Nine legal groups receive grants from Therium Access

Thomas: Important initiative

Nine legal organisations – including the Child Poverty Action Group and Bar Human Rights Committee – have received grants from Therium Access, the not-for-profit funding initiative from the litigation financier aimed at facilitating access to justice.

This is the second round of awards, after four were handed out in May, and follows the appointment of former Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd to Therium Access’s advisory committee, which is chaired by ex-Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer.

Therium Access has now paid out £900,000 in grants. It received 50 applications for the latest grants, the recipients of which are:

  • The Child Poverty Action Group, to employ an additional solicitor to build the capacity of its legal team, which conducts strategic litigation to end child poverty;
  • The Bar Human Rights Committee, to employ a legal and policy officer to support the Bar’s international human rights work;
  • JUSTICE, the law reform and human rights organisation, for a contribution towards its core costs;
  • Advocate, formerly called the Bar Pro Bono Unit, to employ a volunteer manager;
  • The Free Representation Unit, to employ a legal officer to provide full casework and advocacy in the social security and employment tribunals;
  • National Family Mediation, to employ a call handler to provide early advice and arrange mediation for families going through divorce or separation;
  • The Speakeasy Law Centre, to employ a trainee solicitor who will provide legal advice to vulnerable people in the Cardiff area and ultimately qualify as a solicitor with experience in legal aid and social welfare law;
  • Project for Registration of Children as British Citizens, to employ a legal administrator and contribute to its core costs, to support the specialist advice and strategic litigation its conducts on complex children’s citizenship issues; and
  • Central England Law Centre, to support its core costs.

Therium Access has approved grants for two strategic litigation cases, although it has not yet detailed what these are.

Lord Falconer said: “These grants demonstrate the depth of the impact Therium Access has. Most of our grants have been made to organisations which provide direct advice to those most in need, but it is also critical to support organisations which seek to challenge, influence or change the law.”

Lord Thomas described Therium Access as “an important initiative in restoring the right to legal support”.

He continued: “The pressure of austerity and legal aid cuts have resulted in a justice system that is unable to protect the rights and serve the interests of its most vulnerable citizens. Access to the courts and the ability to rely on the rule of law form the bedrock of a civilised society.”

In other litigation funding news, Australian funder IMF Bentham has acquired Dutch counterpart Omni Bridgeway Holdings to create “a truly global diversified funder” with over A$2.2bn (£1.2bn) in capital. It is paying a minimum of €55m (£47m), which may increase contingent on future business development.

The combined business has 18 offices in 10 countries across the US, Canada, Asia, Europe, Australia and the Middle East, employing 145 people.

Omni Bridgeway group includes German funder ROLAND ProzessFinanz and a joint venture with IFC (part of the World Bank Group) which consists of a dedicated fund and Dubai-based centre aimed at assisting banks with the funding and managing the enforcement of non-performing loans and related disputes in the Middle East and Africa.

Meanwhile, Burford Capital has had its bonds rated for the first time, as part of its continuing response to criticism – Ba3, according to Moody’s (the equivalent of BB- for Standard & Poor’s). This is at the bottom of the first tier below investment grade, defined as “speculative, subject to substantial credit risk”.

In an analyst note, Peel Hunt said: “This is probably slightly better than where the bonds are trading; yields are well above historical levels – the 6.5% 2022 bond is currently yielding 7.1%, down from its 10.0% peak, but still well above its 4-4.5% range for the two years prior to the Muddy Waters attack.

“Encouragingly, Moody’s rates the outlook as Positive. Burford still has some way to go to regain real investor credibility, but this is another step in the right direction.

“We believe it can get there, that it will take time, and that there is good upside even on a base case. We do not, though, expect it to regain its previous peak ratings, given our views on its sustainable profitability.

“The bond rating could also be a step towards a wider securitisation of its cases, but we do not see this as probable as yet.”

Finally, another listed funder, LCM, has granted 1.2m shares to chief executive Patrick Moloney and 570,000 shares to executive vice-chairman Nick Rowles-Davies under incentive schemes, subject to various conditions, such as continued employment.

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