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Law firm makes the move to new premises

LAW firm Wannops LLP, has moved to new office premises in Surrey Street, Littlehampton.

Its long-standing connections with the town can be traced back through the combined firms of Stafford and Bray and Peter Careless. local legal services to its clients in West Sussex.

Partner Martin Beames said: “We are delighted that the firm has relocated to a highly visible position in a key shopping area in the town on Surrey Street.

“Hopefully, old and new clients alike will come and see us and find out how the new offices look and the kind of legal services on offer in Littlehampton.

“We like being in the heart of things in the town next to all the local restaurants and business where we can continue to grow and develop, and be a vital part of the high street where the public can come to see us easily.”

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UI Graduate Expelled By Law School After Seat Reservation Squabbles

The Nigerian Law School, Bwari, Abuja, has expelled a student, Kayode Bello, after he allegedly had an argument  with a fellow student, identified simply as Chidima, over seat reservation in a lecture room.

The graduate of University of Ibadan, Oyo State, was reportedly bundled out of the school’s library by law school officials and policemen attached to the Bwari Police Station on the day he was expelled.

PUNCH Metro learnt that Bello’s issue with the school management started shortly after he gained admission into the institution in November 2016.

It was gathered that he complained to the Secretary to the Council of Legal Education, Mrs. Elizabeth Max-Uba, over the leakage of the sewage pipe in his room’s toilet.

He said he also reported to the secretary that the water system in rooms in the hostel was not functioning, adding that his complaints were not attended to.

The 34-year-old told our correspondent that the events that led to his expulsion started on March 15, 2017, when he went to the class for a morning lecture.

“The class is usually overcrowded. There are no enough chairs in the lecture room and we have issues over seat reservation. At a point, the Head Marshal, Mr. Akinyemi, announced publicly that there should not be seat reservation again because it was causing problems.

“That day, I met Chidima and other persons sitting on some chairs. There was a book on a vacant chair. As I made to sit on the vacant chair, Chidima said she was keeping the seat for a student. I said I would leave when the person came.

“When the lady came 20 minutes later, Chidima angrily told me to vacate the seat. I told her that her approach was wrong. In the process, a marshal came and took both of us to Mr. Akinyemi’s office. He asked me to look for another seat. I made him to realise that he was the one that gave an order on seat reservation, but he ignored me.

“I went to report the matter to the school’s Chief Security Officer, Mr. Ogunboyan, but he was not in the office. I called him on the telephone and he asked me to be patient, saying he would address it when he came back.”

Bello said the CSO took him to Akinyemi later that day and the Head Marshal complained that he (Bello) was rude.

“I said I was not rude, but was trying to let him (Akinyemi) realise that he didn’t do justice to the matter brought before him,” he added.

Bello said both officials flared up at that point and Akinyemi threatened him with a query. He stated that he immediately submitted a petition on the issue at the secretary’s office, adding that she did not acknowledge it.

He said he also sent the same petition to the email of the Nigerian Law School without getting a reply.

He said Akinyemi announced the query in the class the following day and gave him a copy, which he replied to.

“I also made my response known to the class. He issued the query and signed it on behalf of the Dean of Students’ Affairs, which is wrong,” Bello said.

He said the officials suddenly turned the matter against him, accusing him of inciting students against the school management, adding that his room was inspected on March 20, but nothing incriminating was found.

Bello explained that the Students’ Representative Council was also influenced to issue a disclaimer against him.

“On March 21, the CSO and the Head of Academic Affairs, Mr. Osamolu, came to my room in the midnight and forcefully evicted me. I paid over N300,000 as school fee, of which N60,000 was for hostel accommodation. They handed me over to policemen at the school’s police post. When I explained what happened to a policeman, he was surprised. He gave me a space to pass the night.

“When I returned to the hostel the following day, I met the door of my room broken, while my bed had been taken away. I reported at the Bwari Police Station, but a policewoman I met there requested money to buy a case file, which I declined to provide.

