Key Takeaways from LFJ’s Special Digital Event: ESG in Litigation Funding

By John Freund |

On Wednesday October 5th, LFJ hosted a panel discussion and audience Q&A covering various aspects of ESG within a litigation funding framework, including how funders consider ESG claims, how serious LPs are when it comes to ESG-related criteria, and the backlash swirling around the topic itself. Panelists included Andrew Saker (AS), CEO of Omni Bridgeway, Neil Purslow (NP), CEO of Therium Capital Management, and Alex Garnier (AG), Founding Partner and Portfolio Manager of North Wall Capital. The event was moderated by Ana Carolina Salomao, Partner at Pogust Goodhead.

Below are some key takeaways from the digital event:

How do you consider ESG being relevant to litigation funding?

AS: It’s a truism that litigation funding provides access to justice. By definition it’s a social benefit. Litigation acts as a deterrent, and leads to environmental, social and governance improvement. So financing that through litigation funding assists with the achievement of various ESG goals.

ESG can both be a goal to be achieved through litigation funding, and also internally to be used to identify risks internally, and to inform decision-making.

How do your LPs consider ESG? Is ESG part of their mandates? Is it truly something that benefits your fundraising?

AG: We at North Wall are launching the third vintage of our legal assets fund, having deployed the first two vintages. There is strong investor demand for ESG-compliant and ESG-focused litigation financing. The questions asked on ESG are the same as with litigation financing – we’re asked how we screen deals, how we incentivize counter-parties to continually improve on ESG.

In our partnership with Pogust Goodhead, you have given us an undertaking to pursue only ESG-compliant cases (not that that was required, because that is the whole philosophy of the firm). But we have put that in place in documents in a non-litigation financing context. For example, when investing in e-commerce businesses, we have put in place interest rate ratchets linked to measurable goals such as environmental and social factors—achieving carbon neutrality, etc. And then actively seeking cases that meet ESG criteria as well. Cases around recompense for exploited workers is an example.

I think investors are also concerned about people going too far the other way—about greenwashing, tokenism, at taking positions at the expense of returns and downside protection.

Do you see that because you have an ESG awareness, you are able to access different investment pools than you otherwise would? Can you use it as leverage when fundraising?

NP: From Therium’s perspective, we see that some of our LPs are very focused on ESG-compliant criteria. We’ve been reporting to them for years on ESG compliance in different ways and how we think about that in our asset class. But you have to be careful here about what ESG means in the context of this particular asset class. What we’re doing is very different vs. a private equity fund or something like that. So you have to answer investor concerns very specifically for our asset class. And you also have to be careful about making ESG claims in a way that makes sure they are properly understood to our audience (particularly if you are addressing a retail audience). There is a danger there, that we all need to be very cognizant of.

How do managers and investors think about supporting a case that has strong ESG components to it, but doing so for a plaintiff that is non-ESG (for example, an Oil & Gas claimant)?

AS: The perception of what ESG is, needs to be taken in context of that particular case. Supporting a coal company would not be considered an ESG strategy. But if that coal is being used to provide power and heat and electricity in the middle of winter to Ukraine, then yes it could be considered a socially important strategy. So it is a challenge.

In some of our funds, that decision is taken away from us – our LPs have very strict no-go zones. That does assist us in identifying those claimants we’re able to support. In other funds, we have a great degree of discretion. Generally, we try to balance what we consider to be competing ESG requirements and objectives.  

Will the International Legal Finance Association look to establish ESG criteria or metrics for the industry?

NP: That’s a very interesting question. I am not aware of any discussion to do that yet. I think it’s extremely important how the industry engages with this topic. There is also another side to this—the greenwashing aspect. We need to be very careful that our industry is not representing itself to be something it is not. So there is a very strong case for a strong ESG narrative here. How ILFA engages with that in best practices has not yet been discussed.

What are the particular challenges or hurdles which funders, law firms or claimants might face in environmental suits specifically, in addition to the usual financing criteria?

AG: You tend to have very deep-pocketed defendants, which requires a level of stamina. You also tend to have a very wide group of claimants, because so many people have been affected by the environmental disasters in question. The flipside of that of course, is that the public relations impact of a defendant digging its heels in when they’ve done something of that sort means that a settlement is much more likely, as the liability and causation is much clearer than it is in other cases.

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An LFJ Conversation with Michael Kelley, Partner, Parker Poe

By John Freund |

On Wednesday October 5th, LFJ hosted a panel discussion and audience Q&A covering various aspects of ESG within a litigation funding framework, including how funders consider ESG claims, how serious LPs are when it comes to ESG-related criteria, and the backlash swirling around the topic itself. Panelists included Andrew Saker (AS), CEO of Omni Bridgeway, Neil Purslow (NP), CEO of Therium Capital Management, and Alex Garnier (AG), Founding Partner and Portfolio Manager of North Wall Capital. The event was moderated by Ana Carolina Salomao, Partner at Pogust Goodhead.

