Billionaire Peter Thiel helping Hulk Hogan achieve justice in his privacy suit against Gawker is a sexy headline, but why is it attracting the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and it’s Institute of Legal Reform? Easy. Their big corporation clients, who measure their profits in multi-billions, like their access to the justice system and being able to use their financial power to bend the justice system to their will. They do not like a level playing field that allows others to have the same power and influence they have enjoyed for years.
The Hogan v. Gawker case is first and foremost a story about access to justice, which resulted in our prevailing legal system validating that Hogan had been injured and that Gawker should be held responsible for its actions to the tune of $140 million.
If Hogan was in the position of most people in our society, than he was financially barred from accessing the justice system by risking money not freely at his disposal to protect himself from a corporate wrongdoer that invaded his privacy. Hogan found a financial partner that helped him move his meritorious forward. Most Americans don’t have that kind of ally, but the Fortune 100 never have to worry about that. They can bankroll any lawsuit to protect an infringement on their rights, and often do. And they use that financial leverage to push smaller poorly capitalize people and small businesses around, and often get them to capitulate even if not on the basis of the merits.
The Fortune 100 is clever, though, and will not let its multi-million campaigns let a good headline like this go by unused. So they were quick to react with a self-serving opinion piece in this week’s New York Times by their lead propagandist, Lisa A. Rickard, president of the United States Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform.
Ms. Rickard’s oped laments that the practice of providing financing for a lawsuit increases “the number of lawsuits in our already over-sued society.” She fails to mention that the majority of lawsuits in our system are corporations suing consumers for collections, a practice that her legal reform movement has never appeared to voice concern over.
Ms. Rickard concerns herself with the matter of disclosure. She asks, “should a defendant fight in court or settle, and if so for how much?” Of course, knowing what a plaintiff’s financial arsenal looks like benefits the big companies she represents because they want to know how far they can push their financial advantage.
Litigation funders only have a motive to invest in legitimate claims. Yet, Ms. Rickard attempts to spin that they will “invest in many cases because virtually all settle. Therefore, they can take unmeritorious cases and spread the risk across a broad portfolio of litigation.” This unsubstantiated conjecture on Ms. Rickard’s part makes little sense, and should also raise the question of how much does that tactic differ from the aggressive litigation strategies of the Fortune 100 clients paying her salary? Perhaps this is really the strategy of her clients that she is channeling.
Don’t be fooled. The U.S. Chamber did not wake up one day and decide that their mission was to protect all of U.S. society. Instead, they are trying to wrap themselves in the flag and pretend that they are campaigning for society’s interest when in fact they are trying to preserve the status quo and the advantages over everyone else her multi-billion financial backers enjoy.
See her opinion piece, and opposing opinion piece at: