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01-Dec-2019
Conference Poll Shows Nearly Half of Attendees Aware of Sexual Harassment in Their Workplace

Nearly half the attendees at Walkers' recent workplace culture conference were aware of sexual harassment incidents having taken place at their work.

Attendees at the events held in Jersey and Guernsey last month were asked a series of questions which suggest that just under half were aware of sexual harassment in the workplace, but that some of the incidents had not been investigated, and that, when investigations had been conducted, this was typically done internally.

The audiences were largely HR professionals who would normally be aware of reported incidents and investigations within their organisations.

Aggregated figures for the Jersey and Guernsey audiences showed that:

• 45% were aware of sexual harassment having taken place
• 37% were aware of sexual harassment having been investigated
• 30% were aware of external investigators having been appointed


The results varied slightly between the Islands – Jersey attendees were more likely (49% compared to 41% in Guernsey) to be aware of sexual harassment, more likely (42% compared to 32% in Guernsey) to have been aware of an investigation, and more likely (37% compared to 24% in Guernsey) to be aware of an external investigator being appointed.

Senior Counsel Sarah Ash, a member of Walkers' Channel Islands employment law team specialising in advising on discrimination and harassment, said: "These are interesting results – we very deliberately did not define sexual harassment in our poll, so the incidents known to 45% of our audience could range from a one off inappropriate comment to criminal assaults.  As employment law practitioners, we at Walkers don't see many references from clients about sexual harassment, whether from employers looking to investigate, complainants or people accused, which suggests these incidents aren't being escalated into formal legal complaints.

"It is of particular concern to me that not all incidents of sexual harassment are being investigated.  There is likely to be a variety of reasons for this however failure to investigate known incidents of sexual harassment is undoubtedly exposing companies to employment risk and will have a negative impact on employers workplace culture.

"Responses to the question on external investigators indicate that using an external investigator is clearly the exception rather than the norm. Whilst many investigations can be handled internally my experience is that you typically see external investigators appointed when one of the people involved is senior and an external investigator is required to ensure that there is an independent and fair process which can be reassuring for the parties involved.  In addition, I have seen employers request independent investigations to look into workplace culture and practice so that they can address any issues proactively before they develop into more serious complaints. 

"Having practised in this area in London for more than ten years, sexual harassment has become a regulatory issue not just an HR one, and regulators including the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA), and the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) are taking it very seriously.  Consequently UK employers are now taking it very seriously too, with many raising awareness in their organisations through training and implementing clear policies, encouraging employees to speak up so that issues can be addressed swiftly and taking a zero tolerance approach to this type of behaviour.

"It's clear that both Guernsey and Jersey will need to move in the same direction."



29-Nov-2019
Walkers Sponsors The Little Museum of Dublin

Walkers Ireland office is delighted to announce a new conservation partnership with The Little Museum of Dublin to help secure the future of the collection, including a treasured first English edition of Joyce’s masterpiece Ulysses.

Sarah Costigan, Deputy Director at the Little Museum commented “Preserving the collection and making it available for the use and enjoyment of the public is at the heart of the museums mission. We are proud to partner with Walkers to ensure our collection will be researched, displayed and preserved for future generations.”

Garry Ferguson, Managing Partner of Walkers Ireland office said at the launch, “Walkers is delighted to support the Little Museum of Dublin by sponsoring one of its most treasured artefacts, a first English edition of 'Ulysses' by James Joyce. At Walkers, it is important to us that we promote the arts within our local community and our commitment to the Little Museum of Dublin, which celebrates the events and people who have shaped our city, hopefully demonstrates this. ”

The Little Museum of Dublin is the people's museum of Dublin. Located on St. Stephens Green, it is a Georgian town house owned by Dublin City Council, the museum chronicles the history of the capital in a multi-award-winning collection.

 

Little Museum Partnership Launch

 



28-Nov-2019
Walkers Fundamentals 2019 Hedge Fund Trends - Part 2

From our vantage point as advisers to many of the world’s top investment fund managers and financial institutions, broad market forces flow through to our instructions, and ultimately drive many of the terms of the funds we advise.

In this four-part series we look at the current themes we have noticed in the investment funds market. Parts one (here) and two focus on Hedge Funds and parts three and four explore Private Equity.

All data, unless referenced, is taken from Walkers' in-house investment funds survey.

