Latest Legal and Regulatory news update - 13th March

Latest Legal and Regulatory news update - 13th March

 

In this issue:

Brexit

In-house

Risk & Compliance

Commercial

Corporate

Information Law & TMT

Employment


Brexit

UK-EU trade talks

There are ‘very serious divergences’ between the EU and UK on their future trade relationship, the bloc’s chief Brexit negotiator said on 5 March 2020 as the first round of negotiations ended in Brussels. Michel Barnier also questioned the government's insistence that it won't extend the 11-month transition period, and highlighted its insistence on ‘a myriad of sectoral agreements’ instead of one overarching deal as a point of contention. See News Analysis: UK-EU trade talks break as conflicting positions draw slew of warnings from Barnier.


In-house

Flying Solo Event, 25th March 2020

LexisNexis and Radius Law are hosting a free ‘Flying Solo’ event on 25th March 2020 for in-house lawyers working solo or in small teams.

The rewards of working in a smaller in-house team are many, yet it can feel isolating. This free-to-join forum brings together in-house lawyers working solo or in smaller teams to network and learn from one another. This event will provide a chance to connect, swap stories, debate topical issues and share ideas. Click here to find out more about the event and to register your interest.


Risk & Compliance

Spring Budget 2020AML Levy

In the Spring 2020 Budget, the government announced its intention to introduce a levy to be paid by all firms subject to Money Laundering Regulations. The aim of the levy is to fund new government action to tackle money laundering and ensure that the government can deliver on reforms committed to in the Economic Crime Plan. The levy will help safeguard the UK’s international reputation as a safe and transparent jurisdiction to conduct business. Alun Milford, Criminal Litigation Partner at Kingsley Napley, believes that the levy ‘addresses only one piece of the puzzle’. See: LNB News 11/03/2020 102.

 

Crime prevention

Measures in the US to control the spread of the new coronavirus are having an impact on travel for white collar lawyers, who say that restrictions have slowed some international investigations. See News Analysis: US cross border probes slowing amid coronavirus precautions.

On Monday, 9 March 2020, US federal prosecutors filed a notice to appeal a US federal judge’s decision to overturn the foreign bribery convictions of former Alstom SA executive Lawrence Hoskins, who was accused of bribing Indonesian officials to gain a US$118m energy contract. See News Analysis: US federal prosecutors to appeal ex-Alstom executive’s bribery acquittal ruling.

The National Economic Crime Centre (NECC), alongside the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development, has produced an amber alert on the subject of illicit financial risks relating to South Sudan. The alert, which was issued on behalf of the NECC by the National Crime Agency, highlights, for members of the UK-regulated sector, the threats that they should be aware of when doing business in South Sudan or with South Sudanese actors, including corruption and money laundering. See: LNB News 09/03/2020 35.

 

Privilege

The case of Addlesee v Dentons Europe LLP offers useful guidance on and an example of the so-called iniquity exception to legal professional privilege, and confirms that for the exception to apply, the claimants must show a strong prima facie case. Written by Phillip Patterson, barrister, at Hardwicke Chambers. See News Analysis: Strong prima facie case of fraud must be shown if fraud/iniquity exception to LPP is to apply (Addlesee v Dentons Europe LLP).


Commercial

Spring Budget 2020business rates & VAT

The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has confirmed that for a period of one year, the business rates retail discount will increase from one third to 50% for properties with a rateable value below £51,000 in England starting from 1 April 2020. Government has confirmed that the discount will be expanded to include cinemas and music venues. Additionally, the retail discount will be increased to 100% and expanded to include hospitality and leisure businesses for 2021 in an attempt to support small businesses in response to Coronavirus (COVID-19). Bryan Johnston, partner and head of the Property Litigation team at Dentons, has commended the announcement. See LNB News 11/03/2020 125.

Legislation to apply a zero rate of VAT to e-publications will be introduced by the government and will apply from 1 December 2020. This measure aims at ensuring that e-books, e-newspapers, e-magazines and academic e-journals receive the same VAT treatment as their physical counterparts. Eloise Walker, partner at Pinsent Masons, has commented on the measures outlined in the Spring Budget 2020. See: LNB News 11/03/2020 122.

 

Consumer protection

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has released a statement on sales and pricing practices during the outbreak of coronavirus. The CMA aim to ensure that traders do not use the outbreak of coronavirus to take advantage of people. The CMA has stated that they will consider any evidence regarding companies breaking competition or consumer protection law and will take direct enforcement action. The CMA are also considering whether it is appropriate to advise government to take direct action to regulate prices. See: LNB News 05/03/2020 57.

