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Friday, 30 May 2014

Does Company Ownership Need Greater Transparency?

Catchy political ideas do not always translate into roaring success stories in practice. How many times has a new political sound-bite fathomed up in a poll-obsessed think-tank sailed across our headlines only to be broken up as the details are dashed on the rocks of reality?

That does not appear to have put Business Secretary, Vince Cable off pursuing a plan for a new public register of company ownership in order to keep tabs on the beneficial owners of UK companies. The main plank of the proposal is for a registry holding information on individuals with an interest in more than 25% of shares or voting rights in a company, or who otherwise control the way a company is run.

While the politics might offer easy popularity for politicians, the practical effects may be less appealing.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Property Litigation: Failure to Communicate Can Cost You Dear

Lack of communication is cited as the cause of many of society’s ills but many of us still prefer to ignore what we don’t want to hear. Unfortunately there are usually consequences to burying our heads in the sand, even if it seems an effective tactic in the short term.

This is something that certainly applies to property litigation where any seasoned solicitor will confirm that a great deal of time, money and effort is spent dealing with failed communication of one sort or another. Even where cases never reach trial, significant costs can be incurred unnecessarily because of parties’ unwillingness to engage with one another.

If a claim is discontinued, claimants usually bear the costs of starting proceedings but a 2013 property case turned this on its head when a defendant chose to ignore the claimants, right up to being served with the claim.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Co-op Bank Shines Light on Risks of Corporate Governance Failure

The unusual corporate governance systems at the Co-op have received significant attention since the UK’s largest mutually owned business hit the skids last year.

Variously described as eccentric, complex and ineffective; the Co-op’s corporate governance structure is destined for a huge shake up after members recently voted in favour of reform. Lord Myners, the former City Minister and independent Co-op board member who carried out a review into the way the Co-op group was run, concluded that the old structure had “lamentably failed”.

Despite the Co-op’s failings, there was strong internal resistance to alternatives proposed, drawing attention to the difficulties of bringing about change to established organisations. Lord Myners even quit his position, citing issues that hinted at corrosive internal politics.

The challenges of corporate leadership in the face of crisis reinforce the need to implement sound systems of corporate governance before crisis hits.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

The Ugly Game: Performance Related Sackings

David Moyes is hardly the first football manager to face the boot for lacklustre team performance and certainly won’t be the last. Needless to say, football managers are not the only people that face sackings for their perceived failures or the failures of the wider organisation; the practice is common in all walks of life.

Although the sacking of underperforming football managers attracts huge amounts of publicity and probably large doses of humiliation, in typical work environments staff are normally managed out in a more dignified manner.

Despite the perception, it is important to stress that that even high profile performance-related dismissals must be carried out properly, fairly and in accordance with due process to avoid problems.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Technology v Regulation: Airbnb Tests NYC Rental Rules

Disruptive start-up businesses have proliferated enormously with improvements in technology, particularly those enabled by the internet.

The direct means through which internet platforms can provide disparate buyers and sellers a way to find each other has seen massive disintermediation across virtually every sector of commerce. Cutting out the middleman has been just one aspect of this trend though; it has also created what appear to be new markets where none previously existed.

Broadly this has been a beneficial development for small scale buyers and sellers but whether tech companies are disrupting existing markets or creating new markets, there are inevitably questions about how their activities are regulated.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

New Family Court Now in Operation

On 22 April 2014 the Children and Families Act 2014 (the “Act”) came into force. It established a new single Family Court with the aim of improving efficiency for users and also brought in a raft of other changes.

The family courts deal with issues ranging from local authority intervention and domestic violence to divorce and adoption. Although those most likely to notice the changes are the people who work closely with the family court system such as Rollingsons’ family solicitors, it will also affect the ordinary people who come into contact with it.

So why have changes been made, what are the changes and how are they likely to affect Family Court users?

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Why the War Horse Band Lost their Battle to Carry on Playing

In April 2014 the War Horse band lost their battle to be rehired into The Royal National Theatre stage production. As the saying goes however, the battle may be lost but the war is not yet over.

The five musicians lost their application for an interim injunction or specific performance against the Royal National Theatre, either of which would have meant that they were effectively reinstated. The application followed the issuing of a claim against the theatre company for breach of contract after it replaced them with recorded music.

Although the band will not get to perform with War Horse in the period running up to the main trial, Justice Ross Cranston said that that, “The claimants’ prospects at trial for breach of contract by the National Theatre are strong.”

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Shared Residence Claim for Lesbians’ Twin Daughters Highlights Legal Complexities of Modern Families

The traditional family model is no longer the starting point for large numbers of family formations. The rapid evolution of the modern family has followed sweeping social changes that have occurred in a relatively short period of time.

