Wednesday, 21 August, 2019

Burford alleges manipulation of shares around Muddy Waters attack

Burford backer Neil Woodford and Carson Block of Muddy Waters Burford backer Neil Woodford and Carson Block of Muddy Waters
Russell Knight | 13 August, 2019, 08:36

Burford, which helps firms and individuals pay for legal cases in return for a cut of any winnings, said it found "trading activity consistent with material illegal activity" after its shares plummeted last week in the wake of an attack from Muddy Waters Research.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan and Morrison & Foester have all been enlisted by litigation funder Burford Capital to pursue claims of illegal market manipulation by short-seller Muddy Waters. The shares rose 41 per cent in the following two days after the litigation-finance company rebutted the report and Burford's executives purchased shares.

But Burford has since come out fighting, conducting a "forensic examination" of trading data with the help of Columbia Law School professor, Joshua Mitts.

Spoofing is where a stock price is artificially driven lower due to high volumes of trading orders being placed just below the current price but then canceled before being executed.

Last week, shares in the litigation funder plunged by more than a third after notorious USA short-seller Muddy Waters accused it of "Enron-esque mark-to-model accounting" and "egregiously misrepresenting" its returns.

Finding what it believes to be evidence of illegal market manipulation of its shares last week, Burford C.

A spokesperson for Burford said: "Burford has a conservative asset-liability profile, with average concluded investment duration less than two years and average debt maturity of nearly six years, at a weighted average interest rate of 5.8%". Here, the share prices offered are higher and less likely to be met, but suggest again that a high volume of shares are available for sale, driving down prices.

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"We can see no non-manipulative explanation for that phenomenon", Mr Molot said. "They have nothing to do with us".

Muddy Waters has alleged that Burford has "egregiously" misrepresented its return on invested capital and internal rates of returns. We posted an innocuous tweet the day prior to publishing our report. "This is entirely normal and there is no market manipulation".

The following day, Burford hit back against the report, accusing Muddy Waters of peddling "factual inaccuracies" and "fallacious insinuations".

Speaking to the BBC's today programme on Thursday, Muddy Waters' founder Carson Block said: "I can't remember the first time we heard of Burford".

Muddy Waters described Burford as being a "perfect storm for an accounting fiasco" with "laughter-inducing" corporate governance.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) confirmed today via a statement that it is looking into the matter: 'The FCA has been aware of these matters since the first tweet and price movements on Tuesday of last week and at that point we began undertaking wide-ranging enquiries.

"We will continue to make enquiries using the wide range of data and resources at our disposal", the FCA added.

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