Burford Capital Ltd (LON:BUR) has been hit by a High Court lawsuit after a senior executive exchanged sensitive documents from one client for a sex tape relating to another.
Russian shipping group Novoship has levelled the blame in a US$91mln lawsuit against Burford and Daniel Hall, the joint-head of the litigation funding company’s global corporate intelligence, asset tracing and enforcement arm.
Hall is alleged to have swapped “sensitive” documents obtained while working for Novoship for the “video material of a sexual nature” relating to US billionaire Harry Sargeant III, whose assets he was investigating for another client.
The suit comes at a sensitive time for Burford, which is under scrutiny after being accused by hedge fund Muddy Waters of “Enron-esque” accounting, “egregiously misrepresenting” returns and of dubious corporate governance standards.
The High Court case, the Financial Times reported on Thursday, is part of a wider lawsuit where Venezuelan shipping magnate Wilmer Ruperti is attempting to sue Novoship for up to $91m for alleged breaches of an earlier legal settlement.
Novoship has shifted blame to Hall and Burford for the alleged breach, with their claim stating that they “unlawfully made use of those documents otherwise than for the limited purpose for which they had been given to him”.
Burford chief executive Christopher Bogart said in a statement on Thursday: “It is not uncommon for Burford to find itself involved in litigation relating to matters that it has financed, and this case is no exception; this is simply part of Burford’s business.
“This is not a case against Burford; rather, the claim is brought by Wilmer Ruperti against Novoship, and Burford’s only involvement is that Novoship has claimed that if it is found liable to Ruperti then Burford should step in and indemnify it.
“Burford believes that the main claim here is meritless and that Novoship’s indemnity claim is also meritless, and the subject of a prior litigation release.”
Burford shares, which fell by two thirds after the Muddy Waters attack but have since rallied slightly, were down 2.45% to 793.1p on Thursday morning.