This is a guest post courtesy of Sara Liesker, CEO of Dutch-based litigation funder Liesker Legal NV. For updates pertaining to litigation funding in The Netherlands, please follow Ms. Liesker on Twitter.
You’d be surprised how many people have never heard of The Netherlands. I’ve had the joy of meeting quite a lot of people from all over the world, many of whom believed either of the following to be true:
- It’s a part of Germany (hence the word “Dutch” for the native language);
- It’s a Scandinavian city;
- It’s some sort of food or beverage.
Well, it’s actually one of the smallest countries in Europe, neighbour to both the UK and Germany, with its capital Amsterdam speaking to the imagination of many (with a well-deserved reputation I might add). A common joke (and historical fact!) is that the Dutch discovered the continent currently known as North America, chose to exchange it around the year 1660 AC for some tropical islands in the south (Curaçao, Suriname etc.) and thus did not exactly get the best part of the bargain. . . . How many of you know for instance that New York was formerly called New Amsterdam (and Wall Street is derived from the Dutch word “wal” which means “embankment”)!
Anyway, why would an insignificant dot on the global map be of any interest at all to the American Chamber of Commerce (COC)? More specifically: why would the COC conduct a fierce political lobby in The Netherlands, when there is currently only one company in this country active in the field of litigation funding (source)?
The answer is quite obvious. The Netherlands has a very friendly tax climate and has thus attracted many American companies to open up a holding company under Dutch law. Thus these companies have also made themselves subject to lawsuits being filed against them in The Netherlands with the applicability of Dutch law.
Dutch law knows a relatively new regime (known as WCAM) which makes mass claims easier for plaintiffs, with a major consumer-bonus that it’s based on an opt-out regime. On the downside, the WCAM grants companies being sued an early option to either participate in the mass claim settlement or not. The fact that WCAM is based on an opt-out regime makes it quite unattractive for litigation funders anyway because of the so called free-riders. The COC is nonetheless concerned about the WCAM.
The second eyesore for the COC is the upcoming possibility under Dutch law to set up actions for collective redress. This will take away the opt-out option for the defendant. As contingency fees are prohibited for lawyers under Dutch law, litigation funding could be important to provide access to justice for consumers. Improvement of the access to justice is one of the underlying motivations for this law. Fortunately a number of established Dutch law firms have advocated in favour of litigation funding in the consultation on the draft legislation.
One of the main arguments of the COC is the warning that The Netherlands should not embark on the path of “claim culture” that the USA currently knows. It is too far-fetched and actually a sophism (of the slippery slope) to use that argument. Dutch law and culture are based on the assumption that principal damages are for your own risk and account. Dutch people are known for their tolerance and conciseness, Dutch judges are known for their prudence when awarding damages. With a national market for litigation funding just beginning to develop, it would be best to let the market grow and filter on its own merits. The same has happened in Germany where litigation funding is unregulated and has been commonly used for almost two decades (source).
Under the pretext of protecting consumer interests (of Dutch residents nonetheless) it is quite transparent that it’s actually the interest of the multinationals that is being served by opposing to litigation funding in one of the smallest countries in the world on the other side of the Atlantic.
Although Dutch people showed some poor judgment in the 1600´s, we have grown infinitely wiser since. These days Dutch politicians can be trusted to draft their own laws.
About Liesker Legal:
Liesker Legal NV is a privately owned litigation funder in The Netherlands, funded with private equity. They are the only Dutch-based funder, although international funders do finance some larger cases in The Netherlands. LL was founded in 2011 and currently has over 100 cases under investment mainly funding SME’s, with a claim total of over $140 million. For more information about the firm, please visit http://lieskerlegal.nl.