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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 in the ‘Legal 500’ directory in both the Banking & Finance and Financial Services sections. Ruth has represented banks and finance institutions in a number of the leading cases in the area. She was lead counsel for the creditor in Kerrigan & 11 ors v Elevate Credit International Limited (t/a Sunny) (in administration) [2020] EWHC 2169 (Comm); [2020] C.T.L.C. 161, the payday lending test case litigation on the relationship between the FCA’s Handbook rules and the ‘unfair relationship’ provisions. She also mounted a successful defence of undisclosed PPI commission in the seminal case of Harrison v Black Horse Ltd (see below), subsequently overruled by the Supreme Court in Plevin v Paragon Personal Finance Limited [2014] 1 W.L.R. 4222, and appeared in Conlon v Black Horse Ltd (see below, settled three days before the hearing in 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

  • Kerrigan & 11 ors v Elevate Credit International Limited (t/a Sunny) (in administration) [2020] EWHC 2169 (Comm); [2020] C.T.L.C. 161: Ruth was lead counsel for the creditor in this payday lending test case litigation on the relationship between the FCA’s Handbook rules and the ‘unfair relationship’ provisions. Twelve ‘Sample Cases’ were tried over the course of four weeks. Summary of judgment here;
  • MFS Portfolio Ltd v Phelan [2019] GCCR 17149: four day appeal upholding 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. The borrowers unsuccessfully argued 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 (unrep, High Court, Business and Property Courts in Birmingham, 30 November 2018): represented a payday lender 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 thereafter referred to the Financial Ombudsman Service;
  • Conlon v Black Horse Ltd UKSC 2014/0038: conjoined appeal with Plevin v Paragon Personal Finance Limited [2014] 1 W.L.R. 4222; settled three days before hearing in 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 as sole counsel 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 as sole counsel 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.

“Her advocacy is persuasive, powerful and pertinent, she is an absolute pleasure to work with and her hard work and commitment are outstanding.” Legal 500 2021 (Financial Services)

“Ruth’s knowledge of consumer credit and banking and finance regulation more broadly is vast and her appetite to review all recent case law and other relevant decisions means she is a true expert in this field.” Legal 500 2021 (Banking & Finance)

“Ruth is extremely impressive; she’s responsive, efficient and incredibly bright as well as excellent on her feet and a pleasure to deal with.” “She is a genuine expert in her field; a forceful advocate who is always on top of the brief.” Chambers & Partners 2020

“Has a great knack for translating hugely complex material and law into advice clients understand and act upon.” “Her control of the law and facts means she calmly holds her own against overbearing opponents.” Legal 500 2020 (Banking & Finance and Financial Services)

“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 2019 (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.” Chambers & Partners 2018

“A standout barrister with a personable demeanour” Legal 500 2017

“She is fantastic on her feet, and crisp in her delivery.” Chambers and Partners 2016

“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 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:

FOS Judicial Reviews following ‘Thinkmarkets’

Broker Secret Commissions Update

Proof of Assignment post-Emanuel

Categorise Your Mortgage

Interest Rate Variation Clauses

Attacks on Level of Interest Rates

FCA Validation Orders post-Chickombe

Limitation re Debt Claims

Consumer buy-to-let mortgages

‘Nelmes’ and secret commissions

‘By way of Business’


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 a member of the Council (Board) of the Royal Over-Seas League, a not-for-profit private members’ club dedicated to championing international friendship.

Ruth is a member of the Financial Services Lawyers’ Association.

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

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