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Wake Up Call: Litigation Funding Draws Wealthy Big Investors, And Controversy

Aug. 28, 2018, 11:26 AM

• Litigation funding is rapidly emerging as an “alternative asset class” for endowment funds, family offices, and other wealthy investors attracted by big returns. The sector is booming in Australia and the United Kingdom, but it remains controversial in the United States. Critics including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce say it spurs more lawsuits and lacks transparency over where the money comes from. ( BloombergLaw ) ( Market Watch ) ( New York Law Journal )

• Chicago-based litigation funder Longford Capital said it closed a $67 million portfolio investment with a “leading litigation law firm,” which it did not identify. ( BusinessWire )

• Ken Starr, former independent counsel, appeals court judge, U.S. solicitor general, and Kirkland & Ellis partner, is joining Houston plaintiffs firm The Lanier Law Firm, known for some of the country’s biggest civil disputes. Starr has been in the news lately because Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was his deputy for the independent counsel inquiry into President Bill Clinton’s Monica Lewinsky scandal. In 2016, Starr had to leave his post as president and chancellor of Texas’s Baylor University amidst criticism over his handling of a sexual assault scandal involving athletes. ( Bloomberg Law )

• The White House said President Donald Trump intends to nominate a deputy assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s Tax Division, Travis A. Greaves, to be U.S. Tax Court judge. Greaves a former law firm partner, currently oversees appeals from the Tax Court and all other civil tax appellate litigation. ( Bloomberg Tax )

• Trump’s pick of Williams & Connolly partner Allison Jones Rushing, in Washington, for a spot on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, was among his new slate of nominees for lifetime federal judgeships. ( National Law Journal )

• Ondray T. Harris, who served less than eight months as the director of the Labor Department’s federal contractor auditing office, joined Hunton Andrews Kurth as special counsel in the firm’s national labor and employment practice, in Washington. ( Bloomberg Law via BLB )

• Two juries in the U.S. Virgin Islands returned verdicts against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. totaling $113.3 million, according to an anti-tobacco advocate. Jones Day represented RJR. ( Bloomberg Law via BLB )

• A panel of federal judges ruled North Carolina’s congressional voting map is unconstitutional. ( Washington Post )

Mexico Trade Deal

• The preliminary U.S.-Mexico trade pact includes provisions that would shield U.S. rightsholders from trade secrets theft, including through civil and criminal remedies. ( Bloomberg Law ) It would also prevent both countries from requiring financial institutions to store data locally, as long as regulators can reach the information they need. ( Bloomberg Law )

Lawyers and Law Firms

• Law firm Axinn said it represented defendant Alvogen Malta Operations in a Delaware federal court case over patents related to Pernix Ireland Pain DAC and Pernix Therapeutics, LLC’s hydrocodone capsules, Zohydro, used to treat hepatic impairment. Pernix welcomed the court’s finding that its patents were infringed, butsaidit will appeal its finding they were invalid. Axinn said the decision clears the way for Alvogen to market its lower-cost generic product over a decade before the patents are set to expire. ( Axinn )

• A Texas jury awarded a $10.6 million patent infringement verdict to McKool Smith clients Optis Wireless Technology, LLC and PanOptis Patent Management LLC against Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. and Huawei Device USA, Inc. ( IPPro ) ( McKool Smith )

Laterals, Moves

• Morgan Lewis expanded its structured transactions practice in its fast growing Chicago office, grabbing two partners from Sidley Austin, Jeff Weinstein and Patrick Lampe, who will be joined by partner Philip Russell, who is at Morgan Lewis since 2014 and relocating from New York. ( MorganLewis.com )

• Pinnacle West Capital Corporation said veteran inhouse lawyer Bob Smith is its new senior vice president and general counsel, replacing Jeff Guldner, who became the company’s executive vice president of public policy. Smith most recently served as SVP and top lawyer at Columbia Pipeline Group. ( MarketWatch )

Legal Actions

• An Illinois criminal and family law firm is suing a rival firm it accuses of setting up a lookalike website and phone number to steal its clients. ( The Register )

Technology

• Law firms that let their domain names lapse are a “juicy target” for hackers, says a report. ( BoingBoing )

Compiled by Rick Mitchell and edited by Tom Taylor.

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