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Coinbase acquires Earn.com and hires CEO as Chief Technology Officer

Cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase has acquired Earn.com, a paid messaging service enabled by Blockchain technology, and appointed the company’s CEO, Balaji Srinivasan, as its first Chief Technology Officer (CTO), TechCrunch reported April 16.

Neither Coinbase nor Earn.com, formerly known as 21.co, disclosed the terms of the deal, but Srinivasan told TechCrunch that it represented a positive return on investment for those who backed Earn.com. Since the company initially raised $120 mln in investment, there is some indication as to the cost of the deal.

As part of the acquisition, the digital currency exchange hired Earn.com’s CEO, Balaji Srinivasan, as its first CTO. The rest of the Earned.com team will also move over to Coinbase. Srinivasan holds a BS, MS and PhD in Electrical Engineering and an MS in Chemical Engineering, and is known as an early evangelist of Blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies.

Prior to Earn.com, Srinivasan was a General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz. He will reportedly continue to be involved with Andreessen Horowitz, and apart from the CTO position at Coinbase, will also be responsible for recruiting crypto talent to the company. Srinivasan said:

“With Coinbase’s user base and distribution muscle, I think it could hit $100 mln in ARR in a few months. I’m proud of the fact that we turned what could have been a disaster into a successful product and I’m excited about the road ahead.”

Coinbase has recently been acquiring a slew of new talent. Last week, the digital currency exchange hired a new Vice President of Communications, Rachel Horowitz, who previously served as Director of Technology Communications at Facebook. At Twitter she worked on scaling the communications team and developing company narrative.

In December 2017, former PayPal and Facebook executive David Marcus, joined Coinbase’s board of directors. CEO Brian Armstrong said Marcus’ “knowledge of both the payments and mobile space” was what would help “guide” Coinbase going forward.

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New leadership team unveiled at law firm Burness Paull

Burness Paull has announced that Tamar Tammes will step into the role of managing partner in August, replacing Ian Wattie, with Peter Lawson confirmed as the replacement for Philip Rodney as chairman.

Mr Lawson, who had been expected to take over from Mr Rodney, currently leads the firm’s corporate department, while Ms Tammes is head of its property and infrastructure department.

Ms Tammes and Mr Lawson will lead an ambitious three year growth plan when the current leadership team step down after 12 years at the helm of the firm.

Mr Rodney will leave the firm to pursue a number of personal projects, while Mr Wattie will be retained in a strategic consultancy role with the firm for the next 12 months to help finalise the delivery of a number of key projects.

The handover follows a year-long shadowing process designed to ensure a seamless transition with clarity of succession for both clients and staff.

Mr Lawson, who spent three years in London with Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, said: “Philip and Ian have led the firm through a transformational process and will leave their roles with the firm in great shape. It is an exciting time for the firm, which has a very clear growth strategy.

“Our absolute focus is on delivering success for our clients. We have an outstandingly talented team at Burness Paull and Tamar and I will look to empower a new generation of leaders.”

In November last year, Burness Paull landed a spot on Lex Mundi global network of independent law firms when previous Scottish member Maclay Murray and Spend was taken over by Dentons.

Burness Paull estimates that more than 40% of its work is now international.

In its most recent accounts to the end of July, the firm made a £22m profit on revenue of £53.8m.

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Singapore – Major Employment Law Changes Announced

Significant changes to the Employment Act (“EA”) were announced in Parliament in March 2018. Details of the amendments are likely to be made public later this year, and these amendments are expected to become law by 1 April 2019 (“Effective Date”).

The key major changes are:

– Senior managers and executives will be covered under the EA.
– Statutory protection against unfair dismissal will be expanded.
– Part IV of the EA on working time protections will cover more employees.

More details on these upcoming changes are set out below.

1. EA extended to cover senior managers and executives

Currently, the EA applies to:

(a) All non-managerial and non-executive employees regardless of salary (“rank & file”); and

(b) Managerial and executive employees earning up to S$4,500 per month (“junior PMEs”).

The EA amendment will remove the salary cap for managerial and executive employees, so that senior managers and executives (regardless of salary, position or the confidential nature of their jobs (“senior executives”) will be covered by the EA from the Effective Date.

Effect of amendment

This major change will result in all core employee benefits under the EA being extended to senior executives, in addition to the rank & file and junior PMEs currently covered by the EA. These core benefits include:

– Annual leave, paid sick leave / hospitalisation leave;
– Paid public holidays;
– Timely payment of salary;
– Maternity protection;
– Childcare leave;

Right to preserve existing terms and conditions in employment transfers resulting from sale of business and business restructuring; and

Statutory protection against dismissal “without just cause or excuse” (“unfair dismissal”).

