Sir William (Bill) Blair is a former Judge of London’s Commercial Court whose expertise is in commercial and financial law and dispute resolution. He is considered a leading international expert in the law of banking and finance.
Professor of Financial Law and Ethics at the Centre for Commercial Law Studies, Queen Mary University of London, he served as a High Court Judge in England and Wales for nearly ten years, and was Judge in Charge of the Commercial Court from 2016. He helped to establish the specialist Financial List, and the Standing International Forum of Commercial Courts. He was the first President of the Board of Appeal of the European Supervisory Authorities until 2019.
In 2017, Sir William rejoined 3 Verulam Buildings as an Associate Member, having previously practised from these chambers as a commercial QC before appointment to the bench.
Sir William sits as an arbitrator and has had LCIA, HKIAC, ICC and ICSID appointments as Chair, sole arbitrator and party-appointed arbitrator. He is a member of the LCIA and is listed on the Panel of Arbitrators of the Beijing Arbitration Commission (BAC), the Shenzhen Court of International Arbitration (SCIA), the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission (CIETAC) and HKIAC’s Panel of Arbitrators and Panel of Arbitrators for Financial Services Disputes. The section for Sir William's arbitration experience is below.
He gives consultative and independent advice, expert evidence on English law, and is a CEDR qualified mediator.
In 2018, he was appointed Chair of the Bank of England’s Enforcement Decision Making Committee (EDMC).
In 2018, he was appointed to the International Commercial Expert Committee of the Supreme People’s Court of the People’s Republic of China.
He has served on missions for the World Bank, the IMF, and the Asian Development Bank.
His current research interests include monetary law, fintech, financial crime and financial inclusion. He has an interest in the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and chairs the Law and Ethics in Finance Project, an informal group concerned with raising standards in the financial sector.
After school in Edinburgh, Sir William Blair graduated from Oxford University (Balliol College) and practised at the English Bar where he specialised in the law of banking and finance. He became a Queen’s Counsel in 1994.
Chair of the Commercial Bar Association between 2003 and 2005, he has had various appointments in the UK and internationally, including currently as a member of London’s Financial Law and Markets Committee which addresses issues of legal uncertainty in the financial markets, and as a Member of P.R.I.M.E. Finance's Advisory Board and Panel of Experts.
Appointments/Associations/Chairs from time of appointment as a QC
- Member of the International Financial Legal Experts Team of the Shanghai High People’s Court, 2021
- Honorary Senior Fellow, British Institute of International and Comparative Law, 2020
- Chair, Qatar Financial Centre Regulatory Tribunal, 2019
- Lifetime Achievement Award by Legal Week Commercial Litigation & Arbitration Awards, 2019
- Member, Ethics Committee of Digital Catapult’s AI Machine Intelligence Garage, 2018
- Member, International Commercial Expert Committee of the Supreme People’s Court of the People’s Republic of China, 2018 – 2022
- Chair of the Bank of England’s Enforcement Decision Making Committee (EDMC), 2018
- Deputy Judge of the Court of First Instance of the High Court of Hong Kong SAR, 2018
- Honorary Member of the Commercial Bar Association, 2018
- Cheng Yu Tung Visiting Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Hong Kong, 2018 – 2021
- Fellow Academic Member of the European Banking Institute, a joint venture of European universities organised under German law, 2018
- Appointed a Judge of the Qatar International Court, 2018
- Member of P.R.I.M.E. Finance's Advisory Board and Panel of Experts, 2017
- Associate Member of Chambers at 3 Verulam Buildings, London, and in the arbitration group, 2017
- Fellow of the Oxford University Commercial Law Centre, 2017
- Professor of Financial Law and Ethics, Queen Mary University of London, Centre for Commercial Law Studies, 2017
- Distinguished Visiting Professor, Peking University Law School, 2017 – 2020
- Distinguished Visiting Professor, East China University of Politics and Law, 2016 – 2019
