Peter Watts joined Bankside Chambers on a fulltime basis in 2017, having been a door tenant at the Chambers since 2009. He had been teaching for over 30 years at the University of Auckland in commercial law subjects. Throughout his career he has been a regular provider of legal opinions, writer of submissions, and adviser on pleadings, for the profession on a wide range of commercial topics, including in litigation before all levels of New Zealand courts and the Privy Council. Since 2010 he has also been a door tenant at Fountain Court Chambers, The Temple, London, where he has provided opinions in litigation, including for cases in the England and Wales Court of Appeal and several times in cases in the United Kingdom Supreme Court.
Peter is currently a Visiting Professor at the University of Oxford, and a Senior Research Fellow at Harris Manchester College, Oxford.
Peter has broad expertise in commercial law,including agency law, company law, equity and trusts, the law of restitution, and insolvency law. He is one of the world’s leading authorities on the law of agency, and is the General Editor of Bowstead & Reynolds on Agency (21st ed, Sweet & Maxwell, 2018). His other books include Watts, Campbell and Hare Company Law in New Zealand (2nd ed, LexisNexis, 2014) and Directors’ Powers and Duties (2nd ed, Lexis Nexis, 2015). He is also a contributing author to Morison’s Company & Securities Law and Heath & Whale on Insolvency. He is NZ editor of the Restitution Law Review (UK), and Agency Law editor of the Journal of Business Law (UK). He has written for many of the Commonwealth’s leading law journals, including more than 30 contributions to the Law Quarterly Review, and articles in Cambridge Law Journal, Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, Lloyd’s Maritime and Commercial Law Quarterly, Journal of Business Law, Journal of Contract Law, Journal of Equity, Torts Law Journal, Australian Bar Review and Oxford University Commonwealth Law Journal. His articles have been cited by judges in the House of Lords, United Kingdom Supreme Court, High Court of Australia, Supreme Court of New Zealand, Court of Appeal of England and Wales, Hong Kong Court of Final appeal, and many other Commonwealth courts.
Peter is available to be instructed in most areas of company and commercial law, and the law of trusts and restitution.
Recent and Notable Cases
Peter appeared as counsel in the New Zealand Supreme Court in Stiassny v Commissioner of Inland Revenue  1 NZLR 453, in the New Zealand Court of Appeal in Insight Legal Trustee Co Ltd v Stokes  NZCA 148 and the High Court in Redwood Group Ltd v Queenstown Gateway (5M) Ltd  NZHC 3439. In 2020, Peter appeared successfully as lead counsel for some 860,000 account holders (juniored by Sam Jeffs) in Re Cryptopia Ltd  NZHC 728, before the High Court in Christchurch. This was the first fully contested case in the Commonwealth as to the property status of cryptocurrencies. Gendall J ruled that the cryptocurrencies at issue (some NZ$170 million in value) were property and that the currency exchange held the currency on trust for the account holders.
Peter also has an active advisory practice in England and Wales. He was a paid adviser in appeals before the United Kingdom Supreme Court in Dunhill v Burgin  UKSC 18 and Singularis Holdings Ltd v Daiwa Capital Markets Europe Ltd  UKSC 50, and before the England and Wales Court of Appeal in UBS AG v Kommunale Wasserwerke Leipzig GmbH  EWCA Civ 1567 and Eze v Conway  EWCA Civ 88. See also the reliance on his writing by members of the UK Supreme Court in Bilta (UK) Ltd v Nazir (No 2)  UKSC 23, and by the Privy Council in East Asia Co Ltd v PT Satria Tirtatama Energindo  UKPC 30.
Qualifications and Career
Qualifications and Career
Peter is a graduate of the Universities of Canterbury (1980), and Cambridge (1982) where he went as a Commonwealth Scholar. He was admitted as a barrister and solicitor in 1981. Before joining the University of Auckland in 1985, he worked for Duncan Cotterill in Christchurch, and Chapman Tripp in Wellington.
Peter was made Queen’s Counsel in 2013 and a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand in 2014. In 2016 he was a Leverhulme Visiting Professor at the University of Oxford, and was invited to be one of the two debaters (against Professor Virgo of Cambridge) in the annual debate at the Chancery Bar Association Annual Conference in London, on the subject: “Is unjust enrichment a satisfactory legal concept?” He now holds a Visiting Professorship at Oxford University, teaching there each October.
Peter is an Associate of the Arbitrators and Mediators Institute of New Zealand (AMINZ).
Peter is a door tenant at Fountain Court Chambers, the Temple, London, and a Visiting Professor at the University of Oxford.