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Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Libor Scandal Likely to Encourage Commercial Litigation

The Libor scandal has seriously rocked a host of financial institutions which have paid around $6 billion in fines over manipulation of the benchmark interest rate.

That may just be the beginning of the banks’ problems stemming from Libor though, as a complex web of inter-related issues makes its way to the courts.

Libor has been used as the benchmark rate for a huge variety of financial products not least, interest rate swaps.

Although a separate scandal has emerged from the mis-selling of interest rate swaps, the Libor scandal may prove a bigger stick for claimants to beat the banks with when it comes to litigating those claims.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

The Fight for Control of Liverpool FC

Liverpool Football Club’s recent winning streak stands testament to its resilience and to its status as of one of England’s most successful football teams.

Difficulties off the pitch such as the inquest into the disaster at Hillsborough and the legal claim by the club’s former owners have failed to dampen spirits, evidenced by a string of league victories in the first quarter of 2014.

The last tremors from the acrimonious fight for control of Anfield that took place in 2010 finally dispersed at the beginning of 2014 when its former owners, American businessmen Thomas Hicks Sr. and George Gillett Jr. dropped their High Court litigation in a confidential settlement.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Home Ownership Schemes: Shared Ownership

iStock_000007981122SmallThe most well known of the government’s home ownership schemes are the Help to Buy equity loans and Help to Buy mortgage guarantees. We have an in depth guide to these on our website, which you can read by clicking here. However, there are other less well known government affordable home ownership schemes which may be able to provide you with financial help to become a home owner if you live in England and can’t afford a home. This post looks at the Shared Ownership scheme.

Fighting the Scourge of Expenses Fiddling at Work

Maria Miller may have been cleared of funding a home for her parents at the taxpayers' expense but her resignation once again draws attention to the murky topic of MPs’ expenses claims. Politicians have made themselves prime targets for extra scrutiny when it comes to their expenses but they are not the only people inclined to take advantage of their employers.

Although the vast majority of ordinary workers are trustworthy and honest, surveys show that a significant percentage of staff are tempted to game their firm’s expenses systems. Behaviour ranges from maximising expenses where rules lack clarity to outright fraudulent claims.

It is therefore important for employers to have proper systems in place and for employees to stick to the rules to avoid trouble.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Air Pollution and Working Conditions

The recent high levels of pollution across swathes of the country caused discomfort for many people and serious health concerns for the unfortunate few.

The air pollution index from DEFRA indicated that high to very high levels of pollution were present in parts of the South East, including London. Local ambulance services reported spikes in 999 calls across the country.

The greatest risk at an individual level were the effects on those people suffering from breathing difficulties, asthma and heart problems.

The question is what legal protections exist for workers in these circumstances?

Thursday, 24 April 2014

FCA Crowdfunding Regulations Now in Force

Crowdfunding is just one of many innovations to have taken off rapidly from the technology sector but new regulations have just been introduced as regulators catch up.

Well-known crowdfunding websites including the likes of Kickstarter, Indiegogo and RocketHub are now subject to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) policy on crowdfunding in the UK which came into force on 1 April 2014.

Policymakers have been very keen to promote the tech sector in the UK; Old Street’s ‘Silicon Roundabout’ has received huge political support and press attention. However, seasoned financial professionals have always seen crowdfunding’s skirting of existing financial legislation as a magnet for greater regulation.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Why are Energy Prices so Complex?

Despite a relatively mild winter, energy prices have remained a hot topic for politicians over the last few months.

Calls for a freeze on energy prices and simplification of tariffs have certainly captured the public mood but intervention by government and the regulator can be counter-productive.

Energy prices are significant costs for consumers so it is important to understand how the energy companies are regulated by Ofgem and how this affects end users.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Legal Crackdown on Bullying Bailiffs

New laws came into force in England and Wales on 6 April 2014 in an attempt to raise the standards of practices used by bailiffs.

The changes under the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 are designed to put an end to the worst activities such as entering homes at night and using aggressive or threatening behaviour.

Bailiffs play an important role in the debt recovery process; it is estimated that bailiffs are responsible for collecting around four million debts each year.

The introduction of reforms should bring clarity to the rules and greater accountability for those operating in the industry.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Government Set to Increase Civil Court Fees

Civil court fees are set to increase in April following the Government’s response to a Ministry of Justice consultation. Court of Appeal fees will not change for the time being but are set to change later on.

The consultation ‘Court Fees: Proposals for reform’ ran from 3 December 2013 until 21 January 2014. The Government’s response was published on 1 April 2014.

