Communication is key

Communication is key
Posted on 28/08/2014

As a trainee you will work closely with our support services teams, which incorporate Accounts, HR, IT, Administration & Facilities, Marketing, Business Development and Communications. This blog post will provide you with an insight into the role of the Communications team and, more importantly, give you an idea of how trainees get involved.

Working in conjunction with the firm’s Marketing and Business Development functions, the Communications team plays a central role in ensuring that the firm’s brand messaging, news and events are conveyed in an accurate and consistent way, both internally to employees and externally to clients, contacts, peers and intermediaries.

This is achieved via a range of digital and traditional PR and communications platforms. As seen below, there are many such platforms, allowing the firm to reach as many stakeholders as possible.

On any given day, the team will be: drafting and distributing internal newsletters and external press releases; liaising with partners from various teams to develop communications plans, editorial and blog material based on their areas of expertise; liaising with journalists from regional, national and international publications to secure coverage; and interacting with key influencers, clients, contacts and prospects via the firm’s blogs and social media platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn.

Why is Communications important?

Communications is a vital function for several reasons. Internally, effective communications ensure that each fee earning unit and support service team is reading from the same page. It is almost impossible for the firm to successfully promote itself to external audiences when, internally, staff do not know the firm’s vision – “a leading national law firm with strong regional emphasis“.

The vision – a summary of what a company intends to become – provides employees with a sense of ownership of the firm and creates a common goal for everybody to work towards. It also helps to create a positive company culture – the ‘Gateley way’ of conducting oneself and doing business. This culture radiates to external parties and enhances the firm’s reputation further.

Communications is an exciting area in which to work. As the ways that people communicate with each other evolve, so does the discipline. For example, in recent years, individuals and companies have embraced social media as a tool to interact with one another. As a result, we are increasingly using platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn and blogs to interact with these audiences. This is where our trainees come into play.

Trainees assist the Communications team in creating and publishing content for this blog, and other departmental blogs. They are also responsible for providing the Communications team with relevant and timely tweets relating to CSR activity, networking events or sports competitions in which they are participating. In addition, trainees get involved with filming video podcasts, providing an insight into life at Gateley. If you haven’t done so already, you can view these videos via – http://talkingtrainees.gateleyuk.com/videos/

It doesn’t stop there…Trainees also provide the Communications team with CSR updates and events they have attended for the firm’s internal newsletter and for external press releases.

Don’t worry though, as a trainee you are not expected to be a Communications expert. You are simply asked to ‘communicate’ with the team to ensure that internal and external stakeholders are informed about topics of interest. Internally, this allows each employee to feel knowledgeable and involved in firm activities. Externally, it communicates brand messaging and exciting firm news and events to third parties.

Finally, Communications is not only vital to the firm but is also beneficial for trainees wanting to progress their careers quickly. Being a good communicator is a key attribute for successful lawyers and the skills developed whilst working alongside the Communications team are invaluable for career development.

This post was edited by Michael Ashworth and Katie Martin. For more information, email blogs@gateleyuk.com.

Time to conserve your energy?

Time to conserve your energy?
Posted on 28/08/2014

We regularly act for lenders in respect of taking security over investment properties let to tenant occupiers. Since the introduction of the 2011 Energy Act there has been a slow but growing emphasis placed on the Government’s impending obligation to set minimum energy performance standards (MEPS) for commercially rented property.

In July, The Department for Energy and Climate Change published its consultation paper on the proposed Private Rented Sector Energy Efficiency Regulations (Non-Domestic). These Regulations must come into force by 1 April 2018 in accordance with a European Directive. The consultation paper sets out the MEPS for private non-domestically let properties and will therefore be of interest to any commercial Landlord.

How does this affect a landlord?

Landlords will be familiar with the requirement to provide an incoming tenant with an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). EPCs provide an energy efficiency rating on a sliding scale between A and G with A being the most energy efficient).

