Stine legislation receives national coverage

Published 11:38 am Monday, June 3, 2024

Louisiana state Republican Sen. Jeremy Stine of Lake Charles sponsored a bill during the recent legislative session that is getting national coverage from Bloomberg Law, which it says has one of the largest newsrooms in Washington, D.C.

The legislation deals with the International Legal Finance Association. Blumberg Law said ILFA handles litigation funding arrangements in which investors pay for the cost of lawsuits in return for a piece of the proceeds in successful cases.

ILFA represents 21 litigation funders, a large portion of an industry that totals about 40 or 50 commercial financers.

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Stine’s Senate Bill 355 would bar outside funders from controlling cases in which they invest. The bill would also require parties in lawsuits to disclose funding from “countries of concern” to the state attorney general. Those countries include Russia, China, and Iran.

“Hostile foreign nations and sovereign wealth funds associated with hostile governments will no longer interfere in our justice system,” Stine said.

The bill “will prevent hostile actors like Russia and China from financing malicious lawsuits and will ultimately protect critical industries and prioritize the interests of Louisiana in court,” Stine said.

The Stine bill passed the state Senate unanimously and the House with an 83-20 vote. The bill has gone to Republican Gov. Jeff Landry’s desk, but Bloomberg Law said he hasn’t publicly said whether he intends to sign the bill.

The news agency said the new bill is part of a push in several states to force disclosure of litigation funding arrangements. It added that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has led the charge, arguing that the $15.2 billion litigation industry encourages frivolous lawsuits.

An official with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform said, “The (Louisiana) Legislature rightly recognized that greater transparency of litigation funding agreements, barring any funders from controlling lawsuits in Louisiana, and preventing hostile funding by foreign powers are all important requirements of this bill.”

Wisconsin and New Jersey already require disclosure, and a U.S. district judge in Delaware has required it for certain patent cases in his courtroom.

Former Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards vetoed a similar bill last year, saying it would have given larger corporations a tactical advantage and litigation funding levels the playing field by allowing companies and individuals with fewer resources to pursue meritorious claims.

Former GOP state Sen. Barrow Peacock of Shreveport sponsored that bill. He said he feared that litigation finance could be a threat to national security and that Louisiana’s natural resources and Army bases could make the state particularly vulnerable.

Gary Barnett, executive director of the ILFA, applauded the veto, saying it protected “Louisiana’s business community from losing a vital financing tool used to mitigate risk and maintain sufficient operating capital in their business.” He said it’s pure speculation that the legal finance industry poses a national security risk.

Louisiana’s U.S. Sen. John Kennedy and U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson, both Republicans, have introduced a federal bill to deal with this issue, but Blumberg Law said it is considered a longshot in a deeply divided Congress.