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Ruth has built up a specialist practice in regulated lending, retail banking and financial services litigation and advisory work. She is ranked as a ‘Leading Junior’ in the Legal 500 Banking & Finance and Financial Services sections. Ruth has represented banks and finance institutions in a number of the leading appellate cases, including her successful defence of undisclosed commission in the seminal ‘PPI mis-selling’ case of Harrison v Black Horse Ltd (see below), subsequently overruled by the Supreme Court in a different case. She has been instructed to appear in a wide range of tribunals, from the county court to the Supreme Court. Ruth gives corporate entities in-depth advice on debt portfolio acquisitions and financial regulatory compliance. She is an expert on the detailed rules governing regulated activities in the FCA Handbook, including the CONC, MCOB, ICOBS and DISP modules.

 

Ruth represents banks and other financial institutions in litigating specialist regulated lending, retail banking and financial services matters. Common issues include technical enforceability disputes, alleged mis-selling of insurance and investments, payment of ‘secret commissions’ to brokers, alleged ‘unfair relationships’, irresponsible lending and affordability assessments.

Ruth also has a significant advisory practice, covering compliance with the Financial Conduct Authority’s Handbook rules (e.g. MCOB and CONC) and compliance with drafting requirements under the Consumer Credit Act 1974 and associated Regulations. Such advice is often sought for the purposes of securitisations or acquisitions. Ruth also advises on FCA authorisation and exemptions, the Mortgage Credit Directive Order, issues arising from the service of defective notices, structuring remediation, collective investment schemes, peer-to-peer lending and restricted financial promotions.

Ruth is an editor of The Encyclopedia of Financial Services Law, in which she is responsible for half of the commentary on the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (Regulated Activities) Order 2001 (“the RAO”).

Notable Cases

  • MFS Portfolio Ltd v Phelan: first instance judgment at [2018] GCCR 16027: four day appeal before HHJ Walden Smith on the applicability of the exemption in paragraph 55 of the Schedule to the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (Exemption) Order 2001. This exemption from the need for FCA authorisation is commonly relied upon by debt purchasers who enter servicing arrangements with authorised servicers, who are often within the same corporate group. The borrowers argue that debt purchasers are not entitled to rely on this exemption when issuing proceedings: issuing is an activity that cannot be delegated to the servicer, but has to be undertaken by the purchaser, who has title to the debt;
  • Pyne & ors v Curo Transatlantic Ltd t/a Wageday Advance: representing a payday lender in the Birmingham High Court, before HHJ Worster in a group of 231 claims alleging payday loan ‘mis-selling’. Applied for a ‘Scheme Stay’ so that the claims could be processed by the lender as complaints and then referred to the Financial Ombudsman Service if the claimants were dissatisfied with the lender’s response. The Stay was refused and instead twelve ‘sample’ cases are proceeding to trial;
  • Kerrigan & ors v Elevate Credit International Ltd t/a Sunny: representing a second payday lender in the Birmingham High Court, before HHJ Worster in a group of 352 claims alleging payday loan ‘mis-selling’. Twelve ‘sample’ cases are proceeding to trial;
  • GMAC UK plc v Selfe (2017, unrep, HHJ Bedford, Hastings county court): appeal on whether quoting a “flat” interest rate on a motor finance agreement rendered the agreement unenforceable; whether use of the description “flat” alongside the rate sufficed to present the rate in a “clear” manner, given lack of consumer understanding over the term and the allegedly inherently misleading nature of flat rates;
  • Lancashire Mortgage Corpn Ltd v Richardson (2017, unrep, Manchester county court, Recorder Yip QC): restitution of bridging loan advance where contract was ineffective; award of ‘use value’ in restitution at 24% per annum (equivalent to the contract rate), as this was the objective market value of the benefit;
  • Palmer & ors v Blemain Finance Ltd & Lancashire Mortgage Corpn Ltd (2016, unrep, Manchester county court): resisted a number of consolidated applications for pre-action disclosure of volume override commissions paid to brokers;
  • Conlon v Black Horse Ltd UKSC 2014/0038: settled three days before appeal due to be heard by the Supreme Court;
  • Conlon v Black Horse Ltd [2013] EWCA Civ 1658: Ruth was led by David Bailey QC in having the borrower’s appeal dismissed; the Court of Appeal declined to distinguish Harrison v Black Horse Ltd on the grounds there was oral evidence from the borrower as to how she would have reacted had she known of the commission and evidence of the bank’s motivation in deciding not to disclose;
  • Conlon v Black Horse Ltd [2012] GCCR 11423: Ruth successfully represented appellant in High Court, appearing alone against Hodge Malek QC; appeal allowed against a trial judge’s finding of an ‘unfair relationship’;
  • Harrison v Black Horse Ltd [2011] EWCA Civ 1128; [2012] Lloyd’s Rep I.R. 521; [2011] C.T.L.C. 105: Led by Nicholas Elliott QC in the Court of Appeal, where the lender successfully resisted the borrowers’ second appeal: non-disclosure of 87% commission did not give rise to unfair relationship; if there was no non-compliance with ICOB it was difficult to see how there could be an ‘unfair relationship’; Appeal to Supreme Court compromised;
  • Harrison v Black Horse Ltd [2010] EWHC 3152 (QB); [2011] Lloyd’s Rep I.R. 455; [2011] C.T.L.C. 1: Ruth appeared alone in High Court: although PPI being recommended was very expensive by comparison with monthly premium products, this did not give rise to a breach of ICOB or an unfair relationship; receipt of 87% commission from insurer did not give rise to a conflict of interest under ICOB;
  • Black Horse Ltd v Dickinson [2011] GCCR 11379: appeal against refusal to set off adverse costs order against existing judgment in lender’s favour, on grounds borrowers’ solicitors were acting under CFA;

