Walkers Launches Compliance Services Offering

Walkers Compliance complements Walkers' legal, corporate and fiduciary services to deliver a one-stop-shop for clients looking to use the Cayman Islands jurisdiction for their business needs.

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Following the result in the United Kingdom's EU referendum, Walkers has created a Brexit page dedicated to providing our clients relevant information about the jurisdictions in which we practise.

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Walkers is a leading international law firm. We advise on the laws of Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Guernsey, Ireland and Jersey.
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Walkers Announces 2019 Promotions

Walkers is pleased to announce that 18 attorneys across its global offices have been invited to join the partnership. In addition, 13 associates have been promoted to senior counsel.

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Ireland - Update – Beneficial Ownership Reporting Commences

The Central Register of Beneficial Ownership of Companies and Industrial and Provident Societies (the “Central Register”) launched on 29 July 2019.

Irish incorporated companies and other legal entities (“Relevant Entities”) are obliged by Part 3 of the European Union (Anti-Money Laundering: Beneficial Ownership of Corporate Entities) Regulations 2019 (S.I. 110 of 2019) (the “2019 Regulations”) to file details of their beneficial ownership with the Central Register.

Existing Relevant Entities have until 22 November 2019 to file the details of their beneficial ownership with the Central Register. Relevant Entities incorporated after 22 June 2019 must commence providing information to the Central Register within five months of their incorporation. It is expected that separate regulations will be published providing for the establishment of a central register of beneficial owners of Irish Collective Asset-management Vehicles (“ICAVs”) which will be maintained by the Central Bank.

Relevant Entities must submit their beneficial ownership information through the Central Register’s online registration portal - https://www.rbo.gov.ie/. Paper submissions are not accepted and no fees are charged. Relevant Entities should confirm with their service providers which entity will make the filing on their behalf well in advance of the November filing deadline.

The concept of beneficial ownership in the 2019 Regulations remains unchanged from the 2016 Regulations with respect to companies and captures any natural person who, directly or indirectly, has a greater than 25% ownership or controlling interest in a Relevant Entity. Where it is not possible to identify any natural person who, directly or indirectly, has a greater than 25% ownership or controlling interest in a Relevant Entity, the Relevant Entity’s beneficial ownership register should be populated with the senior managing officials of the Relevant Entity. In the case of investment funds, this will generally be the directors.

For further information relating the requirements of the 2019 Regulations and the functioning of the Central Register, please consult our previous briefings on the topic here and here.


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Asset Protection - Why Jersey Trusts And Foundations Appeal To Middle Eastern Clients

Robert Dobbyn is a partner specialising in private capital and trusts work in Walkers' Jersey team. He is a Jersey Advocate who has been practising offshore since 2011, and who worked for a leading firm in London before that. Robert specialises in advice and drafting in relation to Jersey trusts and foundations, and advises international clients including trustees, onshore law firms, accountancy practices, settlors and beneficiaries.
In this Q&A, Robert discusses the popularity of Jersey trusts and foundations to clients in the Middle East.

Trusts are enduringly popular with Middle Eastern clients – what are they used for?

Our Middle Eastern clients have traditionally used trust and indeed foundation structures for several reasons and this looks set to continue in future.

As a starting point, the ability to provide for an orderly transfer of wealth to future generations is extremely useful. Sharia law is fairly rigid in terms of inheritance rights and this can impact on what proportion of assets can be left to male and female heirs and spouses. In any event, it often makes sense to think about a gradual transfer of wealth, which may start to take place before the head of the family dies and may continue on past their death, so that younger family members in particular do not receive too much too soon.

For domestic assets, such as real estate or operating companies, local laws often do not allow much structuring flexibility and we are generally not involved with this side of things. But with international assets, such as investment portfolios with Swiss or Singapore banks or real estate in Europe and the US, the senior family members are often more able to transfer these into an offshore structure that is designed to carry out succession planning objectives.

Another, perhaps more topical, reason for using offshore structures is the ability to protect family assets from hostile third parties. This second feature is especially prominent for clients based in jurisdictions that are experiencing political and social upheaval. Families can take comfort from knowing that their assets are located in a safe, well-regulated jurisdiction, and that the assets will continue to be readily accessible even if the family members relocate elsewhere. If that happens, there is no need to open up new bank accounts, transfer title to shares or establish new holding companies.

