I recently had the great pleasure of being interviewed by James Williams, Managing Editor of HedgeWeek, for the 2017 BVI Special Report. We discussed at length the positive regulatory developments in the pipeline for the BVI, some of which I thought I’d share:
This question is asked by start-up and emerging managers all of the time and for good reason. Generally it’s the manager who’s putting down their cash to set-up the Fund, albeit the set-up fees will be amortized at the Fund level when investors come-in. As such the manager needs to be extremely confident (show me a manager who isn’t extremely confident….) that they need a US Fund and the Offshore Fund, rather than one or the other. To make this decision, the manager needs to be focused and strategic with their marketing and to have discussed the pros and cons with their legal counsel. Otherwise the manager could well be wasting their own money. Let’s jump into why a manager should be setting-up a US Fund and the Offshore Fund at the same time.
The Brexit rollercoaster is showing no signs of nearing the end of the ride yet following the UK Supreme Court’s judgment on Tuesday this week. As has been widely reported, the Supreme Court confirmed that the UK government doesn’t have the power to give notice to withdraw from the European Union under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty without an act of Parliament authorising it to do so. The government can’t simply serve notice to leave, as it had hoped and argued before the UK’s highest court, and so it now has to put draft legislation before Parliament, which it published today, to give the government the authority it needs to serve notice.
Opposition parties have already made it clear that they may try to amend the draft legislation, which, with only one section authorising the Prime Minister to serve Article 50 notice, must win the prize for being one of the shortest pieces of legislation in recent years. Although it looks unlikely they’ll de-rail Brexit itself at this stage or even delay the government’s 31 March target deadline for serving Article 50 notice, MPs could try to take Theresa May’s strategy in a different direction from the principles she set out in her speech last week or make the government involve Parliament more in the negotiations, not just give them a vote on the final deal struck.
So what does the Supreme Court judgment mean for offshore funds?
Greetings offshorefundsblog readers. Phil and I have just returned from attending the inaugural Cap Intro West Conference in San Francisco last week. We were both honoured to be invited to speak at the conference: I joined a number of friends presenting a Private Equity and Hedge Fund Boot Camp for start up and emerging fund managers while Phil, somehow, managed to have the audience in stitches while he detailed the ins and outs of AIFMD on his panel on Navigating Fund Marketing Rules and Regulations.
As you might expect at a January conference, a lot of time was spent during the breakouts looking at the tea leaves to determine what 2017 might hold for us. I am very pleased to report that the mood was generally optimistic. Some of this may have due to the Trump administration’s intended policies to boost the US economy and some of this may have been due to the generous pours of the bar staff at the evening cocktails!
As a long suffering Liverpool supporter, I can absolutely assure you that I have literally no interest or desire to defend Jose Mourinho or Christian Ronaldo. In fact, I am actually hardwired to positively enjoy any misfortune they may suffer, such is the slightly callous nature of being a football fan.
However, when they recently both appeared on the front pages of various British journalistic publications (rather than adopting their rather comfortable position on the back page about their latest sulk), linked with entities based in my home of the British Virgin Islands, I felt duty bound to comment. Because, once again, some of the rhetoric being used to describe their personal (and frankly, private) tax affairs was in some parts inaccurate and in others categorically misleading to the reader.
After more than 15 months in the wilderness, with goodness knows what to keep him entertained during his recovery from multiple back surgeries, Tiger finally came back to the PGA Tour this weekend and competed in the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas.
The entire sporting world watched and waited; could he begin down the road to superstardom once again?
Segregated Portfolio Companies (SPCs) are now well recognised and widely used corporate vehicles, and we are seeing increasing demand for them in the funds context in both the BVI and Cayman Islands. An SPC benefits from statutory segregation of its assets and liabilities in one segregated portfolio from those of any other segregated portfolio, and from the general assets and liabilities of the company, but is a single, legal entity. The SPC has only one set of constitutional documents, one board of directors and, importantly, one set of annual licence fees (although additional fees are charged per segregated portfolio on establishment (and, in Cayman, annually) these supplementary fees are much lower than the fees for establishing and maintaining multiple entities).
The ability to segregate the assets and liabilities of one segregated portfolio from another makes SPCs popular for umbrella or multi-class investment funds which can operate different investment strategies and, in particular, different levels of leverage, without risking cross contamination across the segregated portfolios.
In the past, SPCs have been popular with emerging managers who may have used an SPC platform as a cost-effective way to enter the market and establish an investment fund. They would effectively “rent” a segregated portfolio of the SPC platform rather than set up a standalone legal entity. This is still the case for Cayman SPCs although it has become less attractive in the BVI since the introduction there of specific products – the incubator fund and approved fund – tailored to the emerging manager each of which offers a quick and cost-effective set-up and minimum ongoing regulatory requirements.
