Legal Market Overview
Guernsey remains a leading offshore jurisdiction for tax planning, asset protection and pension investments using local trust structures. The Trusts (Guernsey) Law, which recently celebrated its tenth birthday, underpins the jurisdiction’s favourable reputation as a flexible and innovative beacon of fiduciary and trust structures. Despite its South-Easterly neighbour having the bulk of the momentum in this space and proposals to change technicalities of UK Stamp Duty Land Tax, Guernsey continues to be popular for real estate structures, with the Guernsey Property Unit Trust providing an extremely similar offering to its Jersey cousin, the JPUT.
Despite a positive Moneyval review of Guernsey’s anti-money laundering regime (which locals would consider stronger than in England & Wales), the Channel Islands have come under increased Westminster attention regarding their financial transparency. This has included a constitutionally striking proposal for the British government to impose a public register of beneficial ownership on the Crown Dependencies over the best part of a millennium of self-government. Guernsey is experiencing healthy growth in insurance-linked securities (ILS) activity and is leading the charge in innovation in this sector; ‘convergence’ is the key work on investors’ lips, as they seek to combine insurance and investment activity into one vehicle.
Strong competition from Luxembourg notwithstanding, many leading names in private equity continue to domicile their funds in Guernsey, favouring its stable legal system with tried and tested corporate structures. Indeed, many would question if Luxembourg has the ability to handle something such as the Carlyle directors’ duty litigation concerning the collapse of CLO fund in the 2008 crash, which was regarded as well-run in Guernsey. On the topic of litigation, insolvency and trusts cases are key, on the latter a recent ruling in the Guernsey Court of Appeal clarified of the Hastings-Bass principle concerning the circumstances in which fiduciaries could set aside transactions with unforeseen tax liabilities.
The Bailiwick of Guernsey also includes the significantly smaller jurisdictions of Alderney, which was spotlit by locally-registered and regulated Sky Bet’s purchase by The Stars Group, as well as Sark, which averted a black-out thanks to a last-minute nationalisation of its energy company. Differences in legal systems notwithstanding, these islands are serviced by the Guernsey Bar.
With the exception of Maples and Calder, all of the major international Offshore firms in the Jersey market are also present in Guernsey, with Carey Olsen and Mourant some of the largest on the Island. Ferbrache & Farrell LLP and Babbé LLP constitute the leading independent alternatives.
Mourant managing partner Jessica Roland is scheduled to leave the firm in May 2020 to become new Deputy Bailiff, to replace Richard McMahon who is taking the role of Bailiff as Sir Richard Collas retires.