“My lawyer wrote to the secretary about my victimisation, but she didn’t reply. I also petitioned the Public Complaints Commission, which wrote to the Nigerian Law School.

“The SRC later withdrew the disclaimer privately, but they had endangered my life and allowed the school management to capitalise on it. I said the SRC chairman should resign as a punitive measure for the disclaimer, while a fresh committee be set up to look into my case. They said it was not possible for the chairman to resign.”

He said he kept sleeping in the open room until they went for externship (attachment to law firms and courts) in April 24, adding that his application for hostel accommodation during the programme was rejected by the school.

He said, “We returned from externship on July 12. I was in the library on July 17 preparing for Portfolio Assessment which started the next day when the CSO led some people to give me a letter of expulsion to sign. I rejected it. They called for reinforcement and I was dragged out of the library and taken to the Bwari Police Station, where I had earlier lodged a complaint against the school without any action.

“They said they would charge me to court; I was happy. I was detained. They later released me after I signed an undertaking that there would be peace.”

The representative of UI graduates in the SRC, Patrick Oyakhare, confirmed to our correspondent that the SRC regretted issuing the disclaimer.

“I met with Kayode (Bello) to tell me what he wanted. He said the committee that sat on his matter should be reconstituted while the chairman should resign. I presented it at a meeting. The first condition was agreed to, but it is not possible for the chairman to resign. It is only the school that can comment on his expulsion,” he added.

Some students, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Bello was expelled because the school authorities saw him as a threat.

A student said, “Kayode is 100 per cent right about his complaints over the poor state of the facilities in the school. All the students are aware, but no one has the confidence to challenge the school. It is just unfortunate that Nigeria is a country where it is difficult to fight an institution and win.”

“I met with Kayode (Bello) to tell me what he wanted. He said the committee that sat on his matter should be reconstituted while the chairman should resign. I presented it at a meeting. The first condition was agreed to, but it is not possible for the chairman to resign. It is only the school that can comment on his expulsion,” he added.

Some students, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Bello was expelled because the school authorities saw him as a threat.

A student said, “Kayode is 100 per cent right about his complaints over the poor state of the facilities in the school. All the students are aware, but no one has the confidence to challenge the school. It is just unfortunate that Nigeria is a country where it is difficult to fight an institution and win.”

An official of Public Complaint Commission, who did not want his name in print because he was not authorised to speak to the press, said the commission wrote to the Nigerian Law School over a month ago, adding that he and his team visited the school when there was no reply to the letter.

“We went there on a Friday, a day after the school had its call-to-bar ceremony. We waited for about 15 minutes, but could not see either the Director-General of the law school, the secretary or the Dean, Students’ Affairs. He has told me about the expulsion. We will go back by Wednesday,” he added.

The Police Public Relations Officer for the Abuja Police Command, Anjuguri Mensah, promised to make enquiries from the Bwari division and get back with comments.

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Abuja law school, Expulsion, NND, petition, UI

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The post-Brexit US trade deal promised by Theresa May could expose British firms to ‘predatory’ takeovers from cash-rich American competitors

Donald trump flag
Brian Snyder/Reuters

LONDON — Rushing into a “politically attractive” trade deal with
the US risks exposing British firms to hostile takeovers from
cash-rich, “predatory” cash-rich American firms.

That is according to Adam Marshall, the influential director
general of the British Chambers of Commerce, a lobby group which
represents 92,000 UK businesses.

Writing in the
Observer on Sunday, he warned against striking a quick,
comprehensive free trade agreement (FTA) with the US.

He said the UK should instead pursue “quick wins” which tackle
some of the practical issues facing UK-US trade after Brexit.

US President Donald Trump spoke of a “big” and “powerful” deal
between the two countries at the recent G20 Summit earlier in
July, a topic Prime Minister Theresa May has
repeatedly pushed him on.

Marshall wrote: “I am distinctly uneasy about this prospect [of
an FTA], and so, too, are many I speak to in business across the
UK.”

