Lawyers accuse CIG of secrecy over LPB

| 15/11/2016 | 45 Comments

(CNS Business): Efforts by Financial Services Minister Wayne Panton to steer through legislation to govern the Cayman Islands legal profession ahead of the next Financial Action Task Force review and after 15 years of failed attempts by previous governments have been undermined by more complaints from the sector. Four local attorneys have accused the ministry of secrecy surrounding the 2016 draft bill, which they say was written by the large law firms that are compromised because of their historical breaches of existing legislation.

The text of a letter, seen by CNS Business, was said to have been sent via email to Panton at the financial services ministry last Thursday and signed by lawyers Samuel Jackson, Selina Tibbetts, Anthony Akiwumi and Vaughan Carter. It calls on government to drop this current law and return to the 2013 draft as a starting point for another round of consultation to shape the much-needed law.

The four lawyers say the 2013 draft came out of a much wider consultation process than this current proposed bill, which they say was largely drafted by the big offshore firms via the Cayman Islands Law Society and the Cayman Bar Association, which they say have been breaking the law for years.

“While we are respectful of the contributions that these two organisations have made to the profession over the years, as you will be aware, it is a widely held view that neither organisation now represents the interests of the entire profession and that both are, to all intents and purposes, dominated by the larger multi-jurisdictional offshore law firms and their discrete interests,” the lawyers wrote.

They called for more transparency over the drafting because it had effectively been privatised to interests “that have apparently for so long ignored and/or deliberately breached provisions of the current Law”, and asked government to lift the lid on what has happened behind the scenes.

The lawyers raised concerns that these large firms have been breaking the current rules regarding the practice of Cayman law outside the jurisdiction but no action has been taken.

“This failure also requires accountability and explanation. Against this background, our considered view is that the proponents of the 2016 Bill are conflicted and lack the moral and ethical authority to be entrusted with its drafting and development,” the local lawyers state.

Listing several problems with that law, the attorneys say that the 2016 draft bill does not address the fundamental challenge of the training and advancement of Caymanian attorneys, which has been the controversy at the heart of the law for many years.

CNS Business has contacted Minister Panton and is awaiting a response regarding the latest objections to the law.

Speaking at the PPM’s branch meeting in George Town last week, the night before the letter was reportedly emailed to Panton, Premier Alden McLaughlin said the government was not going to get everyone’s support on the law but he hoped to get most lawyers to see the balance between the competing interests.

McLaughlin pointed out his own interest in the legislation as a local attorney himself, who is married to lawyer with a son about to qualify as one. No one has more of a “keen interest in getting this right”, McLaughlin said, adding that government was focused on protecting the interests of Caymanian attorneys.

The legislation is scheduled to go before parliament in the New Year ahead of the task force review. Without a law in place then government could receive a failing grade, but the lawyers argue that getting the law right is more important than speed.

See text of letter in the CNS Library

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Category: Finance, Financial Services, Law

Comments (45)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    What I don’t get is this – if Caymanian lawyers are truly being held back then why don’t they leave the firms that they are currently work for and form their own Caymanian “super firm”?

    The firm in question could have a policy of only hiring fellow Caymanians (in every position throughout the firm). There wouldn’t be any work permit restrictions and presumably the CIG would be justified in putting all its business with the firm in question (thus ensuring that the firm in question had a reliable source of income from day one). And every member of the firm could work their way up the ladder based on merit alone without the fear of hitting any “glass ceiling” along the way.

    If any Caymanian lawyer had a restraint of trade clause in their current contract then I wouldn’t have thought that they would be enforceable in which case they could take their existing clients with them to their new firm (thus ensuring another revenue stream for their firm).

    Such a firm would surely blow the other (expat) law firms completely out of the water and would ensure that future Caymanians who aspired to be lawyers had a definite future in the industry.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Many of the posts below argue there is some unjust professional barrier imposed on talented Caymanian lawyers. That is self-pitying fallacy. There is so much positive discrimination and mandatory opportunity to benefit local attorneys embedded in the system that the only barrier to progress is talent not nationality.

