Charlie Webb

Charlie Webb

please note:
on leave Lent 2017

Administrative support: Rachel Yarham
Room: New Academic Building 6.26
Tel. 020-7955-7260

Charlie Webb has been a lecturer in the law department since 2006. He previously taught at University College, Oxford, and studied at Oxford and UCL before coming to the LSE for his PhD. His research is in private law theory, principally in the areas of contract, trusts and restitution.

Research Interests

Contract law, restitution, trusts and private law theory.


Reason and Restitution: A Theory of Unjust Enrichment  (Oxford University Press: 2016)

In law, gains, like losses, don't always lie where they fall. The circumstances in which the law requires defendants to give up their gains are well documented in the work of unjust enrichment lawyers. The same cannot be said, however, of the reasons for ordering restitution of such gains.
    It is often suggested that unjust enrichment's existence can be demonstrated without inquiry into these reasons, into the principles of justice it represents and invokes. Yet while we can indeed show that there exists a body of claims dealing with the recovery of mistaken payments and the like without going on to inquire into their rationale, this isn't true of unjust enrichment's existence as a distinct ground of such claims. If unjust enrichment exists as a body of like cases and claims, truly independent of contract and tort, it does so by virtue of the distinct reasons it identifies and to which these claims respond.
   Reason and Restitution examines the reasons which support and shape claims in unjust enrichment and how these reasons bear on the law's resolution of these claims. The identity of these reasons matters. For one thing, unjust enrichment's status as a distinct ground of liability depends on the distinctiveness of these reasons. But, more importantly, it matters to those charged with the practical tasks of deciding cases and making laws, for it is these reasons alone which can direct how judges and legislators ought to respond to these claims.

Trusts Law (with Tim Akkouh) 4th ed. (Palgrave Macmillan 2015)

Trusts law - cover

Trusts Law is a clear and concise text aimed at first time students of equity and trusts, covering all topics typically included in courses by providing an account both of the case law and also the main academic debates on which exam questions often focus. The authors have provided useful insights and new perspectives on a complex subject.

Selected articles
and chapters in books

'The Myth of the Remedial Constructive Trust' Current Legal Problems (2016) 69 (1) pp.353-376

Remedial constructive trusts are held out as a way for the courts to make better decisions: freed from the strictures of rules, courts would be better positioned to do justice on the facts, tailoring a remedy to the circumstances of the case. If this were true, their rejection in English law would be a serious failing. But a closer look at the relationship between rules and discretion suggests that it’s not true and that, when discretion is in genuine opposition to rule-determined decision-making, the outcome is not more justice but less. Moreover, when we look to the arguments of those calling for remedial constructive trusts to be introduced into English law and to those jurisdictions that claim to recognize them, this much seems to be agreed. Such differences as there are go instead to the substantive rules that govern the operation of constructive trusts. So the question English law faces is not whether we should recognize some ‘new model’ of constructive trust, but rather the more familiar inquiry into what rules are best. In addressing this question, the idea of the ‘remedial’ constructive trust is only an unnecessary distraction.

'Contract as fact and as reason' in G Klass, G Letsas and P Saprai (eds), Philosophical Foundations of Contract Law (Oxford University Press, 2014)

Normative practices, like law and like promising, have a dual aspect. They exist as practices—as things in fact said and done, attitudes and understandings in fact held, norms in fact endorsed and applied—and an inquiry into these practices may seek to understand them as they are, as they are realized, for better or worse, within particular communities. But for those within such communities, these practices answer to a distinct practical inquiry: what, given these facts, ought I do? This question—the basic question faced by any judge, legislator, promisor or promisee—cannot be settled simply by inquiring into the facts of these practices but requires, in all cases, a consideration of what are truly good reasons for action. These distinct inquiries can each provide the focus of a theory of law or of contracts or promises. But their distinctiveness means that any such theory must choose which of these inquiries it is to undertake. Getting clear on this allows us to get clearer on the relationship between promises and contracts and on what this relationship tells us, and what it doesn’t, about the distinct practical questions contract law raises.

'Reasons for restitution' in S Elliott, B Häcker and C Mitchell (eds), Restitution of Overpaid Tax (Hart Publishing, 2013)

'The Double Lives of Property' Jurisprudence Volume 2, Number 1, June 2011 , pp. 205-216 (45)

'Intention, mistakes and resulting trusts' in C Mitchell, Constructive and Resulting Trusts (Hart Publishing, 2010).

