HONG KONG HK

UN express concerns over Hong Kong National Security Law

Seven UN human rights experts signed a letter to the Chinese government expressing concerns about whether China is complying with its international obligations for human rights standards. The letter, made public Friday, specifically questioned The Law of the People’s Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, or the “National Security Law.”

As noted in the letter, sent September 1, the UN has expressed concerns regarding this law before and has exchanged several communications with Chinese officials about it. The UN members who wrote this letter also cited numerous obligations imposed by the UN requiring greater care in the passage of laws, such as by encouraging specific laws so as to “prevent ill-defined and/or overly broad laws which are open to arbitrary application and abuse and may lead to arbitrary deprivation of liberty.”

The National Security Law at issue was passed on July 1, and it went into force that same day. It specifies four categories of offenses that are said to endanger national security: “secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with a foreign country or with external elements.”

Terrorism is defined broadly as including damage to physical property “such as sabotage of transport facilities or public services.” A UN Special Rapporteur released a thematic report in 2019 stating that “[d]efinitions of terrorism that include damage to property, including public property … seriously affect the right to freedom of assembly … [and] can be used against individuals engaging in social movements where damage to property is unwittingly incurred.”

In light of these and other concerns expressed in the letter, the UN requested a response to their points, an explanation of how the law does not infringe on the rights that China is obligated to provide under international law, how the country will be enforcing the law to not infringe on such rights, and the positive measures and oversight of the exercising of this law.

A Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Hua Chunying commented on the UN letter during a press conference on Friday, stating “We urge [the UN] to earnestly respect the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, discard ignorance, prejudice and double standards, and stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs.” Chunying also stated that the law is widely accepted in Hong Kong, despite the many ongoing protests against the law throughout the region.

London Remains No.1 for Resolving INTL Commercial Disputes

Reports on London’s Commercial Court and from major arbitration institutions have confirmed London as the most popular forum for international dispute resolution, with English law remaining the top choice for the resolution of international disputes.

English law is commonly preferred for governing law clauses in international contracts because it is based on well-founded principles, transparent and provides predictability of outcome, legal certainty and fairness. English law respects parties’ freedom to contract and is supportive of commerce, which is reflected in its popularity.

The Commercial Court in London deals with complex cases arising out of national and international business disputes commonly relating to insurance and reinsurance, banking and financial markets, commodities, shipping and arbitration. The court’s international appeal was confirmed in the 2020 Portland Report. In the year to March 2020, the Commercial Court heard cases involving parties from 72 countries with the top nationalities being Kazakhstan, Russia, United States, Cyprus and Singapore.

London is also home to well-established arbitral institutions and organizations such as the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) and continues to be the most selected seat for International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) arbitrations.

The LCIA is one of the oldest and leading arbitral institutions in the world. A record 406 cases were referred to the LCIA in 2019, by parties from 138 different countries and addressing disputes covering all aspects of international commerce, with the banking and finance, energy and resources, and transport and commodities sectors accounting for almost 70% of cases according to their Annual Casework Report 2019. Over 80% of these new cases had a governing law clause providing for English law and/or England as the arbitral seat, reflecting the predominance of London and the importance of English law in international trade.

Despite being located in Paris, ICC arbitration is commonly conducted in London. The ICC 2019 Statistics Report shows that the disputes are from a wide range of sectors although 40% of disputes come from the construction, engineering and energy sectors. They also record that the parties to ICC arbitrations in 2019 were located in 147 countries, a growing number, but nearly 80% of awards were given in English and as well as London being the preferred seat, English law was the most popular choice of law.

Response to the Global Pandemic

The approach of the English courts to the pandemic, wherever possible, has been “business as usual.” For commercial disputes, this was possible because the English Commercial Court has long had the power to hold hearings remotely, although previously this was generally limited to some witnesses who were abroad, giving video evidence, use of electronic bundles, and for some interlocutory matters. The logistical impact of the pandemic on parties worldwide quickly led to the transition to remote hearings, which has generally been smooth. Almost all of the Commercial Court’s work is said by them to have been conducted on time, with only limited significant adjournments. The first virtual hearing took place in the Commercial Court the same week as the lockdown started in the U.K., illustrating the quick response.

