The COVID-19 pandemic is creating turmoil in global markets and has plunged the world economy into deep recession. New Zealand’s successful management has so far allowed a return to relative normality compared to other OECD countries. But as a nation, we are not immune from the economic impact, with Treasury projecting sharp increases in unemployment and business failure.
With little sign of the pandemic easing in the short term, our focus is on providing clients with ongoing advice to enable economic resilience for the long haul. We can help businesses, government agencies, communities and individuals through the continuing crisis to reset and rebuild.
- Working with many clients on commercial and legal implications of contractual obligations, especially in relation to force majeure clauses, frustration of contracts, termination, breach, damages and repudiation.
- Assistance on the regulatory context on government response including Wage Subsidy, Business Finance Guarantee Scheme, Cashflow Loan Scheme and Debt Hibernation Scheme.
- Advising on temporary introduction on safe harbours for insolvency-related director duties in the Companies Act 1993 introduced to assist directors of companies that were viable before COVID-19 and providing relief from potential personal liability. Also providing insights on factors boards needed to consider in leading through the crisis including Business Continuity Planning (BCP).
- Working with landlords and tenants on commercial lease protections – commentary on potential impact of Alert Level 4 on leasing arrangements including the impact of the Christchurch cordon clause and the definition of essential services and where buildings are required to be closed by operation of law.
- Tax advice regarding a number of changes announced on 17 March 2020 and contained in the COVID-19 Response (Taxation and Social Assistance Urgent Measures) Act enabling tax relief for businesses and allowing for interest free loans to aim to support cash-flow, lower compliance costs, stimulate investment and encourage spending. Advice also included refundable R&D credits, tax residency, the impact of travel restrictions and extension on GST zero-rating qualifications.
- Advising clients on the fast tracking consenting and designations for eligible developments and infrastructure projects under the Resource Management Act following the Government announcement a major element of its COVID-19 rebuild plan.
- Advice on the NZX and Financial Markets Authority’s unprecedented measures to assist in relieving some of the pressure on listed issuers, including extension of time for periodic reporting, increased the headroom capacity for both placements and share purchase plans.
- In the four months from March 2020, we acted on thirteen capital raisings by NZX-listed issuers, to raise more than $2.6b in equity. This level of capital raising activity over such a concentrated period in New Zealand is unprecedented.
- Employment issues including wage subsidy implications, work from home requirements, leave entitlements, special leave and other Holidays Act 2003 enquiries, vulnerable worker provisions, essential business requirements, transitioning to Alert Level 3 and employment obligations, health and safety measures.
- COVID-19 impacts on New Zealand borrowers and bond issuers.
- Considerations for importers and exporters with the disruption of global supply chains, jurisdictional rights and responsibilities, regulatory compliance, and contractual provisions.
- Guidance for insurers, KiwiSaver scheme providers and fund managers during the COVID-19 crisis, including to ensure all offers of customer relief (including payment holidays) and any COVID-19 policy exclusions are clearly explained to distributors and customers, actively monitor existing complaint processes, ensuring that they are fit-for-purpose and that all complaints are managed genuinely, promptly, fairly and consistently.