“While a comprehensive UK-US free trade deal could be a long-term
aspiration, it’s not at the front of the queue for businesses –
for whom other, more immediate priorities take precedence. It is
a stark fact that the US has many of the world’s toughest and
most seasoned trade negotiators, whereas the UK has ceded its
policy and know-how to the European commission for decades.”

He said another consequence of a speedy FTA could be “predatory
purchasing of UK firms by bigger, cash-rich US competitors.”

“We have seen cases where UK firms were hollowed out and
asset-stripped by overseas buyers. Indeed, in more limited
circumstances, UK firms have done the same in the US and other
markets. But the truth is that under a US-UK deal, this
less-welcome variant of mergers and acquisitions activity would
probably be to the UK’s long-term disadvantage,” he said.

He also said Britain should prioritise a free-trade deal
with the EU as the March 2019 deadline for Britain’s EU exit
approaches.

The warning came as International Trade Secretary Liam Fox

travelled to Washington to begin preliminary talks over a
trade deal with US negotiators, as he became embroiled in a
bizarre row over chlorinated chicken with other members of the
cabinet after he suggested the UK would import it after Brexit,
something currently banned by EU law.

Finance: The post-Brexit US trade deal promised by Theresa May could expose British firms to ‘predatory’ takeovers from cash-rich American competitors

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LONDON — Rushing into a “politically attractive” trade deal with the US risks exposing British firms to hostile takeovers from cash-rich, “predatory” cash-rich American firms.

That is according to Adam Marshall, the influential director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, a lobby group which represents 92,000 UK businesses.

Writing in the Observer on Sunday, he warned against striking a quick, comprehensive free trade agreement (FTA) with the US.

He said the UK should instead pursue “quick wins” which tackle some of the practical issues facing UK-US trade after Brexit.

US President Donald Trump spoke of a “big” and “powerful” deal between the two countries at the recent G20 Summit earlier in July, a topic Prime Minister Theresa May has repeatedly pushed him on.

Marshall wrote: “I am distinctly uneasy about this prospect [of an FTA], and so, too, are many I speak to in business across the UK.”

“While a comprehensive UK-US free trade deal could be a long-term aspiration, it’s not at the front of the queue for businesses – for whom other, more immediate priorities take precedence. It is a stark fact that the US has many of the world’s toughest and most seasoned trade negotiators, whereas the UK has ceded its policy and know-how to the European commission for decades.”

He said another consequence of a speedy FTA could be “predatory purchasing of UK firms by bigger, cash-rich US competitors.”

“We have seen cases where UK firms were hollowed out and asset-stripped by overseas buyers. Indeed, in more limited circumstances, UK firms have done the same in the US and other markets. But the truth is that under a US-UK deal, this less-welcome variant of mergers and acquisitions activity would probably be to the UK’s long-term disadvantage,” he said.

He also said Britain should prioritise a free-trade deal with the EU as the March 2019 deadline for Britain’s EU exit approaches.

The warning came as International Trade Secretary Liam Fox travelled to Washington to begin preliminary talks over a trade deal with US negotiators, as he became embroiled in a bizarre row over chlorinated chicken with other members of the cabinet after he suggested the UK would import it after Brexit, something currently banned by EU law.

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Law school expels UI graduate after protesting seat reservation

Afeez Hanafi

The Nigerian Law School, Bwari, Abuja, has expelled a student, Kayode Bello, after he allegedly had an argument  with a fellow student, identified simply as Chidima, over seat reservation in a lecture room.

The graduate of University of Ibadan, Oyo State, was reportedly bundled out of the school’s library by law school officials and policemen attached to the Bwari Police Station on the day he was expelled.

PUNCH Metro learnt that Bello’s issue with the school management started shortly after he gained admission into the institution in November 2016.

It was gathered that he complained to the Secretary to the Council of Legal Education, Mrs. Elizabeth Max-Uba, over the leakage of the sewage pipe in his room’s toilet.

He said he also reported to the secretary that the water system in rooms in the hostel was not functioning, adding that his complaints were not attended to.

The 34-year-old told our correspondent that the events that led to his expulsion started on March 15, 2017, when he went to the class for a morning lecture.

