brexit

Brexit faces new legal challenge from NI

 

A victims’ campaigner has launched the first legal challenge in Northern Ireland to the UK leaving the European Union.

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Raymond McCord lodged papers at the High Court in Belfast yesterday seeking a judicial review of the British Government’s move towards Brexit

His lawyers claim it would be unlawful to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty without Parliament voting on the move.

They also contend it would undermine the UK’s domestic and international treaty obligations under the Good Friday Agreement, and inflict damage on the peace process. With similar legal action under way in England, efforts are being made to secure an initial court hearing in Belfast next week.

Mr McCord, whose son Raymond jnr was murdered by the UVF in north Belfast in 1997, is believed to be the first person in Northern Ireland to issue proceedings over Brexit. He is taking the case amid concerns that European peace money that goes towards victims of the Troubles may be discontinued.

The challenge centres on the Government’s response to the June 23 referendum result.

His legal team claim they were not given assurances that Article 50, the mechanism under which the UK begins the formal process of leaving the EU, will not be invoked without first securing a Parliamentary mandate. Any attempt to use Royal Prerogative powers instead cannot be justified, they contend.

Mr McCord’s lawyer Ciaran O’Hare, of McIvor Farrell Solicitors, said his client fears Brexit could impact on his fundamental rights. “As a victim of the most recent conflict in Northern Ireland, Mr McCord is very concerned about the profoundly damaging effect that a unilateral withdrawal of the UK from the EU will have upon the ongoing relative stability in Northern Ireland,” he added.

“He is concerned that any withdrawal would be contrary to the UK’s international law obligations pursuant to the Good Friday Agreement.”

Insisting any notification under Article 50 must be done lawfully and constitutionally, Mr O’Hare described the legal challenge as “an important constitutional case which engages the Northern Irish public interest in a way that no other case has or is likely to for many decades”.

India parlement

India Aims To Be The World’s Newest International Arbitration Hub

India is seeking to become the world’s newest international arbitration hub by establishing a new arbitral center in Mumbai. The Mumbai Centre for International Arbitration (MCIA), which begins proceedings this month, will be India’s very first arbitration tribunal. Its supporters hope it will help bring the industry’s best practices to the country. The unveiling of the MCIA underscores the significant growth of India-related arbitration cases in recent years. It also highlights the government’s desire to make India an attractive destination for international arbitration and make it a more compelling destination for business by bringing more reliable adjudication to India’s corporate sector.

Arbitration remains the preferred option for multinational firms conducting business in the country, but India is not the preferred venue to arbitrate claims. The majority of arbitrations currently taking place within India occur on an ad hoc basis. This has resulted in a lack of uniform standards and predictability with respect to the cost-effectiveness, efficiency and outcome of many arbitral proceedings.

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These issues have generated serious inconsistencies with global best practices regarding arbitration, eroding the international legal community’s trust and confidence in the current Indian system. It has also been, plainly speaking, bad for business. Many of the most prominent arbitration cases, including those involving multinational giants Deutsche Telekom and Vodaphone, have moved outside of India because of the absence of institutionalized capacity and expertise in the country.

Can India develop a more popular arbitration venue?

Indian officials are betting that the MCIA will help change this, and the rules governing the MCIA have been drafted specifically to address these shortcomings. These rules provide for an expedited timeline for inexpensive disputes, mechanisms that cater to multi-party and multi-contract scenarios, the availability of an emergency arbitrator, and a deadline for the tribunal to render its final award, among others. Released in June 2016, the MCIA rules were designed by a committee comprised of leading arbitration practitioners both in India and abroad.

The Indian government is hoping the MCIA will help fill an important need that has been created by India’s recent booming economic growth, occurring at more than 7% by some estimates. The robust rise has resulted in a surge of foreign investment into the country, and with it, the need for access to alternate dispute resolution mechanisms.