  3. Anonymous says:

    The letter is loaded with serious questions that need to be answered. It is not unfathomable that actions taken by law firms abroad are not in compliance with the law, even if the law does not state an express penalty for the breach – it raises the ugly question of whether the failure to address was deliberate. Information is the key to understanding the extent of the issues the law is seeking to address – will the PPM even attempt to explain why “they” have drafted the law the way they did? Will the Attorney General issue a statement to confirm practice of law without a certificate issued by our Grand Court is legally acceptable? Waiting…

  4. Anonymous says:

    This bill in its current form is crap and will cause a waterfall of issues. Serious thought and Amendments need to be made before it gets passed. The current status quo is wrong. This merely enshrines that into law and keeps the legal profession above the laws and rules applicable to all other businesses in Cayman. This cannot be right and the politicians pushing for this need to get their heads out of their asses.
    respectively.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Yes, the consensus is that the Bill does not address the desire of the utterly mediocre to reap oligopolistic profits merely by reason of holding their holding correct travel documents.

    • Anonymous says:

      You must be an incredibly untalented lawyer if you read the bill and came to that conclusion.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes, it has nothing to do with the fact that these firms have intentionally BROKEN our laws and that our government is obviously trying to hide it and reward them for their criminal behaviour. Nothing wrong with that… Not for the PPM at least.

    • Anonymous says:

      speaking of mediocre: ‘ merely by reason of holding their holding correct travel documents’,…. I assume from this, that there must be a sub mediocre category that does reap the oligopolistic profits and does the bill address them also?

    • Anonymous says:

      I wholly agree. British and Australian passports should be irrelevant to whether or not someone can be a partner. Right now it seems to be a requirement.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I just want to point out that minister panton is the same man who made it so impossible to apply for a trade and business license and that this government is prosecuting Caymanian beach vendors whilst at the same time allowing these firms to break the law and rewarding them for it too!!!

    Is this who you want representing caymanians!!??

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes in fact. Politics cause you to lie so? The man does more than any of these people put together. There is over a thousand new businesses because of this Government. And it isn’t prosecuting beach vendors – it is reclaiming the beach for the public while trying to get them properly licensed. And if these firms were breaking the law they would have been prosecuted a long time ago so you know that not true. The man does the hard things because they need doing for the country and you know that too.

      • Anonymous says:

        Yes they are breaching the law and blatantly so. They have lawyers who do not hold practicing certificates purporting to be Cayman Islands attorneys at law- that’s a breach of section 10. The AGs office has some explaining to do too. Interesting to find out how deep the roots of the big firms run here

  7. Anonymous says:

    4 lawyers object–so what? Both the local and the driftwood lawyer groups support it. There is nothing in this world that all lawyers would agree on. If they think laws were broken, why didn’t they go to the police or the courts? This is the usual bs, move on with it.

    • Anonymous says:

      Kudos to those who stood up to represent Cayman Lawyers on this one. Why would anyone ever think that Wayne would have our best interest. Never have and never will. He is ok, I understand that he is the landlord of one of the biglies. The Premier better get this right because he might well need to go back to practicing law after May 2017.

      • Anonymous says:

        Where are all these Cayman lawyers that oppose it but are afraid to say so publicly? On this anonymous comment site there are just a handful of opposing comments. It looks like the underground opposition actually doesn’t exist.

    • Anonymous says:

      It is the job of the Attorney General to investigate and prosecute- the question is why hasn’t the been done despite the obvious breaches of the law??????

      • Anonymous says:

        He should be asked that question in the House! We can sell tickets to watch them squirm! The whole state of affairs is disgusting and a betrayal of the Cayman Islands and the Caymanian people.

      • Anonymous says:

        errr that is very likely because there has been NO BREACH of the law!

        The problem is that the law is SILENT on the practice of law outside of the Cayman Islands! That is one of the very good reasons that it is essential that this Bill proceed!

    • Anonymous says:

      4 lawyers who are brave enough to stand up. Many more object but are too afraid to stand up for themselves. Even if you are in the minority, the truth is still the truth.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Why are law firms being allowed to operate outside the law? The practice by persons who do not have valid certificates is not permitted under our present legislation! These persons should be being fined, not rewarded!