Following the response, court fees will rise from the 22 April 2014 when the Government introduces secondary legislation. The rises are 2.7% higher than anticipated by the original consultation to keep them in line with CPI.

The changes are not without controversy as many observers believe that the cost of the civil justice system should be borne by the state rather than litigants to preserve access to justice.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Forex Investigations Heat Up

The foreign exchange markets are the latest area of finance to attract the close scrutiny of regulators.

The FCA confirmed that it was ‘conducting investigations alongside several other agencies into a number of firms relating to trading on the foreign exchange (forex) market’ back in Autumn 2013.

The UK regulator along with its Swiss counterpart recently stepped up their investigations into the forex markets after evidence suggested that important rates had been affected.

The investigations follow numerous other scandals that have led to huge fines for financial companies and individuals involved. The most significant have been related to the manipulation of Libor, the benchmark interest rate.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

When is Trading While Insolvent Unlawful?

Directors of struggling business must be careful to avoid incurring personal liability for Wrongful Trading. Accusations of Wrongful Trading may be brought by liquidators in the event of insolvency under Section 214 of the Insolvency Act 1986 (the Act).

Wrongful Trading is a serious offence which can lead to directors becoming personally liable to contribute to the company’s assets and meet its obligations to unsecured creditors.

However, there is often confusion about when Wrongful Trading occurs and whether trading through financial difficulties will necessarily land directors in hot water if the business does not eventually recover.

Monday, 14 April 2014

What is the Law on Lost or Forgotten Property?

There was a bemusing story in the newspapers recently about a wealthy Norwegian man who had forgotten a boat he had moored in a Swedish harbour. Although the owner was eventually discovered when a police appeal was mounted on Facebook, the case raises an interesting point about ownership of lost or forgotten property.

The old adage of “finders keepers, losers weepers” is probably engrained on most English peoples’ psyche from their playground years. Although the phrase has a nice ring to it, it is not in fact an accurate reflection of the legal position on lost or forgotten property.

So what should you do if you find something of value that appears lost or forgotten?

Friday, 11 April 2014

Why Property Buyers Should Consider Mining Searches

Sinkholes really are the stuff of nightmares. The thought of the earth opening up and swallowing you without trace is truly terrifying. The recent story of 37 year-old Jeff Bush from Florida, who disappeared into the earth as he slept in his bed turned that awful prospect into a reality which still haunts the rescue workers that were first called to the scene.

Unfortunately sinkholes are not isolated to Florida; dramatic accounts of holes opening up without any warning have come from as far afield as China, Guatemala and even Hemel Hempstead. The causes of sinkholes are as varied as the places where they have occurred but the most commonly cited cause in the UK is from disused mines.

Conveyancing solicitors will often carry out mining searches when someone buys a property, particularly where it is a known risk in the area. With estate agents selling property neighbouring the recently created sinkhole in Hemel Hempstead as their “Property of the Week” it highlights the need for buyers and their solicitors to be thorough with their searches.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Property Buyers: Beware of Solicitor Negligence

Property transactions in the UK are founded upon the ancient legal principle ‘buyer beware’ which comes from the Latin term ‘caveat emptor’. Although this expression is beloved by lawyers it has serious implications for property buyers because any defects, whether physical or legal, will end up passing with the property to the buyer upon completion.

Given the unknowns the average property buyer faces when they proceed with what is often the largest personal transaction they have made, it is incumbent upon the professionals acting on their behalf to do so with the appropriate degree of thoroughness.

Unfortunately professionals of all descriptions, including solicitors, can slip up from time to time but the innocent client should not have to suffer the financial consequences of professional negligence.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Laptop Litigation Lasts 16 Years

There are few things in life worth spending 16 years litigating over, particularly a £1,499 laptop.

Unfortunately for one stubborn consumer that is exactly what has happened. Richard Durkin claimed that HFC Bank destroyed his credit rating over a credit agreement dispute which led to long and arduous legal battle. The case provides a cautionary tale for those who choose to litigate on principal.

After 16 years, a multitude of legal proceedings and cost running into six figures Mr Durkin finally reached a victorious conclusion in the Supreme Court, winning damages of £8,000.

Although the outcome is a rather pyrrhic victory for Mr Durkin personally, it is great for other consumers who also benefit from a multitude of protective legislation when it comes to consumer credit.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

How Do Tenants Seek Relief From Forfeiture?

Leases generally contain a right for the landlord to bring a lease to an end before the fixed term if the tenant breaches any of the covenants. Where property is occupied this requires the landlord to pursue forfeiture proceedings through the courts.

