Burford Capital, the litigant litigated by litigator Muddy Waters, has excluded the wife of its CEO from its role as finance director and has committed to overtake its board of directors.
Former stockbroker Burford wavers amid allegations that Carson's Block of Muddy Waters raised last week. He alleged that he was "probably insolvent" in a fiery tirade and had balked at his "laughable" leadership structure.
Burford, which earns money by financing lawsuits and receiving part of the proceeds, said it has replaced Elizabeth O'Connell, Christopher Bogart's wife, with "immediate effect" as chief financial officer. Jim Kilman, a former banker of Morgan Stanley, was named her successor.
Mr. Block said the idea that the move would lead to better governance was a "farce" and some analysts and rivals welcomed him with skepticism. Mr. Kilman has been senior advisor to Burford since 2016 and served as Burford's principal investment banker with Morgan Stanley.
"It shows that Burford is more interested in introducing fig leaves than real guard rails," said Block. "This seems more like a question of who would do the work and who was not married to the CEO."
However, the market reacted positively: Burford shares rose 13 percent to 880.5 pence. Since the intervention of Muddy Waters, Burford's £ 1.9 billion valuation has still fallen by more than a fifth.
Burford also promised to replace two of its directors – Peter Middleton and David Lowe – and replace them with two new independent directors at the company's next two annual meetings. Each of Burford's directors has been on the company's board for about 10 years.
Burford also sought to reassure the market on transparency by repeating its desire to be listed on the Nasdaq or the New York Stock Exchange by March 2020.
Julian Roberts, a Jefferies analyst, said the listing news was "positive both from a governance and business perspective."
The war of words since Muddy's first salvo on Burford last week has since increased, and Burford accused the firm of market manipulation.
Critics said the changes did nothing to clarify the company's main allegations that Burford aggressively valued the value of its portfolio by manipulating its earnings metrics.
Justin Bates, a Canaccord Genuity analyst, said the move was a "step in the right direction", but likely to "fall short of expectations".
In a conference call with its bondholders on Wednesday, Burford's management said it was considering a credit rating, according to an investor who listened to the conference call without firm commitment.
In his report, Muddy Waters cited the lack of Burford credit rating as the red flag. Burford has issued £ 365m and $ 180m in bonds that can be purchased by both the public and fund managers. Its biggest institutional bond creditor, the Swiss asset manager GAM, has abandoned all of its bond holdings last week following Muddy Waters' report.