As the global economy continues to evolve in the aftermath of the credit crunch, lawyers from Conyers Dill & Pearman provided a timely update on regulatory developments offshore to over 100 lawyers and financial executives at the firm’s 8th Annual Offshore Law Seminar, held last month at the Grand Hyatt in New York.
Overall, the message was that the leading international financial centres in which Conyers operates have emerged as those able to enact innovative legislation with sound financial regulation meeting the standards of international bodies including the OECD and G20.
A panel of Conyers lawyers provided an in-depth look at the state of the market and the impact of the credit crunch on legal systems in the major jurisdictions of the Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands (“BVI”) Bermuda and Mauritius.
Robert Briant, Managing Partner of the firm’s BVI office, opened the seminar by drawing an important distinction between offshore financial centres and tax secrecy jurisdictions: “The jurisdictions we advise on are tax neutral locations that facilitate international cross-border transactions. Bank secrecy jurisdictions facilitate the confidentiality of one’s affairs. The difference could not be more stark. Each of our jurisdictions plays a legitimate role in global transactions, and all are on the OECD White List.” Briant also gave updates on the BVI commercial court and upcoming Securities and Business Act, which will require every BVI company worldwide which carries on investment business to be licensed.
Richard Finlay, Managing Partner of the firm’s Cayman Islands office, discussed developments in the Cayman Islands: “Cayman has modernized its partnership legislation in response to the increased use of exempted limited partnerships by private equity and hedge funds. Also, we are pleased to report this quarter that for the first time since 2008, there has been an increase in the number of funds being licensed in Cayman. Another important development is the admission of CIMA as a member of IOSCO, which will allow Cayman funds access to emerging markets like India. The timing could not be better: we are already seeing Cayman funds investing in India through Mauritius subsidiaries.”
Devalingum Gopalla, a Mauritius associate based in the firm’s London office, talked about Mauritius as the jurisdiction of choice for structuring investments into Africa, India and China: “Mauritius has an extensive network of double taxation treaties and offers something different to the traditional offshore jurisdictions. It is attracting some of the biggest enterprises in the US and Europe who are looking to invest in emerging markets, and has fast become a hub for private equity investment into Africa. Mauritius already accounts for about 44% of foreign direct investment into India. We are seeing increased interest from China in investing in Africa through Mauritius.”
Meanwhile in Bermuda, new Partnership Legislation introduced this summer is expected to improve the efficiency of formation and administration of Bermuda partnerships and streamline procedures for overseas partnerships and will be particularly welcomed by investment fund clients. The Companies Act was also revised this year to improve the efficiency for Bermuda companies listed on US exchanges.
Anthony Whaley, partner in the firm’s Bermuda office, commented: “We are pleased to be able to deliver insight on the leading jurisdictions to onshore lawyers, particularly during this time of global economic uncertainty. The audience’s response was very positive, and we look forward to next year’s forum.”