The key question is whether these measures will succeed in making India a more popular arbitration venue. The MCIA’s success will depend largely on the willingness of companies operating in India to seek redress in the new tribunal. For both foreign and domestic companies, foreign-seated arbitration centers in Paris, London, Geneva, Hong Kong and Singapore remain the favored locales and have captured a significant share of India-related arbitration cases.

london skyline

Kennedys and Waltons & Morse merge in London

Kennedys is merging with marine boutique Waltons & Morse to boost its City presence.

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The tie-up will increase Kennedys’ London headcount by 28 lawyers including five partners, and follows a number of mergers made by the firm to expand internationally, particularly in Latin America.

Kennedys’ turnover will also grow to an estimated £150m after the combination. The firm reported an uplift in revenue of 7 per cent to £139m for the 2015/16 financial year.

All of Waltons & Morse’s lawyers will sit in Kennedys’ new international marine team, headed up by the boutique’s managing partner Chris Dunn.

The new additions will expand Kennedys offering in the marine and shipping sector, with lawyers advising on insurance, and casualty and liability issues, as well as political risk.

The merger will go live in November and all staff from Waltons & Morse will move over to Kennedys’ London office by the end of the year.

Kennedys has been pushing for significant expansion across Latin America and Europe this year, with the firm opening four new offices in recent months.

It launched new offices in Brazil and Peru as well as Chile and Columbia, while also merging with its Danish associated firm Erritzøe and signing up firms in Norway and Sweden as new associates.

singapore

Nixon Peabody opens representative office in Singapore

The US firm has made its first foray into Singapore via an alliance with local boutique firm Angeline Suparto Law Corp.

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With a focus on expanding its presence in Asia, Nixon Peabody LLP has opened a representative office in Singapore. This is the firm’s third office in Asia. Nixon Peabody has offices in both Hong Kong and Shanghai, China.

“Singapore is a vibrant market and a business capital for Southeast Asia,” said Andrew I. Glincher, CEO and managing partner of Nixon Peabody LLP. “It’s an important gateway for our Asian clients who are investing and doing business in the U.S.”

“We are seeing an increase of activity from clients based in Singapore and surrounding countries looking to expand internationally,” added David Cheng, chair and managing partner of Nixon Peabody’s China & Asia-Pacific practice. “This addition aligns nicely with our current practices in Hong Kong and mainland China.”

Nixon Peabody is leasing space and associating with local Singaporean firm Angeline Suparto Law Corporation (ASLC), which provides a comprehensive range of legal services in Singapore. The firm, which has eight lawyers and legal professionals in the office, was founded in 2001 by Angeline Suparto, who previously worked for international firms in both Hong Kong and Singapore.

Since launching in Shanghai in 2008, Nixon Peabody has seen a steady expansion of its Asia Pacific practice. In 2015, after being formally associated with a local Hong Kong firm for several years, the two firms combined in Hong Kong to create Nixon Peabody CWL. This association dramatically expanded Nixon Peabody’s presence in Asia.

Nixon Peabody’s Asia-Pacific practice works with U.S. clients expanding into the region and also collaborates with lawyers in the U.S. representing the increasing number of investors and businesses from Asia doing business in the U.S.

pakistan strike

Pakistan lawyers strike in protest after Quetta attack

Lawyers across Pakistan are boycotting court to mourn the loss of some 70 people, many of them lawyers, killed in a bomb attack in Quetta.

In Balochistan – Quetta is the provincial capital – markets and schools have been closed.

The bomber targeted crowds who had gathered outside a hospital to mourn prominent lawyer Bilal Kasi who had been murdered earlier on Monday.

Taliban faction Jamaat-ul-Ahrar says it was behind both the attack and murder.

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The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) and the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) said its lawyers would be boycotting court proceedings, and observing a week of mourning.

Many lawyers are expected to take part in rallies across Pakistan on Tuesday.

“We [lawyers] have been targeted because we always raise our voice for people’s rights and for democracy,” SCBA President Ali Zafar told reporters in Lahore.

“Lawyers will not just protest this attack, but also prepare a long-term plan of action.”

Monday’s bombing targeted lawyers and journalists who had crammed into the emergency department of Quetta’s Civil Hospital where the body of Mr Kasi had been brought.