Constructive and resulting trusts have a long history in English law, and the law which governs them continues to develop as they are pressed into service to perform a wide variety of different functions, for example, to support the working of express trusts and other fiduciary relationships, to allocate family property rights, and to undo the consequences of commercial fraud. However, while their conceptual flexibility makes them enormously useful, it also makes them hard to understand. In the twelve essays collected in this volume, the authors shed new light on various aspects of the law governing constructive and resulting trusts, revisiting current controversies, bringing new historical material to the fore, and offering new theoretical perspectives.

'Treating like cases alike: principle and classification in private law' in A Robertson and HW Tang (eds), The Goals of Private Law (Hart Publishing, 2009)

The Goals of Private Law - coverThis collection of essays focuses on one of the most hotly contested issues in private law scholarship in the last 20 years: the function and purposes of private law. A large and influential body of scholarship is based on the idea that private law is essentially an instrument of regulation, and therefore ought to be shaped primarily or exclusively by external policy goals. Another highly influential body of scholarship, based on conceptions of corrective justice and rights, argues that policy has no legitimate role to play in private law. This collection asks whether private law can legitimately pursue external goals and analyses what goals private law might be said to pursue. It also asks whether the pursuit of such goals can be accommodated within the constraints of private law litigation, which must do justice to the individual plaintiff and defendant before the court. The starting point is the question whether the function of private law ultimately provides a basis for distinguishing it from public law. The book then considers the role of instrumental goals, the role of policy considerations and the relationship between policy goals and individual rights across the whole of private law. The book then considers the identification, legitimacy and role of goals at the level of individual categories of private law, namely: tort law, unjust enrichment, equity and trusts, contract law and remedies.

'What is unjust enrichment?' (2009) 29 Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 2009, 29(2), 215-243

That there exists a law of restitution concerned with reversing unjust enrichments is widely considered to be uncontroversial. However, the once orthodox view that unjust enrichment explains all instances of restitutionary liability is fast becoming a minority position. Indeed, the ability of ‘unjust enrichment’ to account for all restitutionary claims has been doubted by many of those who fought most strongly for its recognition as an independent head or source of liability, chief amongst these Professor Peter Birks. Because of this, while there is widespread acceptance that unjust enrichment plays some role within the law of restitution, there is considerable uncertainty as to what this exact role is, so much so that what is meant by unjust enrichment can be seen to be in doubt. Beginning with an examination of Birks' understanding of unjust enrichment and the classificatory scheme into which it slots, this article addresses the question of what role a conception of unjust enrichment can and should play in presenting and justifying the law of restitution.

'Property, unjust enrichment and defective transfers' in R. Chambers, C. Mitchell and J. Penner (eds), Philosophical Foundations of the Law of Unjust Enrichment (Oxford University Press, 2009)

This volume takes stock of the rapid changes to the law of unjust enrichment over the last decade. It offers a set of original contributions from leading private law theorists examining the philosophical foundations of the law. The essays consider the central questions raised by demarcating unjust enrichment as a separate area of private law - including how its normative foundations relate to those of other areas of private law, how the concept of enrichment relates to property theory, how the remedy of restitution relates to principles of corrective justice and what role mental elements should play in shaping the law.

'Justifying Damages' in J. Neyers, R. Bronaugh and S. Pitel (eds), Exploring Contract Law (Hart Publishing, 2009)

Exploring Contract Law - coverIn this book, leading scholars from Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States deal with important theoretical and practical issues in the law of contract and closely-related areas of private law. The articles analyse developments in the law of estoppel, mistake, undue influence, the interpretation of contracts, assignment, exclusion clauses and damages. The articles also address more theoretical issues such as discerning the limits of contract law, the role of principle in the development of contract doctrine and the morality of promising. With its rich scope of contributors and topics, Exploring Contract Law will be highly useful to lawyers, judges and academics across the common law world.

'Performance and compensation: and analysis of contract damages and contractual obligation' (2006) 26 Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 41-71

Although there is an increasing body of opinion that awards of damages for breach of contract should take account of the claimant's performance interest, there has been little in the way of analysis of what the performance interest is. Commonly the concept is put forward as simply a reformulation or reconceptualisation of the expectation interest, itself hitherto regarded as the one true contractual interest. Such thinking is flawed. A closer analysis of contract doctrine shows there to be two distinct contractual interests; in receiving performance, and in being compensated for losses caused by non-performance. Receiving compensatory damages for non-performance is not the same as receiving performance. At present, this important difference is not fully appreciated, resulting in a failure to develop a principled approach to the claims that can be made following a breach of contract. Recognition of this distinction forces us to confront the fundamental question of how committed we are to the notion that contracts entail a right to performance. This article examines the distinction between these two interests, how the performance interest may be given effect by a damages award, and what the consequences of this analysis are for our understanding of the nature of contractual obligation.

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