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.
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.
Law Debenture Trust Corp plc v Ukraine  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  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.
Redwood Group Ltd v Queenstown Gateway (5M) Ltd  NZHC 3439
Counsel for 4th defendant in procedural hearing on various aspects of privilege, discovery, joinder, and security for costs.
Stiassny v Commissioner of Inland Revenue  1 NZLR 453 (SC)
Counsel team in NZ Supreme Court on issues of restitution law.
Dunhill v Burgin  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  UKSC 50
Advice in UK Supreme Court appeal on attribution of director’s knowledge and acts to companies.
Eze v Conway  EWCA Civ 88
Advice in England and Wales CA case on fiduciary status of an introducer.
Lord Toulson and Lord Hodge in Bilta (UK) Ltd (in liq) v Nazir  UKSC 23,  AC 1 at : “We have been greatly helped by the analysis provided by Professor Watts in a characteristically lucid article, Illegality and Agency Law: Authorising Illegal Action  JBL 213.”
Lord Kitchin in East Asia Co Ltd v PT Satria  UKPC 30 at : “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  UKSC 25 at : “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”  JBL 269.
And at : "Professor Watts, who has done much to illuminate this area of the law, disputes that conclusion."
In Woolley v Fonterra Co-op Group Ltd  NZCA 266, the New Zealand Court of Appeal recently considered the approach to the review of contractual discretions adopted by the UK Supreme Court in Braganza v BP Shipping Ltd  UKSC 17,  1 WLR 1661. In his opinion piece, Peter Watts KC examines the controversial nature of the Braganza test, and how the Court of Appeal’s decision was not surprising.
International expert on the law of agency Peter Watts KC considers a recent decision of the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal where it was assumed by both parties and the Court that the dishonesty of the customer’s mandataries automatically removed the bank’s actual authority to follow their instructions.
The trial decision of Cockerell J in Federal Republic of Nigeria v JPMorgan Chase Bank NA  EWHC 1447(Comm) in the England and Wales Commercial Court has just been delivered this week. Peter Watts QC discusses the background of the case and the role of Quincecare duty.
In January 2022, an appeal in the case of Stanford International Bank v HSBC Bank was argued before the Supreme Court. The assumed facts (the proceedings involved a strike out) were that the claimant, now in liquidation, had not been a bona fide bank. Rather, it was nothing more than a vehicle for a Ponzi scheme. Some of the funds raised under the scheme had been held in an account with HSBC.