The recent changes that have been made to the anti-money laundering regime will bring the Cayman Islands into line with international best practice and are a welcome update to the territory's financial services landscape. In reality, the changes will not affect the majority of investment funds using the jurisdiction, but updates to documentation and procedures may be required.
The Cayman Islands has amended the beneficial ownership register regime for Cayman companies and limited liability companies, meaning that some previously out-of-scope companies are now in scope and must maintain a register. In addition, all out-of-scope companies must now file a written confirmation of the basis for their exemption with their corporate services provider, and these providers must regularly file the received beneficial ownership information with the competent authority.
A recent Grand Court of the Cayman Islands ruling represents a significant development for the jurisdiction, opening the door to third-party funding of litigation in the Cayman Islands. However, while the door has been opened, a plaintiff which seeks to commence litigation in the Cayman Islands with funds provided under a funding agreement will need to seek the court's approval of the particular agreement in question.
Under new anti-money laundering legislation, the list of activities classed as relevant financial businesses has been expanded. Unregulated investment funds and some insurance entities have now been given a grace period until May 31 2018 to establish anti-money laundering compliance programmes. This is a welcome move, particularly for unregulated investment funds which were not bound by the preceding regulations and therefore may not have policies and procedures in place.
The Foundation Companies Law 2017, which recently came into force, approaches the creation of a foundation company in such a way that it may consequently be established for any lawful purpose. The foundation company shares many of its features with other types of Cayman company and fits seamlessly into the Cayman Islands' legal regime. It will therefore have the benefit of a considerable body of case law on companies.
The government recently adopted updated Anti-money Laundering Regulations. The regulations demonstrate the Cayman Islands' ongoing commitment to comply with the highest international standards on combating money laundering and terrorist financing and aim to ensure consistency with the Financial Action Task Force 2012 recommendations. The move is part of an overall update of the territory's anti-money laundering regime.
It seems that 2017 will be remembered as the year of the initial coin offering (ICO). The Cayman Islands is witnessing an upsurge in ICO-related business and structuring an ICO through the territory remains an attractive proposition. However, ICO-specific guidance is yet to be issued by the government or the regulator, and a number of legal uncertainties remain. Existing statutory and regulatory regimes must therefore be considered when structuring an ICO.
Under the Cayman Islands beneficial ownership legislation, certain Cayman companies are required to maintain details of their beneficial owners and relevant legal entities on a beneficial ownership register. Companies should determine whether they are within the scope of the legislation and familiarise themselves with the obligations for in-scope companies and those who hold interests in them.
The Trademarks Law 2016, the Patents and Trademarks (Amendment) Law 2016 and the Design Rights Registration Law 2016 recently came into force, introducing a new IP regime in the Cayman Islands. The legislation establishes a standalone trademark registration system, prohibits the assertion of patent infringement in bad faith and allows existing UK and EU-registered design rights to be extended to the Cayman Islands, among other things.
As Cayman Islands entities are not directly subject to the so-called 'automatic exchange of information' agreements, the government has introduced legislation to implement these under the Tax Information Authority Law. Guidance notes have also been issued, providing details of the notification, reporting and ongoing obligations that apply, as well as a useful reminder of the differences between the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act and the Common Reporting Standard.
The Tax Information Authority (TIA) recently issued further updates on the compliance obligations of Cayman financial institutions. A number of key dates and developments have changed since then, including with regard to TIA registration, the 2017 reportable jurisdictions, liquidation reporting obligations and the phasing out of the UK Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories International Tax Compliance Regulations.
Following lengthy discussions with the UK authorities, the government recently approved new legislation to introduce beneficial ownership registers for certain Cayman companies and limited liability companies. Companies which are subject to direct or indirect regulatory oversight are likely to be exempt from the requirements. All Cayman companies should now review whether they will be required to maintain a beneficial ownership register.
The 2017 deadlines for notification and reporting obligations under the Common Reporting Standard regulations will be extended by two months. Cayman reporting financial institutions will not have notification or reporting obligations under the UK Crown Dependency and Overseas Territories International Tax Compliance Regulations from 2017 onwards; however, obligations under the US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act remain unchanged.
Draft legislation was recently published to introduce the limited liability partnership (LLP) as a new partnership vehicle in the Cayman Islands. The bill provides for the formation, registration and operation of an LLP as an entity with limited liability and legal personality separate from its partners. The bill also provides for the conversion of existing Cayman partnerships into LLPs and the continuation of foreign LLPs into the Cayman Islands.
The government recently published draft legislation which, when adopted, will require Cayman companies to maintain beneficial ownership registers and for the information in the registers to be made automatically available to the Cayman Islands competent authority through a centralised beneficial ownership platform. The legislation is now expected to pass through the usual approval process in the Legislative Assembly.
Mergers are a favoured method of takeover or restructuring in the Cayman Islands. The recent Grand Court decision in Integra – discussed in this video – provides much-needed guidance on what considerations should be taken into account in determining fair value, which is likely to provide comfort to parties seeking to explore the Cayman Islands merger framework.
The Cayman Islands' commitment to international transparency standards has been reinforced by its adoption of amended Common Reporting Standards (CRS) regulations. All Cayman financial institutions must review their existing CRS compliance policies and update them to make sure that they have suitable policies and procedures in place, and that they are correctly registered and able to file any nil returns needed in May 2017.
The Trusts (Amendment) Law 2016, which was recently gazetted, has amended and modernised the existing Cayman Islands Trusts Law. Along with provisions addressing certain powers and the appointment and discharge of trustees, the law introduces a number of retrospective provisions, covering trustees, Special Trust Alternative Regime trusts and charitable purposes.
The Cayman Islands government is set to grant the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority (CIMA) new enforcement powers under an amendment to the Monetary Authority Law. If passed in its existing form, the Monetary Authority (Amendment) Bill 2016 will allow CIMA to impose fines for breaches of regulatory laws by licensed or regulated individuals or entities.
The Cayman Islands Court of Appeal recently provided some clarity on the ranking of priority in the liquidation of amounts owing to shareholders and former shareholders of a company operating as an open-ended investment fund. The decision has confirmed that Section 37(7)(a) of the Cayman Islands Companies Law applies where a shareholder has merely accrued the right to redeem his or her shares, but has not yet completed the redemption process prescribed by the company's articles.