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Litigation Finance Takes Another Hit in Chevron Pollution Case

Bloomberg Business - Paul Barrett 05/05/2015

A third financier, Woodsford Litigation Funding, has disavowed its investment in an American attorney's long-running Ecuador lawsuit

A British-based litigation-finance firm has pulled out of a controversial oil pollution case against Chevron, again raising questions about a new market in which outside investors seek to share in lawsuit recoveries.

Litigation finance describes a growing group of specialized hedge funds and individual investors who back lawsuits in exchange for a share off the top of any recovery. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business advocates have condemned the spreading practice as likely to encourage frivolous litigation against corporate defendants.

The long-running environmental campaign against Chevron has become Exhibit A in the case against litigation finance. In 2011, an American plaintiffs' attorney, Steven Donziger, won a multibillion-dollar judgment against Chevron in Ecuador. Donziger relied on a variety of litigation-finance backers to sustain lawsuits that began in 1993 in the U.S. before shifting to Ecuador. Chevron struck back last year, winning a judgment in federal court in New York that found Donziger's campaign had devolved into a racketeering conspiracy involving bribery, coercion, and fabricated evidence. Donziger denies wrongdoing and is appealing the racketeering verdict, which Chevron has invoked in refusing to pay the Ecuadorian judgment, now worth about $9.5 billion, according to the Ecuadorian courts.

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