UK - The stakes in the legal dispute between Henderson Global Investors and a group of 30 pension funds have been raised on news that Henderson has replaced its legal advisers, CMS Cameron McKenna, with Clifford Chance.
Both law firms declined to comment.
The group, which includes some of the largest pension funds in the UK, is seeking around £350m in compensation for losses on two Henderson private finance initiative (PFI) funds.
The schemes include Tesco, BBC, Bupa, BAE Systems, Railpen and British Steel, as well as a number of local authorities, such as South Tyneside and Kent County Council.
The group claims it was misled over two PFI investments, one of which - the Henderson PFI Secondary Fund II LP - has fallen by 60% in value.
Henderson promoted the fund as an "innovative, £350m private equity fund", investing in "a new area of the European infrastructure market" - the purchase of operation stakes in PFI projects.
But the investors argue that by making just one investment - the acquisition of John Laing in 2006 - the fund was invested solely in John Laing's PFI and PPP projects, rather than a spread of PFI projects managed by a number of different companies, as expected.
The group further claims Henderson had always intended to use the assets in the fund to acquire Laing, without informing them of this at the outset.
In addition, the group claims the John Laing acquisition exposed investors to John Laing's liabilities, such as its PFI bidding business, non-PFI businesses (such as Chiltern Railways, which has since been sold) and the John Laing defined benefit pension scheme, with a current deficit of £175m.
These liabilities exposed investors to a "materially higher risk profile" than investors had been led to expect by the private placement memorandum, according to advice given by Iain Milligan, QC, acting for the group.
Investment consultants working for the group estimate that, following the Laing acquisition, operational phase PFI assets represented "at most 40% of the fund's assets by capital value" and that, on a risk-adjusted basis, the true figure was "probably 20% or less".
The group of pension funds says the debt incurred as a result of the £1bn acquisition of John Laing breached the Limited Partnership Agreement because aggregate borrowings exceeded 30% of total commitments.
Henderson has rejected all these claims.
A spokesman for the company said: "Henderson has thoroughly investigated all the issues raised and is confident it has no legal liability in respect of these issues and will vigorously defend any proceeding which may be brought."
But source close to the group of pension funds said: "We are furious at the way Henderson has misled us.
"The fact 30 major pension schemes and their advisers are willing to go to court over this shows the depth of feeling."