Cristina Soler on Spain’s Growing World of Third-Party Funding

Six years ago, Cristina Soler’s more than two decades as an international litigation and arbitration lawyer took her down an untrodden path. In 2017, she co-founded Ramco Litigation Funding – taking on cases from a whole new angle.

Born and raised in Barcelona, Soler is a trailblazer in Spain’s third-party funding market. While funding is a new industry worldwide, Soler got in on the ground floor of its development in the region. The firm, based in Spain, regularly works across international borders – particularly in Portugal and Latin America. The firm also handles litigation in foreign jurisdictions including the U.S. and Germany in cases when a Spanish entity is the claimant. In just the last six years, Ramco has been involved in funding claims that exceed $4B.

In her funding work, Soler pulls from her experience defending and advising on complex litigation and arbitration matters internationally across sectors, including oil and gas, construction and infrastructure. Her legal expertise makes her all the more suited to quickly and effectively analyze cases for funding. “I loved being involved in complex cases with large multidisciplinary teams of lawyers and experts,” Soler says.

She continues to work on complex cases like those she saw as a lawyer in her funding practice. In competition disputes, Ramco is one of the main Spanish backers in a case seeking antitrust damages on behalf of hundreds of Spanish dairy milk producers against an alleged milk cartel. Ramco has structured the financing for the claimants, amounting to more than €300M.

“Ramco has been a pioneer and leading innovator in the Spanish market and, on a personal level, having the opportunity to contribute to and drive innovation is wonderfully fulfilling,” Soler says.

Soler is active in analyzing and contributing to the next stages of the third-party funding industry: She is a co-author of the Spain chapter of the 6th edition of litigation and arbitration funding reference guide “In-Depth: Third Party Litigation Funding” (formerly “The Third Party Litigation Funding Law Review”).

Soler was recognized as one of the Lawdragon 100 Global Leaders in Litigation Finance in 2022 and 2023, the only Spanish leader on the guide. She discusses Ramco’s presence in the ever-evolving third-party funding industry, as well as current trends including increased activity in the energy sector and in international arbitration, and the EU's proposal for a directive to regulate third-party funding.

Lawdragon: What brought you to a career in the law? 

Cristina Soler: I was born in Spain, in a small city near Barcelona, where there was an intense cultural and literary life. I loved writing and telling stories. Even in my youth, I won several literary prizes. There were no lawyers in my family at that time (there are now four of us!) but I thought that law would allow me to combine writing with creativity in strategy and the search for solutions. Besides, I had always felt a sense of justice and saw advocacy as a profession that would allow me to contribute to helping improve things.

LD: What kinds of matters did you handle during your career as a lawyer?

CS: I studied law at the University of Barcelona, and then worked as a lawyer for more than 20 years in top-tier international law firms, always with a clear international component and often collaborating with firms in several jurisdictions. At the beginning of my career, I spent some time in the London office of Lovells White Durrant, now Hogan Lovells, as a visiting lawyer in the litigation department. It was a fantastic experience.

As a litigation lawyer I was involved in commercial disputes and complex litigation and arbitration matters, representing clients in international environments in high value-added areas. We are now looking at these types of cases as third-party funding has numerous advantages for such high-value disputes and is an increasingly important source of capital and risk mitigation for companies due to the costs and complexity of cases in these areas.

LD: On a related note, how does your experience as a lawyer help you when analyzing cases now? 

CS: Certainly the 20-plus years of experience I gained as a litigation and arbitration lawyer comes into play when I am evaluating the strengths and risks of a case.

I have perspective on the type of action, the chances of success, the duration of the proceedings, as well as the legal basis and quantification of the case. Moreover, when I was in private practice, most of my work was on the defense side. So, when I evaluate a case, I always try to figure out how the defense is likely to attack.

It should also be noted that I had a very generalist background as a litigation and arbitration lawyer which is very useful to me nowadays, as we look at cases in a variety of areas, from tax claims to patent infringement proceedings.

LD: What matters do you handle the most frequently? And is there an area you find most interesting to work on?

CS: We focus our activities on high-value-added areas such as natural resources and energy, regulatory markets, banking and financial markets, renewable energy, capital projects and infrastructure, antitrust and intellectual property.

We have been helping companies and law firms to optimize their legal assets in all their forms, including single-case and class action litigation, as well as monetization of claims and awards.

While we may have noted a majority of litigation cases, the number of international arbitration cases has grown particularly in recent years. In addition, we have recently been very active in private competition law enforcement cases, for example, antitrust damages claims such as the milk cartel damages claims, as well as in the monetization of claims.

LD: What inspired you to join the litigation funding world? 

CS: I became acquainted with the business through one of my main clients, Steve Remp, who had required funding for a large investment treaty arbitration case. I immediately liked the industry and thought that it would be very interesting to build a company to develop litigation funding in Spain. That was in 2017, when it was still an emerging market and from then on Ramco has managed to expand to other jurisdictions given its internationally intrinsic nature.

LD: Tell me about Ramco’s start. How has the firm evolved since then? 

CS: Third-party funding structures have evolved in a major way since 2017. When I look back at the company’s early deals and compare them to what we’re doing today, it’s remarkable how far things have come. Recent years have seen litigants not only looking to fund the costs of litigation or arbitration, but also, in certain cases, a growing market interest in the monetization of claims, judgments or arbitral awards. There have also been developments in other innovative forms of litigation funding, such as the funding of litigation portfolios or the funding of law firms. Certain areas, such as competition, insolvency and restructuring and intellectual property are also becoming market segments.