However, from 1 April 2018 any premises towards the bottom of the EPC ratings may be caught by the implementation of the MEPS. This is because the Government’s proposed MEPS will require all properties let after the 1 April 2018 to meet a minimum energy efficiency rating. Current proposals are that this minimum will be efficiency rating E. Any property with an F or G rating will therefore not be lettable until such works have been carried out as are necessary to bring those premises within the MEPS. It is estimated that this may affect up to 18% of the total commercial rental stock in England and Wales. Further to this a retrospective back-stop date of 1 April 2023 is proposed by which date all rented premises must meet the MEPS (although this will be subject to a number of safeguards to protect landlords).

Why might this affect our ability to secure funding?

Given the impending introduction of MEPS we have increasingly noticed that lenders and their instructed valuers are paying more attention to EPCs: in particular, where they are taking security over commercial investment properties. Lenders are beginning to take the view that they will not lend against properties falling short of the proposed MEPS and we expect this will increasingly become the market norm as the deadline for the implementation of the Regulations approaches.

What next?

Now is the time to start thinking about upgrading any premises falling below the MEPS. Although there may be an initial outlay to improve the energy efficiency rating serious consideration should be given to the potential loss of rental income going forward if you are unable to let your premises after 1 April 2018.

The Government is keen to promote funding through schemes similar to the Green Deal which is currently available for domestic properties. The Green Deal is beyond the scope of this blog post but in essence the Government recognises that there is an inherent unjustness where landlords are expected to pay for improvements which will benefit tenants through lower energy costs, so the idea is that improvements will be provided with no upfront cost but with any costs recoverable through the Tenant’s future energy bills. Similar schemes for non-domestic properties may well become available as the implementation date for MEPS nears.

Now is the time to start taking positive steps towards upgrading rental properties. If you do not have EPCs for any of your properties then consider commissioning them to ensure that you are not left out in the cold come April 2018.

The consultation remains open until 2 September and the paper is available for consideration via https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/private-rented-sector-energy-efficiency-regulations-non-domestic.

This post was edited by Richard Tindall. For more information, email blogs@gateleyuk.com.

Time to conserve your energy?

Time to conserve your energy?
Posted on 28/08/2014

We regularly act for lenders in respect of taking security over investment properties let to tenant occupiers. Since the introduction of the 2011 Energy Act there has been a slow but growing emphasis placed on the Government’s impending obligation to set minimum energy performance standards (MEPS) for commercially rented property.

In July, The Department for Energy and Climate Change published its consultation paper on the proposed Private Rented Sector Energy Efficiency Regulations (Non-Domestic). These Regulations must come into force by 1 April 2018 in accordance with a European Directive. The consultation paper sets out the MEPS for private non-domestically let properties and will therefore be of interest to any commercial Landlord.

How does this affect a landlord?

Landlords will be familiar with the requirement to provide an incoming tenant with an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). EPCs provide an energy efficiency rating on a sliding scale between A and G with A being the most energy efficient).

However, from 1 April 2018 any premises towards the bottom of the EPC ratings may be caught by the implementation of the MEPS. This is because the Government’s proposed MEPS will require all properties let after the 1 April 2018 to meet a minimum energy efficiency rating. Current proposals are that this minimum will be efficiency rating E. Any property with an F or G rating will therefore not be lettable until such works have been carried out as are necessary to bring those premises within the MEPS. It is estimated that this may affect up to 18% of the total commercial rental stock in England and Wales. Further to this a retrospective back-stop date of 1 April 2023 is proposed by which date all rented premises must meet the MEPS (although this will be subject to a number of safeguards to protect landlords).

Why might this affect our ability to secure funding?

Given the impending introduction of MEPS we have increasingly noticed that lenders and their instructed valuers are paying more attention to EPCs: in particular, where they are taking security over commercial investment properties. Lenders are beginning to take the view that they will not lend against properties falling short of the proposed MEPS and we expect this will increasingly become the market norm as the deadline for the implementation of the Regulations approaches.

