successful appeal to the Full Federal Court against AFCA in relation to the scope of AFCA’s jurisdiction under the Corporations Act;
- BHP in administrative law proceedings in the Supreme Court of Queensland on its $300m+ dispute with the Queensland Treasurer on coal royalties. The matter was settled;
- proceedings in the Supreme Court of Victoria against the Valuer-General of Victoria in relation to the valuation of the Ararat Wind Farm, prevailing both at trial and on appeal;
- successful proceedings in the Supreme Court of NSW in relation to the valuation of the multi-billion dollar Barangaroo development site in Sydney, prevailing both at trial and on appeal;
- QBE in relation to a purchase price adjustment claim made by a vendor of a US$1 billion insurance business, related to the interplay of tax, legal and accounting issues. QBE’s case was upheld by Supreme Court of NSW
- a private equity affiliated corporate group in Supreme Court of NSW proceedings in relation to an M&A transaction, involving allegations of warranty breaches, raising significant accounting and forensic issues. The matter was settled;
- Westpac, CBA, NAB and other Banks in High Court proceedings in the Bell litigation, leading the team in the High Court appeal proceedings which led to the settlement of that litigation on behalf of the Banks after around 20 years of litigation
- major corporates in relation to arbitrations conducted under Australian domestic arbitration laws in relation to long term bilateral commercial arrangements with significant financial complexity, including for Tabcorp in an arbitration in which representatives of the Victorian racing industry claimed Tabcorp’s supply of Sky Racing vision was excessive. Tabcorp was successful in the arbitration.
- banks, insurers, wealth and finance companies in relation to ASIC and APRA inquiries and investigations concerning potential breaches of corporate, financial services and credit laws
- a finance subsidiary of a major corporate group in relation to alleged breaches of responsible lending laws, which was resolved by negotiating an Enforceable Undertaking with ASIC
- BTFM in approval from the Supreme Court of NSW in order to conduct a successor fund transfer
- a senior director in relation to threatened proceedings concerning alleged breaches of directors’ duties, which was resolved by an Enforceable Undertaking with ASIC
- a number of finance companies in relation to contentious issues before AFCA including allegations of systemic issues
Tax audits and litigation
In addition to being Head of the Sydney Disputes Group, Hugh also leads Herbert Smith Freehills’ Tax Disputes team in Australia which has won multiple awards as the leading Tax Litigation and Disputes practice in Australia. Hugh has practised in the area since 2002. His key focus areas are international tax, transfer pricing and anti-avoidance. Key experience includes acting for:
- leading companies in the technology, pharma and tax avoidance issues, including preparation for giving evidence to Senate Inquiries
- Ampol in settling its long running tax issues concerning transfer pricing for import of product and crude as well as Singapore procurement operations
- Ventia in its tax audit concerning the proper recognition of profit outcomes from Broadspectrum’s offshore detention centres, which saw the ATO not pursue the matter
- CBA on its R&D Incentive dispute with Innovation & Science Australia and the ATO in proceedings in the AAT, which was settled
- Scape in stamp duty litigation in the Supreme Court of South Australia in relation to purpose built student accommodation as residential property, prevailing both at trial and on appeal
- a major mining company across a range of contentious transfer pricing, royalties and PRRT issues
- major Australian corporates on some of the biggest tax litigation in the Federal Court in relation to Part IVA
- a range of major clients in taxation disputes concerning capital gains tax, GST, and State taxes, including stamp duty, payroll tax, land taxes and royalty matters