House: Bill to help Bermuda compete overseas

  • Wayne Furbert, the Minister for the Cabinet Office (File photograph)

    Wayne Furbert, the Minister for the Cabinet Office (File photograph)

  • Scott Pearman, the Shadow Minister for Legal Affairs (File photograph)

    Scott Pearman, the Shadow Minister for Legal Affairs (File photograph)

A Bill designed to help the island operate in a global market was backed by MPs.

Wayne Furbert, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, said that the Bermuda Bar Amendment Act 2020 was among legislation to be introduced by the Government to help position the country to compete for more business overseas.

He explained in a virtual sitting of the House of Assembly on Friday night: “Bermuda has a longstanding history of serving as a jurisdiction of choice for international business, however, we must update our legal framework on a regular basis so that we can keep pace with market demands and adjust to changes in the global marketplace as quickly as possible.”

Mr Furbert said: “Prior to the onset of the pandemic, the Government began taking active steps to diversify Bermuda’s economy.

“We started working with the Bermuda Business Development Agency and the private sector to create products aimed at attracting more family offices to Bermuda, to modernise certain provisions in our trust laws to make them more competitive and to develop a strategy to foster growth opportunities in Asia.”

MPs heard that the plan will focus on raising the island’s profile in Asia and “create more avenues by which Bermuda-based companies can identify and access new clients in Asian markets”.

Mr Furbert said: “The purpose of this legislation is to provide a clear legal framework for law firms in Bermuda to continue utilising registered associates working overseas as resources to attract and service overseas clients on matters governed by Bermuda law.”

He added that “flexible progressive laws, excellent professional services, and human resources that can connect with prospective clients in their home jurisdiction” were needed for the island to compete effectively in Asia and other places.

The minister explained: “A registered associate is a person who is authorised to engage in certain functions within the practice of Bermuda law but only as an agent of the barrister or law firm for whom they work.

“Registered associates are not fully admitted to practise law as a barrister and attorney in Bermuda.”

Mr Furbert said that changes to anti-money laundering and antiterrorist financing frameworks meant that the Bermuda Bar must take an “active part” in the registration process, and “provide fit and proper certifications for registered associates”.

Scott Pearman, the Shadow Minister of Legal Affairs, agreed that it was important for lawyers to “fly the flag” for the island in other parts of the world.

He said: “Asia is a boom area for growth. We are seeing more and more successful Asian economies and what they’re doing.” Mr Pearman added that it was possible that businesses in places such as Hong Kong might look further afield to help with their operations.

He said: “They may look to Bermuda and they may look to jurisdictions to our south or they may look to the Channel Islands etc and so it is vital that those in Asia know we are here.”

The One Bermuda Alliance MP told the House of Assembly in a virtual sitting: “Bermuda needs to be more competitive.

“We need to reduce the cost of doing business, we need to reduce our taxes and our red tape, for if we do not, all of that work that we have lovingly courted for some 40 years, will go to the south, as it already is, because they are simply more cost-effective.”

Mr Pearman added that the Bill was “not without controversy”.

He told MPs that the Bar Council was concerned about a possible risk that by “opening the door” for registered associates to work in Asia, non-Bermudian law firms might see the opportunity to “come to Bermuda, set up shop and take work from us”.

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Published Jun 21, 2020 at 2:20 pm (Updated Jun 21, 2020 at 2:21 pm)

House: Bill to help Bermuda compete overseas

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