- Expert adviser to Oxford University OBOR Institute (socio-legal issues arising from China's belt and road initiative), 2016
- Member of the Steering Group for the British Academy’s Challenge of Change on ‘The Future of the Corporation’, 2016
- Member of Expert Working Group of the China and UK judiciary on commercial dispute resolution, 2016
- Judge in Charge of the Commercial Court (High Court of England and Wales), 2016 – 2017
- Nominated judge of the Financial List (High Court of England and Wales), 2015 – 2017
- Member of the Steering Committee of the Bank of England’s Open Forum, Guildhall, 2015
- President of the Board of Appeal of the European Supervisory Authorities, 2012 – 2019
- Chair of the Executive Committee of the Secured Transactions Law Reform Project, 2010 – 2020
- Judge of the Upper Tribunal Tax and Chancery Chamber, 2010 – 2015
- Member of the Board of Trustees, British Institute of International and Comparative Law, 2009 – 2015
- Member of the Financial Markets Law Committee, 2008
- Judge of the High Court of England and Wales, Commercial Court, 2008 – 2017
- Chairman, Qatar Financial Centre Regulatory Tribunal, 2006 – 2011
- Trustee, International Law Book Facility, 2005 – 2016
- Chairman of the International Monetary Law Committee of the International Law Association, 2004
- Member of Bank of England Task Force on Major Operational Disruption in the Financial System, and Chair of the Emergency Powers Working Group, 2003 – 2004
- Chairman, Commercial Bar Association (COMBAR), 2003-2005
- Legal Chairman, Financial Services and Markets Tribunal, 2001- 2010
- Member of the Academic Advisory Board, Asian Institute of International Financial Law, Hong Kong University Faculty of Law, 1999
- Honorary Fellow of the Society for Advanced Legal Studies, 1997
- Visiting Professor of Law, London School of Economics and Political Science, 1994-2018
- Appointed Queen’s Counsel, 1994
Sir William Blair began his judicial career with part time appointments as a Recorder in 1999 sitting mainly in the Crown Court, and later as a Deputy High Court Judge sitting in the Queen’s Bench Division and Chancery Division, and as Legal Chairman of the Financial Services and Markets Tribunal.
After appointment as a High Court judge in England and Wales in 2008, he was a Judge of the Commercial Court until 2017. He became Judge in Charge of the Commercial Court in 2016, in which capacity among other things he was jointly responsible for the Financial List.
He has handed down many decisions in the field of banking and finance, arbitration, markets, construction, technology, shareholder disputes, commodities, shipping, insurance and insolvency.
As a Judge he dealt with many arbitration matters, and had overall responsibility for arbitration cases as Judge in Charge of the Court. [See the separate page.]
He continues to sit occasionally in the Commercial Court.
In 2012, He became the first President of the Board of Appeal of the European Supervisory Authorities. The three ESAs are the European Banking Authority (EBA), the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) and the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA). This was the first body of its kind in the financial regulatory sphere in the European Union.
In 2018, he sat as a Deputy Judge of the Court of First Instance of the Hong Kong SAR, China, and in 2018 was appointed a Judge of the Qatar International Court.
He is a member of the Expert Working Group on commercial dispute resolution set up between the Chinese and UK judiciaries in 2016.
Sir William sits as an arbitrator and has had LCIA, HKIAC, ICC and ICSID appointments as Chair, sole arbitrator and party-appointed arbitrator. He is a member of the LCIA and is listed on the Panel of Arbitrators of the Beijing Arbitration Commission (BAC), the Shenzhen Court of International Arbitration (SCIA), the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission (CIETAC) and HKIAC’s Panel of Arbitrators and Panel of Arbitrators for Financial Services Disputes.
His arbitration experience covers a wide range of commercial and financial matters, including disputes in relation to branch banking, national lotteries, highway construction, energy construction, renewable energy, bank resolution, disputes between shareholders, funding pension obligations, cryptocurrencies, and free trade agreements.
