The Act demonstrates the UK’s renewed commitment to reaching net zero and paves the way for players in key industries to achieve their targets.

By Tom Bartlett, Paul A. Davies, JP Sweny, Michael D. Green, James Bee, and Samuel Burleton

On 26 October 2023, the UK Energy Act 2023 (the Act) received Royal Assent. The Act is a landmark piece of energy legislation detailing the UK’s approach to achieving energy independence and its net zero obligations.

The provisions of the Act lay the foundation for potentially £100 billion worth of private investment in clean energy infrastructure. The government has indicated that the Act is intended to support up to 72,000 jobs in carbon capture and storage (CCS) and hydrogen by 2030.

This blog post summarises how the Act is likely to impact key industries.

Companies had raised serious concerns about the additional red tape that the proposed reporting obligations would require.

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

On 16 October 2023, the UK government withdrew the draft Companies (Strategic Report and Directors’ Report) (Amendment) Regulations.

The regulations, which formed part of the wider proposals to reform the UK audit and corporate governance regulatory landscape, were laid in Parliament on 19 July 2023. They

Individuals continue to face risk from prosecutions for economic crime, despite media focus on corporate criminal liability reforms.

By Stuart Alford KC, Mair Williams, and Matthew Unsworth

Four individuals have today appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court charged with fraud in connection with the collapse of UK café and bakery chain, Patisserie Valerie.[i] This follows a five-year investigation by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) — codenamed “Operation Venom” — which was launched after the chain suddenly announced that its financial statements over successive years had been “mis-stated and subject to fraudulent activity”.[ii] Among those charged is former CFO, Christopher Marsh, who was arrested on suspicion of fraud when the scandal first emerged but was released on bail soon after.

While corporate criminal liability continues to dominate headlines ahead of reforms to be introduced by the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill, the Patisserie Valerie charges serve as a reminder that there remains a risk of prosecution at the individual level. Indeed, this is the third case in which the SFO has charged individuals this year, and the agency is targeting a minimum 60% conviction rate of individual (as well as corporate) defendants between 2022 and 2025.[iii]

The proposals would give the Bank of England wide-ranging powers to deal with acute failure scenarios, treating policyholder liabilities as loss-absorbing.

By Victoria Sander and Tim Scott

HM Treasury is proposing a new UK resolution regime for insurers that would appoint the Bank of England as resolution authority with sweeping powers to resolve insurers through transfer or bail-in, and to make resolution plans and assess resolvability in advance. The regime would share many similarities with the Banking Act 2009 (BA09).

FSMA 2023 includes a court procedure for failing insurers to temporarily write-down liabilities, with implications for counterparties.

By Victoria Sander and Tim Scott

The recently passed Financial Services and Markets Act 2023 (FSMA 2023) provides for a new write-down procedure under which failing insurers can apply to court to have their insurance liabilities written down. Write-downs are intended to be temporary (though no period is specified), followed by a subsequent write-up, which is a transfer of the business or application

A new publication from the UK’s financial regulator signals to firms that they should take steps to manage risks in the use of AI.

By Stuart Davis, Fiona M. Maclean, Gabriel Lakeman, and Imaan Nazir

The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has published its latest board minutes highlighting its increasing focus on artificial intelligence (AI), in which it “raised the question of how one could ‘foresee harm’ (under the new Consumer Duty), and also give customers appropriate disclosure, in the context of the operation of AI”. This publication indicates that AI continues to be a key area of attention within the FCA. It also demonstrates that the FCA believes its existing powers and rules already impose substantive requirements on regulated firms considering deploying AI in their services.

The UK government has signalled the importance of introducing a permanent superfund regulatory regime.

By Victoria Sander

After the excitement around Clara-Pensions’ approval as a “superfund”, or pension consolidator, in late 2021, the market generally expected that other pension superfund structures would soon follow suit. Last year’s mini-budget and the ensuing liability-driven investment (LDI) crisis, which triggered intervention by the Bank of England, no doubt weighed negatively on the development of the pension consolidation market, along with an increased focus on investment strategies for pension schemes generally. The expected pipeline of further approvals failed to deliver new participants in a market which was to provide much-needed de-risking capacity alongside the burgeoning and highly successful insurance bulk annuity transfer market.

Hopes were revived by the Chancellor’s Mansion House speech on 10 July 2023, which commented on the fragmentation of the defined benefit (DB) pension scheme landscape in the UK and the importance of introducing a permanent superfund regulatory regime, presenting a key policy direction by the government.

On 10 August 2023, the Pensions Regulator (TPR) announced revised guidelines for pension superfunds. The original guidance, issued in 2020, established an interim regime for superfunds and set out tests for when a pension scheme would be appropriate to transition to a superfund.

This blog post examines the updated pension superfund guidance and provides a high level overview of the key changes.

The FCA reveals its initial thinking on the regulatory framework for primary multilateral trading facilities and public offer platforms.

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

On 13 July 2023, the FCA published its fifth and sixth engagement papers to solicit discussion and feedback on the regulation of public offer platforms and primary multilateral trading facilities (MTFs) under the new regime for public offers and admissions to trading.

The Court held that banks do not owe this duty to customers deceived into instructing their banks to transfer money to fraudsters.

By Nell Perks and Callum Rodgers

On 12 July 2023, the UK Supreme Court handed down its highly anticipated judgment in Philipp v. Barclays Bank UK PLC [2023] UKSC 25, allowing the appeal brought by Barclays Bank UK PLC (Barclays).

The Court’s decision, which resolved longstanding questions about the nature of the Quincecare duty, clarified that the Quincecare duty only arises in cases in which there is fraud by an agent acting for the customer. As a result, it cannot apply in circumstances in which the relevant payment was authorised by the bank’s customer directly, so it has no application in APP fraud cases. The Court overturned the decision of the Court of Appeal, which had expressly held that that it is “at least possible in principle” that the Quincecare duty could apply to a “victim of APP fraud” on the basis that the Quincecare duty “does not depend on the fact that the bank is instructed by an agent of the customer of the bank”. [1]

UK regulator continues to raise concerns that current market practices could lead to systemic risk.

By Victoria Sander

The Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) has issued another communication, the latest of a series related to reinsurance arrangements for the UK life insurance sector. Charlotte Gerken, Bank of England Executive Director, Insurance Supervision and chair of the PRA’s main executive committee, issued a letter on 15 June to Chief Risk Officers (CROs) communicating the PRA’s insights from its recent schematic review of funded reinsurance.

The PRA has identified reinsurance arrangements, which UK annuity providers use extensively, as an area of potential risk, including potential systemic risk due to increasing exposures to a limited number of longevity reinsurance providers to the sector. The latest missive focuses specifically on reinsurance under which the insurer transfers both asset and investment risk as well as the longevity risk to a particular reinsurer — a form of reinsurance increasingly popular for annuity providers writing large amounts of bulk pension annuity business.