In brief - Organisations and individuals can make a submission related to the inquiry's Terms of Reference by 11 June 2020

On 13 May 2020, the House of Representatives referred an inquiry into litigation funding and the regulation of the class action industry in Australia to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services. 

This inquiry has been anticipated since the release of the Australian Law Reform Commission's (ALRC) Report 134 in late 2018 that made 24 recommendations "designed to promote fairness and efficiency in class action proceedings, protect litigants and assure the integrity of the civil justice system". 

Ultimately the final report will make recommendations to Parliament that are expected to form the basis for legislative and regulatory reforms to the industry as a whole, which will be particularly timely in light of the large number of class actions predicted to arise as a result of COVID-19.

Timing

The Committee has been asked to hand down its report before 7 December 2020. 

Submissions are to be made by 11 June 2020. This will allow time for review of submissions prior to hearings, the dates for which have yet to be released.

Terms of Reference

The Committee has provided broad Terms of Reference for the inquiry covering a wide range of issues relating to the litigation funding and class action industry in Australia, including:

  • What are the factors driving the increase in class actions in Australia, and what are the current and potential long-term effects on the economy.

  • The influence of litigation funding on damages and compensation received by class members, and how proposals to allow contingency fees could further impact this.

  • The relationships between litigation funders and lawyers, and whether there is an impact on a plaintiff lawyer's duties to their client.

  • Regulation of the litigation funding industry and agreements, and in particular the application of financial services regulation on funding agreements.

  • Whether ALRC Report 134 has already resulted in any change and the potential impact of any legislative and regulatory reform on the industry. 

  • How the current class action industry might affect businesses already made vulnerable as a result of COVID-19. 

View the full Terms of Reference for the inquiry. 

Making a submission

Organisations and individuals are invited to make a submission relating to one or more of the Terms of Reference that:

  • is concise (no more than 4-5 pages)

  • introduces the author and their perspective

  • clearly articulates key points

  • outlines issues but also suggests solutions 

Submissions may be published as part of the final report so it should also be clearly noted whether they are a public, a public with name withheld, or confidential submission. 

More detail can be found in the Information for submitters document.  

What next?

With submissions being sought currently, we will await further news on the timings of hearings. 

We will continue to monitor developments and provide updated information as they come to light.

This is commentary published by Colin Biggers & Paisley for general information purposes only. This should not be relied on as specific advice. You should seek your own legal and other advice for any question, or for any specific situation or proposal, before making any final decision. The content also is subject to change. A person listed may not be admitted as a lawyer in all States and Territories. © Colin Biggers & Paisley, Australia 2020.

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