Michael has extensive expertise across financial services, construction, commercial, competition and consumer law, along with judicial review. He thrives on understanding complicated problems and expressing their solutions concisely.

Michael acts for local and international clients, as coverage and defence counsel. He has successfully defended lawyers, accounts, engineers and real estate agents against claims and disciplinary complaints. He has assisted and defended companies and individuals with regulatory investigations and subsequent proceedings. Michael currently acts as coverage and monitoring counsel on some of the largest D&O claims and representative actions in New Zealand. In addition, Michael drafts policy wording across all Financial Lines and Statutory Liability products for local and international clients.

Michael keenly follows legislative, regulatory and common law developments – particularly in D&O, professional liability, and representative actions. He has delivered many seminars and classes to underwriting, claims and broking teams.

Directors & Officers

  • Advising Australian, New Zealand and London insurers on coverage and defence of claims against directors and officers arising out of the collapse of financial companies, education providers, technology companies, and natural resource and energy companies. This ranges from representative actions and creditor claims for dual-listed public companies with losses exceeding NZD500 million, down to private shareholder actions and creditor claims for SME of NZD100,000. Michael’s advice includes that on investigations of and actions against companies, directors and officers by the Financial Markets Authority, Reserve Bank of New Zealand, and Serious Fraud Office.
  • Defending a real estate agency and its director against high-profile claims of price-fixing, including the seminal Supreme Court decision on the requirements for arrangements or understanding and for price fixing under the Commerce Act: Lodge Real Estate Ltd v Commerce Commission [2020] 1 NZLR 238.
  • Defending major New Zealand insurers against claims by directors for wrongful declinature, where the directors faced creditor claims from the collapse of Nathans Finance and related companies. The proceedings involved a preliminary determination of admissibility of expert director and forensic accounting evidence: Nathans Finance Ltd (in liq) v AIG Insurance New Zealand Ltd [2014] NZHC 2997. The substantive proceeding settled before trial but included issues on dishonest conduct for the purposes of an insurance contract, insurance contract interpretation, charge over insurance monies, quantum of damages, and assignment of insurance claims.

Professional Indemnity

  • Defending a solicitor and his firm against claims arising from a client’s misleading and deceptive statements to the plaintiff in the solicitor’s presence( McAlister v Lai [2017] NZCCLR 21 and McAlister v Lai [2018] NZCA 141). The case included novel issues of solicitor liability to third parties, and the interplay of solicitor duties and obligations under consumer law.
  • Defending solicitors and accountants as trustees and protectors against claims by beneficiaries for breach of trust, conspiracy to defraud, knowing receipt, and restitution.

Administrative Law

  • Successfully defending New Zealand Qualifications Authority in high-profile applications for judicial review of the authority’s decisions affecting private training establishments, including Linguis International Institute of Language and Culture Ltd v NZQA [2016] NZAR 730 and International Academy of New Zealand v NZQA [2016] NZAR 640. This included dealing with urgent interim injunctions upon filing. The cases involved issues of errors of law, unreasonableness, predetermination and bias, public interest and appropriate relief.

Regulatory

  • Advising New Zealand insurers on indemnity for a local authority where that authority was negligent in its resource consent and building consent processes in a large subdivision. The high profile claim against the local authority involved novel issues regarding the authority’s obligations regarding resource consents, negligence, causation and the appropriate measure of loss. Michael was also involved as monitoring counsel for the authority’s defence.
  • Defending local authorities against claims arising from provision of official information, including the seminal Supreme Court decision on duties of care when providing information, measure of loss and contribution between parties: Marlborough District Council v Altimarloch Joint Ventures Ltd [2012] 2 NZLR 726.
  • Defending local authorities against claims arising from the exercise of statutory powers, including a Supreme Court authority on the limit to duties owed: McNamara v Auckland City Council [2012] 3 NZLR 701.

Product Liability

  • Successfully defending a fuel supplier against claims arising from its supply of contaminated fuel, subsequently damaging machinery and allegedly causing lost profits in excess of $4 million. The case settled immediately before trial, and included issues of contract interpretation, negligence, causation and remoteness, and the proper measure of damages.
Areas of Expertise
  • Directors + Officers Liability
  • Inquiries, Investigations + Prosecutions
  • Management Liability
  • Professional Liability

Industry Representation
  • Construction + Infrastructure
  • Financial Institutions + Services
  • Property + Real Estate
  • Professions + Business Solutions
  • Regulatory, Compliance + Policy Review

Professional Affiliations
  • New Zealand Insurance Law Association
  • Legal Research Foundation
  • Risk Management Society: New Zealand and Pacific Islands Chapter
  • Australasian Professional Indemnity Group