If the breach of covenant is for non payment of rent then the landlord must normally make a formal written demand for the outstanding sums before resorting to forfeiture proceedings. Many leases contain a provision for landlords to reclaim possession of the property ‘whether rent is formally demanded or not’ but lack of a formal demand is unusual.

Where forfeiture proceedings are brought for other types of covenant breach, the landlord must follow the procedure set out in the s146(1) of the Law of Property Act 1925.

Under the legislation, tenants can seek relief from forfeiture before or after proceedings have been issued.

Beware the Effect of Chancel Repair Liability on Property Prices

Are you responsible for the costs of repair the roof on your local church?

You just might be even if you are not aware of it due to ancient laws governing what is known as ‘chancel repair liability’. Chancel repair liability specifically relates to the chancel which is the part of the church containing the altar.

This little-known legal snare can be a nasty surprise for property owners that are unaware of it. As you can imagine, repairs to ancient buildings such as churches do not come cheap and property haunted by chancel repair liabilities can take a significant hit in value.

Monday, 7 April 2014

New Sentencing Guidelines Spell Bigger Fines for Serious Environmental Offences

The Sentencing Council issued new sentencing guidelines for environmental offences in February 2014 following a public consultation. They come into force on 1 July 2014.

The new guidelines cover activities such as fly tipping, waste handling and others. The offences are primarily regulated by the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010.

The Sentencing Council is an independent, non-departmental public body of the Ministry of Justice which issues guidelines to the courts that must generally be followed unless it is in the interests of justice not to do so.

This is the first time that the Sentencing Council has produced guidelines for environmental offences and it entails significant changes, particularly in the most serious cases.

Forfeiting a Commercial Lease

Most commercial tenancies are forfeited due to non-payment of rent. Breach of other covenants in the lease may give rise to forfeiture but this is less common. The first step down this path requires the landlord to ascertain that the right to forfeit has arisen.

Before opting for forfeiture, commercial landlords must consider the pros and cons of bringing their lease to an end in this way.

Once the decision to forfeit has been made, it is essential to follow the correct procedure to avoid unnecessary costs and to ensure the best chance of a successful outcome.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Changes to National Minimum Wage Regulations

Two important amendments to the national minimum wage regulations came into force on 7 March 2014.

The changes were brought in by two statutory instruments, The National Minimum Wage (Amendment) Regulations 2014 and The National Minimum Wage (Variation of Financial Penalty) Regulations 2014.

The first made changes to the exemptions from the national minimum wage in order to try and help with the problem of youth unemployment while the second increased the penalties for underpayment.

Employers should be particularly cautious regarding the latter.

Forfeiture of Residential Tenancies

Residential leases usually contain a right for the landlord to forfeit the lease if the tenant fails to comply with certain conditions. The most common reason for forfeiture is non-payment of rent but it can also apply to other breaches of lease terms.

Forfeiture is generally applicable to long term leases such as 99, 125 and 999 year leases. Tenants under these types of leases, or leaseholders as they are commonly referred to, threatened with forfeiture can apply for relief as soon as they are issued with a notice to forfeit under s.146(1) of the Law of Property Act 1925.

If a lease is forfeited, the landlord can then seek to regain possession of the property.

Harry Styles’ Injunction Against Harassment

Harry Styles is the latest celebrity to score a personal victory against paparazzi who have been hounding him around London.

The inherent interest of the press in the privacy versus freedom of expression debate means it is never far from the current news agenda. And media outlets are usually the first to publicly defend themselves against attempted restrictions on their rights to investigate and report freely.

However, media excesses in exploiting the principle of freedom of expression are well documented and continue to be highly publicised as the trials of ex-News of the World employees and associates rumble on.

With that backdrop it is unsurprising that a court has granted Harry Styles an injunction against a group of particularly intrusive photographers.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Pistorius Trial: Proceedings and Public Commentary

The trial of Oscar Pistorius is providing fascination, horror and suspense in varying measures. In a first for South Africa, the televised trial has given journalists, lawyers and other followers across the world the opportunity to catch a glimpse of an extraordinary event for the country’s justice system.

The British public and practitioners familiar with the rules and procedures of UK courts have been given an insight into something very different to what they are used to at home. The fame of the defendant and the exceptionally open nature of the trial have led to unconstrained commentary on the case which is an unusual feature of South African justice.

Observers of the UK courts should be aware that although there are similarities between South African law and English law, there are also significant differences. Importantly, commentary on legal proceedings in the UK is often restricted in these types of cases, carrying a risk of potential prosecution for violators.