“The class is usually overcrowded. There are no enough chairs in the lecture room and we have issues over seat reservation. At a point, the Head Marshal, Mr. Akinyemi, announced publicly that there should not be seat reservation again because it was causing problems.

“That day, I met Chidima and other persons sitting on some chairs. There was a book on a vacant chair. As I made to sit on the vacant chair, Chidima said she was keeping the seat for a student. I said I would leave when the person came.

“When the lady came 20 minutes later, Chidima angrily told me to vacate the seat. I told her that her approach was wrong. In the process, a marshal came and took both of us to Mr. Akinyemi’s office. He asked me to look for another seat. I made him to realise that he was the one that gave an order on seat reservation, but he ignored me.

“I went to report the matter to the school’s Chief Security Officer, Mr. Ogunboyan, but he was not in the office. I called him on the telephone and he asked me to be patient, saying he would address it when he came back.”

Bello said the CSO took him to Akinyemi later that day and the Head Marshal complained that he (Bello) was rude.

“I said I was not rude, but was trying to let him (Akinyemi) realise that he didn’t do justice to the matter brought before him,” he added.

Bello said both officials flared up at that point and Akinyemi threatened him with a query. He stated that he immediately submitted a petition on the issue at the secretary’s office, adding that she did not acknowledge it.

He said he also sent the same petition to the email of the Nigerian Law School without getting a reply.

He said Akinyemi announced the query in the class the following day and gave him a copy, which he replied to.

“I also made my response known to the class. He issued the query and signed it on behalf of the Dean of Students’ Affairs, which is wrong,” Bello said.

He said the officials suddenly turned the matter against him, accusing him of inciting students against the school management, adding that his room was inspected on March 20, but nothing incriminating was found.

Bello explained that the Students’ Representative Council was also influenced to issue a disclaimer against him.

“On March 21, the CSO and the Head of Academic Affairs, Mr. Osamolu, came to my room in the midnight and forcefully evicted me. I paid over N300,000 as school fee, of which N60,000 was for hostel accommodation. They handed me over to policemen at the school’s police post. When I explained what happened to a policeman, he was surprised. He gave me a space to pass the night.

“When I returned to the hostel the following day, I met the door of my room broken, while my bed had been taken away. I reported at the Bwari Police Station, but a policewoman I met there requested money to buy a case file, which I declined to provide.

“My lawyer wrote to the secretary about my victimisation, but she didn’t reply. I also petitioned the Public Complaints Commission, which wrote to the Nigerian Law School.

“The SRC later withdrew the disclaimer privately, but they had endangered my life and allowed the school management to capitalise on it. I said the SRC chairman should resign as a punitive measure for the disclaimer, while a fresh committee be set up to look into my case. They said it was not possible for the chairman to resign.”

He said he kept sleeping in the open room until they went for externship (attachment to law firms and courts) in April 24, adding that his application for hostel accommodation during the programme was rejected by the school.

He said, “We returned from externship on July 12. I was in the library on July 17 preparing for Portfolio Assessment which started the next day when the CSO led some people to give me a letter of expulsion to sign. I rejected it. They called for reinforcement and I was dragged out of the library and taken to the Bwari Police Station, where I had earlier lodged a complaint against the school without any action.

“They said they would charge me to court; I was happy. I was detained. They later released me after I signed an undertaking that there would be peace.”

The representative of UI graduates in the SRC, Patrick Oyakhare, confirmed to our correspondent that the SRC regretted issuing the disclaimer.

“I met with Kayode (Bello) to tell me what he wanted. He said the committee that sat on his matter should be reconstituted while the chairman should resign. I presented it at a meeting. The first condition was agreed to, but it is not possible for the chairman to resign. It is only the school that can comment on his expulsion,” he added.

Some students, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Bello was expelled because the school authorities saw him as a threat.

A student said, “Kayode is 100 per cent right about his complaints over the poor state of the facilities in the school. All the students are aware, but no one has the confidence to challenge the school. It is just unfortunate that Nigeria is a country where it is difficult to fight an institution and win.”

