Solicitors governing body: Bermuda Bar Association
Financial regulator: Bermuda Monetary Authority
IFLR1000 ranking categories for this jurisdiction:
Bermuda, a British overseas territory, is free of corporate income taxes, and approximately 15,000 companies are registered there. Corporations such as Google shed billions in tax liability by exploiting structures allowing them to register in Bermuda without conducting significant (or any) business there. The island is home to a cluster of highly sophisticated law firms specialising in corporate deals, fund formation, and litigation. The corporate practices of these firms tend to focus to a great extent on the insurance and re-insurance sectors, the sources of much of Bermuda’s revenue.
While the number of law firms on the island may be small compared to some jurisdictions, that is changing as offshore law firms look beyond their base in the Cayman Islands or the British Virgin Islands and compete for deals with a Bermudan component. Walkers and Harneys, traditionally strong in the Cayman Island and the BVI respectively, have both recently expanded into Bermuda. The new arrivals have their work cut out for them if they hope to compete with Appleby, which has been active in Bermuda since 1897, and with Conyers Dill & Pearman, a player in Bermudan transactional law since 1928. Another competitor is Cox Hallett Wilkinson, which dates back to the merger of two local firms in January 1998. Yet another player is MJM, which has strong bank lending and capital markets practices, with a concentration in shipping and aircraft finance.
On the regulatory side, Bermuda has undergone significant changes in recent months. The Investment Funds Amendment Act of 2013 liberalised the regulatory framework, giving funds formed in Bermuda the opportunity to register as Class A or Class B Exempt Funds. Funds exercising this option enjoy the status of registered qualified funds but are not subject to regulation by the Bermuda Monetary Authority. Another development was the Companies Amendment Act of 2014, which loosened regulations for companies seeking to acquire land in Bermuda.
ASW Law places in the second tier for its Bermuda-based financial and corporate practice. Like many Bermudian firms, ASW specialises in insurance and financial services sector deals, and the team also sees significant work from private equity clients.
The firm worked on a number of exceptionally large M&A transactions over the past year. One of the firm’s main highlights from the past year came in connection with the previously mentioned insurance industry: ASW represented XL Group on its acquisition by France-based insurance firm AXA. In a standout deal involving both the insurance and private equity realms, ASW represented FGL Holdings on its acquisition of Fidelity & Guaranty Life. ASW also represented Blackstone on the deal in its capacity as acquisition financier.
ASW added Matthew Davies as counsel from Addleshaw Goddard in March 2018.
Other key clients for the firm included Endurance Specialty Holdings and Osisko Gold Royalties.
"They gave capable and timely corporate law advice on an M&A matter." - M&A
"Very approachable and responsive to our needs." - M&A
"Very responsive and knowledgeable." - M&A
"Very good business sense - don't get bogged down in legal minutiae when dealing with clients, but explain concepts, options clearly. Very responsive. Excellent technical knowledge." - M&A, regulatory
BeesMont places in Bermuda’s third tier for financial and corporate work. The firm displayed its range of capabilities this past research period, advising on the financing, M&A, regulatory and restructuring aspects of a number of transactions.
One highlight for BeesMont came from the funds space when the firm advised Clarien Investments on the restructuring of one its funds. The restructuring involves combining two existing funds with the goal of then listing the resultant fund on the BSX.
Some of BeesMont’s other significant clients included Galena BioPharma and Bermuda’s Ministry of Finance.
Offshore firm Carey Olsen opened for business in Bermuda in February 2018. In that short time it has already established itself as a competitor in the island’s legal market, quickly earning a spot in Bermuda’s ranking table.
In its first few months of practicing, Carey Olsen worked on a number of significant transactions, frequently demonstrating its capabilities with regards to regulatory considerations.
Carey Olsen hired partners Michael Hanson and Mary Ward to lead its new Bermuda-based corporate practice. Both attorneys joined from leading Bermuda firms, with Hanson coming from Appleby and Ward coming from Conyers Dill & Pearman.
"Very knowledgeable and professional lawyers with extensive subject matter expertise. Very responsive." - Regulatory
"Responsive subject matter expert with excellent client management skills."
