City braced for shareholder actions with US launch

US class action firm Cohen Milstein Hausfeld & Toll is set to launch in London in a move that could herald the arrival of US-style securities and shareholder class actions in the UK.

Cohen Milstein, which is renowned in the US for claimants’ class action lawsuits against corporations, is to open in the City from 1 January 2007 with one or two partners and up to nine associates.

The London office will initially focus on antitrust and competition matters, although name partner Michael Hausfeld said securities actions, employee discrimination and environmental law would also be targeted.

As reported by The Lawyer (24 July), changes to the Companies Bill will simplify the procedures for shareholders to bring derivative claims against directors, potentially opening the door for hedge funds and other activist shareholders to block takeovers.

Hausfeld explained: “We see a greater interest in mass torts [and] our goal is to further this type of litigation where appropriate.”

Simon Davis, a partner at Clifford Chance and president of the London Solicitors Litigation Association, said: “I would be concerned if they scent the arrival in the UK of a US-style class action culture.”