When considering key trends and developments in the legal sector in 2020, it is impossible to ignore the global Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on working practices around the world. The BVI has risen to these challenges thanks to its modern and flexible legal framework and proactive adoption of innovative new technology including virtual hearings and meetings, online filing systems, and electronic execution of documents.When considering key trends and developments in the legal sector in 2020, it is impossible to ignore the global Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on working practices around the world. The BVI has risen to these challenges thanks to its modern and flexible legal framework and proactive adoption of innovative new technology including virtual hearings and meetings, online filing systems, and electronic execution of documents.
Even prior to the outbreak of the pandemic, the BVI Commercial Court had already moved to a system of e-litigation, allowing for electronic filing and service of all court documents in claims issued after November 2018. However, as a direct result of Covid-19, an emergency Practice Direction was issued in March 2020 which introduced a number of new measures overnight, including:
- electronic filing and service of court documents in claims not already subject to the existing e-litigation provisions;
- remote hearings (on Zoom) as the default position – the BVI court’s Zoom platform has been in operation successfully since 2017; and
- provision for electronic court bundles.
The court, and its legal practitioners, adapted swiftly and seamlessly to these changes. Indeed, since March 2020, a significant number of hearings, including trials, have been conducted entirely remotely and have proved to be popular with clients and court users alike. It is likely that remote hearings will remain the default position for the foreseeable future.
Board and Shareholder Meetings
Lockdowns and travel restrictions have made physical meetings largely impossible, but BVI law provides an extremely flexible approach to meetings. Subject to the requirements of their articles, BVI companies may hold board and shareholder meetings by audio or video conferencing or by way of written resolutions which may be executed in counterparts. There is no general requirement for a BVI company to have an annual shareholder meeting unless required by its articles (which is often the case for listed BVI companies).
Incorporations and Corporate Filings
The BVI Registry’s innovative VIRRGIN online system and the BOSS electronic platform allow corporate incorporation and other filings, including the public registration of charges and annual economic substance filings, to be made online, with filing fees payable by wire transfer.
Electronic Execution of Documents
BVI law provides a comprehensive and flexible approach to electronic execution of documents. PDF scanned copies of signatures are valid with no requirements for original documents or ‘wet ink’ signatures. In addition, digital signatures (including systems such as Docusign) are generally permitted under BVI law for documents other than deeds, wills or the conveyance of interests in real property. There are no requirements for documents to be legalised, notarised or apostilled and, subject to the company’s articles, documents (including deeds) may be executed by any one director of a BVI company without the need for a seal or for the signature to be witnessed. Provided that the consent of the signatory is obtained, BVI law also expressly permits pre-executed signature pages (whether under hand or under seal) to be attached to documents, including deeds, governed by BVI law.
Rachael Pape is an experienced associate in the corporate department of Conyers in the British Virgin Islands. She has a broad corporate and finance practice with particular expertise in corporate finance and reorganisations, capital markets and investment funds. Rachael is recognised as a Rising Star in The Legal 500 and IFLR.
T: +1 284 852 1114
Matthew Brown is an associate in the litigation and restructuring department of Conyers in the British Virgin Islands. His practice covers all contentious aspects of commercial, trusts and insolvency law. Since joining the firm in 2017 Matthew has been involved in some of the jurisdiction’s leading cases, and has appeared in a number of cases in the Commercial Court and the Court of Appeal. Matthew is recognised as a Rising Star in The Legal 500.
T: +1 284 852 1121