REDEMPTION TERMS – HARD LOCK-UPS INCREASE THEIR LEAD

More funds are using lock-ups at launch, up to 44%, which represents an increase from the longer term trend in prior years (about one-third). While one year lock-ups remain the most common (47%), 43% employed lock-ups of 18 months or greater. Two-thirds of lock-ups are ‘hard lock-ups’ – i.e. investors cannot redeem at all (as opposed to ‘soft lock-ups’ where redemptions are possible but subject to a fee for the benefit of the fund).
The increasing use of gates in fund terms continued this year, with 29% of funds surveyed using a gate to manage redemptions.

BOARD COMPOSITION

It is market practice to appoint independent directors to the board of a corporate hedge fund. However, while most new funds still appoint independent directors (69%) the slowing of this trend, which we first identified in our 2017 survey, has continued this year. Independent representation is still below our pre-2017 observed levels. While the drivers for this trend are diverse among managers, one explanation is the increasingly institutional managers of Cayman funds with advanced internal control and governance processes, coupled with oversight from other independent service providers. Other funds posit that they employ novel strategies and trading approaches where independent oversight may be regarded as less essential (which may or may not be widely accepted). For others, there are simple sensitivities to costs at the start-up phase.

Board Composition


The selection of an appropriate board continues to be a critical process on which managers should focus, and guiding managers through these processes remains a key part of our role as Cayman counsel. As Walkers does not offer directorship services to investment funds, we remain unaffiliated with any particular service provider.

FUND TERMS IN ACTION: NAVIGATING STRESSED SITUATIONS

Beyond fund launches, this year’s industry commentary has noted several high profile and long-established funds commencing their wind-down, or electing to turn into family offices to manage the principals’ capital. In addition, market forces and investors’ own allocation decisions have seen many funds dealing with redemptions from their largest investors, or otherwise restructuring to position for expected market turbulence or in response to global regulatory developments.

While all of these situations have their own features, as adviser to many of these funds Walkers has seen some clear trends emerge.
Funds with clear, flexible documentation have more options in addressing unforeseen stresses. Managers that maintain a close and open relationship with their investor base can propose restructurings or other solutions that may not be directly contemplated by the fund’s documents. Communication is key: managers that engage early with investors, directors and legal counsel can often leverage the experience of each to implement effective solutions.

WHAT’S IN STORE FOR 2020?

We have a lot to watch in 2020. Given the continued global uncertainties and the volatile global economic and financial environment, managers and their funds will continue to position themselves for further turbulence. This may well be beneficial for the industry – after years of fighting a broadly rising market, dislocations in asset prices should be opportune times for hedge funds, and investor sentiment surveys do not suggest a material allocation away from the sector. As ever, our role in this broader picture is to help our clients put themselves and their funds in the best position to adapt to the unforeseeable.



25-Nov-2019
Walkers Fundamentals 2019 Hedge Fund Trends - Part 1

From our vantage point as advisers to many of the world’s top investment fund managers and financial institutions, broad market forces flow through to our instructions, and ultimately drive many of the terms of the funds we advise.

In this four-part series we look at the current themes we have noticed in the investment funds market. Parts one and two focus on Hedge Funds and parts three and four explore Private Equity.

All data, unless referenced, is taken from Walkers' in-house investment funds survey.

TRENDS

In last year’s trends survey of November 2018, we noted that the optimism stemming from positive returns could only be sustained if the returns were sustained. Our evidence suggested that managers were starting to see a little relief from downward fee pressures and that other signs of investor confidence, such as agreeing to longer or more restrictive lock-ups, were slowly revealing themselves.

The performance headwinds faced by the hedge fund industry in late 2018 are well-documented, with the industry suffering its biggest annual loss since 2011. While hedge funds responded in 2019 by recording their best start to a year since 2009, investor sentiment following 2018’s underperformance drove significant outflows in the first half of the year. While these outflows were not universal across strategies, it has nonetheless been a challenging year.

As ever, performance history remains vital to a manager’s ability to attract investment and drives investor discussions with managers at the inception of investment funds. In turn, this feeds the terms of fund documents, reflecting both investor concerns and manager priorities. As in prior years, we have surveyed the terms of all of the registered hedge funds we launched this year to see what trends emerge.

As regular attendees of our Fundamentals seminar will know, one of our key trends of recent years has been managers positioning their funds for a long-predicted slowdown in global economic activity. This year provided an opportunity to review these provisions in detail, as we helped clients navigate events in their funds that tested some of this forward planning.

