A group of Republican Senators has reintroduced a bill that would mandate disclosure in class action and MDL contexts. The Senators first introduced the Litigation Funding Transparency Act (LFTA) last year, but it went nowhere. Now they are making another push with the same legislation.
As reported in Law.com, Senators John Cornyn of Texas, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, and Ben Sasse of Nebraska all proposed the legislation that seeks to mandate disclosure of third party financing in class actions and MDLs. The bill stipulates disclosure within 10 days of a case being filed, or 10 days after a litigation funding agreement is signed, assuming the agreement comes mid-case.
The bill would also require disclosure in the consumer legal funding context, as plaintiffs seeking cash advances against the outcome of their cases would also have to disclose their funding agreements.
Last year, the House of Representatives passed a narrower version of the bill, which stipulated disclosure only in class actions. Subsequent to that, the GOP Senators introduced the LFTA. That bill failed to make any traction, and that was during a GOP-led Congress. Now that the Democrats have taken control of the House, any push for regulating the legal industry is seen as having even less chance to reach approval.
Many are viewing the bill’s reintroduction as the result of a continued push by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to regulate the litigation funding industry. Lisa Rickard, president of Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform, recently issued a statement supporting the bill. “When litigation funders invest in a lawsuit, they buy a piece of the case; they effectively become real parties in interest. Defendants (and courts) have a right to know who has a stake in a lawsuit and to assess whether they are using illegal or unethical means to bring the action,” the statement reads.
Vannin Capital Managing Director, Michael German, had this to say: “The proposed Act is another example of special interest groups using their reach in Washington to implement legislation that goes well beyond the issue they purport to address. Vannin has been a vocal proponent of disclosure of (i) the fact that a litigant is funded and (ii) the identity of the funder. Any disclosure in excess of these facts is an overreach that does far more than solve the potential conflicts raised by Senator Grassley and his counterparts. Instead, the proposed Act would unfairly permit defendants facing legitimate lawsuits to gain an improper advantage, and force the parties and the courts into an irrelevant sideshow regarding funding terms.”
The bill’s reintroduction comes on the heels of the shock letter issued by GCs and senior litigators from 30 companies, asking the Advisory Committee on Civil Rules to mandate disclosure of all funding agreements in civil actions. Companies like Microsoft, General Electric, AT&T and Home Depot were all signatories of the letter.