US, UK companies see lawsuits rising in 2010, survey finds

By Reuters Staff
October 19, 2009

LOS ANGELES, Oct 16 (Reuters) – U.S. and U.K. companies saw a rise in legal disputes this year and expect more litigation in 2010, spurred by tighter regulation, whistleblowers and bankruptcies, a survey of corporate counsel showed.

A majority of respondents from large-cap companies — 52 percent — foresee a rise in litigation in 2010, and 47 percent of public company respondents predicted a jump in disputes, according to the 2009 Fulbright & Jaworski Litigation Trends Survey.

More than a third of U.S. and UK in-house lawyers cited the economy as the main reason for the projected wave of lawsuits.

“Generally, litigation rises in an economic downturn as regulators tend to step up enforcement, laid-off workers head to court and companies need to file more suits in order to collect on money owed,” Stephen Dillard, head of
Fulbright’s global litigation practice, said.

About a quarter of large-cap company lawyers see the number of internal investigations of their companies rising, with 20 percent of financial services, insurance and technology firms each expecting internal investigations to increase in 2010.

About a third of large-cap companies forecast a rise in the number of claims brought by whistleblowers in their industries.

The company lawyers also expect modest increases in suits relating to intellectual property, insurance and regulatory actions in the coming year.

The survey of 408 company lawyers, conducted from May through July, is the largest canvass of U.S. and UK corporate counsel on litigation issues and trends, Fulbright said.

(Reporting by Gina Keating; Editing by Richard Chang) ((gina.keating@thomsonreuters.com; +1 213 955 6776; Reuters Messaging; gina.keating.reuters.com@reuters.net))

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