Cashing In On Litigation:

Interesting article in Fortune on litigation hedge funds:

Launched in December 2007 by two lawyers, Richard Fields and Timothy Scrantom, Juridica gives money to Fortune 500-size companies or their lawyers in the early stages of corporate lawsuits in exchange for a share of the payout if the plaintiffs win or settle. (Think of it as a different form of investing in distress.)

With $200 million under management, Juridica has invested in 17 suits so far - and is two for two in decisions. Though Fields, 53, and Scrantom, 52, are based in New York City, they raised money by selling shares on the London Stock Exchange's small-companies market. The fund paid a dividend of about $5 million to investors last month after a big suit was settled. Juridica signs nondisclosure agreements, so it can't name names, but this one involved one hedge fund suing another for stealing an employee. Shares are up about 20% since the launch.

Investing in litigation is a small but growing asset class - valuable because the investments' performance isn't tied to the economy or stock market. Companies like LawCash (of late-night TV ad fame) front small sums for personal-injury suits, and several small hedge funds have emerged to back them too. In the tech world, meanwhile, investors like Nathan Myhrvold, former CTO of Microsoft, buy disputed patents in hope of using them to earn licensing fees.