As a Judge, he has also dealt with many arbitration matters, and had overall responsibility for arbitration cases as Judge in Charge of the Commercial Court.
Cases in the arbitration field include:
AIG Insurance Hong Kong Ltd v McCullough  HKCFI 1649 (scope of arbitration clause)
Koshigi Ltd v Donna Union Foundation  EWHC 122 (Comm) (liability for costs)
Grindrod Shipping PTE Ltd v Hyundai Merchant Marine Co Ltd  EWHC 1284 (Comm) (reasoning of awards)
Autoridad del Canal de Panama v Sacyr SA  2 Lloyd's Rep. 351 (construction projects)
Zavod Ekran OAO v Magneco Metrel UK Ltd  2 Lloyd's Rep. 566 (Russian award)
Micula v Romania  Bus. L.R. 1147;  3 C.M.L.R. 6 (ICSID award)
Impala Warehousing and Logistics (Shanghai) Co Ltd v Wanxiang Resources (Singapore) PTE Ltd  2 All E.R. (Comm) 234 (effect of reasonable offer to arbitrate)
Travis Coal Restructured Holdings LLC v Essar Global Fund Ltd  2 Lloyd's Rep. 494; 155 Con. L.R. 61 (“summary” procedures)
OMV Petrom SA v Glencore International AG  2 Lloyd's Rep. 308 (oil trading)
Seagrain LLC v Glencore Grain BV  2 All E.R. (Comm) 640;  2 Lloyd's Rep. 590 (export prohibitions)
PJSC Vseukrainskyi Aktsionernyi Bank v Maksimov  EWHC 3203 (Comm) (enforcement in the CIS context)
U&M Mining Zambia Ltd v Konkola Copper Mines Plc  2 Lloyd's Rep. 218;  1 C.L.C. 456 (interim measures)
BNP Paribas SA v Open Joint Stock Company Russian Machines  1 Lloyd's Rep. 61;  Arb. L.R. 49 (financial guarantee)
Deutsche Bank AG v Tongkah Harbour Public Co Ltd  Arb. L.R. 20 (arbitration in the financial context)
PT Thiess Contractors Indonesia v PT Kaltim Prima Coal  Arb. L.R. 26 (mining context)
Guangzhou Dockyards Co Ltd v ENE Aegiali I  2 All E.R. (Comm) 595;  1 Lloyd's Rep. 30 (shipbuilding)
REC Wafer Norway AS (formerly REC Scanwafer AS) v Moser Baer Photo Voltaic Ltd  1 Lloyd's Rep. 410 (bank guarantee context)
Double K Oil Products 1996 Ltd v Neste Oil Oyj  1 Lloyd's Rep. 141 (oil and gas)
Belair LLC v Basel LLC  EWHC 725 (Comm) (interim measures)
Lansat Shipping Co Ltd v Glencore Grain BV (The Paragon)  2 All E.R. (Comm) 12;  1 Lloyd's Rep. 658 (shipping)
Co-editor, Research Handbook on Ethics in Banking and Finance (Edward Elgar Publishing 2019)
Co-editor, Banks and Financial Crime, the International Law of Tainted Money, 2nd edn (Oxford University Press, 2017)
General editor Bullen & Leake & Jacob's Precedents of Pleadings, 18th edn (Sweet & Maxwell 2015)
Consultant editor, Butterworth’s Banking Law Handbook, 8th edn (Lexis-Nexis, 2010)
Consultant editor, Butterworths Securities and Financial Services Law Handbook, 2009 Recession Special Supplement (Lexis-Nexis 2009)
Co-author Banking and Financial Services Regulation, 3rd edn (Butterworths, London, 2002)
Editor Banks, Liability and Risk, 3rd edn (LLP, London, 2001)
Co-editor Encyclopaedia of Banking Law (Butterworths, London, 1999) looseleaf and electronic format
Editor Banks and Remedies, 2nd edn (LLP, London, 1999)
Foreign contributing editor, Banking & Finance Law Review (Canada)
Member of the editorial advisory board of Journal of International Banking Law and Regulation
Member editorial board of Capital Markets Law Journal
