Company & Commercial Law

Jeremy Leese
Recent statutory amendments, introduced by the Companies Amendment Act 2013, mean that Bermuda companies listed on appointed stock exchanges are no longer required to file prospectuses in Bermuda. Previously, a Bermuda company listed on an appointed stock exchange (which covers many of the world’s major stock exchanges) had to file with the Registrar of Companies in Bermuda a copy, signed by or on behalf of all directors of the company, of any prospectus that had to be filed under the rules of that stock exchange (or pursuant to the rules of the relevant regulator in such jurisdiction). The legislation now in effect abolishes the requirement to also file such prospectus in Bermuda.

Jane Collis
The principle of separate legal personality of a company has been affirmed in yesterday’s Supreme Court case of Prest v. Petrodel Resources Limited, and the principles upon which the court will act to “pierce the corporate veil” have been clarified, but it remains the case that upon divorce, the court will look carefully at the reality of the structure to achieve a fair distribution of assets. The decision has important implications for all those engaged in the trusts and corporate services business. A unanimous Supreme Court overturned the decision of the Court of Appeal yesterday in the case of Prest v. Petrodel Resources Limited and others [2013] UKSC 34 (400 KB PDF). At stake was the issue of whether it is open to the court, in an application for ancillary relief in divorce proceedings, to treat assets of a company of which one spouse is the sole controller as being assets to which that spouse is “entitled” for the purposes of Section 24(1)(a) of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. Lying at the heart of the matter are the competing objectives of the commercial and family law divisions, the former of which seeks adherence to established legal principles to ensure commercial certainty for parties dealing at arm’s length, while the latter aims to achieve a “fair result” in circumstances where the parties are dealing at anything but arm’s length.

Timothy Frith
In my earlier post Bermuda Calling: Telecommunications Reform & Investment Opportunity, I described how telecommunications in Bermuda is undergoing root and branch reform with a view to not only making the industry more competitive but more attractive to investors. The overhaul in telecommunications, following extensive consultation with stakeholders, is embodied in two key pieces of legislation, the Regulatory Authority Act 2011 and the Electronic Communications Act 2011, both of which have become the twin foundation of Bermudian Regulatory Reform in the Telecommunications sector. Now, an update: On the 18th March 2013, Digicel issued an initial complaint to the Regulatory Authority stating that North Rock is providing bundling services and should not be doing so until Integrated Communication Operating Licenses (ICOLs) are issued. The complaint was a result of the examination of North Rock’s advertising material and flyers and their marketing campaign entitled “Blazing Bundles”.

Bermuda is emerging as a leader in the global insurance linked securities (ILS) market, just three years after ILS were first listed on the Bermuda Stock exchange. This is no small achievement for Bermuda, which will further make its mark on the world stage when it plays host to the global ILS conference, Convergence 2013, in November.  What sets Bermuda apart? According to Dr. Grant Gibbons, Minister for Economic Development, Bermuda’s success can be attributed to having the right mix of several critical factors at the right time. “A combination of intellectual capital, leading investor and reinsurance marketplaces, a tried and tested approach and the right listing and regulatory backdrop”, explained Dr. Gibbons, “[all] provide for optimal conditions and competitive advantage for transacting insurance-linked deals”. Bermuda is one of the world’s largest reinsurance markets, hosting some 1,400 insurance companies with total assets of approximately $442 billion. The Island has over three decades of experience in providing sophisticated insurance solutions to a global client base and as host of the global ILS conference in November, Bermuda will see insurance and reinsurance companies, investors, sponsors, securities firms and investment banks, asset managers, regulators and service providers congregate to network and discuss the industry’s most strategic opportunities and pressing challenges.

Brian Holdipp
Bermuda’s new Government has re-affirmed the commitment made last year to develop the new Business Bermuda Development Corporation (“BBDC”) as the preferred vehicle to give common strategic direction to the Island’s business development efforts. The re-affirmation came most recently in the Budget Statement of the new Minister of Finance who said:
The BBDC is a private public partnership that is intended to spearhead the promotion of Bermuda as a preferred domicile for a variety of international business activities, including reinsurance, asset management, trusts and fund administration. This involves organizing all the relevant stakeholders and formulating a coherent mission for the BBDC and strategies to achieve that mission.
The BBDC will come under a new Ministry of Economic Development which has declared a twofold objective:

Timothy Frith
Telecommunications in Bermuda is undergoing root and branch reform with a view to not only making the industry more competitive but more attractive to investors. The commitment to change has been signalled by the establishment of the much-needed, long-overdue Regulatory Authority and an easing of restrictions on foreign investment. The overhaul in telecommunications, following extensive consultation with stakeholders, is embodied in two key pieces of legislation, the Regulatory Authority Act 2011 and the Electronic Communications Act 2011, both of which will become the twin foundation of Bermudian Regulatory Reform. One of the more important changes will be the removal of the requirement for separate licence categories based on services provided and the introduction of a single standard communications licence.

Cynthia Williams
Bermuda now boasts a new licensing and supervisory regime for professional corporate service providers designed to enhance the efficiency of incorporations in Bermuda. The changes, which came into effect at the start of the year, are regarded as good news for Bermuda as they will eliminate double vetting, decrease the need for due diligence on shareholders with voting rights of less than 10 percent and improve the efficiency of registration by using an electronic system that gives immediate results. In the ideal case a company could now be formed and registered within an hour. The new regime was established under the Bermuda Corporate Service Provider Business Act (“the CSP Act 2012”) which came into effect on January 1st, 2013.