Consumers, Lawyers and Vultures (or Are They Angels?) | opinion

When I first heard about Vulture Fund a few years ago, I thought it was the last environmental recipe to protect this bird from an unjust reputation. But I soon saw the first vulture come on stage. He was a staunch American in his sixties, a member of the best aristocracy on the East Coast, and who at a time when others who were less enterprising and devoted to philanthropy had found what they had hoped to be their chicken . of the golden eggs. No more and no less than to fund the fees of the English lawyers representing an arms seller who was “betrayed” by a government in Latin America. If the seller managed to get the millions he was entitled to, our vulture would get back the investment, more interest, and a modest increase (premium) of 30%. I don’t know what happened, but years later a friendly banker let me know that most of the most respected international banks already had a vulture fund. I realized the subject was serious.

Last December, fashion came to Portugal with a bang. In a notable gesture to all titles, a small law firm – it appears it is a boutique these days – publicly announced that it had filed a lawsuit against the Mastercard company in the Santarém Competition Court to seek compensation Demand more than 400 million euros for violating competition rules. The plaintiff is a consumer association that the same lawyers had apparently founded a few months earlier (Ius Omnibus). But no hasty judgments: the compensation that the court has imposed will, according to the association, be refunded to all Portuguese users of the cards issued by Mastercard. Every consumer has an average amount of € 40, adds Ius Omnibus on its website. And for the skeptics, there are even videos of the association on YouTube that explain everything very well, which seems very innovative to me in the field of marketing legal services in Portugal.

It is the case that Ius Omnibus, perhaps because he was only a few months old, had to obtain the necessary funding from a third party to cover the “costs” of this innovative court adventure. And you will have remembered the mechanism that is now called TPF, the initials of the term third-party funding, the exact same financial phenomenon that was described to me as the vulture fund a decade ago. The choice fell on a TPF based in Switzerland, but that can only give credit to a system that is obviously an attempt to fund court decisions.

It does not matter. The initiative of the so-called boutique was so welcomed by interested parties that two weeks later the same lawyers filed a new lawsuit with the competition court against Super Bock for up to 400 million euros. This time an unknown American fund paid the costs.

None of this would be of much concern if it weren’t for obvious conflicts of interest, possible violations of public order norms, possible usury practices and, in particular, the reputation and prestige of Portuguese law.

In view of this scenario, in which more than 800 million euros are suddenly at stake – obviously for consumers, but also for lawyers from Ius Omnibus and the helpful financiers – it is not surprising that the fever has quickly reached even the most relaxed minds. Established law firms call white vultures angel white and are looking with unmistakable excitement for the next opportunity to defend the rights of Portuguese consumers. With some boldness, some lawyers speak of these interested financiers as “an instrument for the democratization of justice”.

None of this would be of much importance if it weren’t for obvious conflicts of interest, possible violations of public order norms, possibly usury practices, and especially the reputation and (let’s call it rest) prestige of Portuguese law. It is a self-regulated profession and, as such, has an implicit contract with society that is just as important or more important than what any lawyer makes with his client. It is a case of saying: there is humility, gentlemen!

Lawyer. President of the ProPública Association – Law and Citizenship

The author writes according to the new orthographic convention

Back to top button