Cayman’s interim government expects to substantially finish work on two major pieces of legislation prior to the end of its term in May.
However, whether either the National Pensions Bill or the Legal Practitioners Bill will pass depends on the good will of other members of the Legislative Assembly since the reformation of the government after former Premier McKeeva Bush’s ouster has left the assembly’s ruling benches with just five of 15 members.
“It may be ambitious to think that at this stage we would be able to have safe passage, but what I want to ensure is that before May the work is substantially complete,” Deputy Premier Rolston Anglin said Thursday in relation to the National Pensions Bill.
Mr. Anglin had much the same response on the draft of the Legal Practitioners Bill, put out for public comment on 30 November along with a proposed attorneys code of conduct and accompanying regulations to the bill. He said the minority government members would have to determine if there is “any appetite to move it forward”.
The next meeting date for the Legislative Assembly has not been set.
Proposed legislation to change the current National Pensions Law, which regulates private sector pension plans, would make a number of sweeping changes, including raising the minimum age at which pension entitlements can be collected from 60 to 65 years. The National Pensions Bill 2012 is the first major revision to the National Pensions Law, which was created in 1998. The bill seeks to eliminate the National Pensions Office and the board that oversees that office. In exchange, it has created a new government department of labour and pensions and installed the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority as the regulator for the private sector pension plans.
Mr. Anglin said most of those administrative moves have already been effected. However, key questions such as whether companies would still have to make five per cent of salary contributions on behalf of expatriate employees’ retirement plans won’t be resolved until lawmakers figure out what they’re doing with the bill.
“I’m confident that if we’re not able to get it through the LA, it ought to be something that whoever is the government come May takes up and takes up very quickly,” Mr. Anglin said.
According to the Cayman Islands Complaints Commissioner’s Office, there are nearly 700 local companies that are in some stage of delinquency with regard to making legally required pension payments. Mr. Anglin said the new legislation would provide “a regulatory framework that will allow pensions to function”.
A package of legislation including major revisions to the Cayman Islands Legal Practitioners Law, and a new set of regulations and code of conduct attached to that were made public late last year.
The regulations seek to implement a registration fee for law firms that use non-Caymanian attorneys who perform some work for their Cayman Islands firms while residing overseas. Locally operating law firms that aren’t registered under the regulations would essentially not be allowed to operate satellite offices hiring non-Caymanian attorneys.
“Some Caymanian attorneys have … expressed concerns about the ability of some law firms to operate satellite offices abroad,” former Premier Bush said in a written statement supporting the bill. “[They] are worried that one day, Cayman legal services could potentially be solely provided from other countries.” According to the regulations: “A firm which desires to be recognised as a qualified firm shall apply in writing to the [Cayman Islands Bar] Council for such recognition.”
The Cayman Islands Bar Council is an appointed body formed under the Legal Practitioners Bill, 2012, consisting of the chief justice [or a designate], the attorney general [or a designate], the director of public prosecutions [or a designate], another person appointed by the chief justice, another person appointed by the attorney general, a person appointed by the Cabinet and the director of the Truman Bodden Law School [or a designate].
A number of conditions in considering whether a law firm might become a “qualified overseas” practitioner are listed in the regulations. Some of the more than 40 qualifiers include: the number of Caymanian partners and associates in the firm; whether the firm provides articles for Caymanian law school graduates; whether the firm has in-house training available; and whether the firm has Caymanian partners who have advanced as the result of post-qualification training.
Most international law firms have teams practising Cayman law from overseas offices, for example, by providing for the use of Cayman vehicles such as funds or companies by foreign clients. Often this work will generate business that is going to be serviced from Cayman, in addition to the establishment work that is done in Cayman. Cayman Islands companies are, for example, popular vehicles for listings on the stock exchanges in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
“We are going to meet with those who have worked diligently at getting us to this point,” Mr. Anglin said. “We’re also going to meet with the various associations who have given feedback so we understand the state of play. We want to do that with all members of the House.”