Courts hit by a deluge of civil credit crunch cases

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The financial crisis has prompted a continuing surge in the number of high-value commercial disputes reaching the High Court, figures published today by Reynolds Porter Chamberlain reveal.

The City law firm said that the number of commercial cases worth £25,000 or more rose by more than 10 per cent last year, as victims of the credit crunch sought to recoup their losses in the courts. There were 3,090 such claims filed in the final quarter of last year, RPC said, up from 2,799 in the same period of 2008. The trend for more litigation also seems to be accelerating, with 6,372 claims filed in the second half of the year compared to 5,890 during the first six months.

A good proportion of the cases appear to be directly related to the credit crunch. There are, for example, five separate cases pending concerning the three Icelandic banks which collapsed in the aftermath of the crisis, with claims filed against Kaupthing, Glitnir and Landsbanki. Similarly, JP Morgan and Lehman Brothers are currently embroiled in a high-profile dispute over dealings between the two banks in the run-up to the latter's spectacular blow-up.

RPC said that the British courts were seeing more crisis-related cases than the authorities in other countries because the City of London is a global banking centre that has played host to more financial deals than almost any other jurisdiction. "A significant number of the claims now coming into the UK courts are likely to be pure credit crunch related cases," said Geraldine Elliott, a partner at RPC. "Many of these cases are going to make a real difference to the future of the businesses that are involved because the amount at stake can be so high." Some litigants have taken cases to the US because pay-outs are can be higher.