The advent of civil partnerships and gay marriage; the growth of unmarried couples, same sex couples and single individuals wishing to have children; and major scientific advances mean there are a complex variety of different circumstances in which children may now be introduced. This provides parents that make such a choice and their children, wonderful opportunities for fulfilling lives but it can also create significant legal challenges.

The downside to these rapid developments is that the legal system can take time to absorb the myriad of issues that arise when things go wrong. A recent Court of Appeal decision has emphasised this difficulty.

Monday, 19 May 2014

What is Right to Acquire?

iStock_000005389441XSmallRight to Acquire allows most housing association tenants to buy their home at a discount.

What properties and people are eligible?

To apply to buy your housing association home, you must have had a public sector landlord for five years. This includes housing associations, councils, NHS trusts and foundation trusts and the armed services.

To be eligible to be bought under the Right to Acquire scheme, your property must either have been built or bought by a housing association after 31st March 1997 and funded through a social housing grant provided by the Housing Corporation of local council, or transferred from a local council to a housing association after 31st March 1997.

CPO Used to Oust Family Firm in Tottenham Hotspurs Redevelopment

The redevelopment of Tottenham Hotspurs FC’s stadium is an exciting prospect for fans and for local people who are expected to benefit from great improvements to the wider area. As with most major projects though, there have been numerous obstacles to the redevelopment proposals and one still remains in the form of a local business which occupies land adjacent to the stadium.

The family run business, Archway Sheet Metal Works, appealed against a public inquiry’s findings in April 2013 that it should be relocated using a compulsory purchase order (CPO). The final decision regarding the CPO is shortly expected to be made by DCLG Secretary Eric Pickles.

The use of a CPO raises an interesting question as to how a private business such as that controlling Tottenham Hotspur FC can seemingly get a CPO against another private business.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Are You Hoping for No Work Emails After 6pm?

It is hard to imagine working without email in today’s digital world. The ability to communicate documents in an instant via the internet has brought efficiencies that could only be dreamed of in the days of letter writing and postal mail.

Unfortunately the features that make email so useful have also become the source of significant problems. The ease of emailing has brought its own set of inefficiencies as inboxes become swamped with a mixture of urgent tasks, unwanted spam and everything in between.

Meanwhile, other technologies such as smartphones have meant that there is little escape, often upending the work-life balance. Relaxing at home after work or on a beach holiday no longer guarantees peace from demanding bosses or customers, an encroachment some consider too much.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

How Far Can Property Buyers Rely on their Report on Title?

First time property buyers and even some experienced property buyers can be confused about what the report on title really represents.

To the uninitiated, a first scan of a report on title can leave them somewhat bewildered by what various terms and phrases mean. Furthermore, given that no two properties are the same, even buyers with previous knowledge can still find themselves feeling clueless.

Although any decent solicitor will elaborate on issues that arise in the report on title and explain what they mean in practical terms for buyers, that is not the end of the report’s usefulness.

If, after the purchase is completed, problems arise because they were missed in the report or because mistakes were made, the report on title is what keeps the solicitor on the hook.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Coroner Confirms Firework Smoke Did Not Cause Motorway Crash

The coroner for West Somerset recently ruled that smoke from a firework display did not cause a crash on the M5 near Taunton that killed seven people.

The motorway pile-up involving 34 cars happened in thick fog in November 2011 near to Taunton Rugby Club which was holding a firework display approximately 200 yards from the motorway. The aftermath of the crash saw organiser Geoffrey Counsell, who ran Firestorm Pyrotechnics, accused of manslaughter and Health and Safety breaches before eventually being cleared of all the charges.

This tragic case highlights the importance of public safety considerations for individuals and businesses engaged in activities that could potentially put the public at risk.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Legal Issues for Same Sex Mums

Recent fertility treatment trends show a significant rise in the number of women from same sex couples receiving in vitro fertilization (IVF) and donor insemination (DI).

This is just one aspect of the positive changes that have occurred in recent years which have provided the opportunity for lesbians to have families of their own. Same sex couples have various options in addition to IVF and DI when it comes to starting a family including co-parenting, adoption and surrogacy.

Whatever options are being considered, it is important that couples plan carefully and think long-term, as different laws apply in each case.

Monday, 12 May 2014

What is Right to Buy?

iStock_000002603958XSmallFor many people struggling to buy their home, the first thing they turn to help them is the government’s Help to Buy scheme. However, Help to Buy isn’t the only government scheme that can help you to buy a home. The Right to Buy scheme was introduced in 1980 and is designed to allow most council tenants in England to buy their council home at a discount. Major changes were made to the scheme in April 2012, dramatically increasing the amount of discount that tenants can get.