The use of videoconferencing was also not new in international arbitration proceedings, but again arbitral proceedings were not typically conducted with each participant in a separate location. The ICC and LMAA have both now issued guidance to address some of the unique challenges of virtual hearings including their own checklists and guidelines for such hearings. It has been suggested that more arbitrations were postponed than court hearings in response to the restrictions on travel nationally and internationally. This may, however, partly be due to the consensual nature of arbitration, although some adjourned arbitrations are now proceeding virtually due to the ongoing restrictions and the success of remote hearings.

It is also noteworthy that many arbitrations are determined on the documents only (i.e., without a hearing), and so will have been largely unaffected by the pandemic. This approach is particularly popular for London Maritime Arbitration Association (LMAA) arbitrations, which are commonly used by international parties to resolve commercial shipping and shipbuilding disputes as well as disputes related to the offshore oil and gas sector. According to its former president, Ian Gaunt, 80% of LMAA arbitrations are normally dealt with in this manner. 

Future

The Commercial Court and LMAA have both indicated that they expect that, given how well users have adapted to virtual hearings, there will not be a complete return to conventional style hearings in the future. There is no doubt that some aspects of virtual hearings will be considered going forward, and it may be beneficial to have hybrid hearings which could make hearings more streamlined, efficient and cost-effective, although at the expense of not seeing all witnesses in person. While the future remains uncertain in these unprecedented times, parties will hopefully benefit from the lessons learned and will continue to keep London and English law their top choice for arbitration and litigation.

Fiona Cain is counsel in the dispute resolution team of Haynes and Boone in London.

Microsoft Names Winning Firms in Legal Innovation Challenge

Microsoft’s legal department has awarded two teams of law firms a slot in its innovation accelerator after a monthslong competition among outside providers that was geared toward investing in technology and solving the tech giant’s business challenges.

For three years, Microsoft’s legal department, led by the corporate, legal and external affairs team, and now the newly formed Modern Legal Team, have challenged several of its outside providers to think differently about the provision of legal services, efficiency, technology, and just generally work to help Microsoft do more with less. This year, the focus was on digital transformation and the use of technology, and 13 firms (nine teams) competed for a chance for their idea to move into the accelerator program through which Microsoft would help bring the concept to fruition.

Microsoft’s picks for the winning projects, along with the entire Legal Business Design Challenge, crystallize the ways in which clients are looking for outside providers to marshal varied skill sets, use technology, collaborate with other providers and do more than just pure legal work.

As Rebecca Benavides, director of legal business for CELA, said before announcing the winners June 17, Microsoft is now doing mission critical work in light of COVID-19, plus the run of business work. So it’s more important than ever for the legal department and its outside providers to be investing in and using technology in an effort to operate more efficiently.

Benavides also said Microsoft wants firms to steer those initiatives. “Sometimes we don’t know what we want,” she said, but law firms can leverage their experience across clients to provide the solution Microsoft couldn’t envision. The use of tech is also increasingly factored into Microsoft’s RFPs.

“These client-facing solutions/pitches have an added benefit of making the teams doing the work more effective, more efficient and more productive in the delivery of legal services,” Benavides added Friday via email. “As we all continue to work from home with our professional and personal lives blending together and competing for our attention, the ability to prioritize efforts, automate workflows and make room for more strategic efforts will be critical.”

The providers competing this year were Arent Fox; Covington & Burling; Fish & Richardson; Integreon; K&L Gates; Merchant & Gould; Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe; Sidley Austin; and a combo team of unlikely allies, Davis Wright Tremaine, Greenberg Traurig and Perkins Coie. They were all initially set to pitch their ideas at Microsoft’s Redmond, Washington, headquarters in early March, but the event was canceled at the last minute due to the coronavirus outbreak in the area.