What next?

Now is the time to start thinking about upgrading any premises falling below the MEPS. Although there may be an initial outlay to improve the energy efficiency rating serious consideration should be given to the potential loss of rental income going forward if you are unable to let your premises after 1 April 2018.

The Government is keen to promote funding through schemes similar to the Green Deal which is currently available for domestic properties. The Green Deal is beyond the scope of this blog post but in essence the Government recognises that there is an inherent unjustness where landlords are expected to pay for improvements which will benefit tenants through lower energy costs, so the idea is that improvements will be provided with no upfront cost but with any costs recoverable through the Tenant’s future energy bills. Similar schemes for non-domestic properties may well become available as the implementation date for MEPS nears.

Now is the time to start taking positive steps towards upgrading rental properties. If you do not have EPCs for any of your properties then consider commissioning them to ensure that you are not left out in the cold come April 2018.

The consultation remains open until 2 September and the paper is available for consideration via https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/private-rented-sector-energy-efficiency-regulations-non-domestic.

This post was edited by Richard Tindall. For more information, email blogs@gateleyuk.com.

The end of a long road?

The end of a long road?
Posted on August 27, 2014

After nearly six years of regulatory action, the Pensions Regulator (the Regulator) has announced that it has reached a settlement with the parties to the Lehman Brothers litigation which it believes will enable the Lehman Brothers Pension Scheme (the Scheme) to pay full benefits to its 2,466 members. This represents a success for the Regulator in the use of its anti-avoidance powers.

In late 2008, the Scheme’s sponsoring employer entered insolvency proceedings along with the majority of companies in the Lehman Brothers group. The Scheme had a significant deficit at the time so the insolvency of its sponsoring employer meant that there was a significant risk that the Scheme would enter the Pension Protection Fund (PPF).

Two of the Regulator’s objectives are to protect the benefits of members of occupational pension schemes and to reduce the risk of situations arising which may lead to compensation being payable from the PPF. The Regulator therefore exercised its powers and sought to impose Financial Support Directions (FSDs) on six companies in the Lehman Brothers group. Broadly, the recipient of an FSD is required to put in place financial support for a pension scheme. The Regulator’s Determinations Panel decided that the six target companies had received a benefit from the Scheme’s sponsoring employer and that it was therefore reasonable for those companies to be required to provide support to the Scheme.

The six recipients of the FSDs referred the matter to the Regulator’s Upper Tribunal, arguing that it was not reasonable for the Regulator to impose the FSDs. The trustees of the Scheme also made a reference to the Upper Tribunal, arguing that additional FSDs should be issued to 38 other companies in the group. However, these proceedings were stayed for several years as litigation was carried out in the courts over different aspects of the process:

In June 2013, the Court of Appeal rejected claims by the 38 other group companies that the trustees were not “directly affected parties” who could make a reference to the Upper Tribunal and that the time limit for issuing FSDs to those companies had expired.
In July 2013, the Supreme Court determined that an FSD could be issued to an insolvent target and that liabilities relating to the FSD would be provable debts in the target’s insolvency.
Finally, in December 2013, the High Court found that if the Regulator issued Contribution Notices to parties who did not comply with the FSDs, the aggregate amount claimed under the Contribution Notices could exceed the Scheme’s section 75 debt.
Proceedings recommenced in the Upper Tribunal once this litigation had concluded. However, the Regulator announced on 19 August 2014 that the parties had reached an agreement under which certain companies in the Lehman Brothers group will pay an amount (estimated at £184m) to the trustees of the Scheme. The Regulator expects this amount to be sufficient to allow the trustees to buy out members’ benefits in full with an insurance company and therefore avoid the need for the Scheme to enter the PPF.

