Court Distinguishes Hard Bargaining From Deceit

There is all the difference in the world between deceit and hard bargaining, as a recent case shows. It involved a disgruntled company which failed to convince the High Court that it had missed out on a multi-million-pound oil and gas exploration deal due to an international businessman's dishonesty.

The company claimed that it had been deliberately misled by the businessman into selling its 10 per cent stake in an offshore exploration concession for little more than $1 million when it was in fact worth up to $11 million. The businessman was accused in a public court of having 'no sense of commercial propriety' and was said to have exhibited 'raw cunning' in his dealings with the company.

The businessman had a reputation as a skilled and successful negotiator who was 'prepared to drive a hard bargain'. However, in dismissing the company's damages claim, the High Court described him as a 'frank and straightforward' witness who had not tried to pull the wool over the company's eyes.

The company had failed to discharge the 'considerable burden' of proving that the businessman had acted dishonestly or that he had deliberately misled it into a bad deal. The allegations against the 'senior and experienced businessman' were extremely serious and, in the Court's view, 'entirely without substance'.

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