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In this issue:
Risk & Compliance
Information Law & TMT
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.
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.
Spring Budget 2020—AML 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.
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.
Spring Budget 2020—business 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.
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.
Ben Archer, barrister at 4 New Square Chambers, considers the case of Signature Living Hotel Ltd v Sulyok  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).
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.
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  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).
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.
Spring Budget 2020—Coronavirus-related SSP changes
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.
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.
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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