Another student described the fate of students in the institution as “a baby that is being spanked, but dares not cry.”

“You can come to the school to see the state of the facilities yourself. Bello may be blamed for challenging the school authorities, but he was fighting for a right course,” he added.

When contacted on the telephone, the CSO directed our correspondent to the Secretary to the Council of Legal Education.

Asked what actually led to Bello’s expulsion, the Secretary, Max-Uba, said the management would issue a statement on the issue on Monday (today).

An official of Public Complaint Commission, who did not want his name in print because he was not authorised to speak to the press, said the commission wrote to the Nigerian Law School over a month ago, adding that he and his team visited the school when there was no reply to the letter.

“We went there on a Friday, a day after the school had its call-to-bar ceremony. We waited for about 15 minutes, but could not see either the Director-General of the law school, the secretary or the Dean, Students’ Affairs. He has told me about the expulsion. We will go back by Wednesday,” he added.

The Police Public Relations Officer for the Abuja Police Command, Anjuguri Mensah, promised to make enquiries from the Bwari division and get back with comments.

He had, however, yet to get back as of press time.

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Contact: [email protected]

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A Look at UAE’s New Bankruptcy Law: How It Works and Why It’s Good News

The absence of a legal framework for bankruptcy has long been a hindrance to UAE businesses. Not anymore. (Shutterstock)

The absence of a legal framework for bankruptcy has long been a hindrance to UAE businesses. Not anymore. (Shutterstock)

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The absence of a legal framework for bankruptcy has long been a hindrance to UAE business.

In the past, financial problems spelled trouble for companies, as local courts could not be persuaded to offer a moratorium on debt, which would have given firms the chance to restructure their business and finance. In the absence of proper bankruptcy laws, even a bounced cheque could land an entrepreneur in jail.

It comes as no surprise, therefore, that the introduction of a new bankruptcy law in the UAE is being lauded as a huge step forward in improving the country’s economic and regulatory environment. But what does this law really mean?

What is the new bankruptcy law?

The Federal Bankruptcy Law (the ‘New Law’) was issued under the Federal Decree No 9 of 2016. It was first published in the Official Gazette on September 29, 2016 and came into force on December 29, 2016. Drafted by the Ministry of Finance, it marks a new step forward in providing a legal framework to help distressed companies in the UAE avoid bankruptcy and liquidation.

To whom does the law apply?

The new law applies to companies and not individuals. It applies to companies that are partly or fully owned by the federal or the local government and companies and institutions established in Dubai mainland and free zones that are not governed by existing bankruptcy provisions.

It does not apply to companies established and operating within the Dubai International Financial Centre and Abu Dhabi Global Market as these financial free zones have internal legislation in place regarding bankruptcy and insolvency.

How will it help?

The New Law will do much to enhance the credit dynamics of the UAE economy. It is hoped that it will facilitate more predictability and enable a legal framework to restructure or liquidate distressed businesses. This will increase investor confidence and be of great value to SMEs who have long been in need of legislature that offers them greater stability.

What are the law’s key points?

Determining insolvency: Criteria for evaluating when a company in insolvent has been put into action. This ‘balance sheet’ test determines if the assets of a business are sufficient to cover its liabilities. This will be favourable in encouraging debtors facing difficulties to reach out for help to restructure at an early stage.

A new regulatory body: The Committee of Financial Restructuring (CFR) will maintain an approved list of experts in the field of financial restructuring. It will also administrate a register of insolvencies.

Disqualification: A disqualification system – similar to that found in English insolvency law – has been introduced. Directors found guilty of bankruptcy-connected offences may be disqualified from playing any role connected with the administration of a company for up to five years and may also be subject to fines.

Filing bankruptcy: This must be made if a company is in a state of ‘cessation of payments’ of due and payable debts, or in a state of ‘over-indebtedness’ – in either case for 30 consecutive business days. A creditor may also petition for a company’s bankruptcy if a statutory demand of Dhs100,000 (minimum) has been served, and has remained unpaid for 30 consecutive business days. Finally, the court or a regulator may also initiate bankruptcy proceedings.

