Business Insight

Board Priorities 2024: Class actions

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    Class actions enable large number of claimants to bring claims raising the same or similar issues against defendants. England, in common with a number of other jurisdictions, has witnessed a significant growth in class actions in recent years - over £100 billion is currently being claimed against defendants in class actions in the UK alone. Customers, investors and activists are increasingly scrutinising corporate behaviour, particularly in relation to ESG, and are willing to pursue class actions in order to obtain recompense and/or seek to hold corporates to account. The growth in litigation funding and specialist claimant law firms has also contributed to the increase in class actions.

    Importantly, in some circumstances, class actions can be pursued on an 'opt-out' basis. These are claims brought on behalf of a defined group or class without identifying all of the claimants or obtaining their authorisation. For example, the class might be defined as 'all persons who subscribed for shares in reliance on the prospectus issued by ABC plc' or 'all persons who suffered loss as a consequence of the cyber-attack on ABC plc'. Essentially, anyone who falls within the group is included in the claim unless they specifically opt out.

    Boards need to be aware of the significant reputational and financial consequences of class actions, particularly following a major event such as a cyber-attack or product recall. Claimant law firms also often scrutinise decisions or investigations by regulators in order to identify the basis for a class action. Boards would be well-advised to undertake a risk analysis by reference to the trends in ongoing class actions in the industry in which they are operating. Finally, Boards should also consider whether there are potential or ongoing class actions which give rise to claims that they could pursue, for example following the discovery of a cartel in their supply chain.


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    Mr Jon Gale Thumbnail

    Jon Gale, Partner, Dispute Resolution, London

    T: +44 7776 185 841

    Jon leads the Dispute Resolution practice in the UK. He is an expert in helping clients to resolve high profile, complex commercial disputes and contentious regulatory issues across a number of sectors. Jon is described as "a stand-out partner who always delivers" in the latest edition of Legal 500. As well as advising clients on the full spectrum of commercial and contractual disputes, much of his work is focused on class and group action claims in the English courts.

    Jon also acts for a range of clients in procurement law, public law and competition law disputes as well as advising on the litigation and regulatory issues arising from cybersecurity and data breach incidents.

    Mr Tim West Thumbnail

    Tim West, Partner, Dispute Resolution, London

    T: +44 7900 605 315

    Tim is an expert in helping clients to resolve high profile, complex commercial disputes and contentious regulatory issues. He has a broad ranging practice but has a particular focus on competition litigation and defending class and group actions.

    Tim’s significant commercial litigation experience is across a number of sectors, including the banking, automotive, energy, tech and pharmaceutical sectors. Tim has also acted for clients in high profile public inquiries, defending clients against court proceedings brought by regulators, and in insolvency litigation.

    The information provided is not intended to be a comprehensive review of all developments in the law and practice, or to cover all aspects of those referred to.
    Readers should take legal advice before applying it to specific issues or transactions.

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