In November news came out in an employment lawsuit that Gerchen Keller Capital LLC, the nation’s largest commercial litigation funder, had poured $93 million into a fly-speck of a Texas plaintiffs firm called AkinMears. Unlike the traditional funding of a single lawsuit, the cash infusion was structured as an advance on AkinMears’ expected windfall on its docket of mass torts claims, including roughly 15,000 trans-vaginal mesh claims it would acquire using Gerchen Keller funds. The investment in a claims-bundling firm, known not for trial work but for multimillion-dollar TV blitzes aimed at potential mass tort claimants, was a far cry from the funder’s usual customers: companies with big business disputes or their Am Law 200 firms. Equally unusual was the fact that this funding arrangement had become public at all.

Around the same time, two rival funders, Burford Capital Ltd and IMF Bentham Limited, were making their own big bets, both overseas. In November, Burford said it would commit $33 million to help Hausfeld LLP start up operations in Germany and to spearhead cartel suits; then, in December, Hausfeld and Burford unveiled a joint venture to bring thousands of consumer claims against Volkswagen AG stemming from the automaker’s admission last fall that it had cheated on emissions tests. Bentham, meanwhile, retained Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan to prepare a massive shareholder lawsuit against Volkswagen under Germany’s Securities Trading Act.

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