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Faced with a Global Pandemic, Restructuring Professionals Worldwide Adapted

JCR Guest Editor

I sit writing this column at a desk looking out over the sea in Port Erin, Isle of Man. After 15 months of restrictions, I am once more finally at my mother’s home and, as the place I grew up, in my “hometown.” If all goes well, day-to-day life on the Isle of Man is a foretaste of what should very shortly be awaiting the entire United Kingdom.

No masks, no more social distancing but instead, a carefully controlled border with a strict requirement for vaccination certificates. Apart from that, however, one can meet with friends indoors, hug relatives—and travel behind vintage steam and electric locomotives. It is as if the last 15 months have been a hallucinatory nightmare from which we are now emerging, bleary-eyed and yearning for normality. The extent of that nightmare and the changes it has wrought on society were all the more forcibly brought home by the empty runways and closed terminals greeting me as I flew to the island from Heathrow Airport.

This month’s edition of JCR is in consequence a chronicle of global adaptation, financial support, and compromise. It summarises the effects of and approaches taken by governments and courts across the world. As one might expect, there are wide areas of difference—from the relatively laissez faire approach of the U.S. to the wide-ranging moratoria on insolvency proceedings, payment holidays, and employee support made available in the United Kingdom and Germany.

Look more closely, however, and there are many common themes. From the Cayman Islands to the U.S. and United Kingdom, courts and their users have become adept at the use of remote technology for the conduct of hearings. David Manson and Philip Povey’s article on Virgin Active and Restructuring Plans resonates with the pieces from the U.S., Hong Kong, and Ireland in the way it describes electronic discovery, document retrieval, and court hearings. There have been relaxations to winding up proceedings in the United Kingdom. These, in turn, have equivalents in Germany with the mitigation of some of the insolvency filing requirements. In Ireland, examinerships may for now run for up to 150 days while schemes of arrangement are formulated.

In the cross-border arena, we have seen new provisions and innovations. The examinership of Norwegian Air Shuttle resulted from the creative use of the “sufficient connection” test to found jurisdiction given that Norway is not a member of the European Union and thus falls outside the reach of the European Insolvency Regulation. A new procedure is being piloted between Hong Kong and parts of China to assist in the recognition of liquidation proceedings. We have also seen in the United Kingdom acknowledgement that schemes of arrangement and restructuring plans should remain capable of recognition, notwithstanding the UK’s departure from the European Union at the end of 2020.

Hence, in reading these articles, one can be thankful that the restructuring profession’s willingness and ability to innovate remains undimmed by the trials and tribulations imposed on us all by this terrible pandemic. It is also fair to hope that the continuing roll-out of vaccines and testing will together mean that it will not be too long, in the words of that old World War II song, before “We’ll meet again.” Stay safe and well, wherever you may be reading this, and here is to that long overdue face-to-face coffee or lunch.

Joe Bannister

Joe Bannister

Hogan Lovells International LLP

Joe Bannister is a partner in the Hogan Lovells London restructuring and insolvency team. He is a seasoned international restructuring and insolvency lawyer with experience across all industry sectors, ranging from financial services to manufacturing and transportation. Bannister has dealt with cross-border cases across the UK, Europe, Asia, and the United States, and his assignments have encompassed a number of offshore jurisdictions. He has written and spoken extensively on industry and technical matters.

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