Former provincial bar president Baz Muhammad Kakar was one of at least 25 lawyers killed. TV news cameramen Shahzad Khan and Mehmood Khan were also among the dead.

At least 120 people were injured.

Bilal Kasi, who was head of the Balochistan province bar association, had earlier been shot while on his way to the court complex in Quetta.

He had strongly condemned the recent murders – including those of fellow lawyers – in Quetta in recent weeks, and had announced a two-day boycott of court sessions in protest at the killing of a colleague last week.

airbus enquiry

Serious Fraud Office starts Airbus inquiry

UK opens investigation into fraud, bribery and corruption allegations in connection with aircraft sales

The UK’s Serious Fraud Office has confirmed that it has opened a criminal investigation into allegations of fraud, bribery and corruption in the commercial airline business of Airbus, the defence and aviation firm. The investigation into potential criminal dealings in the sale of commercial planes was launched in July but revealed at the weekend by the European manufacturer.

The SFO said that the allegations related to irregularities with third party consultants. Airbus said it had flagged up the suspect activity itself, effectively self-reporting to the SFO via UK export agencies, and was cooperating fully with the investigation.

In a statement issued on Sunday, Airbus said: “Airbus Group has been informed by the SFO that it has opened a criminal investigation into allegations of fraud, bribery and corruption in the civil aviation business of Airbus Group relating to irregularities concerning third party consultants. Airbus Group continues to cooperate with the SFO.” Neither Airbus nor the SFO would comment further on the details.

Earlier this year, a UK government agency suspended the issue of export credits to Airbus, due to discrepancies in declarations by the manufacturer on the use of outside intermediaries during jet sale negotiations. Airbus said it had flagged up the mistakes and omissions relating to applications for export credit financing for its customers.

The agency, UK Export Finance, had said it was referring the discrepancies to the SFO, which would decide whether to launch a criminal investigation. French and German agencies have also halted the plane-maker’s export credits, which support deliveries to airlines with limited access to commercial funds.

This month, Airbus’s group CEO Tom Enders said they were hopeful that export credits would be restored by the end of the year. Airbus itself has extended credit worth €587m to customers in the first half of 2016 – a tenfold increase on 2015 – to maintain sales.

Airbus notified investors of the potential issues in April, saying that the discovery of irregularities had emerged “in the context of its internal compliance improvement programme”. Offshoots and companies jointly owned by Airbus had come under investigation in the last two years in Germany, Greece and Turkey.

The Toulouse-headquartered aeroplane manufacturer’s global business sees contracts of staggering proportions, with its current order book valued at just under $1tn (£764bn) at the start of 2016. It claims in recent years to have edged US giant and great rival Boeing in the market for the biggest jets, although its flagship doubledecker superjumbo, the A380, has failed to find many new customers outside the Middle East.

While it has subsidiaries in the US, China, Japan, India and the Middle East, Airbus’s major aircraft design and manufacturing facilities are based in France, Germany, Spain and the UK, where wings are engineered.

thailand

Tokyo law firm to acquire Thai practice

Tokyo-based law firm Mori Hamada & Matsumoto has agreed to acquire a leading practice in Thailand, aiming to assist Japanese businesses as they expand their presence there and in the region.

Mori Hamada & Matsumoto (Thailand) will purchase Chandler & Thong-ek for an undisclosed sum. Chandler, which is headquartered in Bangkok and employs nearly 50 attorneys, will incorporate “MHM” into its name as early as January.

 This will mark the first time that a Japanese legal group acquires a foreign firm of this scale. The Thai firm will serve as the nerve center for MHM’s Asian operations, which will span 60 lawyers. Functions will include providing legal support for the flurry of acquisitions in the region.

Major Japanese law firms have branched out into Thailand in recent years. MHM’s Bangkok office has five attorneys. Seeing demand growing in such neighboring countries as Myanmar, the firm has decided to step up its expansion.

