Insolvency funder enters commercial disputes market with Mercedes case

Thakerar: Money ready to deploy

A litigation funder that launched last year with a focus on insolvency has now opened up to commercial litigation and arbitration disputes as it revealed that it is backing Slater & Gordon’s Mercedes group litigation.

Asertis, which went live in January 2020, is backed by Arrow Credit Opportunities SCSp, an offshoot of London-listed investor and asset manager Arrow Group. The fund has around £1.5bn in available capital.

It has kept a low profile until now but nonetheless funded over 50 cases so far, of which five are pure commercial disputes, with the rest insolvency. It recently joined the Association of Litigation Funders.

Asertis was founded by Ian Madej, who was a member of the team that listed Arrow Global in 2013, having grown the business since a management buy-out in 2005.

Chief investment officer Harshiv Thakerar said opportunities arose in the last year which encouraged Asertis to move beyond just insolvency cases.

He joined earlier in 2021 to head the commercial litigation work, moving from Global Growth Cap, where he was head of litigation funding. He was previously head of commercial litigation at Augusta Ventures.

Mr Thakerar said a key differentiator was that Asertis could make funding decisions quickly at its own discretion, from its own balance sheet. This means it has money actually available to deploy rather than having it in the form of commitments.

He indicated that this was a key reason why it secured the Mercedes case, part of the Dieselgate emissions scandal.

With the backing of Arrow Credit Opportunities, Mr Thakerar predicted that Asertis could deploy hundreds of millions of pounds in funding “in the next few years”. There is “no glass ceiling” to how much it can draw from the fund, subject to approval from Arrow.

In three years’ time, “we’d like to have funded a very solid book of cases, ranging from commercial disputes in the hundreds of thousands to international arbitration and group actions requiring more than £10m in capital”.

Another difference from some other funders is that Asertis does not have a series of high-profile names on its investment committee.

Mr Thakerar said external experts were brought in on a case-by-case basis as the company considered having “large retainers with senior lawyers” who do not necessarily have the right expertise for certain cases was a “constraint we saw with other funders”.

The one-time Mishcon de Reya solicitor said he also hoped Aserties would “take the market forward in the sophistication of structuring and pricing investments” – all pricing is bespoke, he said – and pledged that it would “try to be as transparent as we can”.

Asertis is incorporated onshore and though it might in time open “one or two” overseas offices, Mr Thakerar said it was “not planning huge international expansion”.

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