Regulation of SPCs
In the BVI, a company is only eligible to be an SPC if it is, or will be on incorporation, a private, professional or public fund under the Securities and Investment Business Act, 2010. In Cayman, any exempted company can be incorporated as or convert into an SPC (if it follows the conversion procedure set out in the Companies Law).
The prior approval of the BVI Financial Services Commission (FSC) is required before any BVI company may be registered or incorporated as an SPC and this is only granted where the FSC is satisfied that the applicant has, or has available to it, the knowledge and expertise necessary for the proper management of segregated portfolios. There is no equivalent approval needed for Cayman SPCs.
In both the BVI and Cayman, each segregated portfolio either has its own offering memorandum or there is a base offering memorandum for the fund and each segregated portfolio has its own portfolio supplement.
A BVI SPC is required to have an administrator, manager and custodian. As discussed in our Introduction to Cayman Fund Products blog post, a Cayman SPC which is a regulated fund will need to have an administrator and manager but is not required to have a custodian but a Cayman SPC which is unregulated is not required under Cayman legislation to appoint functionaries. The same functionaries may be appointed to all of the segregated portfolios of a BVI SPC or a Cayman SPC which is a regulated fund. Alternatively, each segregated portfolio may appoint its own functionaries. The documents appointing the functionaries must state clearly the segregated portfolios for which the appointment is being made.
Both a BVI SPC and a Cayman SPC which is a regulated fund are required to have an auditor, and audited financial statements must be filed with the FSC or the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority (as applicable) within six months of the end of its financial year.
The future of SPCs
The use of SPCs, especially in the funds and insurance industries, has grown in recent years and the concept is now well recognised in the international financial services industry. As a consequence, we are getting more frequent enquiries about establishing SPCs and clients are seeing that the features of SPCs are useful, not only for regulated funds but also for a broad range of other uses such as closed-end, unregulated funds or employee benefit schemes. The Cayman legislation is currently more flexible than the BVI legislation and allows unregulated funds to be established as SPCs. Consequently, Cayman is currently winning this work. The BVI Business Companies Act, 2004 provides scope for greater flexibility as to the type of vehicles that are able to adopt the SPC structure, and the FSC is looking into widening the circumstances in which SPCs can be used. When it does this (and we are hopeful that this is imminent), the BVI, with its much lower establishment and annual fees, will become extremely competitive in this market.
If you are interested in setting up an SPC in the BVI or the Cayman Islands, please get in touch.
I am very pleased to be the first offshore funds blogger to give a shout out to our friends and colleagues at harneysoffshorelitigation.com.* All the very best with the launch of the blog! The team here at Harneys offshorefundsblog are extremely proud to be your guiding light and inspiration, your blogging mentors, as you take your first stuttering baby steps towards true blogging greatness. Congratulations on being the first blog devoted to the world of offshore litigation (and, ahem, the second blog devoted to offshore legal matters).
In all seriousness, we are very excited that there will be a blog devoted to offshore litigation matters now. The offshorefundsblog bloggers worked very closely with our litigation colleagues during the GFC helping some of our investment funds clients deal with distressed situations, whether as a result of trading losses, illiquidity or other factors. Together, we were able to find solutions for those clients that I don’t think a funds lawyer or a litigation lawyer would have been able to come up with alone.
* I think I am almost as proud to be the first offshore lawyer to actually give a shout out on a blog. Keeping up with those hip young millennial bloggers for sure…
The political and economic rollercoaster ride we’ve been on here in the UK since the EU referendum in June seems set to continue following Thursday’s High Court judgment in London. The High Court held that the UK government doesn’t have the power to give notice to withdraw from the European Union under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. Only parliament has the power to change domestic law in the UK and, as serving notice to leave the EU will affect rights under domestic UK law, the government can’t serve notice without parliament’s approval.
So, just as we’d started to get used to the idea of notice being served by the government in March 2017, with the UK then leaving the EU by March 2019, the Brexit process has now been thrown up in the air again.
Keep calm and stay in London?
I was of course overjoyed with the news that my colleagues in our London office and Hong Kong office had been hugely successful in their respective HFM Awards Ceremonies as HFM is a leading global publication covering the hedge fund industry and these high profile awards (which are judged on the basis of client feedback) are undoubtedly very well regarded in the industry.
But, and I can shamefully admit to this fact only now, another part of me was a touch envious.
The feeling is comparable to the one of sitting on a substitute’s bench and watching your team romp home to a glorious victory without you. Whilst of course externally you smile and whoop with delight, there is another part of you that wishes you could just get a chance to run onto the field and contribute in some way to the success.
