Motivated by a “visceral reaction” to large-scale economic crime, Nick Ephgrave lays out vision for a bolder, more pragmatic, and more proactive agency.

By Pamela Reddy and Matthew Unsworth

Whistleblowers, dawn raids, and cross-agency collaboration are all top of Nick Ephgrave’s agenda as he settles into his new role as Director of the UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO). Taking to the stage for his inaugural speech at the Royal United Services Institute last week,[i] Ephgrave gave a glimpse into his ambitious (if optimistic) plans for the agency under his leadership.

The time is right to review the rules on electronic service, says judge in a case involving invalid service of claim form.

By Oliver Middleton and Duncan Graves

A recent decision in the English High Court highlights the continued need for litigants to faithfully abide by the procedures governing the service of claim forms, which are “bright line rules” requiring stricter observance than many others in the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR).[1] In the decision, the judge commented that the present framework governing service by electronic means, such as email, may not reflect modern litigation practice and could therefore be due for reform.

The consultation paper confirms a radical approach to bolster the international competitiveness of the UK markets and return to a disclosure-based listing framework.

By Mark Austin, Chris Horton, James Inness, Anna Ngo, and Johannes Poon

The FCA today published consultation paper CP23/31 setting out detailed draft rules for the new UK listing regime. The publication represents the final stage of the journey to reshape the UK Listing Rules which started with the launch of Lord Hill’s UK Listings Review in 2020. Most of the key changes reflect proposals in the FCA’s preceding consultation paper CP23/10 published in May 2023 (see this Latham Client Alert for further details).

Goods imported into the UK from countries with a lower or no carbon price will face a levy by 2027.

By Paul A. Davies, Michael D. Green, and James Bee

On 18 December 2023, the UK government announced a proposal for a new carbon border adjustment mechanism (UK CBAM). The announcement follows extensive consultation earlier this year on possible measures to mitigate carbon leakage risks and aims to support the UK’s decarbonisation efforts.

The UK has made a number of decarbonisation commitments including reaching net zero by 2050. These commitments to decarbonise can be undermined by “carbon leakage”, in which production of goods and associated emissions move from a jurisdiction with more ambitious climate policies (which add costs to carbon-intensive processes) to another jurisdiction with less ambitious policies, resulting in an overall negative impact on the carbon intensity of the processes/goods themselves. The UK CBAM (or other form of carbon tax) seeks to address this issue by aiming to put a fair price on the carbon emitted during the production of certain carbon-intensive goods entering the UK.

The Arbitration Bill’s changes clarify important aspects of English arbitral law, reinforcing London’s position as a leader in international arbitration.

By Charles Rae

On 21 November 2023, the UK government unveiled its long-awaited plans to update and modernise the legal framework applicable to arbitrations in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland through amendments to the Arbitration Act 1996. In line with the recommendations of the Law Commission in its September 2023 report (a summary of which can be found in Latham’s previous Client Alert), the government has opted for targeted reform over root-and-branch changes, focusing on clarifying a number of important aspects of arbitral law which have become contentious in recent years. The result is a suite of practical revisions (the Arbitration Bill 2023) that will provide greater certainty to parties and help maintain the UK’s position as a leading destination for international arbitration.

The Private Members Bill, if passed, would establish the UK’s first law mandating business due diligence on human rights and the environment.

By Paul A. DaviesMichael D. Green, and James Bee

On 28 November 2023, Baroness Young of Hornsey (Baroness Young) introduced the Commercial Organisations and Public Authorities Duty (Human Rights and Environment) Bill (the Bill) to the UK House of Lords. The Bill seeks to establish the UK’s first law mandating certain companies to conduct human rights and environmental due diligence, and would also introduce an overarching duty for companies to prevent environmental and human rights abuses within their operations and value chains.

The Bill aims to level the playing field among businesses, provide clarity on legal obligations, and enable a greater level of access to justice. It also aims to align UK law with voluntary international standards, such as the United Nations (UN) Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Guidelines, and the International Labour Organization (ILO) Multinational Enterprises Guidelines.

Critical Third Parties serving the UK financial sector must ready themselves for compliance with the newly proposed operational resilience requirements.

By Rob Moulton, Fiona Maclean, and Charlotte Collins

On 7 December 2023, the PRA, FCA, and BoE jointly published a Consultation Paper (PRA CP26/23 and FCA CP23/30) which proposes a set of regulatory requirements and expectations for critical third parties (CTPs) that provide services to authorised persons, relevant service providers, and financial market infrastructure entities (FMIs). The key aim of the proposals is to manage potential risks to the stability of, or confidence in, the UK financial system that may arise due to a failure in, or disruption to, the services that a CTP provides to such entities.

A recent ruling confirms judicial discretion to stay proceedings and instruct parties to seek non-court-based alternatives to litigation.

By Nell Perks and Duncan Graves

The English Court of Appeal has ruled that the court has the authority to stay proceedings and direct the parties to engage in a “non-court based dispute resolution process”. The court can exercise such authority provided the order does not impair the essence of the claimant’s right to proceed to a judicial hearing and is proportionate to achieving the aim of settling the dispute fairly, quickly, and at reasonable cost.[1]

Consistent with the overriding objective which requires the court to actively manage cases and facilitate alternative dispute resolution (ADR), the ruling clarifies the court’s case management powers and signals a potential move toward court-mandated dispute resolution processes.

Stapled W&I policies and synthetic policies will likely be increasingly common features of E&I transactions, although their feasibility should be assessed case by case.

By Simon J. Tysoe and Devdeep Ghosh

Warranty and indemnity insurance (W&I) is a long-established feature of M&A transactions in Europe, especially with private equity sellers. The 10th edition of the Latham & Watkins Private Equity Market Study shows that nearly 48% of all European M&A transactions in 2023 involved W&I with 65% of private equity sellers favouring W&I-backed exits. However, on the flipside, our market study indicates that on an aggregate basis only 35% of energy and infrastructure (E&I) transactions involved W&I, with varying levels of adoption across European geographies.

Certain recurring characteristics of E&I transactions could explain the dislocation in this trend: the sometimes challenging nature of the assets and jurisdictions for these transactions and the assets themselves frequently having a fragmented shareholder base, which usually means that there are no negotiated business warranties to be covered.

Along with a recent softening of the W&I market, two developments can help bridge this gap for E&I transactions: stapled policies and synthetic coverage.

The FRC’s future work will be assessed through the lens of the UK’s economic growth and international competitiveness.

By Mark Austin, Chris Horton, James Inness, Anna Ngo, and Johannes Poon

On 7 November 2023, the FRC announced a significant and wide-ranging policy update which included a material change of direction in relation to how it will approach its work in the future and a significant recalibration of how it will take forward its consultation on proposed changes to the UK Corporate Governance Code. That consultation, which ran from 24 May 2023 to 13 September 2023, sought to implement certain proposals in the UK government’s paper, “Restoring trust in audit and corporate governance”. The vast majority of those proposals will no longer be taken forward.