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The Legal 500 Hall of Fame highlights individuals who have received constant praise by their clients for continued excellence. The Hall of Fame highlights, to clients, the law firm partners who are at the pinnacle of the profession. Starting with the United States, the criteria for entry is to have been recognised by The Legal 500 as one of the elite leading lawyers for six consecutive years. Fewer than 500 partners across the entire United States have made it into the inaugural list. These partners are highlighted below and throughout the editorial.

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There were several developments and talking points in the tax arena in 2016. Firstly, there was the continuing trend of the tax authorities seeking to close loopholes to prevent tax avoidance. For example, the US Treasury Department reformed the rules on tax inversions in order to prevent US companies from establishing their headquarters abroad and employing post-inversion maneuvers (such as earnings stripping). This had a major impact on the market for large-scale tax inversions, such as Pfizer’s proposed $160bn acquisition of Ireland-incorporated Allergan, which was ultimately scrapped.

The tax authorities also went after base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS) strategies, which exploit gaps in the international tax framework to effectively avoid tax. This increased the compliance burden for multinationals and thus initiated reviews and new implementations in tax planning - especially regarding transfer pricing and the way companies manage (and report) the profits gained domestically and by their foreign subsidiaries. As a result, law firms reported an increase in transfer pricing cases both domestically and internationally, and many practices increased their resources to handle such cases.

Also intended to cut tax avoidance were the final regulations announced by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regarding property owned by controlled foreign corporations and partnerships; this also generated a significant uptick in enquires for law firms.

In the financial products space, a key talking point was the continued strength of the private equity space during 2016, with total investment of $158.1bn into US targets, marking a 7.5% increase. The current top sectors include technology, energy and utilities, as well as industrials and chemicals. There has also been a higher demand for advice on specialty finance products, such as healthcare financings.

In October 2016, in what was a significant development, the US Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service issued its hotly anticipated final and temporary regulations on how certain debt instruments will be characterized for US tax purposes - revising earlier proposals that were met with considerable resistance. These final regulations maintain the basic framework of proposals but narrow the scope in ways that are beneficial to private equity funds.

In terms of other regulations, the equity securities market faced changes with the introduction by the IRS of Section 871(m), which came into effect at the beginning of 2017. The new rule is intended to prevent the avoidance of withholding tax on dividends paid by US corporations, which means that payments on these financial instruments are subjected to a withholding of 30% tax. In the CLO space, the US risk retention rules for asset-backed securities (which became active in December 2016) require the collateral managers in transactions to hold a specific percentage of the value.

Looking at tax law in light of the new Trump administration, a complete reform has been proposed that would introduce lower US corporate rates - down from 35% to 15% - as well as enforce repatriation from companies holding offshore profits. Trump’s tax adviser, Stephen Moore, stated in an interview that the latter rule would function to encourage former US companies now registered in Europe to return to the US and benefit from lighter taxes.

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  • EU and Malta Securitisation Market

    Following the US subprime crisis that began in 2007, the notion of securitisation has suffered from bad press that tainted its reputation. However, securitisation is still considered as an essential component to continued economic recovery and for well-functioning financial markets.

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    To step forward as an environment-friendly government, the Moon Jae-in Administration has announced its key environmental policies, including improving safety in chemical substances and household chemical products, and reinforcing implementation measures of the Paris Agreement.  Under the “sustainable development” paradigm, the new administration will continually promote new regulations to protect the environment and strengthen its enforcement of environmental regulations.
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  • Crowdfunding - The Path towards a regulatory Framework

      The importance and feasibility of crowdfunding platforms is increasing in stature and importance for current and future the entrepreneurs. Malta has recently acceded to the rising trend by creating its first crowdfunding platform, ZAAR, a reward-based crowdfunding platform who has recently been awarded with the first prize in its section at the National Enterprise Support Awards 2016 also as well as being one of the local projects that have represented Malta at the European Enterprise Promotion Awards 2016, held in Slovakia. Nonetheless start-ups based in Malta with global aspirations often rely on international platforms. An increase in interest has emerged amongst the art and culture community as well in social entrepreneurship projects. Crowdfunding in Malta is still at the early stages of development. Despite this, there are endless opportunities for local entrepreneurs and the local business community. Research has shown that through international crowdfunding platforms, monies have been raised for projects in the field of gaming consoles, apps and software as well as for artistic projects.  Testimony to this is a new game design studio in Malta, that launched its first game, Politicks, raised financing through the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo.

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