General Editor Journal of Banking Regulation
Articles, reviews, case notes etc
The UK Needs Safe Harbors For Libor's Wind-Down, Thomas Baxter and William Blair, Law360, March 26, 2021
How spatial finance can boost the climate change fight through better environmental predictions, William Blair and Emilios Avgouleas, South China Morning Post, 21 October 2020
Cooperation is Key, IQ, ISDA Quarterly, Vol 6, Issue 3: September 2020, p. 37
Money and the democratisation of payments, (2020) 35 J.I.B.L.R, p.173
The concept of money in the 4th industrial revolution—a legal and economic analysis, Emilios Avgouleas and William Blair, Singapore Journal of Legal Studies (2020) p.4
The New Litigation Landscape: International Commercial Courts and Procedural Innovations, International Journal of Procedural Law, Volume 9 (2019), No. 2, p. 212
Opinion: A New Era of Global Payments is Coming, William Blair and Emilios Avgouleas, Caixin (China) 28 August, 2019
The beauty of ethics: towards re-establishing trust in the financial sector, Pensamiento Social No 6, William Blair and Clara Barbiani (Lima, Peru, 2019), p.79
The role of judicial review in the EU’s financial architecture and the development of alternative remedies: The experience of the Board of Appeal of the European Supervisory Authorities, with Grace Cheng, Quaderno di Ricerca Giuridica n. 84 - Judicial Review in the Banking Union (Banca d’Italia)
Alternative Dispute Resolution and its Relationship with the Judicial Process, a chapter in Commitment to Law, Development and Public Policy: A Festschrift in Honour of Dr S.K.B. Asante, ed Oppong and Agyebeng, 2016, Wildy, Simmonds and Hill Publishing, p.201
Reconceptualizing the role of standards in supporting financial regulation, chapter in Rethinking Global Finance and its Regulation, Cambridge University Press, 2016
Book review in Arbitration International, 2015, 31, 515–518, Rethinking the New York Convention: A Law and Economics Approach by Professor Shen Wei (published by Intersentia, Cambridge, 2013)
Remedies—Injunctive Relief, chapter 12 of International Financial Disputes, Arbitration and Mediation, Oxford University Press, 2015
Is there a role for culture and ethics in financial regulation?, chapter 9 of Functional or dysfunctional – the law as a cure? Risks and liability in the financial markets. Stockholm Centre for Commercial Law, publication number 22, 2014, p.173
Odious debt, chapter 17 of Sovereign Debt Management, ed Rosa Lastra and Lee Buchheit, Oxford University Press, 2014
Awrey, Blair, and Kershaw, Between Law and Markets: Is there a role for culture and ethics in financial regulation?, 38 DEL. J. CORP. L, 191 (2013)
Board of Appeal of the European Supervisory Authorities (2013) 24 European Business Law Review, Issue 2, pp. 165–171
European Business Organization Law Review, Vol 14, Issue 01, March 2013, p. 141-3, book review of Avgouleas, Governance of Global Financial Markets: The Law, the Economics, the Politics, Cambridge University Press, 2012.
Standards and the Rule of Law after the Global Financial Crisis, Chapter 4 of International Monetary and Financial Law, The Global Crisis, ed Giovanoli and Devos, Oxford University Press, 2010.
