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US litigation funder Burford Capital is poised to enter the UK litigation-funding market with the acquisition of after-the-event (ATE) insurance provider Firstassist.
The merger will create a duel-capacity UK litigation funding giant, with Firstassist offering both litigation funding and ATE protection either singly or in combination.
The tie-up, which is awaiting approval from the Financial Services Authority (FSA), aims to capitalise on the demand for external funding for high-value litigation on the back of the Jackson reforms (18 January 2010) and of the pending Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) bill, which will see £350m wiped off the legal aid budget in 2013.
Burton capital chairman Sir Peter Middleton will take on the same role at Firstassist while Great Lakes Reinsurance, the UK company’s underwriter, will continue its role post-takeover.
Firstassist managing director Peter Smith said that the move would widen both companies’ network of relationships and transferable risk assessment skills to create a one-stop shop for litigation funding and insurance.
“With an experienced team of 32 professionals and a book of over 3,000 active cases, the acquisition will significantly enhance our existing platform, and we are looking to the future with confidence,” added Burford CEO Christopher Bogart.
The arrival of a new third-party litigation funder closely follows that of Caprica, which will target “alternative” litigation funding for lower-value commercial disputes (29 November 2011).
The Civil Justice Council (CJC) working group on litigation funding recently published its review of the Jackson reforms with the publication of a voluntary code of conduct for third-party funders (24 November 2011).