Josh Meltzer, managing director of Woodsford's US operations
Josh Meltzer, managing director of Woodsford’s US operations (courtesy photo)

London-based Woodsford Litigation Funding on Monday announced the launch of its first U.S. office in Philadelphia and said it has brought on board Shira Scheindlin, the former New York federal judge, as an adviser to help vet potential cases for investment.

It’s the latest sign that the business of investing in lawsuits is booming in the United States, with other foreign-based funders like Bentham IMF and Therium Inc. also expanding their U.S. operations through new hires and offices.

Scheindlin, who retired from the bench last year and is perhaps best known for ruling against the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policies, will join Woodsford as a member of its Investment Advisory Panel, the funder announced in a press release. The panel gives the final sign-off to invest in a case after an initial due diligence process.

She is the latest high-profile judge to team up with a litigation funder, after Vaughn Walker, the former chief judge for the Northern District of California, joined Bentham as an adviser last year.

In an interview, Woodsford CEO Steven Friel said the expansion will set the stage for the company to invest roughly $150 million over the next three years, with about 75 percent of that in U.S. litigation. “I think the U.S. will be a major growth area,” he said.

Woodsford invests primarily in business-to-business litigation, but has also backed securities class actions and environmental mass tort actions, according to Friel.

Woodsford’s U.S. office will be headed by Josh Meltzer, who was previously vice president of business development at Rembrandt IP Management. The IP licensing company has built a reputation for acquiring patents and then litigating to enforce them under its own name.

The United States is not exactly uncharted terrain for Woodsford. The market currently makes up just under half of its portfolio, Friel said, with the rest spread across jurisdictions mainly outside of the U.K.—such as disputes brought against governments under bilateral investment treaties.

The move makes Woodsford the first major funder to site its U.S. headquarters in Philadelphia. Other large funders like Burford, Bentham and Therium have all planted their flag in Manhattan.

Friel said the “saturation” of funders in New York was one reason Woodsford decided to locate elsewhere, although he noted that Meltzer and Woodsford’s new U.S. executive vice president and general counsel, Alex Lempiner, are also based in Philadelphia. Lempiner also came from Rembrandt, which has its headquarters just outside the city.

In a separate interview, Meltzer said Woodsford is still looking for a brick-and-mortar office space but expects to open its doors in the next two or three months. He also projected that the company would be opening more offices throughout the United States in the coming years.

As far as investment strategy, Friel said Woodsford will try to differentiate itself by marketing to smaller, boutique litigation firms and claim values that are more in the mid-range—from about $10 million to $50 million. He characterized that market as currently underserved in the United States, with most funders targeting white shoe firms and claims of $100 million plus.

“We’re in that space too,” Friel said. “But we think there is huge potential outside that small group of law firms and litigation.”