Below are some key takeaways from the digital event:

How do you consider ESG being relevant to litigation funding?

AS: It’s a truism that litigation funding provides access to justice. By definition it’s a social benefit. Litigation acts as a deterrent, and leads to environmental, social and governance improvement. So financing that through litigation funding assists with the achievement of various ESG goals.

ESG can both be a goal to be achieved through litigation funding, and also internally to be used to identify risks internally, and to inform decision-making.

How do your LPs consider ESG? Is ESG part of their mandates? Is it truly something that benefits your fundraising?

AG: We at North Wall are launching the third vintage of our legal assets fund, having deployed the first two vintages. There is strong investor demand for ESG-compliant and ESG-focused litigation financing. The questions asked on ESG are the same as with litigation financing – we’re asked how we screen deals, how we incentivize counter-parties to continually improve on ESG.

In our partnership with Pogust Goodhead, you have given us an undertaking to pursue only ESG-compliant cases (not that that was required, because that is the whole philosophy of the firm). But we have put that in place in documents in a non-litigation financing context. For example, when investing in e-commerce businesses, we have put in place interest rate ratchets linked to measurable goals such as environmental and social factors—achieving carbon neutrality, etc. And then actively seeking cases that meet ESG criteria as well. Cases around recompense for exploited workers is an example.

I think investors are also concerned about people going too far the other way—about greenwashing, tokenism, at taking positions at the expense of returns and downside protection.

Do you see that because you have an ESG awareness, you are able to access different investment pools than you otherwise would? Can you use it as leverage when fundraising?

NP: From Therium’s perspective, we see that some of our LPs are very focused on ESG-compliant criteria. We’ve been reporting to them for years on ESG compliance in different ways and how we think about that in our asset class. But you have to be careful here about what ESG means in the context of this particular asset class. What we’re doing is very different vs. a private equity fund or something like that. So you have to answer investor concerns very specifically for our asset class. And you also have to be careful about making ESG claims in a way that makes sure they are properly understood to our audience (particularly if you are addressing a retail audience). There is a danger there, that we all need to be very cognizant of.

How do managers and investors think about supporting a case that has strong ESG components to it, but doing so for a plaintiff that is non-ESG (for example, an Oil & Gas claimant)?

AS: The perception of what ESG is, needs to be taken in context of that particular case. Supporting a coal company would not be considered an ESG strategy. But if that coal is being used to provide power and heat and electricity in the middle of winter to Ukraine, then yes it could be considered a socially important strategy. So it is a challenge.

In some of our funds, that decision is taken away from us – our LPs have very strict no-go zones. That does assist us in identifying those claimants we’re able to support. In other funds, we have a great degree of discretion. Generally, we try to balance what we consider to be competing ESG requirements and objectives.  

Will the International Legal Finance Association look to establish ESG criteria or metrics for the industry?

NP: That’s a very interesting question. I am not aware of any discussion to do that yet. I think it’s extremely important how the industry engages with this topic. There is also another side to this—the greenwashing aspect. We need to be very careful that our industry is not representing itself to be something it is not. So there is a very strong case for a strong ESG narrative here. How ILFA engages with that in best practices has not yet been discussed.

What are the particular challenges or hurdles which funders, law firms or claimants might face in environmental suits specifically, in addition to the usual financing criteria?

AG: You tend to have very deep-pocketed defendants, which requires a level of stamina. You also tend to have a very wide group of claimants, because so many people have been affected by the environmental disasters in question. The flipside of that of course, is that the public relations impact of a defendant digging its heels in when they’ve done something of that sort means that a settlement is much more likely, as the liability and causation is much clearer than it is in other cases.

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On Wednesday October 5th, LFJ hosted a panel discussion and audience Q&A covering various aspects of ESG within a litigation funding framework, including how funders consider ESG claims, how serious LPs are when it comes to ESG-related criteria, and the backlash swirling around the topic itself. Panelists included Andrew Saker (AS), CEO of Omni Bridgeway, Neil Purslow (NP), CEO of Therium Capital Management, and Alex Garnier (AG), Founding Partner and Portfolio Manager of North Wall Capital. The event was moderated by Ana Carolina Salomao, Partner at Pogust Goodhead.

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Federal Judges Argue Against Public Disclosure of Litigation Funding

By Harry Moran |

On Wednesday October 5th, LFJ hosted a panel discussion and audience Q&A covering various aspects of ESG within a litigation funding framework, including how funders consider ESG claims, how serious LPs are when it comes to ESG-related criteria, and the backlash swirling around the topic itself. Panelists included Andrew Saker (AS), CEO of Omni Bridgeway, Neil Purslow (NP), CEO of Therium Capital Management, and Alex Garnier (AG), Founding Partner and Portfolio Manager of North Wall Capital. The event was moderated by Ana Carolina Salomao, Partner at Pogust Goodhead.

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