The BVI Commercial Court has provided helpful guidance as to the threshold for a good arguable case, dismissing an application to discharge a worldwide freezing injunction obtained by a claimant. The court held that where there is a good arguable case that a defendant has acted fraudulently or dishonestly, or with "unacceptable low standards of morality giving rise to a feeling of uneasiness about the defendant", further evidence is often unnecessary to justify a freezing injunction.
International litigation and asset recovery require the pursuit of defendants and their assets across borders; therefore, it is a routine aspect of BVI litigation for claimants to serve legal documents abroad. Two recent decisions should significantly decrease the delay in effecting service abroad and pave the way for a more efficient approach to service out in the future.
In the latest judgment regarding the DPH liquidation, the BVI Court of Appeal upheld the appointment of BVI provisional liquidators in respect of a Swiss company and clarified that evidence of dissipation of assets (in the Mareva sense) may not be a pre-condition to the appointment of provisional liquidators.
A recent BVI Court of Appeal judgment was issued on a point rarely taken: is leave required to file a counter notice to an existing appeal? The full court found that once an appeal has been commenced with leave, the court's jurisdiction is engaged and the party wishing to cross-appeal may do so by counter notice without bringing a separate leave application. The court described a counter notice as being by its nature "parasitical on a pending appeal".
A recent Court of Appeal decision serves as a useful reminder to keep an eye on the clock when seeking the appointment of liquidators to a company in the British Virgin Islands. The decision makes clear that any extension must be expressly granted and legal practitioners must therefore keep an eye on the clock to avoid a deemed dismissal under Section 168 of the Insolvency Act.
Claims of passing off are rare in the British Virgin Islands and a recent attempt to bring a BVI action in relation to goodwill held outside the jurisdiction has failed. The court examined the law and relevant English authorities on the tort of passing off. It opined that goodwill is governed by territoriality and that in order to succeed, the claimant must prove that it has goodwill in the form of customers in the jurisdiction in which the suit is undertaken.
The Commercial Division of the BVI Court has granted a strike out application on the grounds that the Aldi Stores Ltd v WSP Group plc principles – whereby a party which intends to bring a subsequent action against existing parties must raise the issue with the court – apply in the British Virgin Islands. It held that while the principles may not have been promulgated in this jurisdiction, litigants must put their cards on the table at an early stage or risk being held to have abused the court's process.
The BVI tax information exchange system is largely modelled on international principles developed by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and is split into two types of regime. The 'automatic' exchange of information regime requires financial institutions to exchange formulistic data about the accounts of foreign taxpayers, while the 'on request' regime deals with specific and potentially in-depth investigations into the affairs of named taxpayers with offshore or international holdings.
A recent Court of Appeal ruling provided guidance on directors' powers after considering whether a fresh issuance of shares by directors which altered the balance of voting power between the shareholders was done for a proper purpose. The court held that directors should not issue shares in a manner that could affect the balance of power between groups of shareholders or create new majorities, irrespective of whether the old or new majority have a proprietary interest in the fund.
Interest in the setting up and distribution of initial coin offerings (ICOs) in the British Virgin Islands and other offshore locations has increased rapidly during 2017, and this is expected to continue. No ICO or blockchain-specific rules or guidelines have yet been issued by the government or regulator; however, there are several important issues for parties in the British Virgin Islands to consider, including the key laws and regulations surrounding the issue.
The ability to continue a foreign company as a BVI company or to continue a BVI company as a company under the laws of another jurisdiction quickly and seamlessly is just one example of the many flexible features of the Business Companies Act 2004. This is particularly useful in the context of corporate reorganisations, and counsel should be aware of the process and requirements for continuations and discontinuations.
The government recently enacted the Labour Code (Work Permit Exemption) Order 2017, which excludes certain categories of people from the need to obtain work permits. In particular, the exemption for directors visiting the British Virgin Islands for board meetings supports the territory's position as the leading corporate domicile in the global economy.
'Forum shopping' is the practice of choosing the most favourable jurisdiction in which to bring a claim. In principle, there is nothing wrong in seeking to have a case heard in the forum which is most favourable to the client. However, it can lead to some fierce jurisdictional battles, particularly in insolvency, where the choice between debtor and creditor-friendly procedures can be stark. The Commercial Court has been wrestling with this situation over the past 10 months.
As the world's leading incorporation vehicles, BVI companies are listed on exchanges and conduct business around the world and may therefore expect to be occasionally involved in activist campaigns or other challenges from shareholders. However, many investors and their advisers may be less familiar with BVI company law than their domestic legislation.
The government recently enacted two measures regarding the cruising permit fees that each charter boat must pay while carrying paying passengers in the British Virgin Islands. Under the Cruising Permit (Amendment) Act, boats will now be classified as either home-based or foreign-based charter boats, with set fees for each classification. The Statutory Rates, Fees and Charges (Amendment of Schedule) Order 2017 confirms these fees for internal government purposes.
The government recently enacted a measure regarding the fees payable for work permits in the British Virgin Islands. The amendment order replaces the employee flat fee system with an incremental calculation based on salary bands, which now generally assume a higher gross salary. It also replaces most exceptions to the previous scheme, keeping only those for domestic workers.
The British Virgin Islands has enacted legislation to implement a networked database of beneficial ownership interests in companies incorporated or domiciled in the jurisdiction. The Beneficial Ownership Secure Search System aims to ensure that the British Virgin Islands can comply with its obligations under the UK Exchange of Notes Agreement, which modernises the way in which BVI competent authorities may gain access to beneficial ownership information of BVI companies.
The British Virgin Islands is expected to undergo its fourth round of mutual evaluation by the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force in 2018, based on the Financial Action Task Force's International Standards on Combating Money Laundering and the Financing of Terrorism and Proliferation. In preparation, the Financial Services Commission has commenced a preliminary exercise to ensure that relevant persons have complied with the international standards requirements.
The BVI Financial Services Commission recently signed a multilateral memorandum of understanding between members of the Group of International Financial Centre Supervisors. The objective of the memorandum is to ensure clarity and effective regulatory cooperation between the authorities responsible for supervising the banking sector in signatory jurisdictions.
The British Virgin Islands recently adopted new guidelines for communication and cooperation between courts in cross-border insolvency matters. The guidelines are designed primarily to enhance communication between courts, insolvency representatives and other parties in the context of global restructurings and insolvency. As a result of the increased efficiency, it is hoped that stakeholders will see a reduction in delays and costs.