Managing Partner Andrew Nugent Smith recently spoke to The Brief, BCL Legal’s hub of industry knowledge, opinions, and interviews from top legal professionals.
Andrew discussed Keller Postman UK’s inception, its strategy, the market for class actions in the UK, and the role that collective redress plays in providing access to justice.
Andrew spearheaded the firm’s launch in the UK, which initially opened in London, but now has offices in Liverpool, Manchester, and Birmingham. “We’re doing big cases in the London courts so we need a presence there. And, if we want to attract lawyers who have trained and practised at top London firms then the obvious place to do that is in London.”
Keller Lenkner was founded in the US, but Andrew saw promise in the UK class action market too: “My view at that time was that it would grow significantly over the next five-to-ten years because dieselgate was just breaking and you had the public sector equal pay cases that had gone through the Employment Tribunal.
“You also had GDPR coming in early 2018. You had widespread dissatisfaction with the way that brands had treated consumers, and there was no shortage of corporate wrongdoing, and therefore cases to bring.”
The firm wasted no time, bringing emissions cases against VW and Mercedes, and claims against Uber: “There was a case going through the Supreme Court already, so, in anticipation of that case going in favour of the drivers, we built a very substantial book of over 10,000 clients, against Uber. And then we started looking at other areas like data, privacy, other equal pay cases. We’ve got 25,000 clients against Tesco, for example.
“We then also saw an opportunity in financial products, including investment fraud and mis-selling: people who have been given bad financial advice, often negligently and quite often fraudulently.”
Most of the cases litigated by Keller Postman UK, as the firm became known earlier this year, are “opt-in” cases, where claimants need to sign up before the case goes to court. Social media advertising plays a key role in recruiting these clients: “Social media has revolutionised these types of claims. It is very data driven, it’s very efficient, it’s very traceable.
“It’s very easy to know which adverts you are placing on social media are effective. And that is why firms have managed to build client cohorts of tens of thousands of people – we now have about 150,000 individual clients signed up across our cases.”
Being the sister firm of Keller Postman in the US gives Keller Postman UK a useful degree of flexibility: “We can react very quickly to things that happen in the market.
“So, in our Mercedes case, for example, we went from thinking about it to signing up with our first clients within six or seven days. Had we been a traditional law firm that would have taken us six months.”
“We have some very sizeable projects under development. We always have some cases that are in the settlement phase, some that are in litigation, some that are just about to go into litigation, but then, of course, we’re always feeding the pipeline.
“So, at any given point in time we’ll have cases that are all at different phases of the lifecycle.”
Andrew sees collective redress as becoming increasingly common as part of the UK’s legal landscape, and expects Keller Postman UK “to become the pre-eminent firm in that space.”
“We’re providing access to justice for people who wouldn’t otherwise have it, because we’ve got the ability to bring claimants together to create the economies of scale that make these cases viable.
“We also think we’ve got quite an important role in society, sitting alongside regulators. The threat of collective redress actions is now a major incentive for corporates to behave in accordance with the law.
“Almost all of our cases are based on some sort of regulatory finding. Historically corporate wrongdoing hasn’t really gone financially punished because of the lack of an efficient procedure to bring these claims but now it is, and substantial compensation is now ending up in the pockets of the victims.”
Read Andrew Nugent Smith’s full interview, published by BCL Legal on 8 November 2022, here.