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Landmark New York Court’s Decision Strengthens the Future of Litigation Funding

By John Freund |

The following piece was contributed by Guido Demarco, Director and Head of Legal Assets at Stonward.

In a groundbreaking legal battle that pitted Petersen Energía SAU and Petersen Energía Inversora SAU[1] (the Petersen Companies) against the Republic of Argentina, the recent decision by the District Court of Southern District of New York has far-reaching implications for the litigation funding industry. This landmark ruling reaffirms the critical role litigation funders play in providing access to justice, particularly in complex cases involving powerful sovereign entities.

The Petersen case was a high-stake dispute that arose when Argentina failed to fulfill its obligations under the bylaws of YPF S.A, the national oil company. When Argentina privatized the company during the 90s, the country promised under the bylaws a compensated exit to shareholders – a mandatory tender offer – if Argentina were to reacquire control of the company by any means. In 2012, Argentina expropriated Repsol’s 51% stake in YPF but did not fulfill this promise, eventually plunging the Petersen Companies into insolvency and liquidation.

To fight back against this injustice, the resourceful insolvency administrator of the companies, Armando Betancor, devised a liquidation plan in 2015 that included securing litigation funding. Given the immense risks involved, the Petersen Companies had to assign 70% of any recovery obtained in the claims to Burford Capital, the litigation funder. These risks included fighting a fierce sovereign in New York courts, which implied paying high attorney and experts’ fees during a lengthy period, as well as enforcement risks.

During the trial, Argentina attempted to diminish the awarded damages by arguing that the litigation funder was the primary beneficiary of the compensation, seeking to shift the focus away from the plaintiffs’ rightful claims. This tactic sought to undermine the legitimacy of the litigation funding arrangement, implying that the claimants should receive reduced damages due to the involvement of a third-party funder. However, the court’s decision firmly rejected this argument, emphasizing that the responsibility for compensation lay with Argentina, regardless of the funding arrangement, ensuring that the claimants were not deprived of the full measure of their entitled damages.

In a single paragraph, the Judge unequivocally dismissed Argentina’s attempts to derail the case by injecting the role of Burford Capital into the proceedings. The Judge emphasized that the essence of the case remained between the plaintiffs and the defendant who inequitably refused to comply with its promises:

The Court also rejects the Republic’s effort to inject Burford Capital into these proceedings. This remains a case brought by plaintiffs against a defendant for its wrongful conduct towards them, and the relevant question is what the Republic owes Plaintiffs to compensate them for the loss of the use of their money, not what Plaintiffs have done or will do with what they are owed. The Republic owes no more or less because of Burford Capital’s involvement. Furthermore, the Republic pulled the considerable levers available to it as a sovereign to attempt to take what it should have paid for and has since spared no expense in its defense. If Plaintiffs were required to trade a substantial part of their potential recovery to secure the financing necessary to bring their claims, in Petersen’s case because it was driven to bankruptcy, and litigate their claims to conclusion against a powerful sovereign defendant that has behaved in this manner, this is all the more reason to award Plaintiffs the full measure of their damages.”

Ironically, the most powerful impact for the litigation funding industry comes not from a lengthy legal argument, but from a single paragraph tucked away in a footnote of the judgment. Within this inconspicuous footnote, the Judge’s words resonate loudly, reaffirming the fundamental principles underpinning litigation funding. It reminds us that justice is blind to the funding mechanisms employed to level the playing field and that litigants should not be penalized for seeking financial support, particularly when facing formidable sovereign opponents and obstacles.

No doubt, this will be a beacon in times in which the industry is under heavy scrutiny, especially in Europe under the so-called Voss Report. The ruling reaffirms the legitimacy and importance of litigation funders in enabling access to justice in complex cases where financial backing is essential to bring claims to fruition.

The Court’s decision in the Petersen case is a significant victory not only for the plaintiffs but also for the litigation funding industry. It sets a powerful precedent that reinforces the rights of litigants to secure funding for their cases without sacrificing the full measure of their damages, contributing to a more equitable and accessible legal system. This decision will inspire confidence among potential litigants, funders, and investors alike, encouraging continued growth in the litigation funding industry.

We, at Stonward, are proud of having Armando Betancor, the insolvency administrator of the Petersen companies, in our Board of Investment.

[1] Petersen Energía SAU and Petersen Energía Inversora SAU v. Republic of Argentina, District Court of Southern District of New York, 15 Civ. 2739 (LAP) – 16 Civ. 8569 (LAP)

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Nera Capital Funding Truck Cartel Claims

By Harry Moran |

The European truck cartel case has long stood out as one of the most prominent examples of litigation funders looking to support mass claims against large companies over their breaches of competition rules. The latest announcement of a funder supporting such a claim continues to demonstrate the importance of these case types.