In particular, the extending of annual leave to all employees is significant because this statutory entitlement is currently only available to non-managerial and non-executive employees who are earning up to a specified salary cap (“Part IV employees” – see section 3 below). The announced changes now suggest that statutory annual leave is likely to be moved out of Part IV of the EA so as to apply to all employees. It remains to be seen whether any other Part IV provisions will be extended to all employees.

2. Unfair dismissal protection expanded

The implication of extending the EA to all managers and executives also means that senior executives will be entitled to statutory protection against unfair dismissal if they meet the criteria under section 14 of the EA. This means that all managers and executives, including senior executives, will have recourse to the Employment Claims Tribunals (“ECT”) if they consider that their employment had been terminated “without just cause or excuse”.

This is another important change as currently, claims in relation to unfair dismissal are heard by the Ministry of Manpower (“MOM”). From the Effective Date, employees who seek recourse in respect of both unfair dismissal and salary-related claims will not have to submit two separate claims through the MOM and ECT respectively, and can instead bring their claims to the ECT.

In relation to unfair dismissal, it has been announced that the ECT will have jurisdiction over the following types of unfair dismissal:

– Dismissal on grounds other than poor performance, misconduct or redundancy;
– Dismissal of pregnant employees; and
– Constructive dismissal / forced resignation.

Second Manpower Minister Josephine Teo has said that the MOM will work with employers and the labour movement to produce a set of answers to frequently asked questions on what amounts to unfair dismissal.

3. Extension of Part IV protection to more non-workmen

The salary criteria for protection of non-workmen under Part IV of the EA will also be amended. Currently, Part IV applies to employees who are non-managerial and non-executive.

(a) Workmen earning up to S$4,500 per month; and

(b) Non-workmen earning up to S$2,500 per month.

The EA amendment will increase the salary cap for non-workmen to S$2,600 per month so that more non-workmen will be covered under Part IV of the EA from the Effective Date. Key Part IV protections include maximum working hours, mandatory rest days and statutory overtime pay.

Further, the salary cap for calculating overtime pay for non-workmen will be amended. Currently, the hourly basic rate of pay for non-workmen who earn S$2,250 or more per month is calculated based on a monthly salary of S$2,250 (even if the monthly salary is more than S$2,250). However, from the Effective Date, this cap will be increased to S$2,600.

What these EA amendments mean for employers

After details of the amendments are released later this year, employers should undertake a review of their employment documentation and procedures to ensure compliance with the extended statutory obligations, especially in relation to (i) senior executives; (ii) non-workmen earning between S$2,500 and S$2,600 (who are non-managerial and non-executive); and (iii) substantiating grounds for dismissal for all levels of employees.

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Law At Work acquires Aberdeen law firm

Aberdeen-based HR and employment law firm, Empire, has been acquired by Law At Work (LAW), in a deal that will combine Empire’s position in the North-East together with LAW’s strong Central Belt presence.

This transaction, which follows LAW’s acquisition of Square Circle HR in 2016, will see the new firm boast close to 1,000 clients UK-wide, with a projected combined turnover of £5.5m.

Empire and LAW bring fixed fee services to businesses facing legal and regulatory challenges for more than a decade. Clients of the newly combined firm will benefit from added knowledge and experience in existing sectors coupled with expertise in new areas. The new firm will have 70 staff across offices in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Inverness providing nationwide coverage.

The new firm has plans to grow the business in both the North East and Central Belt regions. Under the deal, Empire founder and chief executive officer Steve Cook, and current managing director PJ Chalmers, remain with the business, joining the LAW board as directors and shareholders in LAW.

New group MD, Steve Cook from Empire, said: “We are two businesses which have known each other well for many years. We share the same aims and objectives: allowing clients to get on with growing their business, while we take their legal and compliance worries away. We are both already best in class but, through a combined offering, are now better placed than ever to set the standard others can only aspire to.”

Magnus Swanson from LAW, Chairman of the new group, added: “It is a great opportunity for us to provide the best support for UK businesses to meet the rising challenges of legal compliance while having the certainty and transparency of fixed fees. From GDPR to tribunals and health & safety compliance, pressure on busy employers has never been greater.

“The combination of the two businesses will enable both LAW and Empire clients to access new enhanced services. Businesses want advisors they can trust and this deal brings together two trusted advisers in their distinct markets to form the strongest consultancy in our field in Scotland.”

The debt funding for this deal was provided by HSBC. The advisors on the deal have been David Beveridge of Macdonald Henderson and Neil Grimmond of Craig Corporate on behalf of LAW and David Rennie of Stronachs and Tom Faichnie of Hall Morrice on behalf of Empire.

Ross Keenan, relationship director at HSBC in Scotland, said: “HSBC was delighted to provide funding to support Law At Work’s acquisition of Empire. We’re excited to play a role in the next stage of LAW’s continued development across Scotland.”