After several years of litigation, the settlement will be welcome news for the Regulator as it is now able to demonstrate that it has exercised its statutory powers in order to achieve two of its statutory objectives. Interim Chief Executive Stephen Soper commented that “the Regulator has increasingly been required to engage its anti-avoidance powers to secure the retirement benefits of members and protect the PPF. This case demonstrates that the Regulator’s anti-avoidance powers can be used effectively, even in highly complex international insolvency situations.” We will have to wait and see what impact this success has on the Regulator’s use of its anti-avoidance powers in the future.

This post was edited by Stephen Maynard. For more information, email blogs@gateleyuk.com.

The youth of today…

The youth of today…
Posted on 27/08/2014

Peer-to-peer lending is a growing area of online funding for small business. Recent research highlights a more literal form of peer-to-peer help: young people are increasingly funding their leisure activities by a traditional route of borrowing from friends. However, they are not always paying them back.

Six Glastonburies?

A study by the Payments Council, the UK payment systems regulator, shows that more than 40% of young people (18-25) borrow from friends and family to fund summer socialising and a third of the group expect to be short to the tune of over £60 on average due to lending to friends who don’t repay them. This would mean that this age group owes each other £148 million – the equivalent of Glastonbury festival selling out six times over (or the annual wage bill of Liverpool FC with a bit to spare).

Aside from the purely economic cost, there are other effects – lending/borrowing between friends causes friction for over 70% of the group.

And they spend it on…?

…Having fun, it would seem – nearly 40% have a drink in a bar or club, 30% buy a meal and over 20% go to the cinema, a concert or other event. Less than 15% borrow to cover basics such as rent.

Payback

The Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court recently described mobile phones as “such a pervasive and insistent part of daily life that the proverbial visitor from Mars might conclude they were an important feature of the human anatomy.” In the same spirit, the Payments Council is using the research to highlight the availability of the ‘Paym’ system, whereby friends and family can make and receive payments by just using mobile numbers. Technology is not yet, however, a ‘pervasive and insistent’ way of making repayment, even for the young – only 44% of ‘summer loans’ were paid back online or by using mobile banking services.

For more information, email blogs@gateleyuk.com.

Gateley advises on Straight takeover

Gateley advises on Straight takeover
26th August 2014

A cross office team from top 50 law firm, Gateley, has advised on a deal which saw Dublin based One51, an investment company with expertise in environmental services, renewable energy and injection moulding plastics, acquire the Yorkshire based supplier of waste and recycling solutions, Straight plc, for £10.7 million.

Founded in 1993 and floated on AIM in 2003, Straight plc manufactures waste and recycling containers and employs 130 people, including 90 at its factory in Hull. The business works closely with the waste management industry to deliver a range of innovative waste and recycling products to market. Customers include local authorities, purchasing and recycling organisations and utilities. Straight plc also works with private waste management companies, corporate businesses, facilities management companies, the health care sector and educational facilities.

The transaction was effected by way of a scheme of arrangements. The Gateley advisory team included Leeds based Corporate partner, Nick Emmerson, Birmingham based Corporate partner, Paul Cliff, Commerce, Technology and Media partner, Andrew Evans, and Corporate associate, Tom Rush. As a result of the acquisition, Straight plc has been delisted from AIM and will be integrated into One51’s plastics division.

Alan Walsh, chief executive of One51, commented: “This is an exciting time for both businesses. The deal provides an excellent opportunity for Straight plc to grow and thrive as part of a larger group. It also adds to One51’s existing offering, creating a leading specialist injection moulding group in the UK which can eventually grow into other European markets.”

Paul Cliff added: “The takeover was protracted and required clearance from the Competition and Markets Authority. We are delighted to have assisted in its successful completion following this lengthy period. The deal represents the benefits of cross-office working and highlights the wealth of expertise that Gateley has at its disposal on public company M&A deals and in the manufacturing sector.”

The news follows positive half year results in 2014’s Experian Corpfin national and regional league tables. Based on deal volume, the firm achieved a second place ranking nationally amongst all UK law firms and a first place ranking within the Midlands. In addition, 99 Gateley lawyers were ranked as ‘Leading Individuals’ in the 2014 edition of Chambers legal directory.