The law proposes routes for insolvency assistance

The new law offers several paths to assist companies facing financial difficulties.

Insolvency with restructuring: The company’s debts are restructured with creditor approval. This process is overseen by the courts. A period of five years (extendable by a further three years) is allowed for implementation.

Protective composition: A debtor-led, court-sponsored process, this facilitates the rescue of a business that is in financial difficulty but not yet insolvent. It requires the approval of the unsecured creditors (a majority in number and two-thirds by value). This must occur within three years of court approval but can be extended three years more with creditor approval.

Insolvency and liquidation: This occurs if a protective composition or restructuring scheme is inappropriate, not approved or terminated. The law includes specific time limits for making filings and lodging objections. A trustee must be appointed to oversee the process.

New financing: This can be sought following a protective composition or restructuring scheme. Safeguards are in place for existing secured creditors.

Could company members be liable in any way?

Given that the New Law only came into effect in December 2016, the time scale of proceedings means there are no precedents in regard to the way in which the law shall be applied by the courts. A primary concern, however, is the extent to which liability could pass to individual members such as directors and/or general managers.

The Commercial Companies Law makes clear that a limited liability company has a distinct and separate legal identity to that of its members and is responsible for its own debts. Any debt collection, insolvency or other case must therefore be brought against the company itself, rather than against any member. As a result, many company members consider their liability to consist of paid-up share capital only. After that the company is expected to absorb any and all financial liability incurred.

However, a Court of Cassation Decision judgement in 2013 held that a shareholder will be held personally liable should he exploit the principle of a company’s independent liability as a means to conceal his fraudulent acts and/or misappropriation of company funds. In such cases, the protection bestowed by law for a shareholder in a limited liability company was deemed not to apply. Rather, the said shareholder will be held liable in his personal capacity for such dispositions, and his liability extended to include his personal assets.

This concept of personal liability is expressly included in the New Law under Article 198, which provides that “directors of the board, managers and those in charge of liquidation of the company” shall be sentenced to a maximum term of five years’ imprisonment and a fine of no more than Dhs1m in the event that they hide information / conceal finances / embezzle funds / admit to debts which are not owed by the company.

To some extent, UAE law already catered for such a situation by way of the Commercial Transactions Law – however the fact that the New Law reaffirms the position and codifies the 2013 Court of Cassation judgement would suggest that the corporate veil should no longer offer automatic protection.

In recent times, the position of a company’s general manager has also become precarious in the event that the company has become ‘insolvent’ (in the general sense of the word). This is particularly the case in instances whereby the company has insufficient funds to cover any cheques that have been issued, given that bounced cheques issued by companies can incur criminal liability upon the signatory directly. However, Article 162 of the New Law now provides that further to the court accepting a voluntary application for bankruptcy (i.e. without litigation) pursuant to Article 78 thereof, and until such a time that any restructuring scheme has been approved as per Article 108, all judicial claims and proceedings shall be suspended. This shall include any action for bounced cheques.

The idea is to encourage companies in financial difficulty to approach the courts for assistance with restructuring debt. The availability of this option is to discourage company members from absconding and leaving creditors with no means of recovery. However, the fact that this option has been introduced imposes the risk of an alternative liability.

Now, in the event that a company does not apply for bankruptcy upon meeting the criteria prescribed by Article 68 of the New Law (i.e. that it ceases repayment of a mature debt for more than 30 consecutive business days on account of its financial position), the provisions of Article 162(1) of the Commercial Companies Law may be deemed as applicable: “Members of the board of directors shall be liable towards the company, shareholders and third parties for fraudulent acts and misuse of power, as well as for any violation of the law, Company’s AOA and mismanagement.”

As a result, directors or managers may be held accountable for mismanagement – an act for which Article 84(1) of the Commercial Companies Law holds individuals personally liable.

