Recent Developments in Litigation Finance (Part 2 of 2)

By Mauritius Nagelmueller

This article aims to provide an overview of the most significant recent developments in the litigation finance industry. Part 2 of this 2-part series discusses the rapid growth of litigation finance across the globe, as well as its multi-dimensional expansion into diverse markets. If you’d like to reference Part 1 of this series, you can find it here.

Growth

The most significant overall trend in litigation finance is simply put: growth – a vibrant and ongoing increase in the use and acceptance of the industry. Litigation finance has emerged from a promising niche into a mainstream alternative asset class. The use has multiplied in the recent years, and among many other characteristic features, investors are attracted by the chance to diversify their portfolios with uncorrelated assets. The demand in the legal world is still much higher than the supply of litigation finance – an indicator that normally only the best cases are receiving financing. By now, the business spans the financing of both plaintiffs and defendants, single cases and portfolios, at practically every stage of the dispute, for example also at the enforcement phase.

As litigation finance has become a multi-billion-dollar business, surveys and reports by universities and journals, as well as financing providers point to its continued growth, with no signs of stopping any time soon. While detailed data grows increasingly available, it is hard for reporters or councils to keep pace with the industry, which continues to evolve before initial research can proffer valid conclusions.

While this powerful forward movement promotes access to justice in the eyes of many, the impact on the civil justice system concerns others. Calls for more rules and regulation regarding inter alia, disclosure and conflicts of interest remain loud. Whichever side one chooses, the market for this service is growing, the demand enormous, and high-quality cases tend to find high-quality finance providers.

Expansion

For all the reasons stated above, as well as in the Part 1 of this series, 2017 has been the year of expansion for litigation finance firms. New offices in multiple jurisdictions, new funds that are larger or have innovative structures, and broader services providing the full spectrum of finance and risk management related to legal disputes.

A wave of new office launches took place in multiple directions internationally. Litigation finance firms from the U.K. entered the U.S. market, and are eager to establish their business in New York City, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, California, and a number of other locales across the U.S. Strategic recruiting, e.g. of former U.S. judges and biglaw partners, builds strong teams in a constantly growing environment, and makes a career in litigation finance a more and more attractive option.

Following the developments in Asia described previously, litigation finance firms have opened their first offices in Singapore. The market is also growing in Canada, where local courts have increasingly embraced litigation finance for the past 15 years. International litigation finance and insurance firms seem attracted, and have ventured into Canada this year.

And funds are growing bigger accordingly. The largest players have billions of dollars committed to the legal market, able to invest hundreds of millions in a short period of time. The biggest single litigation investment fund in North America has been raised this year, at $500 million. An increase in size is not the only development, however, since crowdfunding and innovative online platforms play a progressively important role, opening the market to an even broader range of participants.

Litigation finance has never been one-dimensional, but has included tailored financing concepts and related services like asset tracing for some time. The progress of portfolio financing shapes the market thoroughly. More recently, the range of available insurance options has developed in the U.S., bringing a new variety of sophisticated services, such as contingency fee insurance and attorney fee insurance solutions which can offer a cheaper hedge compared to financing.

All in all, it will be fascinating to watch how things play out in the years ahead. Whatever the outcome, 2017 will certainly be remembered as a transformative year for the nascent industry of litigation finance.

 

Mauritius Nagelmueller is an associate at Fulbrook Capital Management in New York. He has been involved in the litigation finance industry for more than 10 years.

This 2-part article is for general information purposes only and does not purport to represent legal advice. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of his employer. No reader should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information related to this 2-part article without seeking the appropriate advice from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s jurisdiction.

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