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High levels of litigation risk reported

According to the results of research released by ZyLAB  ( today, 88% of FTSE 100 companies are at risk of litigation due to their susceptibility to a number of risk factors, including a history of litigation, operating in litigation-heavy areas, and being directly consumer-facing, with almost a quarter (24%) found to be ‘high risk’ across industries including energy, travel and pharmaceutical.
The research assessed each FTSE 100 company’s vulnerability to ten key risk factors, a mix of industry and company-specific considerations previously known to heighten the chance of litigation, and then each company was given a score out of ten. (Companies that scored 1-3 were identified as ‘low risk’, 4-6 as ‘medium risk’ and 7-10 as ‘high risk’.) Key drivers for assessing this risk and preparing effectively include the ability to prevent legal and accounting fees which have cost companies like Siemens £850m (see report in a bid to determine whether it had violated anti-corruption regulations.

Other key findings from the research include:
• Energy companies in the FTSE 100 scored the highest risk rating, averaging 7.75 out of 10, closely followed by travel (7.5) and pharmaceutical companies (7.5), partly driven by the heightened risk of providing consumer services and products and operating in an environmentally sensitive area, which was only recently demonstrated by BP being sued £3bn for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Finance companies also scored highly (7), which could be down to increased market volatility and heavy regulation, following the recent banking crisis.
• Almost two thirds (62%) of the FTSE 100 have previously been sued or initiated legal action, highlighting the increasingly litigious environment, and with 65% of the FTSE 100 having US offices and 88% global operations, this inclination to sue could get worse in line with the highly litigious nature of the US and complexities of international legal requirements.
• 92% of the FTSE 100 were found to have disparate information channels across the business eg twitter, email and paper, and with the growing use of non-searchable multimedia platforms like YouTube and technologies which move data outside the organisation, such as cloud computing, organisations could be storing up a huge problem if requested to provide information to meet legal requirements.
• Almost a quarter (21%) of FTSE 100 companies have a lower share price today than they did a year ago, indicating increased pressure from shareholders to improve the financial position of the company. In line with Fulbright’s 2009 Litigation Trends Report which revealed that “repercussions from the economic downturn are chief among the reasons for expecting more litigation”, increased financial pressure could imply these FTSE 100 companies are more inclined to take out legal action for cases that otherwise might be more easily resolved.
• Only 12% of FTSE 100 companies were judged to be ‘low risk’, with real estate and retail companies amongst the lucky few. With international budget cuts affecting revenue opportunities and diminishing consumer spending power, these organisations could however find themselves rapidly moving into higher risk categories.