Conclusion

Ultimately the new law is a positive development in the UAE, especially given the fact that the UAE Vision 2021 sets a firm target to make the UAE ‘the world’s first in ease of doing business’.

Nonetheless, the proof will be in the pudding, and there will need to be real evidence of improvement in terms of time to resolve insolvency, cost of insolvency to debtors, and recovery rates. Furthermore, effects upon the individual members of any companies undergoing bankruptcy proceedings will require clarification in order to achieve the aim of encouraging distressed companies to apply.

Practically speaking, and according to the World Bank report, resolving insolvency in the UAE costs 20 per cent of debtors’ estate and yields an average recovery of about 29 cents on the dollar. This legislature therefore offers the potential for marked improvement. The removal of the criminal offence of bankruptcy by default, the provisions in relation to bounced cheques and the new threshold and requirements for creditor-initiated insolvency proceedings will be of help to thousands of UAE businesses, especially SMEs, which are the backbone to the UAE economy.

Nonetheless, this relatively new law is complex. Therefore, when it comes to insolvency, businesses and individuals would be best advised to seek out a good insolvency expertise and informed legal advice. Directors of UAE companies would be wise to react promptly to any sign of financial decline and seeking legal counsel early on will mean that they can mitigate risk and be guided in taking advantage of the new options offered in this new legislation.

By Cynthia Trench

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Group Flays Oil Firms Over Discriminatory Policies

The Joint Association of Persons with Disabilities, Niger Delta region, has condemned the discriminatory policies operated by oil companies in the area, against persons living with physical disabilities.
President of the association, Comrade David ThankGod Enogho, who spoke with The Tide in an interview in Port Harcourt, yesterday said, oil companies in the Niger Delta were insensitive to the plight of person’s living with physical disabilities.
He regretted a situation, where a broad section of the population of the people, would be completely shut out in the policy implementation of the oil companies.
He said, apart from Intells Services that has eight physically challenged persons as its employees, no other oil company in the state gives employment opportunities to persons living with physical disability.
He called for proper statistics of persons with disabilities and their proper inclusion in issues of national planning and development.
Also speaking, the Public Relaions Officer, PRO of the body, Comrade, David Gbarato called for the implementation of the Handicapped Person’s Welfare Enhancement Law,  assented to by the previous administration in the state.
The PRO, also called on the Rivers State House of Assembly to be proactive in the enactment of laws that will provide an inclusive policy for persons living with disabilities and urged legislative vigilance against the discriminatory policies by multinationals in the area.
Comrade Gbarato also called for the enlistment of persons living with disabilities into security agencies, such as Army, Navy, Police, National  Security and Civil Defence Corps, (NSCDC), Department of State Security among others. He reasoned that, “effective security and policing does not only require physical capability, but the use of modern information technology to check crime and ensure security alertness”.
He called on the Rivers State Government to introduce facilities in public structures to accommodate persons with special needs and canvassed for mass skill-  based training for persons living with physical disabilities.

Taneh Beemene

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One State’s Reverse Mortgage Ad Law Has National Impact

When Oregon passed a sweeping new law to regulate reverse mortgage advertising in May, originators and lenders outside of the state could be forgiven for brushing off the news as irrelevant. But legislation in one state can have ripple effects throughout the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage landscape, and aside from also affecting multi-state lenders, Oregon’s legislation could provide a window into how local governments around the country are looking to regulate the way the industry communicates with potential borrowers.

Loud and clear

Under the Beaver State’s new law, which takes effect on New Year’s Day 2018, HECM advertisers will need to include a bevy of information about the products in all print, radio, and television ads — including a discussion of what happens when the loan comes due, a clear enumeration of origination fees, and a warning that the balance of the loan will grow over time. 

Oregon also specifically barred advertisers from burying these disclosures where prospective buyers can’t find them, requiring print ads to display the text in “a clear and conspicuous” format — such as a contrasting color or in a separate section of the page — and radio and TV spots to present the mandatory points in a “volume and cadence” sufficient enough for “reasonable” people to hear.