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UK likely to be SA’s biggest foreign direct investor — even after Brexit

Created after the Brexit decision, the UK’s department for international trade sees SA as a key business partner.

Last month marked a year to go until the UK leaves the EU. While we’ve been clear that we will remain close friends and partners of the EU in future, we also have a unique opportunity to re-invigorate our relationships with other trading partners around the world.

The UK’s new department for international trade, created after the referendum, is leading the way. As we look to establish our own independent trade policy for the first time in more than 40 years, our business relationships with countries such as SA will be key to our mutual prosperity.

After all, as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts, 90% of global growth will be outside the EU in the coming decades, and the UK’s new trade policy should be about helping businesses from both our countries work together even more extensively.

UK businesses are already recognising SA as a great place to do business. SA’s bilateral trade with the UK was worth £8.8bn in 2016 — a 9.2% increase on the previous year. The UK remains SA’s biggest long-term foreign investor, with 45% of SA’s FDI stock originating from the UK. And there are many South African companies active and present in the UK, growing their businesses and sustaining jobs in SA.

We are clear that this strong relationship will continue as the UK leaves the EU. I’m pleased to report that we’re making excellent progress in our discussions to ensure continuity of the regional Economic Partnership Agreement with SA, the other members of the Southern African Customs Union, and Mozambique.

The UK and partners in the region share a common goal of replicating this trade agreement to provide certainty of our trading relationship for businesses, and so that we have a framework that will allow us to build an even closer economic partnership in future.

I’m looking forward to discussing this with Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies when we meet in Johannesburg this week.

But we can do even better. To improve our already impressive record of working together in business, we need to make it even easier for UK and South African companies to operate in each other’s markets, to overcome any regulatory barriers that make trade more expensive.

There is huge potential, given the complementary nature and shared entrepreneurial spirit of the UK and South African economies. Our companies stand to benefit if we are better able to bring together the home-grown technology and innovation we see being created in SA and the UK. Our shared strong commitment to open trade, democracy and the rule of law gives us the solid foundation from which to build an exciting and prosperous future.

Supporting this ambition is where our post-Brexit relationship can flourish further. Our expertise can be SA’s expertise, and UK companies stand ready to help advance economic transformation for SA’s future. The UK’s export credit agency, UK Export Finance (UKEF) has nearly £3bn available to support UK companies doing business in SA, as well as South African companies looking to buy British goods and services.

And as the UK welcomes a diverse community of 52 Commonwealth nations at next week’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, including many of SA’s regional partners, I look forward to embracing a future of fair and free trade that we can build together for shared success.

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Allen & Overy enters merger talks with US law firm O’Melveny

Allen & Overy (A&O) has entered merger talks with US firm O’Melveny & Myers which could create a £2bn global law firm, Advisory Excellence understands.

The magic circle firm has long desired a US merger and talks are thought to have been progressing for a number of months with senior partner Wim Dejonghe and managing partner Andrew Ballheimer thought to be running the talks.

A&O has made several overtures towards the US in recent years, breaking its lockstep for the first time to bring in several US partners nearly two years ago.

Since then, rumours of need to expand in the US had circulated with O’Melveny frequently mentioned as a merger candidate for the magic circle firm.

A spokesperson for A&O said: “While we have said for several years that we are open to considering a merger with the right partner in the US, we talk to many law firms in many countries all of the time and we do not comment on market speculation and rumours regarding any particular firm.”

A&O has hired from O’Melveny in the past, bringing in Barbara Stettner, Chris Salter and Charles Borden as partners in July 2011 to open the firm’s Washington DC office. Five years earlier, A&O turned to O’Melveny when hiring banking partner Elizabeth Leckie to bolster its New York office.

One West Coast-based partner at a rival firm told Advisory Excellence: “Everyone knows it’s been A&O’s strategy for a while to expand their global footprint. They need to do something, A&O hasn’t got the US presence that it would ideally like.”

“Does it surprise me?” added the partner. “No.”

While rumour has circulated for several years over A&O’s US expansion plans, the firm was thought to have been cool on the idea of merger.

Market sources indicated that Shearman & Sterling was being touted for a potential major US tie-up, though Ropes & Gray and Fried Frank had also been mentioned in the same vein.

Of its existing US relationships, A&O is thought to work frequently with Fenwick & West, primarily on intellectual property matters.

A spokesperson for O’Melveny said: “We have no plans to merge and never have.”

Data showed A&O generated £1.5bn in turnover for the 2016/17 year, making £666m in net profit with average per equity partner of £1.5m.

O’Melveny generated $738m (£524m) last year while bringing in $335.4m (£238.1m) with PEP of $2m (£1.4m).