CSR in Finance: the Development of International Norms, published in Studies on Corporate Social Responsibility, ed Jianbo Lou, Peking University Press, Beijing 2009, pp. 559–566
Global Financial Law, Law and Financial Markets Review, Vol 1, Issue 5 (Sept 2007)
Commentary on 'Documents and Contractual Convergence in International Trade', in Commercial Law and Commercial Practice, ed Sarah Worthington (Hart, Oxford, 2003), p.213
Supervision of Financial Institutions in the United Kingdom, Chapter 23 in Current Developments in Monetary and Financial Law, Vol 2 (International Monetary Fund, 2003), p.489
Jurisdiction, Conflicts of Law, and the Internet, (chapter 8 in Capital Markets in the Age of the Euro, ed Ferrarini, Hopt and Wymeersch, Kluwer, The Hague, 2002) p.153 (with D Quest)
International Standards in the Governance of Financial Markets, Journal of Financial Crime, Vol 8, No 3, Feb 2001, p.248 (with Cheong Ann Png)
Liability of Central Banks and Supervisory Authorities, BIS Legal Experts' Symposium, 19 October 2000
A Successful Milestone in the UK's Regulatory Reform, Journal of Internat. Banking Reg'n, Vol 2 No 2, July 2000, p.1 (editorial)
Interference of Public Law in the Performance of International Monetary Obligations, Ch 21, International Monetary Law, ed Giovanoli, (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2000)
Secondary Liability of Financial Institutions for the Fraud of Third Parties, (2000) Vol 30 Hong Kong Law Journal p.74
Enforcement of Bank Claims and the Law of Security, (a chapter in Current Developments in Monetary and Financial Law, Vol 1, International Monetary Fund, 1999), p.451
Payment Obligations during the Transitional Phase of Monetary Union, JIBL, special issue on the international financial markets, 1998, p.2 (with Richard Brent)
Dealing with Banks in Distress, foreword and afterword to chs 10 and 11 of Current Legal Issues affecting Central Banks (ed R. Effros, Vol 5, IMF, April 1998) pp.252 and 303
European Securities markets, ed G. Ferrarini, Kluwer, London, 1998) p.135
Derivatives Sales: Private Law and the Impact of Regulatory Standards, (a chapter in
The Legal Status of Central Bank Investments under English Law,  Vol 57, Cambridge Law Journal, p.374
The Reform of Financial Regulation in the UK,  JIBL, p.43
Contracts and Monetary Union, 8 European Business Law Review, Oct 1997, p.228.
Law, Essays in honour of Roy Goode, ed R.Cranston, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1997) p.323
Liability for Foreign Branch Deposits in English Law, (a chapter in Making Commercial
Recent Developments in UK Banking Law, (a chapter in Current Legal Issues Affecting Central Banks, ed R. Effros, Vol 4, International Monetary Fund, March 1997) p.235
Set-off and Charges over Cash, 12 BFLR, Sept 1996, p.167
Derivatives Sales Liability: Approach of the English and US Courts,  7 JIBL, (with C. Olive), p.263
Liability Risks in Derivative Sales,  1 JIBL, p.18
Insulating against Perceived Risks and the Role of the Choice of Law, NAFTA, Law & Business Review of the Americas, Autumn 1995, p.60
Regulation and Deregulation in UK, (a chapter in International Banking Regulation eds JJ Norton, CJ Cheng & I Fletcher, Graham & Trotman, London, 1994) p.81
The Modern Relationship of Banker and Customer in English Law, (a chapter in European Banking Law, ed R. Cranston, Lloyds of London Press, 1993, 2nd edn, 1999)
Extraterritorial Orders Affecting Banks, BFLR (Banking & Finance Law Review), May 1992
Following the Proceeds of Fraud, Current Developments in International Banking, ed Koh Kheng Liang and others, Butterworths, Singapore, 1989 (with P. Cresswell QC), p.266
Negotiability and Estoppel, 1988, 1 JIBL (Journal of International Banking Law), p.8
Cash Deposits as a Form of Security, Butterworths, Banking and Financial Law Review, 1987, p.162
Charges over Cash Deposits, International Financial Law Review, Nov 1983, p.14
- French (reading)