The 18-year-running Chevron environmental lawsuit in Ecuador likely wouldn't have happened had no one invested in the plaintiff. In 2011, an Ecuadorian court imposed the famous $18.2 billion judgment on Chevron, which an appellate court upheld, and the defendant is contesting.
One party making that investment in litigation is U.K.'s Burford Group, which now has an office in New York. Recently, reports Paul M. Barrett in BLOOMBERG BUSINESS WEEK, Burford received a 200-percent return or $18 million from its investment in a dispute between two real estate developers in Arizona.
As an alternate investment vehicle this requires investors be accredited. Tort reformers in the U.S. might claim this will increase litigation. Actually, as they sense in the U.K, it could deter the filing of lawsuits since the underwriters at the investment firm would filter out frivolous suits it recognizes the plaintiff - the party it usually invests in - has a weak case.