REUTERS | Luke MacGregor

What’s on the agenda for in-house lawyers in August 2021?

This month, in-house lawyers should be aware of consultations on the National Security and Investment Act and the UK prospectus regime. They should also take note of the government’s response to the consultation on workplace sexual harassment.

National Security and Investment Act

BEIS has published a draft of the National Security and Investment Act 2021 (Notifiable Acquisition) (Specification of Qualifying Entities) Regulations 2021, a consultation on the revised draft statement that explains how the power to call in acquisitions for consideration will be used, and some guidance notes to help businesses prepare for the new rules. Responses to the consultation on the power to call in must be made by 11.59 pm on 30 August 2021. The National Security and Investment Act will come into force on 4 January 2022.

Sexual harassment in the workplace

The government has published its response to the consultation on workplace sexual harassment. The response confirms that the government will introduce a new duty for employers to prevent sexual harassment and third-party harassment in the workplace, and that it will look closely at the possibility of extending the time limit for all claims under the Equality Act 2010.

UK prospectus regime

HM Treasury has published a consultation on the UK prospectus regime. It seeks views on matters including:

  • Proposed new FCA powers on admissions to regulated markets.
  • Prospectus content and ancillary provisions.
  • Forward-looking information.
  • Options for companies admitted to multilateral trading facilities.
  • The scope of the UK’s public offering rules.
  • Public offerings by private companies.
  • Public offers by overseas companies.

The consultation closes on 17 September.

Climate change

On 9 July, the European Climate Law was published. It sets a 2050 climate neutrality (net zero) target for the EU, with significant interim targets for 2030 of 55% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions compared to 1990 levels. The European Commission has also adopted a package of climate and energy legislative proposals that will enable the EU to meet its 2030 and 2050 carbon targets. Some of these legislative proposals will bring significant changes.

Environmental, social and governance

The Crown Court has fined Southern Water £90 million for breaches of permitting requirements relating to sewage discharges under the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010. This decision demonstrates that the courts are prepared to impose significant fines for environmental offences. However, currently, the large fines for environmental offences have all been water-related and on water companies.

On 7 July, the FRC published a statement of intent on environmental, social and governance (ESG) challenges. The statement identifies several roadblocks that exist in attaining a fully effective and efficient system of ESG reporting and identifies various actions that the FRC plans to undertake to support the market. Among other things, the FRC believes that there is a need for improved production of ESG information to ensure that better internal information leads to better decisions and better insight for stakeholders.

Deferred Prosecution Agreements

The SFO has entered into a £103 million Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) with Amec Foster Wheeler Energy Ltd (AFWEL) relating to the use of corrupt agents in the oil and gas sector. The DPA is part of a global settlement of $177 million entered into by AFWEL and UK, US and Brazilian authorities. The ten offences of corruption and bribery the subject of the DPA spanned the period 1996 to 2014 and involved the use of corrupt agents in Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, India and Brazil.

Data protection

The Information Commissioner’s Office has published a new beta version of its AI and Data Protection Risk Toolkit to help organisations using AI to process personal data in compliance with data protection legislation.

Key dates for your diary

1 August

From this date, the government will pay 60% of wages up to a maximum cap of £1,875 for the hours an employee is on furlough.

4 August

FCA consultation on proposed changes to the FCA Knowledge Base closes.

9 August

The consultation on compensation to energy intensive industries for UK Emissions Trading Scheme and Carbon Price Support costs closes.

31 August

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