Our Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Walkers continues to monitor the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its people, its clients and its business.

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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 is pleased to announce that its 2020 Students, Graduates and Training Programmes are open.

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Bermuda Economic Substance Filings - Update

Industry Notices
In relation to the Economic Substance Act 2018 (the “Act”) and the related Guidance Notes issued by the Minister of Finance on 24 December 2019 (the “Guidance Notes”), the Registrar of Companies has prepared draft supplemental schedules to the Guidance Notes providing additional sector-specific guidance in relation to each of the relevant activities set out in the Act (the "Sector-Specific Guidance").

The draft Sector-Specific Guidance remains subject in all respects to review by the EU Code of Conduct Group on Business Taxation (the “Code Group”), and by the OECD Forum on Harmful Tax Practices (“FHTP”), and the Registrar of Companies is actively engaged with both for that purpose.

Subject to any comments received from either of the Code Group or FHTP, and to any comments received from industry, it is expected that the Sector-Specific Guidance will be issued by the Minister of Finance later this year.

The Registrar of Companies has also issued an industry notice acknowledging the challenges of business continuity in the context of COVID-19, and indicating that the Registrar would take into account circumstances where meetings or other similar compliance measures that are required under the Act and the Economic Substance Regulations 2018, as amended (the "Bermuda ES Laws") are not possible due to necessary travel or quarantine restrictions. Entities are reminded that they should keep careful records of all applicable circumstances and should continue in good faith to ensure ongoing compliance with the Bermuda ES Laws.

Economic Substance Filing Portal
For an overview of the requirements of the Bermuda ES Laws and which 'relevant activities' are caught, please refer to Walkers' advisory.

Entities that are conducting a 'relevant activity' and entities that are claiming 'non-resident entity' status under the Bermuda ES Laws, in each case, in respect of the financial period from 1 January 2019 to 31 December 2019, are reminded that they are obliged to file their economic substance declarations as required under the Bermuda ES Laws or to assert such claims on or before 30 June 2020.

The Registrar of Companies will be launching its online portal for filing electronic substance declarations and claims for non-resident entity status under the Act with effect on 1 May 2020 and entities or their authorised representatives will be able to submit their filings from that date.

Electronic signatures in Jersey and Guernsey - A Practical Guide

This note provides a high level overview of the position on electronic signatures in Jersey and Guernsey. The subject has been of particular interest recently, since businesses inside and outside of the Channel Islands began adopting working from home procedures in response to COVID-19 social distancing protocols.

The primary relevant legislation in Jersey is the Electronic Communications (Jersey) Law 2000, as helpfully amended in October 2019 by the Electronic Communications (Amendment of Law) (Jersey) Regulations 2019. Guernsey’s primary legislation is the Electronic Transactions (Guernsey) Law, 2000 (as amended).

Fundamentally, it is clear as a matter of the laws of both Jersey and Guernsey that contracts may be formed by electronic means. There is no legal distinction drawn between exchanges of emails, application of signatures using specialist apps, copying snipping or scanning and pasting of pdf signatures into pdf docs, typing in of names in BOLD CAPITALS in lieu of signatures and so forth. That said, our view is that best practice would involve signatories each applying their own e-signature using a specialist e-signing application.

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Recent Events Affecting the Bermuda Funds Industry and Upcoming Filings

Whether you are looking to set up a new fund vehicle, want to promote an overseas investment fund in Bermuda or have existing closed- or openended structures, here’s what you need to know.

  1. Effective 18 February 2020, Bermuda was upgraded to European Union’s (EU) ‘cooperative jurisdiction’ status
  2. Closed-ended funds are now in scope and must register with BMA – transition period ends 30 June 2020
  3. Overseas investment funds managed or promoted in or from within Bermuda must register with BMA – transition period ends 30 June 2020
  4. Fund Rules now apply to all authorised and registered funds
  5. Upcoming filing deadlines

 

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Update on Court Availability in Guernsey, Ireland and Jersey | 17 April 2020

In these unprecedented times, governments globally are reacting to the ongoing threat of COVID-19, including the availability of public services such as access to the courts for hearings and other judicial services such as filings and searches. The situation is changing all the time, but as of 17 April 2020, we confirm that the current status of the relevant courts in Guernsey, Ireland and Jersey is as below.

Generally, the Courts in each jurisdiction are continuing to operate, but with the priority given to urgent matters, with precautionary steps being taken including utilising technology where possible to limit the potential spread of the virus.

 

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Update on Measures Implemented by the Grand Court of the Cayman Islands

The Grand Court of the Cayman Islands (the “Grand Court”) has implemented a number of pro-active practical steps and practice directions that are aimed to ensure continuity of its operations in response to the Covid-19 pandemic (read our earlier advisory dated 3 April 2020 on court availability in BVI, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands).

These are largely in response to the Cayman Islands Government putting into force the Public Health (Prevention, Control and Suppression of COVID-19) Regulations 2020, which set out various restrictions on movement and permitted activities for the public and businesses alike for the time being.

One of the main practice directions to take effect as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic is Practice Direction No 5 of 2020 concerning “The Use of E-mails for Filing and Electronic Signatures, Court Seals and Stamps” (“PD 5/20”), which was gazetted on 9 April 2020. The primary purpose of PD 5/20 is to provide a temporary means of receiving and processing certain court documents which must be authenticated by a signature, seal or stamp. This is achieved through the use of specialist software run on a dedicated on-site server at the Grand Court.

The Grand Court also confirmed in a press release dated 28 March 2020 that updated practice directions on video-link proceedings will be issued shortly.

 

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