Walkers Fundamentals 2022

Please join us on 31 October in NYC for Walkers Fundamentals 2022 where we will explore the latest trends in Investment Funds.

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Guernsey Climbs Legal 500 Rankings

Walkers' Guernsey office is now ranked by Legal 500 as Tier 1 for legal advisers in five of its core practice areas.

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10 Walkers' Lawyers Recognised in Asia Business Law Journal's Top 50 Offshore Lawyers 2022

10 lawyers across Walkers' Bermuda, Cayman, Hong Kong and Singapore offices have been recognised in the Asia Business Law Journal’s A-List of top offshore lawyers.

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Introduction of the New Cayman Islands Restructuring Officer Regime

The much-anticipated and welcome reforms to the Cayman Islands restructuring and insolvency legislation will come into force on 31 August 2022.

These important amendments to Part V of the Cayman Islands Companies Act ("Companies Act") will introduce a new restructuring officer regime available to companies in financial distress, which can be accessed without the need to present a winding up petition to the Grand Court of the Cayman Islands (the "Cayman Court").  Upon filing the application seeking the appointment of restructuring officers, companies will be able to obtain an immediate and standalone restructuring moratorium on unsecured creditor action which will have extraterritorial effect (as a matter of Cayman Islands law), within which a restructuring may be proposed and implemented.

The key features of the new restructuring regime will be as follows:

  • Companies may present a petition to the Cayman Court seeking the appointment of a restructuring officer on the grounds that: (i) the company is or is likely to become unable to pay its debts; and (ii) intends to present a compromise or arrangement to its creditors (or classes thereof) either, pursuant to the Companies Act (such as by way of a Cayman Islands scheme of arrangement), a foreign law or by way of a consensual restructuring.
  • The petition seeking the appointment of a restructuring officer may be presented by the directors of a company: (i) without a shareholder resolution and/or an express power to present a petition in its articles of association; and (ii) without the need to file a winding up petition as a prerequisite.
  • A standalone restructuring moratorium on unsecured creditor action will automatically arise on filing the application seeking the appointment of restructuring officers, which will have exterritorial effect, as a matter of Cayman Islands law (previously, the moratorium only took effect upon the appointment of provisional liquidators rather than filing the application).
  • Cayman Islands schemes of arrangement may now potentially be able to compromise English law-governed debt, thereby expanding the scope of the applicability of the Cayman Islands restructuring regime to more debt restructuring situations.
  • Secured creditors with security over the whole or part of the assets of the company will remain entitled to enforce their security without the leave of the Cayman Court and without reference to any restructuring officer.

Another important legislative reform is the removal of the “majority in number” or “head-count” test for shareholder schemes of arrangement such that only the “majority in value” test must be satisfied to approve a proposed shareholder scheme of arrangement at the relevant meeting(s).

Further details on the new restructuring officer regime and other amendments to the Companies Act can be found here:

Judgment on Declaratory Relief in Cayman Islands Insolvent Liquidation Proceedings

A recent decision of Kawaley J sitting in the Grand Court of the Cayman Islands (the “Grand Court”) has provided helpful clarification on what he described as a “legally significant” and “important jurisdictional point”. The question was one of the Grand Court’s jurisdiction to grant declaratory relief in official liquidation proceedings in circumstances where there is no express provision in the Companies Act (as amended) (the “Companies Act”) or the Companies Winding Up Rules (as amended) (the “CWR”) giving the Grand Court jurisdiction to make declarations in insolvent liquidation proceedings. Kawaley J held that it does have the jurisdiction to do so whether that be pursuant to the Grand Court Act, impliedly under the Companies Act jurisdiction to control the exercise of a liquidator’s powers, pursuant to its inherent jurisdiction to fill a lacuna in the existing procedural framework, or to make good its own prior order in the liquidation proceedings.


Facts

The Cayman Islands parent company (the “Company”) has subsidiaries incorporated across the globe. It was initially placed into provisional liquidation in order to effect a restructuring which later continued on an insolvent basis when the Company was placed into official liquidation and joint official liquidators (“JOLs”) were appointed. This decision arose because the JOLs required their powers in the official liquidation to be formally confirmed by the Grand Court in order to obtain regulatory approval in a jurisdiction which is unfamiliar with Cayman Islands insolvency law to make good a commercial agreement connected to a disposition of the Company’s assets.

 

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Walkers' Guide to Token Issuances, DAOs and Foundation Companies in the Cayman Islands

Since the inception of Walkers' Global Fintech Group in 2017, the virtual assets and blockchain sectors have grown materially and become increasingly sophisticated. In response to the demand from our clients we have worked on a wide range of mandates in this space. We have continually been at the forefront of innovation in this area and have advised our clients on how to navigate through the complex legal and regulatory issues that frequently arise. As a result we have obtained significant experience in advising clients on their journey from a small team looking for seed capital through to a fully decentralised operation.

