John is a leading academic authority on insolvency law and policy. Over the last twenty years his research interests have been in private law, including insolvency, bankruptcy, company, charity and equity and trusts. He is currently researching insolvent charities and timeliness in corporate insolvency. An exponent of progressive bankruptcy communitarianism, John approaches his scholarship from a normative and critical reform perspective. This work is underpinned by his legal history scholarship. John has published extensively and his research has appeared in leading international journals and edited collections published in England and Australia. John's work has been cited in judgments across the common law jurisdictions and by academics around the Globe (at Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge, Lancaster, British Columbia, Kent, LSE). John is best known for his work on personal insolvency, officeholder behaviour, and for advocating corporate insolvency approaches based on the 'timeline of insolvency' and 'consensual restructuring'. In the realm of charity law John has introduced the 'patronage bargain' theory and used communitarianism bankruptcy theory to advocate for charity rescue to maintain public benefit.
John has written for a number of authoritative works. He is joint author, with John Briggs of 3/4 South Square, of Muir Hunter on Personal Insolvency , "the leading textbook on personal bankruptcy" (per Lord Millett, 2015). The work was first produced by Lord Justice Vaughan Williams in 1870 and is frequently cited with approval in the Superior Courts of England and Wales, including five references in 2017, four in 2019, nine in 2020, three in both 2021 and 2022, and two in 2023. The work has also been cited in a number of Commonwealth jurisdictions, most recently in New Zealand's Court of Appeal. The book ranks amongst the most influential texts in insolvency law. John has also contributed chapters to Tolley's Insolvency Law, including a chapter on insolvent charities.
John is frequently involved in policy and legislation reform work, including two current projects ((1) Directors' Education, and, (2) Disclaimer and Escheat) with the Insolvency Service (An Executive Agency of the Department for Business and Trade). John's policy work has impacted on policy, legislation, and judicial decisions. He has given expert evidence to the UK Parliament and the Scottish Parliament. In 2006 he gave evidence to the Scottish Parliament's Enterprise and Culture Committee during the passage of the Bankruptcy and Diligence, etc (Scotland) Bill (now Act). In 2021 John gave evidence to the Public Bills Committee of the House of Commons on the Rating (Coronavirus) and Directors Disqualification (Dissolved Companies) Bill (now Act). In 2021 John chaired an Insolvency Service (part of the UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS)) workstream consisting of representatives from Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs, Her Majesty’s Treasury, the Financial Conduct Authority, UK Finance, debt advice charities, and the professions. The group were examining the reform of personal insolvency law. In early 2022 John joined the Government’s ‘Director Education Advisory Group’ which is examining director education in the United Kingdom. This is a significant long-term collaborative project that spans across various Government departments and industry including stakeholders from His Majesty's Revenue & Customs , His Majesty's Treasury , the Institute of Directors , the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland , Funding Circle , the Royal Bank of Scotland and which is being led by the Insolvency Service . The Director Information Hub, launched in July 2023, is the first outcome from this project. Over the last two decades John has been involved in policy discussions touching on numerous areas of insolvency and company law. These have included personal insolvency issues such as bankruptcy discharge, debtor education, insolvency procedure fees, and, officeholder bonds. Corporate insolvency points have included, dissolution and restoration of companies, directors’ disqualification, director education, and, recent collaborative work on public interest insolvency including escheat liabilities following disclaimer of onerous property.
John has undertaken funded commissioned research for, inter alia, the Insolvency Service (UK Government), Grant Thornton, Baker Tilly, KPMG and the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW). John was PI on two Insolvency Service funded empirical projects. The first was an examination of the impact of the reduction in automatic discharge in bankruptcy following the Enterprise Act 2002 reforms. The second project examined debtor education and the credit environment in England and Wales (with Dr. Leyanda Cocks). John was also PI on a Baker Tilly funded project that examined the history and policy of insolvency bonds, a type of insurance for insolvency practitioners. More recently John was in receipt of an Economic and Social Research Council Collaborative Innovation Grant as part of Methods NW (with Dr. Cerian Griffiths).
John sits on a number of editorial boards including the BPIR law reports , Corporate Rescue & Insolvency (CRI), and, Mithani: Directors' Disqualification. An experienced media commentator, John has appeared on Sky television, BBC television and radio and given a number of quotes to the national and international press on insolvency matters. John has been a member of the Executive Committee of the Society of Legal Scholars, and chaired the Open Section for a number of years. In 2016 John was appointed as an Academic Associate of Exchange Chambers , where he gives an annual lecture. As part of his other Knowledge Exchange (KE) collaboration activity John works with the Liverpool Business & Property Court Forum as a member of the LBPCF committee. John has given a number of invited lectures over the last decade to professional organisations and governments. These invited lectures have been delivered to the Insolvency Lawyers' Association (ILA, 2012), the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW, 2016), the Insolvency Practitioners' Association (IPA, 2017, 2020, 2021), the Insolvency Service (UK Government, 2018 and 2022), the University of Adelaide and Lynch Meyer, Australia (2019), and the Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs, Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Government of India (2021).
John has significant teaching responsibilities at Liverpool. He is module leader for the core second year Land Law module (LAW242) and module leader for Corporate Insolvency Law (LAW373), a popular third year elective module. John has taught across various private law modules at LL.B. and LL.M. level including Company Law, Corporate Insolvency, Equity & Trusts, Corporate Governance, and, Land Law. He holds a PGCE (2004) and is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA). In 2008 John was shortlisted (one of five candidates) for the HEA/OUP Law Teacher of the Year award. John has led the development of the Equity Shorts and Insolvency Shorts series of supplementary materials at Liverpool. More recently in Land Law John has been successfully using ‘object-based learning’ approaches with the use of land law dioramas and accompanying VLE materials. A Centre for Innovation in Education film on this ‘object-based learning’ work can be viewed here. Student feedback on this pedagogic approach can be read here.
John is currently supervising two doctoral candidates. Kerry Usher is examining aspects of cross-border insolvency. Stratios Koytzoumis is examining aspects of housing law and the nature of the home. John would be happy to hear from prospective doctoral candidates with an interest in insolvency law.