Well, our chance to do that very thing came when we found out a few weeks ago that we had been nominated in the US as well and so finally the BVI, Cayman and Vancouver offices had their potential opportunity; could we come on in the 80th minute and bang home the third and final goal? Continue reading
One of my favourite aspects of working in the offshore environment is that we get to speak to fund managers based all over the world about the latest hot and trendy investment opportunities. Over the last few years we have dealt with enquiries about bitcoin, crowd-funding, acquiring a portfolio of oil tankers and real estate opportunities in Puerto Rico to name but a few of the more intriguing conversations. It constantly keeps the team on our (permanently parked under the desk) toes and there is no doubt that recently we have been part of a very regular trickle of Cuba based conversations and how to maximise the gradual opening of the borders.
When Raul Castro took over from his brother as President of Cuba in 2008, he began a long-anticipated process of political and economic reform. As a result of his strategy, the stagnant economy has been gradually coming to life, galvanised by a fledgling private sector. Diplomatic advances have been made, animosities are thawing and, slowly but surely, relations with overseas nations are being restored. With this sea change comes the possibility of direct foreign investment, a prospect historically laden with regulatory obstacles and risks – from both sides.
It is easy to see why there is excitement surrounding Cuba’s development. The tourism industry is set to explode and the relaxation in travel restrictions for Americans opens a previously-untapped market of over 300 million potential visitors. Such a vast influx of people will require utilities, hotels, ports, roads and telecoms; truly massive investment is required to improve the current infrastructure and there is cautious optimism from sponsors eager to participate in the process and Cubans looking forward to the resulting developments.
Indeed, it is the tourism sector that US News largely focused on in the following article as the best way to invest in Cuba as a US citizen:
But rather than related company stock-picking, what about direct foreign investment? Is there a way for US based investors to capitalise directly on some of the infrastructure opportunities for example?
It seems like almost six months since I was in Shanghai to present at the 2nd Annual Hedge Fund China Summit 2016 and to enjoy plenty of the vino tinto at the awards dinner afterwards where my firm, Harneys, picked up the trophy for “Best Offshore Law Firm for Hedge Funds”.
Wait, that’s because it was five months ago.
And what a five months it has been.
Shortly after picking up that award, I was thrilled to hear that my colleagues in our London office had been named Best Offshore Law Firm – Client Service at the HFM European Hedge Fund Services Awards, announced on 21 April 2016.
The HFM Awards are high profile in the global hedge funds industry and the client service award is independently judged based on the relative strength of client testimonials and market feedback. The awards recognise Harneys as having provided leading client service, innovation and expertise to our valued hedge fund clients of all sizes, from start-up hedge funds and emerging managers to global multi-billion dollar investment institutions. That is what we do.
Now, when I say thrilled … what I actually mean is … indignant that my colleagues in London would seek more glory than their far more humble colleagues battling away day and night here in the buzzing hub of economic activity that is Asia.
In this guest post, my friend Scott Rosenthal discusses the role of an Outsource CFO and the reasons why fund managers might like to engage one. Do feel free to get in contact with Scott or myself if you would like to discuss any of this further.
There is a growing segment of the hedge fund and private equity fund service provider population called the Outsource CFO. Outsourcing has become very popular in recent years, in regards to back office, middle office, compliance (including outsourcing the investment advisers CCO), trading, and most other areas that a hedge fund needs to operate. What could be considered the final frontier of the service provider population is the Outsource CFO. The Outsource CFO model assists the start-up or smaller fund manager, who may not have the budget or the need for a full time CFO. So, instead of hiring someone who may not have the appropriate experience in order just meet the budgetary restrictions, fund managers can now opt to hire an Outsource CFO.
So why use an Outsource CFO?
As an emerging manager who has set up a BVI incubator fund with the backing of friends and family, the two to three-year incubation period is time to prove your credentials and build a solid track record with the ultimate aim of attracting sophisticated and institutional investors. However, there is so much more to do during that period than prove that your investment strategy stands up to scrutiny.
In an age of increasing transparency, it is vital that you use the incubation period to start preparing for a time when you will need to meet institutional-style demands in terms of your operations. It is still early days – and you may still fall below AUM thresholds for complying with extraterritorial regulation – but there is a level of infrastructure and reporting that sophisticated and institutional investors will expect before they are going to invest. Continue reading
It was a packed room at The Lawyer Awards last week – all 1250 of us anxiously hoping our firm would be crowned winner – and with few categories so fiercely contested as Offshore Law Firm of the Year, we were definitely on the edge of our seat.
The Lawyer kept us entertained while we waited, though. With hours of comedy from Dara Ó Briain, a rocking band and a beautiful River Thames fireworks display, it was a glittering celebration of a year of hard work and success across the legal industry – and judging from the crowd still packed on the dancefloor at 2am, a night that many didn’t want to end.