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Thailand is the biggest destination in Southeast Asia for Japanese corporations in terms of the number of companies and the amount of direct investment, shows data from the Japan External Trade Organization. More Japanese companies are busy organizing top regional offices, and there are reportedly several cases of decisions being made in Thailand on such important matters as acquisitions and fundraising.

Since 2000, Japanese law firms have been merging domestically into practices stretching over 100 lawyers or more. Nishimura & Asahi, the biggest Japanese megafirm, employs a total of 500-plus attorneys at home and abroad. Anderson Mori & Tomotsune comes in next, with more than 400. MHM, Nagashima Ohno & Tsunematsu and TMI Associates have about 370 lawyers each. MHM would take second place once the Thai acquisition is complete.

The growing scale of Japanese law firms has aided domestic companies in activities abroad. But international acquisitions and the like have often been handled by such non-Japanese behemoths as U.S.-based Baker & McKenzie, which employs thousands of attorneys worldwide.

rowboat

Pinsent Masons weighs up Dublin launch

The firm is considering opening a new office in Dublin as part of a post-Brexit review of Irish operations.

Pinsent Masons might open its first office in the Republic of Ireland in order to round out its client offering in the UK and Ireland following the former’s recent vote to leave the EU. The firm currently has referral relationships with four or five different Dublin-based firms, though it is not clear whether a merger or a local team hire would be the preferred route to establish a presence in the city. ‘Dublin is an important legal market and will continue to be so,’ commented a Pinsents spokesperson, citing a large volume of cross-border legal work generated from the firm’s established office in the Northern Irish city of Belfast. ‘As you would expect, we periodically review with our referral partners how best we can service client demand, however it would be inaccurate to characterise any of those discussions as merger talks.’ The Irish legal market has garnered particular attention over the last few months from UK-based lawyers and firms looking to continue their practice in the European Union after Brexit. According to the Law Society of Ireland, a record-breaking 186 UK solicitors were admitted to practice in Ireland during the six months to June this year.

Sources: Legal Business; The Lawyer

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Osborne Clarke expands in Asia through local association


Osborne Clarke has entered the Singapore market in an association with local firm Queen Street Legal.

The office will operate under the name OC Queen Street and will be led by Bird & Bird partner Chia-Ling Koh, who joins Osborne Clarke after more than a decade at his previous firm. Mr Koh will focus on the digital business and FinTech sectors across Southeast Asia, as well as providing cross-border advice.

Asian associations

It is Osborne’s third associated office in Asia, having formalised its relationship with BTG Legal in India in November 2014 and Koh Vass & Co in Hong Kong last year.

najib razak

Malaysia launches controversial new security laws

Controversial new security laws took effect Monday in Malaysia. Backed by Prime Minister Najib Razak [BBC profile], the National Security Act will allow government authorities [Al Jazeera report] to declare martial law in areas deemed to be under a security threat. Police will be able to conduct warrantless searches, seize property and impose curfews. Najib has defended the legislation as necessary to combat terrorism, but rights groups such as Amnesty International have criticized the measures as draconian. “With this new law, the government now has spurned checks and assumed potentially abusive powers,” said Josef Benedict, AI’s Deputy Director for South East Asia and the Pacific. Others have noted that the laws come amid a scandal in which billions of dollars were stolen from a state investment fund that Najib founded and oversaw. He has denied any wrongdoing.

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Much controversy has surrounded Najib’s terms as prime minister. In October Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] accused the government of abusing broad, vaguely worded laws to jail its critics [JURIST report]. In July of last year Najib fired [JURIST report] Attorney General Abdul Gani Patail after learning that Patail was investigating him for corruption. That same month, two major opposition parties called for [JURIST report] an emergency sitting of parliament in order to discuss Najib’s future as prime minister. In 2006, Najib was accused [BBC report] of being connected to the murder of Mongolian model Altantuya Shaariibuu, after her remains were found in October of that year in Kuala Lumpur. Najib , who was deputy prime minister at the time, denied having any connections to the murder or even knowing the model. A political analyst and associate of Najib’s was charged with aiding [BBC report] the murder, but these charges were later dropped.