In the months that followed, the teams recalibrated and pitched their solutions remotely. On June 17, Microsoft, along with consultants at Bold Duck Studio, announced the winning teams in a two-hour virtual version of the forum.

The winners were: the trio of Greenberg Traurig, Perkins Coie and Davis Wright Tremaine, and the pitch by K&L Gates. Both teams focused on streamlining Microsoft’s sales and contracts processes, albeit in very different arenas.

Annette Becker, K&L Gates’ relationship partner to Microsoft, has worked with the company for 19 years and was able to quickly see some stumbling blocks in the way of achieving Microsoft’s stated goal of becoming carbon negative by 2030.

Becker and a group of other K&L Gates lawyers teamed up with Melissa Speidel, director of K&L Gates’ business transformation office, and her team to solve a contractual pain point—the time it took to close renewable purchase agreements. Under the current time-to-close, Microsoft would not meet its 2030 deadline. The artificial intelligence tool K&L Gates’ team of lawyers and business professionals will work on during the accelerator program will better harness information on who needs to be involved in contract execution, as well as better organize historical data that can follow contract life cycles even if the people involved in their execution have left the company.

Benavides described K&L Gates’ submission among those aimed at “working smarter,” and understanding that the scarcest resource a company has is human attention.

The second winning team of Perkins Coie, Greenberg Traurig and Davis Wright Tremaine was described as checking all the boxes. It demonstrated collaboration among providers, the heavy reliance on business professionals and a solution that solved a significant business problem.

The three firms started working together at Microsoft’s urging about a year ago when Judy Jennison, the client lead for Microsoft from Perkins Coie, and Bobby Rosenbloum, chairman of Greenberg Traurig’s entertainment and media practice, were both looking at ways to handle the company’s distributed sales agreements on an alternative fee basis. They decided to bring in experts from Davis Wright Tremaine and its legal solutions design arm, De Novo.

Rosenbloum said the trio could replace the number of smaller firms Microsoft was using, and still have plenty of work for each of them given their varying levels of expertise, their geographic footprints and the ability to step in for one another when conflicts arise. From that collaboration arose their pitch to use AI, clause libraries and other tools to streamline the sales’ teams contract timeline.

“It requires a change in mindset, working in a transparent way and a willingness to share information and learnings and guidance without feeling like we are losing some kind of competitive edge,” Rosenbloum said of the three firms working together.

The team is also relying heavily on project management experts, with Amy Monaghan, the senior practice innovations manager for Perkins Coie, and Gerald Glover III, the client experience manager for Davis Wright Tremaine, taking lead roles.

“Tech is a very important component, but in order to make this successful, our success hinges on all of our collaboration with each other and then with Microsoft,” Monaghan said. “So the human component can’t be overlooked.”

The goal is to have Microsoft’s team and outside counsel practice “at the top of their license,” she said. Dennis Garcia, assistant general counsel at Microsoft, and his team work most closely with the sales team the trio will be aiding. Monaghan said his team was often spending time on finding information rather than focusing on more strategic initiatives. The group’s pitch is to turn “sad knowledge” that is unstructured and not easily accessed, into “happy knowledge” that can be structured and get to the right people quickly.

Both teams will spend the next few months working with Bold Duck Studios and Microsoft to get their projects to completion by Nov. 1. The law firms are footing the bill for the investment in the technology.

Brookfield on US$100 Million Sale of Thai Solar Energy Business

Global law firm White & Case LLP has advised Brookfield Renewable Partners on the sale of its solar energy business in Thailand to Global Power Synergy Public Company (GPSC) for approximately THB3 billion (US$100 million).

