Archive for March, 2008

Who’s who in UK litigation funding

Sunday, March 23rd, 2008

This week’s Legal Week has an extensive overview of the players, law firms and funding specialists alike, in the UK litigation funding market. At least one is missing though, namely accountancy firm Smith & Williamson, which had set up its funding practice in September last year.

From the article: “The dramatic adoption of the once-controversial technique illustrates the fast-changing attitudes as London litigators position themselves for an expected upturn in group claims and litigation in general.”

It quotes Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP’s Paul Mitchard, head of Skadden’s European International Arbitration Group thus: “Funding is definitely here to stay. It is a significant development in dispute resolution, where litigation and arbitration are now being viewed as a commercial venture for outside funders for the first time.”

Then yesterday’s FT Weekend chipped in too, with a writing of a far more general nature. If this was London buses, the wait would be for the third piece around the corner…

So just in case, to make up for it if there isn’t one, one off the WV&Z shelf then from over a year ago, a profile of ‘trailblazer’ and founder of IM Litigation Funding, Toby Duthie. (FT) (Note, another IMLF founder of higher profile, Susan Dunn, has left that company late last year to join fellow funder MKM Longboat Capital Advisors LLP. (The Times, The Times))

What when where: Next week the US Chamber of Commerce Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness is to hold the second installment of its Annual Capital Markets Summit (26 March 2008, Washington DC). This year’s focus is on ‘Strengthening U.S. Capital Markets for All Americans’. (programme) Two topics of the day will be securities litigation reform and the state of regulation, which, given the events of the past week or so, should be very interesting indeed. Not a single speaker from the plaintiffs’ bar, mind.

Shell adds US to reserves settlement

Wednesday, March 12th, 2008

In the continuing saga that is the Shell Settlement (see the WV&Z archive for previous posts), the latest development came last week with the company’s settlement with US investors. (Royal Dutch Shell Plc: Euronext, LSE, NYSE: RDSA, RDSB; Shell press release, The 10b-5 Daily)

The US settlement covers all purchasers of Shell shares on US markets during the Class Period and US residents, citizens and entities who purchased Shell shares on non-US markets during that period. The settlement amount is US$79.9 million plus US$2.95 million, plus interest, plus an additional US$35 million split between the US settlors and non-US settlors. (What isn’t in the press release is the exact amount Shell pays in fees to Lead Counsel Bernstein Liebhard & Lifshitz LLP: US$27 million (Court memo).) The non-US settlement is pending before the Amsterdam Court of Appeals.

Taking a step back however, behind the settlement news was the required preceding development of having to rid the US action of the non-US claimants, which had already established their own settlement last year, in order for the Stateside plaintiffs to be able to enter into their own settlement without them. That occured by way of final order of the New Jersey District Court on 5 December 2007, dismissing the claims of non-US investors from the action with prejudice for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

What when where: active activist engagement

Wednesday, March 12th, 2008

There are three coming events, due to take place this week and in the coming months, that are interesting to note here.

The first is the third installment of Schiffrin Barroway Topaz & Kessler LLP’s annual Rights & Responsibilities of Institutional Investors conference on Thursday this week in Amsterdam. (This event is actually reportedly overbooked already.) This year’s keynote speaker is the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi A. Annan.

Among the other speakers are Elad Man of Man-Barak Advocates & Solicitors and Stefan Winheller of Winheller Rechtsanwälte, on the topic of international collective and class actions. (Both firms are in an alliance with Schiffrin Barroway.) Other topics of the day under the general theme of corporate governance will be the Vivendi Universal SA case and sovereign wealth funds. Interestingly, most speakers are corporate governance advisors or counsel with investment firms or are otherwise non-legal professionals on the ‘buy-side’ of legal services.

The second event of note is C5’s aptly-named Conference on Securities Litigation, taking place on Monday 28 and Tuesday 29 April (and a workshop Wednesday 30) at the Millennium Knightsbridge Hotel, London. Lots of friends of WV&Z and recognisable names appear on the speakers list. A selection, in no particular order:

Myths surrounding UK and European class actions, managing risk and D&O liability, KapMuG, the extra-territorial reach of the US and the subprime fallout are all on the menu. (programme)

And finally, a bit further away in May, is Grant & Eisenhofer PA’s Global Shareholder Activism Conference (May 15-16, Hotel Prince de Galles, Paris). Its three keynote speakers are former Senator Paul S. Sarbanes (D-MD), Delaware Supreme Court Chief Justice Myron T. Steele and Jürgen Maruhn, Presiding Judge of the Oberlandesgericht Frankfurt am Main. Like the Schiffrin Barroway conference and unlike C5’s, the emphasis is on buy-side and even more so on academic speakers.

Werner says: after a three-month hiatus, it’s good to be back.