The state’s points mirror a 2014 mortgagee letter issued by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, but in substantially more detail: For instance, the letter simply admonishes HECM lenders not to make “any misleading or misrepresentative advertising or marketing materials in connection with the HECM program” — but stops short of providing specific guidelines for physical ads.

“Mortgagees are required to explain in clear, consistent language all requirements and features of the HECM program,” HUD wrote in the letter, providing a list of bullet points that must be discussed but not necessarily included in actual marketing materials.

Past enforcement actions have also typically focused on outright deception, not a lack of explicitly required information. For instance, the state of New York in 2014 cracked down on New View Mortgage Corp. — which, RMD notes, was not affiliated with industry analysts New View Advisors — for sending HECM marketing mailers designed to look like official government paperwork, bearing the phrases “Economic Stimulus Notice” and “Government Lending Division.” 

That’s against HUD’s rules, which prohibit mortgagees from implying that their messages are approved by the federal government. But New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman also called out New View Mortgage for suggesting that borrowers weren’t responsible for any regular payments, and that heirs would inherit remaining equity without adding the caveat that the loan must be repaid.

Just last year, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau slapped three companies with civil penalties for misleading marketing pitches, calling out issues such as creating a “false sense of urgency” by implying that seniors had a set period of time to apply for a reverse mortgage, or telling consumers that there were no fees associated with a HECM-to-HECM refinance transaction. 

When is an ad not an ad?

Oregon’s new law won’t necessarily affect operations at Greenleaf Financial, LLC of Portland, Ore., which according to president Lynn Wertzler relies more on its website and referrals from partners to generate new business. But he expressed concern for newcomers to the business, who might opt for the traditional print ads to establish themselves in local Oregon communities.

“Clearly, it will make some forms of advertising very difficult — if not impossible for any small print ad,” Wertzler told RMD. “It may not be feasible to include all of the provisions that are identified here. It may not be practical. That very well may be something of the past.”

Wertzler also noted that the definitions of “advertisement” and “marketing materials” will become even more important under the new legislation. Under its exact wording, the law applies to “any advertisement, or solicitation, or communication” that lenders or their affiliates make as part of an “inducement” for a person to apply for a loan — language that could extend beyond a mailer or a radio spot.

“We’re going to think about the kind of advertising we do, and think very carefully about what is advertising,” he said, giving the example of a casual networking event where Wertzler and his team might provide business cards and verbal information about HECMs.

“Is that subject to the provisions of it?” Wertzler asked. “They’ll probably need additional clarification.”

Nationwide headaches

Of course, adhering to one state’s laws when broadcasting advertisements nationwide presents a particular challenge for multi-state operators. Some large national lenders elected not to comment for this story, citing a desire to sort out the implications of the law before announcing a strategy. 

But the problem isn’t just the domain of nationwide firms with television ad budgets. Mike Gruley, executive vice president at 1st Nations Reverse Mortgage in Ann Arbor, Mich., said his company tries to consider each state’s regulations when developing advertisements that cross borders.

“In general, we like to tailor our ads to include regulatory coverage for all states, as it makes it simpler and more economical for development and/or printing,” Gruley said in an e-mail. “Again, however, if each state were to have the volume of content that Oregon has, most lenders would be forced to develop state-specific marketing.”

While he praised the information as useful for borrowers, he also echoed Wertzler’s concerns about the effect one state’s rules could have on overall HECM outreach.

“Marketing space is limited and expensive, and while this information is certainly helpful and accurate, if many states each adopted their own required language, it could be prohibitive to the overall communication process with prospective borrowers,” Gruley said.

Over at HomeBridge Financial in Morristown, N.J., national reverse mortgage program manager Dino Guadagnino said he cedes control to his compliance and marketing team, asking them to dig into each state’s rules before moving forward with an advertising strategy.

“We try to tailor that ad to that specific state,” Guadagnino said. “I know that I don’t know all the rules when it comes to marketing, but I rely on my group for that. It’s the only way it’s going to work.”

Written by Alex Spanko

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