GPSC is the power and energy arm of PTT Public Company, a leading state-owned oil and gas company in Thailand. Pursuant to the transaction, which closed in March 2020, GPSC has acquired 100 percent ownership of N.P.S. Star Group Company Limited (NPS), World Exchange Asia Company Limited (WXA), and P.P. Solar Company Limited (PPS), with a total capacity of 39.5 MW. In addition to these three companies, GPSC has also acquired 100 percent ownership of TerraForm Global Operating (Thailand), which provides operation and maintenance services to the nine solar farms.

Brookfield previously acquired these assets as part of its 2017 investment in a global renewable energy asset portfolio belonging to Terraform Global Power.

The White & Case team which advised on the transaction was led by partner Jon Bowden (Singapore), with support from partners Melody Chan (Hong Kong) and Douglas Jensen (New York) and associates Rob Whitworth, Jessica Leung, Trishala Naidu, Lisa Yeo and Kian Newlyn (all Singapore), Lorraine Yip and Connie Ng (Hong Kong) and Ashley Williams (Washington, DC).

KPMG Law in Denmark Adds Tax Partner from DLA Piper

KPMG Law Advokatfirma has hired a partner partner from DLA Piper, adding to the Danish firm’s roster of tax experts in its Copenhagen office.

US announces G7 will be held virtually amid COVID-19 pandemic

The US State Department has announced Wednesday that the G7 Summit will be held virtually to better accommodate efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (the novel Coronavirus).

The G7 was originally set to be hosted in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania later this month. The G7 has included Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union. Russia was a member previously until their 2014 annexation of Crimea.

Several of the G7 states are currently experiencing widespread outbreaks of COVID-19. Japan has been fighting outbreak for several months. Italy has recently implemented strict quarantine and travel restrictions nationwide. The US has only recently begun fighting the pandemic with a patchwork of quarantines, travel restrictions, and event cancellations. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the State of Pennsylvania currently has 12 reported cases of COVID-19.

The State Department did thank the City of Pittsburgh for its willingness to host the event and does look forward to hosting events there in the future.

COVID-19: managing the risk of contamination in the workplace

While the World Health Organisation has just declared the COVID-19 epidemic a “pandemic”, with the virus had reached nearly 130,000 people since December 2019, managing the risk of the virus spreading in the workplace has become a major issue for every employer. Following the announcement of multiple cases in Luxembourg and the decision of one Luxembourg bank to require employees to take holiday leave in the event of contamination, it seems more important than ever to remind ourselves of the rights and obligations of employers in the current scenario.

What are the employers’ obligations?

According to the Luxembourg Labour Code, employers have a legal obligation to ensure the safety and health of their employees in all work-related aspects. More particularly, as part of their responsibilities, employers shall take all necessary measures for the protection of the safety and health of employees, including actions for prevention of occupational hazards, information and training, as well as the establishment of the necessary organisational means. In general, employers must avoid risks and take precautions against possible risk factors, plan risk prevention and eliminate hazards or, at least, reduce them as much as possible.
In concrete terms, employers must take all the necessary preventive measures to protect employees and prevent the spread of the virus, such as:

  • display pictograms in the premises explaining basic hygiene procedures (e.g. regular hand washing, avoiding physical contact, avoiding travel in high-risk areas, sneeze or cough into a tissue );
  • reinforce hygiene measures (provision of masks, soaps and alcohol-based solutions for hand disinfection, etc.);
  • encourage teleworking where possible;
  • limit employees’ business travel and use alternatives solutions such as video-conference, phone calls, etc.;
  • postpone organized social events;
  • inform employees about the evolution of the situation in Luxembourg;
  • etc.

The means put in place by the employer should thus be aimed at (i) researching the virus’ origins and (ii) containing and delaying its spread.
In any case, employers shall keep themselves informed of the official recommendations published by the Ministry of Health, and liaise with their occupational health service in case of doubt.

Can an employee refuse to work or to carry out an assignment for safety reasons?

