In early October, Jakarta was seething with growing resentment against the government. Protesters were unhappy with the government for not stopping the passage of an unpopular amendment to the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) Law. Many spoke about filing class action suits to bring forward a judicial review.
I was therefore excited to attend the 2019 summit of the Crisis and Litigation Communicators Alliance (CLCA), a select worldwide group of PR firms who specialized in crisis management and litigation PR. Maverick, because of our experience in these areas, was admitted into the alliance earlier this year.
Taking place in Amsterdam on 3-4 October, the summit focused on the development of class actions globally and what role Litigation PR plays in it.
A study by one of Amsterdam’s leading law firms looked at the state of class actions across several countries. It found that class actions are on the rise in countries such as the UK and the Netherlands. Meanwhile, class actions are expected to remain high in the US and Israel, and are likely to remain low (although the amounts claimed can sometimes be substantial) in Belgium and Germany.
In Indonesia, class action was first introduced into law in 1997 as a procedure to file a lawsuit for environmental cases, and later in 1999 for consumer protection and forestry related cases. Even today, we have seen only a small number of class actions against the government or corporations (and even less wins), as many remain unaware of the legal procedures entailed.
Similarly, the extent Litigation PR has developed as a concept varied in different markets. Clearly, much more so in the US than say, in Poland or Indonesia.
Across markets, however, claimants, defendants, and even their legal teams often overlook the power of Litigation PR in influencing public perception, which then often translates into the court room. We agreed, therefore, that lawyer education is still required while new trends and developments emerge.
It’s worth noting that cultural differences may influence attitudes to Litigation PR. In Asia, for instance, there may be more reticence among executives to engage with TV interviews compared to, say, the US.
In our experience in Indonesia, we are usually brought in to help with Litigation PR when a multinational is in a dispute against a local corporation. This is because they feel that the local company may monetarily incentivize the judge to take their side. Multinationals therefore use PR to send the message that the case is under public scrutiny and lower the likelihood of any monkey business.
We also heard from several academics and lawyers whose work overlaps with ours and who offered some fascinating insights. For example:
- We are seeing a growth worldwide in climate-related litigation (not just against governments, but now against investors, companies and insurers) and privacy-related litigation.
- Some sophisticated corporates look to litigation to advance their strategic and commercial objectives, not just for dispute resolution.
- In the US there are now professional plaintiffs who buy a product or engage in activity purely to ensure they can participate in litigation. Frivolous class actions, however, are actually rare.
- English speaking commercial courts in Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Paris are unashamedly looking to attract disputes away from the UK post-Brexit
- The increasingly prevalent role of litigation funders in the world of disputes across many jurisdictions. This may, or may not, affect PR considerations, and is among the many questions the CLCA partners took home for further pondering.
Maverick left the summit heartened, as we have expert colleagues around the world to call on if our clients should ever require their counsel, and brimming with exciting questions on where we can take CLCA and Litigation PR in the future.
Written by Marsha Imaniara, Manager
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