When I look back at the company’s early deals and compare them to what we’re doing today, it’s remarkable how far things have come.

LD: You mentioned that the use of third-party funding in international arbitration has grown in recent years. Why do you think that is, and why is funding beneficial to those matters? 

CS: Increasingly, companies are submitting disputes to arbitration – especially in sophisticated cases – in areas such as in the infrastructure, construction and energy sectors. The ICC reached its 27,000th arbitration case in May 2022 and the CEA recorded a 12 percent increase last year.

A clear example of this increase is in energy arbitration, which is one of the sectors in which it is most prevalent, due to the increase in disputes arising in light of the various international energy transition policies. This growing typology of cases is particularly attractive for third-party funding when it comes to building sophisticated financing solutions. Among other reasons, this is because this sector requires very comprehensive and sophisticated technical reports and therefore involves high costs. Also, the size of the cases benefits from bespoke financial solutions for the realization of maximum asset value. In addition, the purchase of arbitration portfolios has been gaining momentum in this sector. From the claimant's point of view, third-party funding ensures access to justice and is also a way for the company to mitigate and share risk by monetizing contingent assets.

LD: Speaking of international interests, what do you think of the EU's proposal for a directive to regulate third-party funding?

CS: The proposal for a directive presented together with the resolution of it on Sept. 13, 2022 has been highly controversial and has received some criticism from litigation funding experts. In my view, the proposal is introducing over-regulation with rigid structures that represent a step backwards for the development of third-party funding in the countries in which it will be applied (maximum rate of return, the funder being ordered to pay adverse costs, etc.). We believe that this proposal should be revised and assessment sought from experts and entities specialized in third-party funding that could provide experience on the needs of these types of transactions. In the coming year, we will be closely following the developments of this proposal that will certainly have an impact in the European litigation funding arena.

LD: Are there any specific matters you can discuss that stand out as particularly memorable? 

CS: I would like to mention one of the first milestones we achieved at the beginning of our activity in Spain in 2017. We obtained the judicial authorization to finance a landmark lawsuit for damages to be filed by a bankrupt company against a public company for abuse of dominant position and infringement of competition law. The future defendant was one of the creditors of the insolvency proceedings and persistently opposed the financing of the claim. However, the arguments of the future defendant finally failed and the funding was approved by the court as the lawsuit was the most valuable asset of the company in bankruptcy.

LD: What advice would you give to law firms considering seeking out third-party funding?

CS: My advice would be that when selecting a funder the law firms should not only take into account the financial offer, but they should also consider that the funder will be a partner throughout the duration of the litigation and arbitration proceedings and should be flexible enough to understand the procedure and add value as well as to be able to adapt to the different situations that may arise during the procedure.

LD: What do you wish more lawyers and claimants knew about the opportunities of third-party funding? Are there any common misconceptions? 

CS: Third-party funding can be useful for companies of different sizes and profiles. It is not a mechanism only for companies that may have solvency problems. Third-party funding improves a company's liquidity and mitigates the accounting impact of litigation or arbitration by turning its costs into an opportunity to generate revenue. For its part, the funder is interested in financing matters with a high chance of success that also meet a series of parameters, which can occur regardless of the size of the company.

LD: How do you see Ramco evolving going forward – do you plan to grow in size, or in scope of matters? 

CS: We plan to continue growing in size, widening the scope of cases and providing innovative litigation funding solutions to law firms, companies and individuals. In any case, we hope we can continue to lead the litigation finance market in Spain and contribute to energizing the legal system.

LD: What about the litigation funding industry overall – are there any changes you see on the horizon?

CS: In general, the market has been growing exponentially year on year and this trend is expected to continue in the coming years as acceptance and understanding of third-party funding will continue to grow across the legal community. That’s already happening, and the trend will certainly continue.

Given that the third-party funding industry is still relatively young in comparison to other asset classes, there is still a lot of room for innovation. For example, we expect to see continued development of defense funding offerings as the industry continues to expand and evolve.

Given that the third-party funding industry is still relatively young in comparison to other asset classes, there is still a lot of room for innovation.

LD: Are there any particularly hot areas or trends you’re seeing? 

CS: In terms of trends, the energy sector is of particular interest, due to potential disputes connected to the energy transition policies. We foresee, for example, among other cases, an increase in arbitrations in the LNG (liquefied natural gas) sector, due to energy market volatility on gas prices and other contractual disputes and an increase in investment arbitrations and commercial arbitrations arising from the implementation of ESG regulations in different jurisdictions.

LD: What do you find most fulfilling about your work? 

CS: The work itself is incredibly exciting and fun, and because the industry is still relatively new, there's a lot of room for innovation and discovery. Being involved in cases where justice is served and valid claims are vindicated can be professionally rewarding. But what I find most satisfying is to see that apart from being a company whose aim is to make a profit, we not only stimulate the economy but also facilitate access to justice in claims that are brought as a result of having funding. Examples include the claimants of antitrust actions who do not have contact with specialized lawyers and experts, or of large arbitration cases which have been brought by companies thanks to obtaining funding.