The Labour Code provides that in the event of serious, immediate and unavoidable danger, an employee can choose to leave or refuse to go to his/her workplace. There is no specific procedure to follow: it is sufficient for the employee to inform his/her employer orally or, preferably, in writing. In such event, the employee shall not suffer any harm/be subject to any sanction. A dismissal in violation of this prohibition of sanctions would be automatically deemed abusive.
If the employer has not taken the necessary steps to isolate employees exposed to the virus, an employee may, therefore, exercise his/her withdrawal right, either because he/she has been in a risk area or because he/she has been in contact with a colleague who has been in a risk area. Similarly, if the employer does not offer repatriation to an employee working in a risk area, the employee can again exercise his/her right to withdraw by ending the assignment. This right may also be exercised by an employee in the event that his/her employer asks him/her to go to a risk zone for an assignment.
As mentioned above, the employee’s withdrawal right can only be exercised in the event of serious, immediate and unavoidable danger. Consequently, an employee cannot refuse to attend work simply for fear of the COVID-19; similarly, an employee cannot refuse a business trip to an area that is not considered to be at risk. In such circumstances, the employee’s refusal could be subject to disciplinary action up to, and including dismissal.

Can the employer refuse to approve vacation for an employee who intends to privately go to areas at risk of COVID-19?

Under Luxembourg law, the employer may only refuse to grant leave in limited cases:

  • for operational purposes;
  • because of the justified wishes of other employees;
  • because of the employee’s unjustified absences, when they exceed 10% of the time during which he/she would normally have been required to work.
  • Luxembourg law does not allow the employer to deny leave to an employee for health and safety reasons. In any case, the employer cannot interfere in the private life of its employees.

In accordance with its obligation to ensure safety and health in all work-related aspects, the employer may, at most, recommend to the employee not to travel to the specific place. If the employee nevertheless travels to a high-risk area, the employee may be refused access to the workplace if the health and safety of others employees are seriously at risk, and in order to avoid spreading the virus in the company.

Does the employee have an obligation to inform the employer of possible exposure to the virus?

The Labour Code provides that it is the responsibility of each employee to take care, according to his/her possibilities, of his/her own safety and health and that of other persons affected by his/her acts or omissions at work, in accordance with his/her training and the instructions of the employer. In particular, employees must immediately report to the employer and/or the designated employees and the safety and health representatives, any work situation which they have reasonable cause to believe presents a serious and immediate danger to safety and health, as well as any deficiencies found in the protection system.
In light of the above, and on the basis of the principles of good faith and loyalty inherent in all employment relationships, employees should, therefore, inform their employer of any possible exposure to the virus (e.g. travel to an affected area, contact with a person returning from an affected region, etc.) so that the employer can take all the necessary measures in accordance with its obligation to ensure safety and health at work.

What can the employer do in case an employee is showing symptoms or is coming back from a high-risk area?

First of all, as the employer is responsible for ensuring safety and health in the workplace, and pursuant to the Labour Code, the employer may request employees showing symptoms or coming back from a high-risk area to perform a medical examination in order to ensure that the employee is fit for work. Such medical examination should be carried out by an occupational doctor of the company and at the employer’s expense, and may only be requested if the employer has serious indications of the existence of a risk for safety and health at work.
Where the health and safety of other employees are at stake, the employer may also refuse employee access to the workplace. However, the risk justifying the refusal of access to the workplace must be serious and justified; otherwise, the refusal of the employer could be regarded as discrimination.
Finally, the employer may encourage the implementation of telework for employees whose nature of work allows it, in order to avoid any risk of infection or spread of the virus.
According to the Ministry of Economy, employers could even impose telework in a preventive manner. The employer and the employee would then have to enter into an amendment to the employment contract, allowing the use of telework for reasons objectively motivated by precautionary measures in the context of the fight against COVID-19.
In any case, the employer shall cover the costs directly linked to telework, especially costs in relation to telecommunication. The employer shall also provide their teleworkers with appropriate technical support and is responsible for any cost related to the damage or loss of equipment and data used by the teleworker.
Where the nature of the employee’s job does not allow telework, the employer may exempt the employee from work where there is a risk for health and safety in the workplace.
In any case, the employer shall continue to pay its employees’ salaries. In addition, the employer may, under no circumstances, require the employee to stay at home by taking days off.