 

Contracts

Ben Archer, barrister at 4 New Square Chambers, considers the case of Signature Living Hotel Ltd v Sulyok [2020] EWHC 257 (Ch). The High Court found that guarantees executed, but unenforceable, as deeds may take effect as simple contracts where supported by sufficient consideration. See News Analysis: Guarantees unenforceable as deeds due to improper execution may take effect as simple contracts (Signature Living Hotel Ltd v Sulyok).

In the case of Man Ching Yuen v Landy Chet Kin Wong, the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) considered an important point on which there is no clear authority, concerning whether, for the purpose of creating a deed, it is possible to witness a signature remotely, ie does the law in relation to deeds require physical presence, or is virtual presence enough? A related question was also considered, namely whether a witness to a signature could attest to the said witnessing days after the event. Written by Tricia Hemans, barrister at Falcon Chambers. See News Analysis: Can a deed be witnessed remotely and attested latterly? (Man Ching Yuen v Landy Chet Kin Wong).

 

Supply of services

To succeed in a claim for unjust enrichment, the claimant must prove that the defendant has been enriched. In the recent case of Dowman Imports v 2 Toobz, however, the court has held that a claim in unjust enrichment can succeed ‘even if the idea of an enduring benefit to the defendant is essentially a fictional one’. This wide-ranging judgment provides useful guidance on the court’s approach to unjust enrichment claims for services provided in anticipation of concluding a contract. Written by Harriet Campbell, professional support lawyer, at Stephenson Harwood LLP. See News Analysis: Unjust enrichment and quantum meruit claims (Dowman Imports v 2 Toobz).


Corporate

Spring Budget 2020—business tax

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced a new 2% tax on the revenues of certain digital businesses from 1 April 2020, the maintenance of corporation tax at 19% in 2020 and various changes regarding business rates. Eloise Walker of Pinsent Masons LLP has commented on the announcements and its benefits for small businesses. See LNB News 11/03/2020 131.

For a summary of the key business tax announcements made in the Chancellor’s Budget, see News Analysis: Spring Budget 2020—Tax analysis.

 

Accounts & reports

Companies House has shared guidance for companies that have been affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) and would need more time to file their accounts. Every year, companies have the obligation to send their accounts, reports and confirmation statements to Companies House. Companies House mentions that filling late the accounts without having applied to extend the period would result in an automatic penalty. See LNB News 11/03/2020 135.


Information Law & TMT

Data protection

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has published an update on its Sandbox initiative, six months after launching the beta phase. The Sandbox initiative aims to support organisations innovating using data protection by design. The ten projects selected represent a range of industries and organisations. See: LNB News 10/03/2020 8.

The High Court granted an application for summary judgment in Scott v LGBT Foundation Ltd [2020] EWHC 483 (QB), which concerned disclosures of information made by the defendant to the claimant’s GP as a result of the defendant’s concerns about the claimant’s welfare. The High Court struck out claims for breach of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA 1998), breach of confidence and breach of privacy. See News Analysis: Verbal disclosure was not processing of personal data (Scott v LGBT Foundation Ltd).

 

Cybersecurity

As part of its role is to help firms become more resilient to cyber-attacks, so reducing the risk and frequency of disruption, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has published a document bringing together industry insights on cyber resilience. The document covers governance, identification, protection, detection, situational awareness, response and recovery, and testing. See: LNB News 11/03/2020 96.


Employment

Spring Budget 2020—Coronavirus-related SSP changes

Special provision for refunding Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) payments paid out by employers with fewer than 250 employees has been announced by the government in the Spring Budget as part of a number of temporary measures intended to assist businesses with increased costs or disruptions to their cash flow that they may experience as a result of coronavirus. See News Analysis: Special temporary measures for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) refunds announced in Budget.

 

Pay

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) will be made payable from day one of a sickness period, under emergency legislation relating to the coronavirus, according to a press release issued by the DWP. However, the CBI and TUC have stated that wider temporary legislative measures relating to SSP are required. See News Analysis: Update on proposed coronavirus-related SSP changes.

 

IR35

From 6 April 2020 private sector companies (subject to some exemptions) will be responsible for determining the tax status of contractors under the IR35 legislation which could mean that Individuals who have previously been regarded as purely self-employed contractors and not workers might be re-categorised as workers and be entitled to membership of a pension scheme. Written by Matthew Sharp and Jeremy Harris at Fieldfisher LLP. See News Analysis: IR35 off-payroll working rules and the pensions impact.

 

Apprenticeships

Employers accessing apprenticeship funds through the apprenticeship service or making changes to an existing apprentice account must accept the new employer agreement with the Education and Skills Funding Agency. See: LNB News 06/03/2020 45.

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About the author:
Allison is a former partner of Shoosmiths, with extensive experience of legal management and practice compliance.