Why Breaching a Confidentiality Clause Can Suck

Acrimonious litigation often provides the victor with a great sense of satisfaction but the temptation to gloat can be fateful. If pride comes before a fall then rubbing your adversary’s nose in it might spell disaster if what goes around comes around.

Putting karma to the test, a Florida teenager has cost her parents dear by taking to Facebook to celebrate her father’s success in his age discrimination compensation ‘win’ over his former employer.

The teenager’s boast breached a confidentiality clause voiding the $80,000 settlement.

Lease Forfeiture: The Basics

Forfeiture is the right of a landlord to re-enter a leased premises and terminate a lease if certain specified events occur. It is the ultimate remedy available to landlords and management companies for dealing with problematic tenants in both residential and commercial properties.

Forfeiture is certainly an important tool for property managers but it must be handled with care and professional advice is essential. In addition, the lease must contain an explicit right to forfeit in particular circumstances because the right to forfeit does not otherwise exist, it is not automatic.

Tenants facing forfeiture should also understand their rights and seek immediate legal advice.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

The Smart Way to Quit Your Job

There must be few employees out there who have not at some point had a job they would like to quit in a raging blaze of glory against their employer.

The viral spread through social media of a slideshow picturing an attractive female employee publicly skewering her boss for calling her a HOPA (“hot piece of ass”), and spending too much time playing Farmville and reading Tech Crunch, indicates that it is a popular fantasy.

Although the original slideshow and the purported response were outed fairly quickly as humorous fakes, employees feeling inspired should think twice before unleashing their anti-employer angst publicly.

Employment Compensation Awards to Increase

Employers and employees should take note of changes to the potential compensation awards that may be made at the Employment Tribunal and in certain other employment situations.

The Employment Rights (Increase of Limits) Order 2014 has been published and laid before Parliament. The changes to compensation limits will come into force from 6 April 2014.

Through the Order changes have been made to Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, (“the 1992 Act”) and to the Employment Rights Act 1996, (“the 1996 Act”)

Wheels Come off Tax Scheme for DJ Chris Moyles

The UK tax system is notoriously complex and has snared all sorts of people from naive celebrities to mistaken experts to outright fraudsters.

Even simple definitions such as tax avoidance, which is legal, and tax evasion, which is illegal, are often confused by people unfamiliar with tax planning. The former is perfectly legitimate for both individuals and businesses wishing to maintain a degree of tax efficiency but an overly aggressive approach can be deemed abusive avoidance or even evasion in the worst cases, with serious consequences.

It is always worth seeking advice from a qualified tax expert such as a trusted accountant or lawyer when arranging your tax affairs. At the same time, if you are offered a tax scheme that sounds too good to be true, seek independent advice before committing to avoid the fate of DJ Chris Moyles.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Extradition Treaty Controversy Reignited As Elderly Couple Lose Case

The 2003 UK-US Extradition Treaty has generated yet more controversy as an elderly British couple lose their fight to avoid the US justice system.

Grandparents Paul and Sandra Dunham, both in their late fifties, have lost their High Court battle to prevent extradition to the US where they face charges of fraud and money laundering.

The couple stated that their lives have been ‘shattered’ and that they have been ‘let down’ by the British justice system.

Prince Piracy Action Flusters Fans

Intellectual property infringement is a risk for all rights holders and vigilance is required to protect them from abuse. Pop artist Prince started 2014 with a huge broadside against online pirates that had posted copies of his live performances across the internet.

A civil claim was issued for $22m against 22 internet users that had used Facebook and various blogs to disseminate copies of his live performances online. Although the response of fans was mixed, with many criticising his aggressive tactics, it provided a stark warning of the financial risks posed to pirates.

According to US celebrity gossip blog TMZ, Prince’s lawyers dropped the action shortly after it became public because the illegal bootleggers had removed the offending material.

Is There Intellectual Property in Food?

The rise of the celebrity chef has put food high up on Britain’s entertainment menu and the attention foisted upon restaurant culture has brought immeasurable improvements to the UK’s dining out experience.

The UK was once lambasted for its poor service, limited menus and terrible restaurant food but even the most grudging of foodie tourists now acknowledge the variety and quality on offer.

Although we do now have a vibrant food culture here in the UK, when it comes taking food seriously we probably still trail behind our neighbours across the Channel. Two French chefs have demonstrated just how seriously they view their culinary creations by trying to ban diners from taking photos of food ordered in their restaurants.