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Christopher Smith

Partner

People

Christopher Smith

Christopher Smith

Partner

People

Christopher Smith

Christopher Smith

Partner

Full Profile

Chris is a highly experienced practitioner who advises insurers and their insureds on directors & officers liability, professional liability and employment disputes. He is regularly sought after for his technical expertise and ability to provide succinct advice in plain English in cases involving the most complex legal, factual and technical issues. 

In his insurance practice, insurers routinely seek Chris’s opinion on complex coverage issues involving the construction of financial lines insurance policies, particularly directors and officers insurance and professional indemnity insurance. Chris has a wealth of experience in all aspects of financial lines policy wordings and coverage response including all of the most frequently encountered exclusions and issues such as aggregation, loss, allocation, severability, continuity and non-disclosure. Insurers frequently instruct him to represent and protect their interests in relation to claims brought by insureds and on applications brought by third parties for access to insurance policies or to join insurers to proceedings. Chris has acted for insurers involved as parties in Supreme Court and Federal Court proceedings.   

Chris’s insurance practice extends to providing ongoing coverage and monitoring advice for primary and excess layer insurers in a range of areas including securities class actions, ASIC investigations, work health and safety prosecutions, criminal prosecutions and high value/large scale commercial litigation. His practice also includes advising insurers on fidelity claims arising out of the criminal acts of employees, including subrogated recoveries. 

In his directors and officers defence practice, Chris acts for directors, c-suite executives, managers and a variety of professionals in a wide range of scenarios including claims by investors, shareholders, creditors, liquidators, receivers and investigations by corporate regulators. Many of these cases arise from large scale high profile corporate collapses including former ASX listed public companies. The subject matter is broad and varied but most often involves alleged breaches of directors duties, misleading or deceptive conduct, insolvent trading, regulatory breaches and breaches of commercial contracts. 

Chris is well known for his management liability practice in which he acts for smaller companies and SMEs defending claims including those brought by former directors, investors, employees and minority shareholders. These claims span a wide range of factual scenarios and vary considerably in quantum. He is particularly sought after by insurers and insureds to act on the defence of difficult nuisance-value type claims where the claimant is unrepresented or emotionally driven and there are a range of considerations requiring tenacity and careful management of expectations.

In the field of employment disputes, Chris has acted for companies, law firms, directors and professionals in the defence of claims including allegations of unfair dismissal, sex discrimination, disability discrimination, sexual harassment and workplace bullying. These cases are frequently high profile, involve potentially significant business or reputational damage and because of their nature are handled with the utmost sensitivity and confidentiality. Chris is respected by clients for his measured representation and advice throughout the life of such claims.     

In all cases, clients appreciate Chris’s ability for quickly identifying the issues, providing clear and commercially sensible advice and implementing a practical strategy in a cost effective manner. He is a highly effective negotiator and has achieved successful commercial results in many dozens of cases in mediations and in settlement conferences. Clients comment that Chris is approachable, accessible and is across the detail on all cases in which he is instructed. 

Chris is a regularly sought after speaker on topics including directors and officers’ liability, insurance law, risk management and dispute resolution and his articles have appeared in a range of industry publications and periodicals. 

Chris is a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. Chris is recommended by Legal 500 for Labour & Employment and by Best Lawyers in Australia for professional malpractice litigation and insurance law. 

Experience
  • Providing coverage advice in claims against directors and officers including class actions, civil proceedings, criminal prosecutions, ASIC investigations and Liquidators examinations.
  • Acting as coverage counsel in relation to claims made against directors and officers of an ASX-listed non-bank lender and investigations by ASIC and Receivers.
  • Acting as coverage counsel in relation to claims against directors following the collapse of a green technology company listed on the ASX and London Alternative Investment Market.
  • Acting as coverage counsel in relation to claims made against a former director of a start-up technology company with a Silicon Valley subsidiary.
  • Acting as coverage counsel in relation to multiple claims against former directors and officers of an ASX listed oil and gas company with substantial business interests in the United States.
  • Acting as monitoring counsel in a claim made against former directors of a Responsible Entity.
  • Drafting and obtaining Federal Court approval of a groundbreaking agreement between an insurer and liquidators which permitted the insurer to assume conduct of the defence of a substantial securities class action against the company in liquidation.
  • Acting for a professional indemnity insurer joined to litigation by chartered accountants following a denial of cover.
  • Defending professional negligence claims against insurance brokers, lawyers, investment managers and financial advisers.

Memberships and industry participation

  • Law Society of NSW
  • Australian Insurance Law Association
  • Australian Professional Indemnity Group

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Expertise

Christopher Smith has over 20 years of experience in the areas of directors and officers liability, professional and management liability and employment disputes.

Offices & Regions covered