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Robert Pickel (RP), chair of P.R.I.M.E. Finance, and Camilla Macpherson (CM), head of Secretariat discusses P.R.I.M.E. Finance’s new venture, PRIMEtime Virtual Events.
CM: We wanted to launch a programme that would help market participants and their advisers understand the issues arising out of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. P.R.I.M.E. Finance was formed in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis. The pandemic is, most immediately, a health crisis. Yet it is already becoming a financial crisis, and one which is likely to have enormous repercussions.
RP: We have been thrilled with the success of PRIMEtime. The events have enabled us to reach hundreds of attendees across more than thirty jurisdictions. The quality of our speakers, who have included Sir William Blair, the Hon. Elizabeth Stong, Jean Messinesi, Tim Massad, Dr Kay Swinburne, Gay Evans OBE, Blythe Masters, Tom Jasper and Rick Grove, is a huge part of the attraction. Our line-ups are testament to the quality of P.R.I.M.E. Finance’s panel of experts (now totalling more than 200!) and to our wide reach and contacts in the market.
CM: P.R.I.M.E. Finance was established to help resolve complex financial transactions. Our experts are unique in straddling the worlds of finance, financial markets law, and dispute resolution. PRIMEtime has focussed on these strengths, opening with sessions on dispute resolution, financial regulation and markets.
CM: Volatility in the markets leading to diminished liquidity is certainly likely to lead to disputes. Disputes over the interpretation of force majeure clauses in contracts, and the application of business interruption insurance policies, are also likely. We may see commercial mortgage backed securities get into difficulties due to falls in commercial rents. Insolvency is also a huge issue, with many businesses likely to shut their doors forever as a result of the pandemic.
RP: Most of the disputes coming out of the 2008–2009 Global Financial Crisis went through the courts, and some of them are only now being finally resolved. We firmly believe there is a role for other, more creative forms of dispute resolution, such as P.R.I.M.E. Finance, that can speed up the resolution process.
RP: Overall, the markets have continued to function quite well, despite increased uncertainty and volatility. It looks as if the raft of post-Global Financial Crisis regulation has largely succeeded in its aim of creating a more resilient banking infrastructure. However, we are still in the early stages of a recession. As time goes on we are likely to see greater pressure put on bank balance sheets. Some governments may also be storing up problems for themselves and for the banks by guaranteeing loans to small and medium sized businesses which may default.
CM: In Europe, Brexit adds a further complicating factor. Greater global cooperation is going to be an important factor in getting through the crisis.
RP: The pandemic is inevitably causing market disruption and liquidity issues. In the short term, many central banks are taking aggressive actions in response, including massive liquidity injections and credit market support as well as cutting interest rates. Many governments have also stepped in to minimise the impact of the pandemic. It remains to be seen how long these actions can be maintained, and how they can be unwound in due course. We may also see a growth in M&A activity as some businesses which can no longer survive on their own are absorbed or acquired.
CM: Increased market disruption also seems to have created opportunities for financial crime. As businesses come under increasing pressure to perform, they may be more vulnerable to financial crime and corruption, for example when negotiating contracts or applying for coronavirus support funding. Remote working also increases reliance on technology, and there have been a number of sophisticated coronavirus related cyberattacks.
CM: We are continuing with PRIMEtime, with the next session taking place on 27 July 2020. This is particularly timely, as it focusses on the UK’s very new Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020. Jennifer Marshall, insolvency and restructuring partner at Allen & Overy, Joanna Perkins, chief executive of the Financial Markets Law Committee, and Philip Wood CBE QC will discuss the key changes and the issues arising. You can register for this event here: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/7715947252929/WN_RFATOoaETPGYigmR15ba1Q.
We will then be taking a break for the summer. PRIMEtime Series 2 begins in September 2020, with sessions on insolvency and restructuring, sustainable finance and technology. After that, we are planning to develop some programmes with a regional focus.
RP: The impact of coronavirus means that we have decided to postpone our planned conferences in Singapore in September 2020 and New York in October 2020. However we are optimistic that our annual general meeting will go ahead at some point in the early part of 2021. 2021 marks P.R.I.M.E. Finance’s tenth anniversary (a major milestone!) so we hope to be able to see all of our experts, friends and supporters in person for the celebrations. In the meantime, we are excited to explore the virtual options and are grateful to our sponsor, Droit Financial Technologies, which has developed patented technology to automate decision making and regulatory compliance. And, of course, it has been great to work with the teams at LexisNexis and Mlex in promoting PRIMEtime.
To find out more about PRIMEtime Virtual Events, see: https://primefinancedisputes.org/page/primetime-virtual-events. Recordings of all sessions are available on the P.R.I.M.E. Finance and LexisPSL websites.
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Emma is head of the Banking and Finance team and the Finance Group at LexisNexis®UK.
Emma has wide-ranging experience in derivatives and capital markets with a particular emphasis on credit derivatives and structured products. Emma qualified as a solicitor with Allen & Overy LLP, working in the derivatives and structured finance teams in both their London and Paris offices before gaining experience with Deutsche Bank AG (advising the foreign exchange prime brokerage desk) and Crédit Agricole CIB (advising the fixed income and derivatives desk) before joining LexisNexis®.
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