Ruth is experienced in regulatory proceedings, both civil and criminal. She has represented local authorities in a variety of regulatory trials, both in the magistrates’ court and the Crown Court. She has been instructed in prosecutions concerning counterfeit goods, unfair trading, animal welfare, food and fire safety. She also has experience of confiscation proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

Notable Cases:

  • Boston BC v Turner [2017] Lincoln Crown Court: five day appeal: fire safety offences and offences arising from management of unlicensed house in multiple occupation (“HMO”); whether use of two rooms by overnight ‘hotel guests’ precluded property from being an HMO; whether remainder could form a qualifying “part”;
  • Lincolnshire CC v Newbury [2015] Lincoln Crown Court: prosecution of two sole traders for trademark infringements and fraudulent misrepresentations about the quality and price of drive resurfacing services to elderly complainants; sentenced to 2 years 3 months’ imprisonment and 7 months’ imprisonment respectively, with ongoing confiscation;
  • Boston BC v Singleton-McGuire [2015]: prosecution of deputy borough councillor for fire safety and housing offences in respect of a house in multiple occupation (HMO);
  • Lincolnshire CC v Atiqi t/a Boston Food and Wine Centre and Ahwmad t/a Central Food and Wine [2013]: prosecution for sale of counterfeit and illicit cigarettes, including a product safety offence (first prosecution of its type in UK);
  • Watersheds Capital Partners Ltd v Dudley [2013]: High Court litigation on definition of “consumer”; individual selling business to fund retirement; unfair terms;
  • Lincolnshire CC v Rahman [2013]: fire safety prosecution against managers of house in multiple occupation;
  • Lincolnshire CC v Nundy [2011]: animal welfare prosecution against farmer; expert evidence on causation of bovine disease

“Calm, collected and detailed in her approach, she is a standout barrister. She’s pragmatic and able to understand the client’s position while giving crisp and insightful advice.” “Ruth distils a tremendous volume of information into concise and accurate advice.” Chambers & Partners 2019

“A recognised leader in her field.” “Extremely knowledgeable on financial services matters and her advice is always commercial.” Legal 500 2018 (Banking & Finance and Financial Services)

“Great with clients, quick-thinking and, frankly, a joy to work with.” “A very impressive barrister with a keen attention to detail. In court she is a force to be reckoned with and is backed up by incredibly persuasive skeleton arguments.” Chambers & Partners 2018

“Responsive, with a detailed knowledge of the area … happy to explain things in a way that is accessible to the client” Legal 500 2017 (Banking & Finance and Financial Services)

“Has appeared in numerous cases right up to Supreme Court level… Ruth has a great manner with the client, a quick grasp of the issues” Chambers & Partners 2017

“A standout barrister with a personable demeanour” Legal 500 2016

“A consumer credit specialist with experience of representing major lenders, financial institutions and banks … She is fantastic on her feet, and crisp in her delivery. She also produces precise paperwork.” Chambers and Partners 2016

“A brilliant advocate with expert knowledge and commercial judgement” Legal 500 2015

“She’s very bright and very sharp.” “She has her finger on the pulse.” Chambers and Partners 2015

“A bright and quick-witted barrister, with a quality of practice that belies her comparatively recent call. Her “forthright advocacy is combined with commercially aware, succinct, practical and meaningful advice.” She is “very strong, and punches well above her weight.” Chambers and Partners 2014

“Ruth Bala is widely considered to be a ‘rising star’. ‘Very, very bright and easy to work with’, she is ‘an excellent advocate'” Chambers and Partners 2013

Ruth regularly appears in court in mortgagee possession and appeal proceedings, sale and supply of goods disputes, contractual disputes, claims for debt and insolvency proceedings.

Ruth is an editor of The Encyclopedia of Financial Services Law, in which she is responsible for half of the commentary on the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (Regulated Activities) Order 2001 (“the RAO”).

Ruth is a contributor to the ‘Practical Law’ consumer credit column:

FCA Validation Orders post-Chickombe

Limitation re Debt Claims

Consumer buy-to-let mortgages

‘Nelmes’ and secret commissions

‘By way of Business’

Guarantees

Identifying the “Consumer” in Consumer Credit

Author of the chapter ‘Consumer Credit Law’ in ‘Consumer and Trading Standards: Law and Practice‘ (‘the Pink Book’), Jordan (2013)

Contributor to ‘Advertising Law and Regulation‘, ed G. Crown, 2nd ed, Bloomsbury Professional (2010)

Ruth is authorised to accept Direct Access instructions and will act on this basis for businesses and professionals.

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VAT number: 971273608