High Court Grants Partial Non-Party Disclosure in Barclays Bank PLC v Citibank NA Case

Citation: [2024] EWHC 53 (Ch)
Judgment on

Introduction

In the case of Barclays Bank PLC v Citibank NA, the High Court analyzed an application for non-party disclosure from Citibank, NA under the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) 31.17. The case delves into the questions of whether the documents requested by Barclays from Citibank were likely to support their case or adversely affect that of the defendants and whether such disclosure was necessary for a fair disposal of the case or to save costs.

Key Facts

Barclays Bank PLC had initiated proceedings against various individuals and corporations, alleging a conspiracy to extract substantial funds, followed by multiple restructures intended to place assets beyond Barclays’ reach. Citibank held potentially pertinent information regarding Global Investment Management Holdings Inc (GIMH), implicated in the alleged restructures. Barclays sought non-party disclosure from Citibank for various categories of documents related to GIMH, arguing they could potentially support their case or adversely affect the defendants’.

GIMH objected to the disclosure, stating Barclays’ claim was baseless and asserting its entitlement to privacy and protection of sensitive information. GIMH also offered to voluntarily disclose selected documents through a neutral third party to confirm that there was no deposit from Barclays into GIMH’s accounts and that the ultimate beneficial owners (UBOs) of GIMH were not the defendants.

Several legal principles guided the court’s assessment:

  1. Likelihood to Support the Case or Adversely Affect Another Party: The documents sought should be likely to support the case of the applicant or negatively impact the case of one of the other parties (Three Rivers DC v Bank of England (No 4) [2003] 1 WLR 210).

  2. Necessity: Disclosure should be necessary to ensure the fair disposal of the claim or save costs (CPR 31.17(3)(b)).

  3. Existence of Documents: The court should be satisfied that the documents exist (Re Howglen Ltd [2001] 1 All ER 376).

  4. Exercise of Discretion with Caution: Non-party disclosure is exceptional and should only be ordered after careful consideration (Frankson v Home Office [2003] 1 WLR 1952).

  5. No Objection from the Non-Party: The absence of an objection from the non-party is relevant but not determinative (Anglos Limited v Kent [2007] EWHC 904 (Ch)).

The court also considered the specific thresholds for the requested non-party disclosure as set out in CPR 31.17(3) and exercised discretion where necessary, even if the criteria of relevance and necessity were met.

Outcomes

The judge, considering the principles and the facts, partly granted Barclays’ applications for non-party disclosure. The order commanded Citibank to provide:

  • Account opening documentation for GIMH.
  • Correspondence relating to GIMH’s account operations.
  • Bank statements solely related to the identified account (not for any additional accounts).
  • Documents recording or referring to payments made by or to GIMH.

GIMH was given the opportunity to claim privilege over any legally sensitive documents revealed due to the order. The category seeking documents related to other payment beneficiaries was deemed too broad and speculative and therefore not granted.

Conclusion

In Barclays Bank PLC v Citibank NA, the application for non-party disclosure illustrates the balancing act between the interests of transparency and justice on the one hand, and privacy and privilege protection on the other. The court closely adhered to established legal principles under CPR 31.17, determined the relevance and necessity of requested documents, and exercised its discretion cautiously. The decision sets a precedent for future cases involving non-party disclosure, particularly those alleging complex financial conspiracies and the movement of assets. The outcome underscores the court’s careful navigation through the requirements for non-party disclosure, affirming that such orders remain the exception rather than the rule.

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