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Britain's Burford takes legal action to get share data from LSE

Published 09/30/2019, 12:27 PM
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The London Stock Exchange Group offices are seen in the City of London, Britain

By Simon Jessop

LONDON (Reuters) - Burford Capital (L:BURF) began legal action on Monday against the London Stock Exchange (L:LSE) seeking trading data it said it needs to investigate alleged manipulation of its share price.

Burford, a company which specializes in financing litigation, raised concerns about trading activity on Aug. 12 after a sharp fall in its shares, alleging 'spoofing' and 'layering', where traders make and cancel orders to influence share prices, and said it was investigating.

London-listed Burford last month commissioned a report from Columbia University academic and data analyst Joshua Mitts to assess publicly available market data on its shares.

Burford's lawyer Richard East of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, said in court documents that the report by Mitts showed there were "strong grounds to consider that a large proportion of the decline in Burford's share price was the consequence of unlawful trading activity known as 'spoofing' and 'layering'".

"This share price decline coincided with a short selling attack on Burford's shares carried out by Muddy Waters Capital LLC," East said in the documents seen by Reuters.

Carson Block, founder of Muddy Waters, denied any involvement in a statement on Monday.

"Spoofing and layering are issues that have arisen in the high frequency and computer-driven trading world, and Muddy Waters has zero capability to engage in these practices," he said.

Burford said it wants the court to help it discover which individuals and entities placed the orders, and on behalf of whom, to help determine what was legitimate trading and what may have constituted market abuse.

That level of data is commercially sensitive and not currently in the public domain, hence the need for Burford to apply for court approval to access the data.

A spokesperson for the LSE said: "The Financial Conduct Authority is the competent public authority responsible for investigating allegations of market abuse, where there are reasonable grounds for doing so and taking action, including potential criminal proceedings, where the evidence supports it.

"London Stock Exchange provides any information the FCA requires from it for the purposes of their investigations."

Britain's Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said on Aug. 12 it was making "wide-ranging enquiries" into the circumstances surrounding the Muddy Waters report.

The FCA declined to comment on the case on Monday.

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The London Stock Exchange Group offices are seen in the City of London, Britain

After falling 42% from Aug. 6 to the close on Friday, Burford stock jumped to a session high of 843.5 pence after its statement on Monday. Its shares closed up 3.7% on Monday.

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