How to deal with a sick employee or with an employee stuck abroad due to restriction measures?

In case of sickness or quarantine instructed by a doctor, the employee will receive a medical certificate and the absence will be treated as normal sickness absence (i.e. cost is either borne by the employer or social security depending on whether the 77-day threshold has been reached).
However, if an employee is absent and stuck abroad due to restrictive measures implemented in connection with the prevention of the spread of COVID-19 (e.g. quarantine on a cruise ship, cancellation of flights, etc.), and if the employee is not sick, this absence will not be treated as normal sickness absence.
In such a situation, the employer and the employee may agree that the employee will work remotely, if practically possible. In this case, the employer must continue to pay the salary of the employee.
In any case, absences due to cases of “force majeure” or causes beyond the employee’s control, which have made it impossible for the employee to request prior authorisation, shall not be considered as unjustified absences and shall be assimilated to actual working days. In this respect, the employer shall continue to pay the employee’s salary.
However, if an employee is stuck abroad following his decision to go to a high-risk area despite his employer’s warnings, it could then be considered that there is an impossible performance of the employment contract due to the employee’s gross negligence and that in this case the employer could be justified in not paying the employee’s salary.

Should the employer grant an employee’s request to telework in order to care for children who are temporarily not allowed to attend their school?

An employer has no legal obligation to accept a telework request. Should the child of an employee be infected with COVID-19, placed in quarantine or temporarily unable to attend school, the employee will have to apply for leave.
However, where the child of an employee has potentially been in contact with a person who may be infected with the virus or who has stayed in a risk area, it is in the employer’s interest to permit teleworking as a preventive measure.
draft Grand-Ducal regulation has recently been adopted, providing for the possibility of a right to family leave for parents whose children have been placed in quarantine by the doctor of the Health Directorate, in particular in order to limit the spread of infectious diseases and more specifically of the COVID-19.

How can redundancies be avoided in the event of a decline in the activity of the business due to the propagation of the COVID-19?

In order to protect jobs and prevent redundancies, the Labour Code allows businesses, under certain conditions, to resort to various short-time working schemes depending on the nature of the difficulties encountered.
In this respect, the Labour Code provides that in the event of partial or total interruption of the operation of the undertaking due to losses of a “force majeure” nature occurring independently of the will of the employer and the employees, a subsidy may be granted to the employer who, instead of proceeding to dismissals, undertakes to maintain the employment contracts of its employees and to pay them a compensatory wage allowance.
In the event of an agreement, the Employment Fund (Fonds pour l’emploi) covers 80 % of the salaries normally received by the employees (which is capped at 250 % of the minimum wage for an unskilled worker) during the non-work periods with a maximum of 1.022 hours per employee and per year.
The Luxembourg authorities have recently recognized that this short-time working scheme in cases of “force majeure” may apply in principle to all economic sectors as long as the causes invoked are directly related to COVID-19 (e.g. drop in demand from customers or users, employees absences due to external decisions, the company can no longer operate at normal speed, etc.).

The Struggle facing the Retail World

Restaurants Face Challenges

While retail in general faced challenges in 2019, food services faced an extremely difficult period. We expect these challenges to continue into 2020. With a tight labour market, increased competition, rising minimum wages and a strong economy, restaurants continue to be squeezed. For this reason, we expect that landlords will be receiving requests for modifications, notices of bankruptcy filings and ongoing challenges in filling vacated restaurant units.

