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 the United Kingdom Supreme Court.


  • LLB (Hons) – University of Canterbury, 1980
  • LLM – University of Cambridge, 1982
  • FRSNZ, 2014


Peter Watts KC is an internationally renowned expert in the law of agency. He has advised on the common law of agency in court proceedings and arbitrations (including ICSID) in many jurisdictions, including England and Wales, New York, Australia, and Denmark. He also has a broad domestic practice in New Zealand in banking law, insolvency law, company law, equity and trusts, the law of restitution, and the law of contract. He is available to act in all these areas, as adviser, counsel or arbitrator.


Peter joined Bankside Chambers on a full-time basis in 2017. Before that he had been a member of the Law Faculty at the University of Auckland for over 30 years. There he maintained a practice as 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 the New Zealand courts and the Privy Council.


Since 2010, Peter has been a door tenant at Fountain Court Chambers, The Temple, London, a magic-circle set of barristers’ chambers engaged in the most prominent commercial disputes in the United Kingdom and internationally.


Peter is also a Visiting Professor at the University of Oxford, and a Senior Research Fellow at Harris Manchester College, Oxford. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand (Te Apārangi).

Peter is the General Editor of Bowstead & Reynolds on Agency (22nd ed, Sweet & Maxwell, 2021), and a contributing editor to Chitty on Contracts (34th ed,2021). His other books include Watts, Campbell and Hare Company Law in New Zealand (2nded, 2016) and Directors’ Powers and Duties (3rd ed,2022). He is also a contributing author to Morison’s Company & Securities Law, and Heath & Whale on Insolvency.

In 2023 and in what may be a first for a New Zealand based lawyer, Peter was granted leave to supplicate for the degree (formal graduation to come) of Doctor of Civil Law from Oxford University for his writing on the law of agency.

Case Highlights

Law Debenture Trust Corp plc v Ukraine [2023] UKSC 11

Advice on aspects of agency law for the Republic of Ukraine in UKSC appeal in relation to a debt action brought by Law Debenture as trustee for Russia.

Re Cryptopia Ltd [2020] NZHC 728

Acted as lead counsel for c860,000 account-holders in liquidation of cryptocurrency exchange with assets of cNZ$170 million. First contested case in Commonwealth on property status of cryptocurrencies. Trust status upheld. Also appeared as amicus in subsequent proceedings raising issues that included: the Court's power to appoint an independent solicitor to represent trust beneficiaries in litigation; "special trust advisors" under the Trusts Act 2019; joinder of purported assignee of beneficial interests; requirement for putative beneficiaries of a trust to establish that they are beneficiaries where their status is unclear: Houchens v Ruscoe [2023] NZHC2969; Epic Trust Ltd v Ruscoe [2024] NZHC 21.


Redwood Group Ltd v Queenstown Gateway (5M) Ltd [2018] NZHC 3439

A trust dispute involving former joint venture shareholders. Counsel for 4th defendant in procedural hearing on various aspects of privilege, discovery, joinder, and security for costs.

Stiassny v Commissioner of Inland Revenue [2013] 1 NZLR 453 (SC)

Counsel team in NZ Supreme Court on issues of restitution law.

Dunhill v Burgin [2014] UKSC 18

Advice in UK Supreme Court appeal on mental incapacity of principal when instructing barrister in respect of settlement agreement.

Singularis Holdings Ltd v Daiwa Capital Markets Europe Ltd [2019] UKSC 50

Advice in UK Supreme Court appeal on attribution of director’s knowledge and acts to companies.

Eze v Conway [2019] EWCA Civ 88

Advice in England and Wales CA case on fiduciary status of an introducer.

What Others Say

Lord Toulson and Lord Hodge in Bilta (UK) Ltd (in liq) v Nazir [2015] UKSC 23, [2016] AC 1 at [159]: “We have been greatly helped by the analysis provided by Professor Watts in a characteristically lucid article, Illegality and Agency Law: Authorising Illegal Action [2011] JBL 213.”

Lord Kitchin in East Asia Co Ltd v PT Satria [2019] UKPC 30 at [85]: “The reasoning in the Akai case has been the subject of strong criticism, however: Bowstead & Reynolds on Agency (21st edn, 2017) paras 8–49 to 8–50; P Watts, ‘Some Wear and Tear on Armagas v Mundogas—The Tension between Having and Wanting in the Law of Agency’ (2015) 1 LMCLQ 36, 48–56. In the Board’s respectful view, much of that criticism has considerable force."

Lord Leggatt in Philipp v Barclays Bank UK Plc [2023] UKSC 25 at [72]: “Authority to act as agent includes only authority to act honestly in pursuit of the interests of the principal.” The basis for this proposition is elucidated both in the comment that follows it [in Bowstead & Reynolds] and in a valuable article by the current main editor, Peter Watts, “Actual authority: the requirement for an agent honestly to believe that an exercise of power is in the principal's interests” [2017] JBL 269.

And at [92]: "Professor Watts, who has done much to illuminate this area of the law, disputes that conclusion."


  • P Watts Directors’ Powers and Duties (3rd ed, LexisNexis, 2022)
  • P Watts (Gen ed) and FMB Reynolds, Bowstead & Reynolds on Agency (23rd ed, Sweet & Maxwell, 2021)
  • P Watts, N Campbell and C Hare Company Law in New Zealand (2nd ed, LexisNexis, 2016)
  • P Watts "Re Citibank (the Revlon case)—Pleading a Third Party’s Indebtedness as a Defence to Recovery of a Mistaken Payment" [2023] Journal of Business Law 87
  • P Watts "Sequana in the Supreme Court: Cautious Confirmation of the Creditor-Extension to the Director’s Duty of Loyalty" [2023] Journal of International Banking and Finance Law 74
  • P Watts “Playing the Quincecare Card" (2022) 138 Law Quarterly Review 530
  • P Watts “Trustees with Absolute Discretions—a Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in the New Zealand Courts” (2022) 36 Trust Law International 3
  • P Watts “Directors’ Duties after Debut Homes—A Return to the Scene” [2021] Company and Securities Law Bulletin 55
  • P Watts “Silence and solidarity?—the duties of individual directors minded to speak out about their board’s decision-making and governance” in C Mitchell and S Watterson (eds) The World of Maritime and Commercial Law (Hart Publishing, Oxford, 2020) 345
  • P Watts “The Release Fee as a Remedy for Breach of Contract—the Judgment of Elias J in Cash Handling in the Light of Morris-Garner” in S Mount and M Harris (eds) The Promise of Law—Essays Marking the Retirement of Dame Sian Elias (LexisNexis, 2020) ch. 13
  • P Watts “Forfeiture of Agents’ Remuneration” in P Devonshire and R Havelock (eds) Impact of Equity and Restitution in Commerce (Hart Publishing, 2018) ch. 10
  • P Watts “The Acts and States of Knowledge of Agents as Factors in Principals’ Restitutionary Liability” [2017] Lloyd's Maritime and Commercial Law Quarterly 385
  • P Watts, “Directors as Agents—Some Aspects of Disputed Territory” in D Busch, L Macgregor, and P Watts (eds) Agency Law in Commercial Practice (OUP, Oxford, 2016) ch. 7


  • Fountain Court Chambers, London, England (Door tenant)
  • Harris Manchester College, Oxford (Senior Research Fellow)
  • New Zealand Bar Association
  • New Zealand Law Society
  • Royal Society of New Zealand (Te Apārangi) (Fellow)