Mediation puts paid to two major film finance disputes

Teams of lawyers have been left with empty diaries after two film finance cases – widely believed to be two of the largest of 2005 – have settled.

Both would have taken up around 50 weeks of Commercial Court time and the lawyers involved would have collectively earned a similar sum to the £50m at stake in the litigation.

The two film finance cases were the last in a long line of related disputes among insurers and banks over breaches of promises that films which flopped at the box office would make a profit. There has already been many months of litigation in other cases, the best known being the Hollywood 4 and Hollywood 5 cases.

One of the disputes, involving Excel Insurance and the broker Heath (represented by Eversheds), Phoenix Productions (Davenport Lyons) and

Sony Colombia Tristar (Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer), settled following a mediation conducted by 20 Essex Street door tenant Lord Griffiths. The case was set down for a 30-week trial next October in the Commercial Court.

The second settled claim, set down for 20 weeks in January, was between Société Générale and insurers Axa, RSA, AIG, General Star and broker Heath. One source, who described the settlements as the “end of an era”, said of this case: “All but one insurer has settled. That insurer’s case represents roughly 1 per cent of the whole litigation.”

Freshfields partner Roger Enoch, who acted in both cases, said: “The settlements simply avoided the massive expense of fighting the cases.”

Greg Leyden, senior clerk at 7 King’s Bench Walk, which had the highest number of barristers instructed out of all the chambers involved, commented: “Although the litigation is now largely ended, our actual involvement peaked around two years ago. We knew then that those cases which were still live had a real possibility of settling, and as such we were able to plan for the litigation drawing to an end.

“Although the end of litigation such as film finance does inevitably have an effect on those heavily involved, the settlements of these cases hasn’t caused us any real concern. Also, we’re now able to accept more new instructions than during the height of the film finance litigation.”

Last week The Lawyer reported the settlement of the Sumitomo-Credit Lyonnais fraud trial two weeks into the 30-week case.