How Does the Duty to Preserve Affect Property Sellers?

As the property market continues to heat up it is worth remembering some of the obligations that affect buyers and sellers during a transaction.

Traditionally there was a delay between exchange and completion to enable the buyer to carry out its final searches and investigations. Due to advances in technology and the formal registration of most property in the UK, this delay has been reduced significantly; often to the point that exchange and completion is done simultaneously.

Although simultaneous exchange and completion is now commonplace, it is not always appropriate. Therefore it is important to remember that certain obligations exist in the intervening period, such as the duty to preserve, and to understand their limitations.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Financial Considerations for Divorcing Couples

The first thing divorcing couples need to be aware of is that the divorce, ‘decree absolute’, is not the same as the financial settlement. The divorce simply ends the marriage, the financial settlement does what it says on the tin but is dealt with separately.

Financial settlements may be agreed informally between the parties or formally through the courts. Informally agreed settlements are usually made legally binding by requesting a ‘consent order’ from the court. Where there is disagreement, the parties will need to have the court decide the terms of the settlement with a ‘financial order’.

It is important to understand that each circumstance is different and, where the court is asked to make a financial order, different considerations will apply in each case.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Fighting The Tide of Revenge Porn

Newspapers have recently highlighted the meteoric rise in the latest social media trend to hit the internet – revenge porn.

This phenomenon, where former partners upload sexually explicit material of their ex to websites without their permission, has increased enormously in the last twelve months according to charities The National Stalking Helpline, Women's Aid and the UK Safer Internet Centre.

This worrying development has campaigners clamouring for new laws to ban the practice, such as those introduced in US states such as California in 2013, and prevent this form of online abuse escalating further. Whether new laws will arrive on these shores soon remains to be seen.

In the meantime, victims may need to look at existing harassment legislation or possible civil remedies to prevent it from happening or to claim compensation where it has already taken place.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Litigation Funding Alternatives for Business

The Jackson reforms to litigation funding costs have now been effective for over a year now, having coming in force on 1 April 2013.

The changes that were implemented through the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) have had a significant influence upon commercial litigation. After-the-event (ATE) insurance premiums and solicitors’ success fees in no win, no fee agreements are no longer recoverable from the losing side; meaning legal fees have become more of concern for businesses contemplating litigation.

One option, third party funding, which Lord Justice Jackson strongly supported, is becoming more accessible but businesses are often unaware of it.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

The Wrong Way to Manage Boundary Disputes with Neighbours

Minor boundary disputes between neighbours can escalate into bitter legal battles costing thousands if not dealt with carefully. Such stories appear regularly in the local and national news.

Although counter-intuitive, it is far better to seek legal advice at the early stages of a disagreement to clarify the legal position before hostilities arise than to wait until all reasonable communication has broken down. Experienced property lawyers will aim to keep costs down by seeking to resolve disputes as amicably and quickly as possible while providing a dispassionate approach to boundary issues.

Unfortunately, the parties involved often lose perspective in the red mist of boundary disputes and the costs soon outweigh any original benefit. A recent story about neighbours in Rothwell, Northamptonshire demonstrates the excesses that can occur once principles and passion override common sense and cost.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Home Ownership Schemes: NewBuy

iStock_000004605879XSmallIf you live in England and can’t afford to buy a home, there are government schemes that could provide you with financial help. The best known of these schemes is Help to Buy – which is actually two separate schemes: Help to Buy equity loans and Help to Buy mortgage guarantees. You can read more about these in our Guide to the Help to Buy scheme. Another scheme is NewBuy.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Property is Booming But Professionals Must Remain Wary of Mortgage Fraud

The UK property market has continued its surge upwards with London seeing a seventeen per cent rise in one year. As more buyers enter the market, mortgage lending has also been increasing at a rapid rate.

A growth in mortgage lending brings an increase in the inherent risk of more mortgage fraud. Professionals involved in the buying process such as surveyors and solicitors must remain wary to avoid getting caught up in scams.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Multi-Million Investment Banker Divorce Tests Habitual Residence Rules

The Court of Appeal recently held that a multi-million pound international divorce case between a stay at home dad and his investment banking wife could be heard in the UK.

Weng Choy, originally from Hong Kong, filed for divorce from his wife Lena Tan, originally from Malaysia, in 2012 after a row on New Year’s Eve.

The couple had amassed assets of around £11m during the course of their marriage, primarily through Ms Tan’s work for a hedge fund.

The English courts have a reputation for generosity when it comes to dividing marital assets so a battle for jurisdictional advantage was perhaps inevitable.