Looking at 2019, while a number of restaurants closed units, the Papa Gino’s and Real Mex cases continued to work their way through bankruptcy courts. Meanwhile, the Houlihan’s restaurant chain along with several of its subsidiaries filed for bankruptcy with Landry’s acquiring substantially all of the assets of the debtor. In a transaction of this type, landlords need to be aware of their rights as a number of leases were assumed and assigned. In the event of assumption and assignment, a landlord has strong protections under the Bankruptcy Code, including, among other things, the right to have all defaults cured. In the event the debtor is rejecting a lease, to minimize the loss incurred, it is essential that a landlord takes steps to maximize its recovery and preserve any claim it may have. In particular, landlords must act during the bankruptcy case or risk waiving certain rights and claims.

Lifestyle Companies

The proliferation of Lifestyle (i.e., Health and Fitness facilities) has been quite significant over the last several years. Two well-known fitness centre operators, Town Sports and 24 Hour Fitness, have been noted for a change in their financial condition as discussed below.

Recent reports indicate that Town Sports International Holdings, Inc. recently had S&P reduce the credit rating on the certain debt to CCC. According to reports, Town Sports has significant debt which will become due in 2020 and has suffered a decline in revenue. According to reports, Town Sports is attempting to refinance its debt.

Market reports towards the end of 2018, indicated that the value of bonds issued by 24 Hour Fitness declined into the distressed range. Once again, those who are investors, landlords or creditors of 24 Hour Fitness should carefully evaluate their exposure.

Retailers

The pressure is still being felt across the retail space. Fairway Markets is rumoured to be close to filing a second bankruptcy case. Pier 1 is also facing financial challenges and is said to be closing 450 stores and nearing bankruptcy. While these two retailers are noted due to recent reports regarding their financial condition, they are not alone, and the increased minimum wage will only put further pressure on traditional brick and mortar retailers. Landlords should carefully monitor their retail tenants to avoid allowing them to accrue large arrearages. It is also likely that tenants will request modifications or an opportunity to meet to discuss their lease.

Party City also continues to face financial challenges and maybe slipping towards bankruptcy. The company sharply underperformed its third-quarter guidance. If a party has leases or interests in Party City, they would be well-advised to evaluate their current position and to consider what actions could be taken to minimize the impact of a possible restructuring or bankruptcy.

Major Changes to Bankruptcy Laws in 2020

There are major changes coming to the Bankruptcy Code in 2020. Key among these are changes to the laws affecting Small Business restructuring. Small Businesses are defined as those with less than $2,725,625 in debt. For those companies that qualify, they will be able to obtain relief without being required to abide by the Absolute Priority Rule (i.e., all senior creditors must be paid in full before a junior creditor can be paid or an equity holder can retain its holdings). Moreover, there are rumours that the debt limit could be raised to $10,000,000. If this were to occur, the vast majority of bankruptcy filings could qualify as small business filings. It is unclear if (and when) an increase in this limit might occur.

With changes and new challenges approaching, it is critical to seek counsel with significant experience in bankruptcy, restructuring and out of court workouts to advise you through the process and participate in ongoing negotiations. Rosenberg & Estis, P.C. has represented creditors and debtors in many of the largest and most complex bankruptcy cases, making us the ideal partner for any client-facing these challenges. Please don’t hesitate to call us today.

The New Lawyers: Our Story

SingaporeArbitration

Ex Clifford Chance litigators set up disputes firm in Singapore

Harpreet Singh Nehal, former managing partner of Cavenagh Law, the Singapore Formal Law Alliance (FLA) firm of Clifford Chance, has co-founded a disputes-focused boutique in the city-state called Audent Chambers.

The other co-founder is Jordan Tan, who was previously a counsel at the same firm. The two lawyers will be joint managing partners of Audent.

The firm will have an advocates-only setup, working with solicitor firms.

Nehal, who helped to launch Cavenagh Law, focuses on banking and finance, oil and gas, and TMT sectors. Meanwhile, Tan has experience advising on a number of cases including a minority oppression claim concerning a company with assets above $100 million.

In an interview with Business Times, the lawyers said that they wanted the firm to be one that took on highly complex commercial matters as well as pro bono cases that raised important questions of law and public interest.