The Court of Appeal has struck out Quincecare duty and dishonest assistance claims brought by the liquidators of a company running a Ponzi scheme against a correspondent bank that operated various accounts for the company. In doing so, the Court of Appeal confirmed that the scope of the Quincecare duty is limited to protecting customers of the financial institution, and does not extend to protect the customer’s creditors: Stanford International Bank Ltd v HSBC Bank plc [2021] EWCA Civ 535.

The Court of Appeal found that the company had no claim in damages because it suffered no loss. The way the Ponzi scheme operated, payments made by the bank to genuine investors reduced the company’s assets, but equally discharged the company’s liabilities to those investors by the same amount. The net asset position therefore remained the same in the period between: (a) when the liquidators said the bank should have recognised the “red flags” and stopped processing its customers’ payments, thereby exposing the fraud; and (b) the date upon which the accounts were eventually frozen by the bank.

The Court of Appeal upheld the High Court’s decision to strike out the dishonest assistance claim, emphasising that dishonesty and blind-eye knowledge allegations against corporations (large or small) must still be evidenced by the dishonesty of one or more natural persons.

For more information see this post on our Banking Litigation Notes blog.