In this guide we will consider the most common roadmap which we see used in connection with blockchain based projects. We will then look at some of the key questions which we regularly advise our clients on. These relate to why the Cayman Islands is the best choice for these types of projects, why foundation companies are increasingly used as legal wrappers for decentralised autonomous organisations ("DAOs") and how to undertake a token issuance in the context of the Virtual Assets (Service Providers) Act (the "VASP Act"). We will also consider the key service providers which need to be engaged to facilitate the structures discussed below.

 

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Grand Court warns investment managers that indemnity costs will loom large should they contest the identity of official liquidators in solvent liquidations

Overview

In a recent decision of the Grand Court of the Cayman Islands (the "Court") concerning a supervision order in respect of a Cayman company in voluntary liquidation, Kawaley J considered the settled principles in a solvent Cayman Islands liquidation involving a dispute as to the identity of the official liquidators to be appointed.


The Proceeding

In the Matter of Sciens Alternative Assets Recovery Fund II (in Voluntary Liquidation) (the “Fund”) [FSD 103 of 2022 (IKJ)], the incumbent voluntary liquidator presented a petition seeking orders to bring the voluntary liquidation of the Fund under supervision of the Court, and for the appointment of the incumbent voluntary liquidator as official liquidator of the Fund. It was common ground amongst the parties that a supervision order should be made. The dispute arose as to the identity of the official liquidator, with the critical question arising being which party’s interest should be afforded more weight: the management shareholder (seeking the appointment of the incumbent voluntary liquidator) or the majority economic shareholder in the Fund (seeking the appointment of David Griffin and Andrew Morrison of FTI Consulting (Cayman) Ltd (the “FTI Nominees”)).

 

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Privy Council considers the enforcement of foreign arbitral awards in the Cayman Islands

On 19 May 2022, the Privy Council's judgment in Gol Linhas Aereas SA (formerly VRG Linhas Aereas SA) (Respondent) v MatlinPatterson Global Opportunities Partners (Cayman) II LP and others (Appellants) (Cayman Islands) [2022] UKPC 21 provided guidance on the appropriate standard of due process to apply when considering challenges to enforcement of arbitration awards under the New York Convention.

The ruling unanimously upheld a decision of the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal to permit enforcement of a New York Convention award made in an ICC arbitration seated in Brazil, notwithstanding the debtor's arguments that (i) it was not a party to the arbitration agreement, (ii) there had been procedural defects in the arbitration hearing that afforded a right to resist enforcement, and (iii) that the ultimate award had been outside the scope of the submission to arbitration.

More interestingly, on the second of those issues the Board held that the parties had been afforded a sufficient opportunity to present their case despite the Tribunal having based its decision on a point of law which was not raised in the course of the arbitration hearing, and which was then not raised by the Tribunal with the parties to invite their comments prior to issuing its decision. As such, the resisting debtor had no opportunity to address the issue in argument.

Notwithstanding that position, the Board permitted enforcement of the award in the Cayman Islands because the tribunal made its decision on a factual basis which was well understood by the parties and fully argued during the hearing–the only failure was to afford the parties an opportunity to make legal arguments. A distinction was drawn between cases in which a party was denied the opportunity to answer a significant factual allegation or evidence (which the Board considered to be "…fundamentally unfair") and cases where the complaint related to legal reasoning. It was noted that in civil law jurisdictions courts frequently took a more proactive approach to applying the law than was familiar in common law systems – "…it is expected that the judge will bring his or her own knowledge of the law to bear in deciding a case, independently and in addition to the legal arguments and materials adduced by the parties".

It was accepted that that as a general rule of Brazilian law, a tribunal was not obliged to inform the parties that a particular legal theory or legal rule would be applied prior to making a decision on the basis of that theory or rule, and as such there had not been any violation of due process. The Board were at pains to point out that in looking at the standard of fairness that should be applied to international arbitration, whilst it was not simply a search for the lowest common denominator of standards in differing national systems, the court should attempt to identify a set of minimum requirements which would "generally, even if not universally, be regarded throughout the international legal order as essential to a fair hearing". What was not an adequate basis for challenge was merely demonstrating that the process did not conform with the approach to due process in the legal culture of the state where the award was sought to be enforced.

As such, whilst candidly accepting that the case was a difficult one, the Board ultimately therefore held that the parties had been given an adequate opportunity to present their case before the Tribual (and subsequently the courts in Brazil), and thus that the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal was correct to enforce the arbitration award in the Cayman Islands. In order to justify a conclusion that a party had been denied the opportunity to present its case, it was said that "..what is required is proof, not merely that a procedure was adopted which was irregular or undesirable, but of fundamental unfairness which goes to the essence of the right to be heard".

Whilst issued in the context of enforcement in the Cayman Islands, this decision will be of interest to practitioners in all common law jurisdictions who have implemented the New York Convention.

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