It is worth noting that such structures are not there to allow people to defraud genuine creditors who have claims at the time the structure is established. However, if a settlor is in good financial health and has no immediate creditor issues, then offshore trusts or foundations can be a robust future-proofing tool.

Other reasons for establishing a trust or foundation include the ability to preserve confidentiality against the public at large (therefore helping to mitigate the risk of extortion, harassment or the invasion of family privacy), and the scope, with appropriate advice of course, to reduce tax where the family members are considering a move to a jurisdiction such as the US or the UK. It is often well worth establishing an offshore structure before a family member becomes resident or domiciled in those jurisdictions.

What about PTCs?

Many of our clients like the sound of a trust or foundation for the reasons I have just mentioned, but they are understandably cautious about placing family assets into the hands of an unknown party. Fortunately, there are a number of ways of dealing with this, and private trust companies, also known as "PTCs", are a really good one.

PTC structuring for Middle Eastern clients has been really popular for a while now. While I could go on for quite a while about PTCs (indeed I have just finished writing a chapter on Jersey PTCs for a forthcoming book), in a nutshell, a PTC is a company that is incorporated solely for the purposes of acting as trustee of a trust or trusts set up for a particular family, and the relevant family members will usually sit on its board. In terms of involving the family, this is a real plus when compared to the traditional model of using a third party corporate services provider as your trustee, where having a family member as a director is generally not possible. Being able to say to wealthy individuals who have built up their business and understand how it works better than anyone, that they will continue to be involved in decisions and have oversight, is a message that really works for them. The jurisdictions that we cover do this very well.

What about the perception and popularity of offshore solutions generally for Middle Eastern clients?

A lot of our work involves acting in conjunction with tax advisers and lawyers, and they often turn to offshore lawyers when advising internationally mobile families. Clients in the GCC and elsewhere will frequently have connections with the US, but also the UK and other jurisdictions, and if they are moving, they will want to plan carefully before they acquire new tax residencies. So we often get involved before they move to the US or the UK in order to help minimise the tax they might have to pay in future years.

The jurisdictions that we advise on offer tax neutrality and a range of broader structuring options including foundations, LLCs, companies limited by shares and by guarantee, and various types of partnerships, which are often used in a funds and investments context. We see a lot of inward investment into the UK and US from our Middle Eastern and other clients and a well-regulated offshore centre can be a key staging post for that capital flow.

The changes in the offshore world over the last decade or so in respect of transparency – and I am thinking particularly about registers of beneficial ownership, FATCA and CRS – have added to the administration requirements, but have not really fundamentally changed the attractiveness of the offshore option for our Middle Eastern clients when it comes to trusts. This is partly because details about trusts and their beneficiaries are not available to the public at large (as opposed to legitimate tax or other governmental authorities), and also because, in any case, the PTC structure in particular is really geared more towards combining orderly succession and asset protection with continuing involvement by the family members.

Prospects for the future – where is demand heading?

I mentioned political and social volatility earlier, and the effect this has on the uptake of PTC and other offshore structures. This looks set to remain relevant.

Also, more and more when we talk to our contacts in the Middle East, the subject turns to private capital, and how best to structure and service family offices generally. Private capital as a source of investment is growing significantly, and new methods are being sought to protect it and to put it to use. That growth has led to the growing trend in the creation of family offices focused on the assets and sometimes the philanthropic activities and administration of a specific family, who are increasingly based across multiple jurisdictions.

These family offices all do very different jobs for very different families, but what they have in common is that they need a structure that allows settlors and other family members to play a more active role in the management of trust assets. PTCs play a useful part in this.

Any final comments on what Walkers can offer in particular?

While my practice is exclusively Jersey based, we have a very good cross-jurisdictional team in our offices around the world that also covers the laws of Bermuda, the BVI, the Cayman Islands, Guernsey and Ireland. We are therefore able to advise on all the premium offshore trusts jurisdictions and have a lot of experience with helping our clients find the structure that works best for them. We are also working increasingly with our colleagues who specialise in funds, private equity and the other ways in which private capital is deployed, which our clients find very useful.

Another point to mention is that we have an excellent Dubai office and many of our Middle Eastern clients find it helpful to deal with them, particularly on their Cayman and BVI corporate matters. We travel out to the region regularly and will often see clients and contacts together with our Dubai-based colleagues.

Finally, we are also very well connected with offshore corporate service providers and onshore legal and tax advisers around the world, and we are always happy to assist with matching up clients with appropriate professionals as required.

