Guest comment: NDAs and the profession’s cultural problem revealed before Parliament

Guest comment: NDAs and the profession’s cultural problem revealed before Parliament

Evidence before the Women and Equalities Committee last week (28 March) paints a worrying picture of ethics in the legal profession. And by ethics I do not mean some whispy, academic notion of doing the right thing. I mean professional ethics: understanding the Code of Conduct, and the law that governs lawyer behaviour. It was a lesson crystallised at the hearing by that well known purveyor of fey, leftist nostrums, Philip Davies MP. He distilled for the lawyers ranged before him a central question: why is it lawyers are very clear about their obligations to act in their clients best interests but so unclear about their other obligations?

Because though Allen & Overy (A&O) partner Mark Mansell did a decent job of balancing the need to engage with the new-fangled idea that all was not well with non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) without breaching that holy of holies, client confidences, he still dug himself a few holes in front of the assembled MPs. The veteran employment lawyer did so by talking in the abstract about an imagined, 20-year-old agreement that was negotiated over 24-hours-plus, with one 12-hour ‘all-nighter’ session, which prohibited one party from having a copy, which contained clauses designed to inhibit and limit disclosures to the police, medical practitioners, and others. Mansell said such an agreement could be described as unusual, or very unusual, or very, very unusual. But he wasn’t able to tell us, he said, about this agreement. Continue reading “Guest comment: NDAs and the profession’s cultural problem revealed before Parliament”

Welcome to the hurricane – Latam GCs struggle with corruption clampdown

Welcome to the hurricane – Latam GCs struggle with corruption clampdown

It has been a turbulent few years for many of those in the upper echelons of Brazilian politics and business. Around the world, headlines have been filled with salacious tales of corruption, perhaps most notably the bribery and kickback scandal emanating from state-backed oil giant Petrobras, embroiling many high-profile individuals and entities across the region.

Anti-corruption legislation and regulation enacted in the past five years – the so-called 2014 Clean Company Act, fully implemented in 2015 amid public unrest by the soon-to-be-impeached President Rousseff – has enabled Brazil to usher in a new era of compliance, the efficacy of which has left many in the business community reeling. The judge-led ‘Lava Jato’ (‘Carwash’) investigation, started in 2014, is perhaps the most recognisable herald of this new era. Continue reading “Welcome to the hurricane – Latam GCs struggle with corruption clampdown”

The offshore elite in review – rolling with the punches

The offshore elite in review – rolling with the punches

Global stock markets rose by 22% in 2017, according to the Morgan Stanley Capital International index of bourses. Meanwhile, the World Bank is forecasting global economic growth to increase to 3.1% this year after a better-than-expected 2017 as investment, trade and M&A continue to rebound while commodity prices recover. Against this favourable economic background, it is no surprise that offshore law firms had another very good year.

But there were some local difficulties. Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria created havoc across the Caribbean, not least in the British Virgin Islands (BVI). ‘It had a devastating impact on the lives of our BVI colleagues,’ says Jonathan Rigby, managing partner of Mourant Ozannes. ‘None of us will ever fully understand what they have been through, but their strength of character and resilience has been truly humbling.’ Continue reading “The offshore elite in review – rolling with the punches”

Rousing the bear – Russian counsel force to hunt in new places

Rousing the bear – Russian counsel force to hunt in new places

Russia’s propensity for volatility is infamous. Since its revolution 100 years ago, it has lived through events that the Soviet Union’s founders would never have imagined. Today, amid heightened geopolitical tensions, it continues to face huge uncertainty. But its law firms are adamant that it will continue to provide solid revenues.

‘Reports of Russia’s decline are much exaggerated and most of the issues with the West are not business-driven,’ argues Dimitry Afanasiev, chair and co-founder of Egorov Puginsky Afanasiev & Partners (EPAP). ‘When oil prices head north of $60 and the cycle in hard assets turns, we will remain strategically-placed to capitalise on the opportunities.’ Continue reading “Rousing the bear – Russian counsel force to hunt in new places”

‘A lot of noise without substance’: profession divided on impact of Paradise Papers

‘A lot of noise without substance’: profession divided on impact of Paradise Papers

As the contents of the Paradise Papers soaks up column inches worldwide, the profession has offered a mixed response so far to the revelations, with some welcoming public scrutiny while others dismiss it as un-newsworthy.

On 24 October, offshore firm Appleby confirmed that a ‘data security incident’ took place in 2016, raising fears that client information could become publicly available. Appleby also acknowledged that it had received enquiries from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which had published the Panama Papers in 2016, regarding the data breach. Continue reading “‘A lot of noise without substance’: profession divided on impact of Paradise Papers”

The new front

The new front

As expected – or feared – implementing the incoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a mammoth task for some companies. ‘It is all-encompassing,’ says Karen Kerrigan, chief legal officer at equity crowdfunding firm Seedrs. ‘The advantage of being a small business is that you can involve all the other departments. Frankly, I would be terrified of GDPR if I was at a large business, because you have to take a much more decisive risk-based approach in terms of what you are physically able to look at. We were able to sit down with our development team, our marketing team and our investments team, and go through every single one of their activities and the service providers they were using.’

To say GDPR will have wide implications for in-house teams is an understatement. It is unlikely that there will be any client or any part of a client’s business that will remain unaffected by the EU regulation, which has a deadline for implementation of 25 May 2018. Continue reading “The new front”

Letter from… Frankfurt: Where political deadlock is fine for business… but not all lawyers

Letter from… Frankfurt: Where political deadlock is fine for business… but not all lawyers

What a difference a few hundred miles can make: an election not resulting in a clear majority; a government polling much worse than expected; a leader weakened; and complicated negotiations ahead. In London, such headlines spell uncertainty, prudence, even panic.

While any poll in the UK fills its legal community with trepidation, the Germans reacted to the results of the federal election on 24 September by either stressing that no-one should overestimate the impact of politics on business or by saying it was good news. Says Georg Seyfarth, veteran corporate partner of German blueblood Hengeler Mueller: ‘Building the coalition will be difficult and it will take time. However, eventually we will see a “Jamaica coalition”, which will be good for businesses. The M&A market will not be affected.’ Continue reading “Letter from… Frankfurt: Where political deadlock is fine for business… but not all lawyers”

Quest to guard privilege begins as ENRC wins right to appeal SFO order

Quest to guard privilege begins as ENRC wins right to appeal SFO order

Throwing a lifeline to the increasingly eroded principle of legal professional privilege (LPP), Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation (ENRC) has this week been granted the right to appeal against a controversial order to disclose documents in a Serious Fraud Office (SFO) investigation. Hogan Lovells is the latest in a series of firms to be instructed by ENRC over the SFO investigation.

In May, the High Court had ruled that documents prepared by the mining giant ENRC relating to an SFO probe into alleged fraud, bribery and corruption were not covered by LPP and therefore had to be disclosed. Continue reading “Quest to guard privilege begins as ENRC wins right to appeal SFO order”