Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson, Partner

Paul is a solicitor (qualified in England in 1990, and Hong Kong in 1993). He has specialised in commodities, physical trading and shipping, commodity finance and commodity derivatives for his entire career. He was previously a pupil barrister at 20 Essex Street Chambers, a solicitor at Reed Smith (formerly Richards Butler) for 5 years, and at HFW for 7 years (Partner 1998). He subsequently worked in senior roles as in-house counsel at Enron, ABN Amro and BNP Paribas (global head of commodities legal for 8 1/2 years).

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Paul’s aim early in his career was to become a “complete” commodities lawyer, to understand thoroughly all aspects of the industry, across all types of commodities (energy, metals and agriculturals): physical trading and shipping, derivatives hedging (OTC and exchange traded), commodity finance – how it fitted together, the applicable legal and regulatory infrastructure and the different market players. Paul has a wealth of experience in nearly all commodities transaction and agreement types from work in-house (Enron, ABN Amro and BNP Paribas) and as a partner at a major specialist commodities law firm (HFW).

Shipping and Physical Commodities

Paul started out in shipping and commodities as a pupil barrister at 20 Essex Street Chambers with Tim Young QC, Following a year’s pupillage he  joined Richards Butler (now Reed Smith) as a newly qualified solicitor, working closely with the senior Partner, Stuart Beare, then a leading London practitioner in shipping law (now retired), for Greek, Japanese and Korean shipowners, most of the leading P&I and Defence Clubs, and latterly for senior members of the commodities group, then the leading specialist commodities legal group amongst the City Firms. Following 5 years at Richards Butler, Paul moved to HFW where continuing this part of his practice in particular for the UK P&I Club and its members. Paul practiced shipping law (and physical commodities) as a substantial part of his practice for 7-8 years until the focus shifted to purely commodities work in the late 1990s.

Commodity Disputes and Arbitration

Commodities and shipping litigation, arbitration and contested regulatory investigations have been a feature of Paul’s 30-year legal career. He started off his professional life at the Bar, and went onto practice litigation and arbitration for 10 years at two of the leading Firms in this field, Richards Butler and HFW, including stints for each Firm in Hong Kong, where representing clients in Court was a staple part of litigation practice. Since then he has handled multiple disputes at the institutions at which he has worked in house – Enron (notably the largest corporate insolvency involving significant litigation in metals and other commodities), ABN Amro and BNP Paribas, where he also ran a number of regulatory investigations, including some involving maturing long commodity futures positions and consequential physical delivery.