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Federal Judge Allows Burford Capital to be Named Plaintiff in Antitrust Lawsuits

 |  March 24, 2024

A federal judge in Chicago has ruled in favor of litigation funder Burford Capital, permitting it to be named as the plaintiff in lawsuits initiated by its financing client, Sysco. The decision comes following a challenge from chicken producers seeking to block the substitution.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin granted a request from Sysco and Burford, allowing Sysco to withdraw as the plaintiff and enabling a Burford subsidiary to proceed with the antitrust litigation. This move signifies a significant shift in the legal proceedings, with Burford’s subsidiary, Carina Ventures, set to carry on the litigation.

The dispute stems from allegations made by Sysco, backed by Burford, against major chicken and pork suppliers, accusing them of engaging in a conspiracy to fix wholesale prices in violation of U.S. antitrust law. Despite settlements reached with some defendants, all have vehemently denied any wrongdoing.

Read more: Burford Seeks Order Barring Sysco From Settling Antitrust Suit

Notably, this decision contrasts with a similar case in Minnesota involving pork producers, where a judge recently declined to substitute Burford for Sysco. Burford’s subsidiary, Carina Ventures, has filed an appeal against this order.

Litigation funders like Burford provide financial backing to clients in exchange for a share of any eventual settlement or judgment. Court documents reveal that Burford, a prominent player in the industry, has invested $140 million since 2019 in supporting antitrust cases.

The substitution request arose amidst disagreements between Burford and Sysco regarding the direction and potential outcomes of the cases. While Burford declined to comment on Judge Durkin’s order, Sysco, headquartered in Houston, has yet to respond to requests for comment.

This ruling underscores the evolving dynamics within the legal sector, particularly in cases involving litigation funding and the allocation of plaintiff roles. As the litigation progresses, stakeholders continue to closely monitor developments in these high-profile antitrust lawsuits.

Source: Reuters