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Legal Consultant Limelight: Andrew Saker

As Managing Director and CEO of IMF Bentham, a global heavyweight in the world of dispute resolution financing, Andrew Saker is driving innovation and working daily to achieve favorable outcomes for the company’s funded claimants and stakeholders. With a background in insolvency and restructuring, and work experience in Australia, North and South America and Asia, Saker was a logical selection in 2015 to steward the industry-leading company’s global growth. Now based in Perth, Saker received his Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting & Finance from the University of Western Australia.

Lawdragon: Can you describe for our readers the types of services you provide and to whom?

Andrew Saker: IMF Bentham Limited provides dispute resolution finance and strategic know-how to corporations, individual claimants and their legal advisers to help them resolve their disputes fairly and expediently. We pioneered modern-day dispute resolution finance in Australia, listing on the ASX in 2001, and took the business to the world. We now have 14 offices across Australia, Asia, Canada, the UK and the US, and manage a global investment portfolio valued in the billions. Our highly experienced team members are specialists in law and finance and help deliver outcomes to funded claimants that they could not achieve alone. We are one of the most respected brands in the industry and we are passionate about what we do.

LD: What were the steps in your career that brought you to work at IMF Bentham?

AS: Prior to joining IMF Bentham, I was an Official Liquidator of the Supreme Court of Western Australia and the Federal Court of Australia. I began my career in 1988 at Ferrier Hodgson, a leading provider of corporate recovery, insolvency management and restructuring services throughout Australia and Asia. In 1998 I was appointed to Ferrier Hodgson’s partnership and subsequently established the firm’s Indonesian practice, based in Jakarta. During my 26-year career at Ferrier Hodgson, I was involved in over 500 corporate insolvencies and restructurings, gaining extensive experience on corporate assignments in Australia, Asia, North and South America, with particular expertise in corporate advice and business planning; reconstruction and turnaround services; insolvency management; litigation management; fraud examination and forensic accounting

LD: What does it take to succeed in litigation finance?

AS: There are significant barriers to entry to the third-party dispute finance industry. To thrive and be a leader in dispute resolution finance requires numerous competitive advantages. Our business is differentiated in several ways. First, we have significant capital to finance large single disputes and portfolios, all the way through trial if required. This is essential to being a viable competitor in today’s funding arena. We also bring value to each investment by way of strategic case insights and assistance with project execution. This helps maximize returns for funded parties.

The exceptional people at IMF Bentham are also a crucial differentiator. Our Investment Managers are highly experienced former litigators and in-house counsel educated at some of the leading institutions around the world. They know the optimal jurisdiction in which to conduct a claim, can recommend the best legal representatives for the type of dispute and parties involved, help quantify damages, and more. Our Investment Managers are supported by a global team of best-of-class professionals in each of the disciplines required to run our business. Our Investment Committees, responsible for selecting the cases we invest in, comprise our most senior specialists and include former judges.

We also have deep and broad relationships across the legal industry, academic community, government and business community, and we work with leading advisers in all fields across the globe to maximize outcomes for our funded claimants. Of further significance is our global footprint. Today’s disputes are often international in nature. We have 14 offices in 6 countries with teams permanently deployed throughout the globe. Innovation is also crucial. We are the founder of the modern-day dispute resolution finance industry and continue to develop new products, business processes and methodologies.

All this is borne out in our track record: we have achieved a 90% success rate over 18 years.

LD: What advice would you give potential clients in terms of how to most productively work with a dispute resolution finance firm?

AS: IMF Bentham tailors bespoke financing solutions for clients. The best approach is to talk to one of our talented Investment Managers to explore financing options best suited to your needs.

LD: You mention the importance of innovation. Can you expound on the ways you’ve been able to creatively assist your clients?

AS: As the founder of the modern-day dispute resolution finance industry, we have always innovated and invented. We pioneered third-party finance for insolvencies in the late 1990s and have continued to develop finance solutions to meet market demand. We now finance group claims such as class actions, and offer innovative complementary, in-house book-building capabilities to support large group actions. This utilizes our proprietary software and know-how. We also provide finance for arbitration, for law firm portfolios, and finance for commercial disputes across industry sectors. From our origins of funding access to justice for the impecunious, we have grown into a financial services ally for solvent parties, including large organizations, who seek assistance with capital and risk management strategies.

LD: What sorts of changes have you focused on as CEO of your firm?

AS: Since joining IMF Bentham in 2015, I’ve led a transformational strategy involving expanding the company’s geographic footprint, diversifying its product and service offering and migrating its capital management approach to become a fund manager investing via fund structures.

LD: You’ve touched on this earlier but how else would you say IMF Bentham is unique or distinguishes itself in the industry?

AS: IMF Bentham Limited is one of the oldest and most experienced commercial litigation funders in the world, and a public company listed on the Australian stock exchange since 2001. Globally, IMF Bentham is regarded as one of the leading funders in the world. IMF Bentham has reviewed thousands of commercial cases over the lifetime of our company, funding 184 cases to completion and generating AUD $2.3 billion in recoveries, as of 31 December 2018.

In distinction to our competitors, IMF Bentham has, as I mentioned, an enviable track record. We have achieved a 90% success rate, with clients retaining an average of 62% of all case proceeds.

We also have  formidable Investment Committees comprising former judges and industry founders, as well as a significant global Investment Management team permanently deployed on the ground in each of the jurisdictions in which we operate. Unlike some funders who service clients remotely or on a fly-in-fly-out basis, or outsource their case review and management functions, IMF Bentham resources each case with one or more dedicated Investment Managers who have the industry and subject-matter expertise, local contacts and jurisdictional knowledge to identify new cases and add value to current cases. We believe our “skills plus capital” model of funding promotes greater prospects of success, consistent with our track record since 2001.

Also setting us apart is our scale, with a truly global outlook that includes 14 offices across six countries including Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, UK, Canada and the US. We have strong global support operations, including executive management, legal, finance, IT, marketing, client services support, and more.  Our total headcount is now in excess of 100 team members.

The company also has significant capital available for investment.

Assisted by our world-first global ATE insurance arrangement, we have the ability to provide our funded parties, in cost-shifting jurisdictions, coverage for their adverse costs without requiring a separate ATE insurance policy.

Our reputation for transparency and integrity, resulting from our status as a publicly listed company since 2001 and our highly-principled people, also sets up apart.

Finally, we have significant relationships across commerce, finance, insurance, academia, government, media and all layers of the legal industry, which are essential to developing and executing winning strategies on behalf of claimants.