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A $16 Billion Wall Street Lawsuit for the Ages

Protestors gathering in front of the Repsol-YPF headquarters in Buenos Aires, demanding the nationalization of the company in December 2008.
Protestors gathering in front of the Repsol-YPF headquarters in Buenos Aires, demanding the nationalization of the company in December 2008. Photo: Daniel Garcia/AFP via Getty Images
Eriq Gardner
July 31, 2023

If you could travel back in time eight years, with $15 million in hand, what would you do with the money? Would you invest in Apple (up nearly 600 percent), Tesla (more than 1,500 percent), Nvidia (around 8,000 percent)? How about buying the rights to prosecute a socialist South American government? 

Burford Capital, which specializes in financing mega-lawsuits, made that very bet. In 2015, the publicly-traded British firm stepped into a bankruptcy auction and acquired the exclusive rights to prosecute claims against the Republic of Argentina for seizing the energy company YPF. For $15 million, Burford secured a 70 percent stake in the potential legal bounty, then committed approximately four times that initial investment to actually litigating what has turned out to be a fiercely contested, slightly dangerous, and extraordinarily high-stakes lawsuit.