Leanne Wallser Joins Walkers Jersey Funds Team as a Group Partner

Leanne Wallser has joined Walkers' Jersey office as a Group Partner as part of the firm's strategic growth in the Island. Leanne joins Walkers' global Investment Funds Group.

Leanne is the fourth new partner in the Jersey team in the last 18 months, following the relocation of Fraser Hern from the firm's Singapore office, the lateral hire of Nigel Sanders from another leading offshore firm, and Christopher Reed's promotion to the partnership.

Overall, headcount across the Jersey office has increased by more than a third in the last year.

Leanne has worked offshore since 2003 with previous experience in Hong Kong and London as well as in Jersey – she is a specialist in Jersey fund structures, and in particular, in ESG and impact investing.

Jonathan Heaney, the managing partner of Walkers' Jersey office, said: "We are delighted that Leanne has joined us, her arrival means that we now have three specialist investment funds partners in the team, supported by an excellent bench of associates and senior counsel.

"The growth we have seen in the last 18 months shows our confidence in the jurisdiction – we're investing in our growth here and in Guernsey because we see enormous potential in the Islands, and consistent client demand."

Leanne said: "I am delighted to be joining Walkers' Jersey team at what is clearly an exciting time, and to playing a part in developing the investment funds practice.

"Walkers has a renowned global investment funds team with an enviable client base and I look forward to building on this further."

Getting the Deal Through | Dispute Resolution | Bermuda

Bermuda partner Nicole Tovey and senior associate Kai Musson have provided their jurisdictional knowledge on dispute resolution to Getting the Deal Through.

Bermuda’s civil court structure comprises the Magistrates’ Court of Bermuda (Magistrates’ Court), the Supreme Court of Bermuda (Supreme Court) and the Court of Appeal for Bermuda (Court of Appeal), with a final appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC).

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Reproduced with permission from Law Business Research Ltd. This article was first published in July 2019.

Bermudian Associates Boost Walkers Asia Finance & IDR Offering

Walkers is pleased to announce that two of its Bermuda associates, Shannon Dyer and Ben Green, will be seconded to the firm's Hong Kong office in October.

These moves are being made in response to the continued growth in demand for Bermuda legal services in the firm's Asia offices and to provide Walkers' Bermuda lawyers with opportunities to continue their professional development in one of the world's foremost financial centres.

Walkers is one of the largest offshore firms in Asia. With offices in the region since 2003, Shannon and Ben will join a team of over 175 staff based in Asia.

Shannon is a senior associate in the Bermuda Insolvency & Dispute Resolution practice where he specialises in insurance and reinsurance disputes, regulatory disputes and investigations, and general commercial litigation and arbitration. Prior to joining Walkers, he was legal counsel at Bermuda's financial regulator, the Bermuda Monetary Authority, within the policy, legal, and enforcement departments.

Shannon comments, "I am excited to be seconded to Walkers' Hong Kong office. Walkers has one of the largest offshore Insolvency and Dispute Resolution teams globally and I look forward to providing Bermuda law advice in real time to the benefit of our Asian clients."

Ben is an associate in the Bermuda Finance and Corporate team. He has experience advising lenders in relation to financing transactions, including in the shipping and aircraft space, and has been very actively involved in advising Asian banks and other financial institutions since Walkers' Bermuda office opened in January 2016. Ben also advises on a broad range of corporate matters, including mergers, amalgamations, continuations and discontinuations. He was recently recognised in the 2019 IFLR 1000 as a rising star in the field.

Ben states, "I am grateful to Walkers for affording me this opportunity and look forward to working with the team in Hong Kong. Being based in the same time-zone as our Asian clients is a real advantage and a great opportunity to promote Bermuda legal services in the region generally."

Kevin Taylor, Managing Partner of Walkers Bermuda, remarks, "We are delighted to be able to offer Shannon and Ben the opportunity to live and work in a city like Hong Kong. There is no better way to gain experience than to immerse yourself in a new culture and interact with clients from the region on a daily basis. We have no doubt that Shannon and Ben will demonstrate the depth of legal talent in Bermuda and enhance our service offering in Asia."

Andy Randall, Managing Partner of Walkers Hong Kong states, "Walkers' firm culture revolves around high achievement through training, support and development. We regularly second associates to our offices around the globe. Our strategy has always been to listen to our clients and their needs, then exceed them. We continue to see an increase in demand for Bermuda legal services in Asia and Walkers is very pleased to welcome Shannon and Ben to the Hong Kong team."

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