EQUITY AND CREDIT STRATEGIES RETAIN THEIR LEADERSHIP

Among newly launched funds, equity and credit strategies remained the most common strategies, as in prior years. While industry commentary suggests equity funds (as the largest component within the industry) have suffered greater outflows than any other sector, this does not yet appear to have dampened enthusiasm for new launches in this area.

Hedge Fund Strategies


In other areas, particularly those popular with start-up managers, we have helped managers structure their funds to defer registration as a mutual fund, at least in the early stages of the fund’s life. While these exemptions are not new, the increase in digital asset/ cryptocurrency funds in the last few years has brought a renewed focus on setup costs and early stage regulatory compliance matters. In future, such exemptions may be more limited and accordingly, we anticipate the costs of establishing and operating an investment fund product will continue to rise.

FEES

Although investor concerns around fees are now ranked by Preqin as only third behind performance concerns and market volatility1, pressures on fees continue. In March 2019, J.P. Morgan published their annual institutional investor survey, which suggested the average respondent was paying less than 1.5% in management fees, and performance fees above 17.5%2.

 Management Fees


This is borne out in our data too: 80% of funds surveyed launched with a management fee of less than 2%, and 44% of funds carried a 20% performance fee. There has also been an increase in funds charging performance fees of greater than 20%, though typically these funds have a reduced management fee. As noted in our previous analysis of fee structures, these figures, although indicative, may not represent the full picture as managers continue to make innovative fee arrangements with investors including in side letters and special founders classes.

Performance Fees

1 Preqin: 2019 Global Hedge Fund Report

2 J.P. Morgan’s Americas Capital Advisory Group: 2019 Institutional Investor Survey 



25-Nov-2019
Growth Continues With New Lawyers in Walkers' Jersey and Guernsey offices

Walkers' growth in the Channel Islands continues with three new arrivals in the last month in the firm's Investment Funds, Corporate and Listings teams.

Ellen Jarvis and Ruth Donnellan have joined the firm's Jersey office as associates in the Investment Funds & Corporate law team, while Anna Slusarczyk has joined the Guernsey office as a Listings Assistant in the TISE-focused pan-Island listings team.

Matthew Allen, who joined the Jersey Banking & Finance team in September, has also progressed to associate after formally qualifying as a Solicitor of Northern Ireland.

Jonathan Heaney, the managing partner of Walkers' Jersey office, said: "Our investment and growth here in the Channel Islands is continuing, and we are very pleased to welcome Ellen, Ruth and Anna on board, and to congratulate Matthew on his admission.

"2019 has been a great year for our team – we have welcomed four new partners in the Channel Islands through a mix of lateral hires and promotions, and we have also seen growth in client inquiries and instructions.

"We look forward to making more announcements in due course, and to continuing our recruitment activity in 2020."

Ellen joins Walkers from another leading offshore law firm in Jersey – she focuses on cross-border M&A and finance transactions, and is admitted in the Isle of Man.

Ruth is admitted in Ireland, and spent three years on the corporate law team of a large commercial law firm in Ireland before joining Walkers.

Anna was a Senior Analyst at TISE before joining Walkers' Listings Team in Guernsey as a Listings Assistant in the Guernsey office – the Walkers team has increased its market share as a listings sponsor on TISE, and is now the third-ranked sponsor.

18-Nov-2019
Walkers Advises On $1 Billion Facility For Rusal

Walkers has advised the lenders to international aluminium giant Rusal on the Jersey law aspects of a $1 billion pre-export finance facility.

Walkers' Jersey Banking & Finance team advised ING on the Jersey law elements of the five-year $1,085 million facility for the company, which is the world's biggest producer of green aluminium.

The Walkers team was led by partner Nigel Weston, working alongside senior counsel Jon Le Rossignol and associate Ellen Jarvis.

Walkers worked with lead counsel Clifford Chance on the financing.

Nigel said: "We are pleased to have supported Clifford Chance and ING on such a significant piece of work, having also advised lender-side on Rusal's existing $2 billion pre-export finance 2017 facility, which the proceeds of this facility will be used to partly refinance."

Walkers' specialist Banking & Finance team in Jersey continues to develop and grow – Jon and fellow senior counsel Tristan Maultby both joined the firm this year from competitor firms.

Walkers' legal headcount in Jersey has grown by 50% in the last 12 months as part of a continuing strategic growth plan across the Channel Islands.