A storied Bermuda firm, Conyers Dill & Pearman ranks in the first tier for its financial and corporate practice. One of the firm’s most impressive qualities is its range of expertise, shown by the wide variety of deals Conyers worked on recently. Conyers handled everything from M&A transactions to restructurings, regulatory concerns, fund formations and capital markets offerings for clients.
One of the firm’s highlights came from advising Sky Aviation Leasing International on its asset-backed securities offering.
In addition to its specialties in the aviation and insurance sectors, Conyers also handles significant work for clients in life sciences. In one standout transaction, Conyers represented Roivant Sciences in connection with a equity investment in the company that was led by the SoftBank Vision Fund.
Some of Conyers’ other important recent clients were Valeant Pharmaceuticals, Global Logistics Properties and Aurum Fund Management.
"They are really quick and respond to the client's queries." - Banking
"Very good and user friendly. Fairly small team, but very dedicated and responsive." - Banking
"Very user-friendly and experienced."
"Very good insolvency contact."
"She is extremley quick and capable of responding to the client's queries."
A top tier Bermuda firm, Cox Hallett Wilkinson was kept particularly busy with several large financing and capital markets transactions over the past year.
One of the firm’s highlights came from advising developer George’s Bay on the financing for Bermuda’s largest hotel and residential development project. The project covers 182 acres at Bermuda’s Morgan’s Point property.
Another standout deal was client GeoPark’s debt offering. GeoPark is an oil and gas exploration company with operations throughout South America.
Cox Hallett added Carol Clarke as counsel from Conyers this past February.
Some of the firm’s additional key clients were Rabobank and NovaQuest.
Tier two firm MJM specialises in the aviation and shipping industries.
The firm recently demonstrated its capabilities as counsel on significant capital markets, M&A and financing transactions. One of MJM’s stand out deals came in relation to representing Apollo Aviation Management on an aircraft securitisation.
The firm also saw a lot of work from the oil and gas sector, including client Northern Drilling’s private placement equity offering.
Among the firm’s other important clients were Archer Limited and ABN AMRO Bank.
"MJM have always provided an efficient service and are very approachable." - Banking
"At the start of the process, MJM provided a comprehensive, transparent overview of steps and an associated timeline, then adhered to the timeline in every step within their control. Communications were always professional, timely, to the point, and inclusive for all interested parties. They were never a bottleneck and always ensured that we, as well as the US law firms and bank involved, were attentive to deliverables for potential impact on the timeline." - Restructuring and insolvency
Wakefield Quin places in Bermuda’s third tier. The firm had an active research period, handling large capital markets, financing and M&A transactions.
In one deal highlight, the firm advised the facility agent with regards to the financing for Star Energy’s acquisition of geothermal energy assets in Indonesia. The assets were sold by Chevron.
Some of the firm’s biggest M&A deals came in connection with acquisitions in the mining and energy sectors. In one highlight, Wakefield Quin advised Aurania Resources on the acquisition of shares in EcuaSolidus for the rights to 42 mineral exploration licences in Ecuador.
The firm added Wendell Hollis as counsel from HCS Law. His addition was part of the merger between Wakefield Quin and boutique law firm HCS that occurred in May 2017. The combined firm will go by the name Wakefield Quin.
Some of Wakefield Quin’s other key clients included VEON and Gencom.
Tier two firm Walkers showed its ability on a number of the most significant M&A and financing deals involving Bermuda this research period, with the technology, mining and life sciences sectors providing the firm with some of its main sources of work.
One of Walkers’ highlights came in connection with a SoftBank Vision Fund-led investment in Roivant Sciences. Walkers advised SoftBank on the investment. Another standout deal for the firm came in connection with a financing for Trevali Mining. The firm represented the lenders on the transaction.
Walkers has continually grown since establishing in Bermuda. Recent additions include partner Natalie Neto from Bermuda rival Cox Hallett, as well as two associates: Nathalie West joined Walkers from Kirkland & Ellis’ London office, while Rachel Nightingale was added from the Compass Group.
Among Walkers’ other key clients were Touchcorp and Thoma Bravo.