    • Anonymous says:

      The whole thing stinks. It has literally developed into a racket. They ignore the law with impunity, and are destroying their host in the process. Damn them! Where is the regulator?

  9. Wow says:

    I really have to wonder who the PPM are trying to fool. The conflicts of interest are blinding! Time to drain this swamp as well

  10. Anonymous says:

    Alden must live in a bubble or is in complete denial about major issues facing the Cayman Islands

  11. George Orwell Ebanks says:

    The PPM continue to demonstrate they have sold out Cayman to groups like DART the GT merchant class and big law firms like Maples and Walkers. Why should lawyers be exempt from the trade and business laws?

    This all reminds me of the classic book Animal Farm. “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

    • Anonymous says:

      Not all businesses are licensed under the Trade and Business licensing law . For example Banks and trust companies are regulated under the Banks and Trust Companies Law. If a profession or business is licensed by another law then the TBL does not apply generally.

      In case you have missed it, one of the reasons it is essential that a new modern law to regulate the practice of law is put in place is that it has been governed ever since by a 1969 law!

      Accountants are largely not regulated under the TBL either. They are still licensed there because there historically they were not separately regulated at all. They are now regulated by the Accountants Law.

  12. Anonymous says:

    The definition of irony:

    ” A state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects and is often wryly amusing as a result.”

  13. Revelations 345 says:

    Actions speak louder than words. Conflicts of interests and secrecy has dogged this Progressives government in multiple areas including board appointments, CPA decisions, the cruise berthing project and legal practitioners bill. This is ironic since they claim to stand for transparency but their collective efforts demonstrate something very different.

    • Anonymous says:

      This is so disappointing. This is about jobs for Caymanians. There was no transparancy in drafting the law. This law was drafted by those who does not have Cayman best interest at heart. Mr. Panton please tell us who drafted this law for you.

      • Anonymous says:

        It will never be about jobs for Caymanians in the generic sense until a new law is drafted along the lines of the UK’s Legal Services Act. Until that day, in terms of jobs for Caymanians, all this does is restrict such jobs to privileged and well-off Caymanians who can afford to go to Uni, and in doing so prevents any possibility of any other routes into law for the rest of us.

  14. Anonymous says:

    So [they] wish to jeopardise the incredible legal industry that long predates their involvement with the Cayman Islands?! Everyone should see their efforts for the reckless political stunt that they are.

    • Anonymous says:

      I take your comment as referring to the government and the 2916 bill. If that is correct I agree. It’s truly sad we cannot trust lawyers to abide by our laws and for the powers to be too sweep that under the rug is shocking

  15. Trial and Error says:

    Lawyers should not be above the slaw, and if indeed they have broken it then it should be fully exposed and and legal remedies taken where available.?the purge must start now so that there can be a process and a law that is fair to all not just some. Minister Panton do your duty to the Cayman Islanfs do not I repeat do not betray the land of your forefathers.

  16. Paper Jammer says:

    Four years of wayne wonder and Aldon and their UK agenda what do we have to show or get ? Yet another EU Blacklist. It looks like we need a real change ourselves

  17. Anonymous says:

    Big firms continue to rape and pillage at the expense of Caymanians… PPM going to lose some votes over this one!

    • Anonymous says:

      Unfortunately the legal profession is not like the Civil Service where nepotism and being Caymanian plays a large part in promotion. There are very many Caymanians who have qualified as lawyers thanks to the leading law firms giving them full scholarships, but partnership does and always must depend on ability.

      • Anonymous says:

        I call bullshit. In a number of cases partnership depends on a willingness to break Cayman law, but hey, who’s checking!

      • Anonymous says:

        You are fooling no one. Cayman lawyers are just as good our better that the experts who did not learn Cayman law for their bar e xamination. Are you saying that a Caymanian lawyer who has been practising cayman law for tens years is not as good as the attorneys who they have to train, Yes train via given the new lawyers answers every day, answering their questions. Caymanian lawyers practise Cayman law after being called to the bar here.
        Sadly this is not only happening in the law profession but in every other occuption too.
        This bill is about jobs for Caymanians. PPM if you want to be like David Cameron and Hilary Clinton then do not worry about immigration and jobs for Caymanians.

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