An article in Business Mondays highlights a recent announcement from Nera Capital, a legal finance firm based in Dublin, that it will be funding over 25,000 claims as part of the truck cartel case. The claims brought against truck suppliers has been one of the most high profile class action cases in Europe, following the 2016 European Commission ruling which found MAN, Volvo/Renault, Daimler, Iveco, and DAF guilty of breaking EU antitrust rules over their co-ordination of pricing.

Aisling Byrne, director at Nera Capital, highlighted the importance of third-party funding for the claims being brought against these truck manufacturers, stating that “while the cartel stopped running in 2011, the after effect was felt by truck owners in the following years, and it is important that those affected get their chance for justice.” The article also states that Nera Capital has appointed a German law firm to provide legal representation for the claimants it is funding.

Byrne also emphasised that Nera Capital’s investment in the truck cartel case aligned with “its mission to level the playing field against corporate misconduct”, and that this case “is not just about compensation but also about holding accountable those who undermine fair competition.”

Apple and Omni Bridgeway Spar Over Venue for Subpoena Fight

By Harry Moran |

As LFJ reported earlier this month, the world of patent litigation funding has once again generated a high-profile dispute, as Apple pressed a court to enforce a subpoena against Omni Bridgeway over the funder’s alleged role in a patent infringement case brought against the technology giant. The legal fight continues to evolve last week, as the two parties seek to find favourable ground in a venue of their choosing.

An article in Reuters provides a recap of the events that have led up to the current standoff between Apple and Omni Bridgeway, before shedding light on the current state of affairs. At issue is the court venue following Apple’s filing of a motion to compel compliance regarding its subpoena of Omni Bridgeway for information relating to the MPH patent infringement lawsuit. The case had been assigned to the Delaware district’s chief judge, U.S. District Judge Colm Connolly, who has become a familiar name in the litigation funding world over his standing order enforcing disclosure of third-party funding in patent cases. 

Unsurprisingly, Omni Bridgeway filed a motion to transfer the matter to the Northern District of California, stating that this court is the venue which “issued the subject subpoena and that is presiding over the underlying litigation’. The motion argued that this transfer “promotes judicial economy and prevents the risk of inconsistent rulings”, and went on to point out that “Litigating this issue in California is not inconvenient for Apple, a California corporation, with California lawyers party to the underlying California litigation.”

In response, Apple’s lawyers responded to the motion to transfer in a letter to Chief Judge Connolly, “injects unnecessary delay into the briefing, and will likely delay resolution of Apple’s motion to compel.”

Omni Bridgeway’s motion to transfer can be read here. Apple’s letter responding to the motion can be read here.

High Insolvency Rates and Case Backlogs Drive Growth of Legal Funding in India

By Harry Moran |

Whilst the majority of coverage on third-party legal funding tends to focus on established jurisdictions like Australia, the UK and US, one of the countries showing signs of life for the funding sector is India.

An article in Economic Times looks at the rise of litigation funders in India and explores how this niche but growing market has seen startup funders focus on arbitration and insolvency disputes as an area to establish a market foothold. The article highlights nationwide data that shows ‘a total of 7,567 companies across sectors were brought into administration until March end’ and that ‘45 million cases are pending in courts across the country, including about six million cases in 25 high courts and 83,800 cases in the Supreme Court.’

Speaking with top executives at funders and leading experts from Indian law firms, the Economic Times article examines how these issues within the legal system, combined with the current economic climate, have created opportunities for these funders to provide much-needed capital to alleviate the backlog of cases waiting in the courts.

Kundan Shahi, CEO of LegalPay, offered some insights into the funder’s current business strategy and explained that whilst they are largely focused on plaintiff-side funding, they “have also started to fund defendants in certain cases.” As for the underlying business fundamentals of LegalPay’s investment model, Shahi said, “We are expecting a maximum timeline of 36 months to recover our investments and an average IRR (internal rate of return) of 22-27%, with an average return of 12-15%, on a case-to-case basis.”

Outside of traditional litigation funders, there are companies like Mumbai-based SingleDebt, who provide legal advisory services to those embroiled in disputes with creditors. SingleDebt’s founder Harish Parmar, illustrated how the company assists its clients “through negotiation and mediation with creditors,” but for situations where litigation is unavoidable SingleDebt will “explore TPLF (third-party litigation funding) options to ease the financial burden on our clients.” Parmar goes on to explain that these funders can still provide significant value to their clients, by enabling them “to pursue their claims without depleting their resources.”