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Letitia James wins New York attorney general race

Letitia James won the race for New York attorney general on Tuesday, setting her up to become a key legal combatant to President Donald Trump’s administration.

James, the New York City public advocate, was part of a Democratic sweep of New York’s state-wide elected offices along with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who all won re-election on Tuesday.

She defeated Republican Keith Wofford, a private attorney who was originally from Buffalo and now lives in Manhattan, and three third-party candidates. The Associated Press call the race at about 11 p.m.

James, 60, will become the first African American woman to be elected to a state-wide office in New York.

DiNapoli, meanwhile, thwarted a Republican challenge from Jonathan Trichter, a financial expert and former Democrat.

James was the favourite to win the seat that opened up when now-former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman abruptly resigned earlier this year after The New Yorker published accounts from multiple women who said Schneiderman physically abused them.

Barbara Underwood was appointed to finish Schneiderman’s term but did not run for a full term.

A former New York City councilwoman, James vowed to continue the Attorney General’s Office’s aggressive posture with the Trump administration, which has resulted in more than 100 legal actions challenging federal decisions or actions, including Trump’s policies on immigration and climate change

James won a four-way Democratic primary in September to advance to Tuesday’s general election.

Wofford, who specialises in bankruptcy law, had accused James of being too cosy with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other Democratic leaders, vowing to be an independent force in office.

James had about 63 percent of the vote with 87 percent of precincts reporting.

In a statement, Wofford thanked his supporters and wished James well.

“I wish Letitia James the best of luck as New York State attorney general and hope she will be an independent voice of law and order for the state of New York,” he said.

In the comptroller’s race, DiNapoli successfully won a third full term. He was first appointed to the position in 2007.

Trichter, a finance expert, challenged DiNapoli’s handling of the state’s $200 billion pension fund. He was a first-time candidate for office who struggled to raise money and air advertisements, leaving him unknown to most New York voters, according to public-opinion polls.

In a victory statement, DiNapoli thanked New Yorkers for electing him.

“With their renewed support, I will continue to guard the taxpayers of this state against waste and corruption and push to make government more accountable, efficient and transparent,” DiNapoli said.

With 87 percent of precincts reporting, DiNapoli had about 68 percent of the vote.

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London loses top financial centre ranking to New York

London has been replaced by New York as the world’s most attractive financial centre, a survey has indicated, as Brexit prompts banks to shift jobs out of the city to keep access to Europe’s single market.

Britain’s decision to leave the EU poses the biggest challenge to the City of London‘s finance industry since the 2007-2009 global crisis, since it may mean banks and insurers lose access to the world’s biggest trading bloc.

New York took first place, followed by London, Hong Kong and Singapore in the Z/Yen global financial centres index, which ranks 100 centres on factors such as infrastructure and access to quality staff.

London‘s score fell by eight points from six months ago, the biggest decline among the top contenders. The survey’s authors said this reflected the uncertainty around Britain’s departure next year.

“We are getting closer and closer to exit day and we still don’t know whether London will be able to trade with all the other European financial centres,” Mark Yeandle, co-creator of the index, said.

“The fear of losing business to other centres is driving the slight decline and people are concerned about London’s competitiveness.”

Since Britain voted in 2016 to leave the EU, some of the world’s most powerful finance companies have started moving staff from London to countries that will remain in the bloc to preserve the existing cross-border flow of trading.

Financial services firms, which account for about 12 per cent of Britain’s economic output and pay more tax than any other industry, potentially have a lot to lose from the end of unfettered access to the EU.

About 5,000 roles are expected to be shifted from London or created in the EU due to Brexit by March, a Reuters study published earlier this year found.

The head of the City of London predicted in July that 3,500 to 12,000 financial jobs would go because of Brexit in the short-term and more might disappear later.

Asian competitors are closing in, with Hong Kong only three points behind London, the survey found.

Many London executives have warned the biggest threats to London are not from other European centres but from global competitors, such as New York and Hong Kong.

The rankings, which are based on nearly 2,500 respondents working in the industry, provide a twice-yearly guide to the relative performance of financial centres globally.

The number of banks saying they plan to set up new EU subsidiaries after Brexit has picked up in the past year. Most major US, British and Japanese banks said they would build up operations in Frankfurt, Paris or Dublin.

Other European centres moved up in the global rankings. Zurich rose to ninth place from 16th six months ago and Frankfurt to 10th from 20th, while Amsterdam climbed to 35th place from 50th.

“London and New York have long vied for the top spot of this index and the uncertainty around the future shape of Brexit is likely to be a factor in their latest switch in positions,” said Miles Celic, chief executive of the lobbying group TheCityUK. “In a competitive world we cannot afford complacency.”

A Bank of England official expressed optimism on Wednesday about the future.

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Is outside ownership of law firms picking up steam?

One of the least interesting ways to end a conversation about legal innovation is also one of the most frequent. It goes something like this: “That change would require amendments to professional regulations.” Often, the regulation being discussed is the ban on nonlawyer ownership of law firms.

It’s a good way to end a conversation because, as Yale Law School professor John Morley puts it, it is “astonishing how little happens” on the issue of nonlawyer ownership in the United States.

But things are happening that are finally worth talking about. The State Bar of California voted in July to form a task force to study, among other things, allowing outside investors in law firms. Meanwhile, litigation finance giant Burford Capital Ltd. recently began discussing with law firms a financial structure that the company says would allow investors to own portions of today’s firms, with no regulatory changes required.

Commenting on the California task force, legal marketing executive Heather Morse asked if the news meant that a “game changer” for the law was “finally here.” The answer to that question is a resounding no. The task force won’t finish its work until 2020, so nothing has arrived yet. But the fact that a state bar association is studying the issue has, at least, generated a real discussion about an often taboo topic for the first time since 2016.

Legal innovators hope California’s task force comes to a much different conclusion than the efforts in 2016 of the American Bar Association’s Commission on the Future of Legal Services. That commission followed shortly on the heels of the ABA House of Delegates issuing a stamp of approval for professional Rule 5.4—the official ban on outside investors in law firms. A March resolution that year adopted “model regulatory objectives for the provision of legal services,” and noted that “nothing in this resolution abrogates in any manner existing ABA policy prohibiting nonlawyer ownership of law firms.”

Some of the harshest critics of the commission’s work exploring the concept were bar associations themselves. State bar leaders from Illinois, Missouri, New York, New Jersey and Texas wrote to oppose the idea of nonlawyer ownership.

“There is no need for non-attorneys to acquire ownership interests in firms, or any evidence that firms are in danger of losing access to complementary professional services if an ownership interest is not made available,” wrote Miles Winder III, then-president of the New Jersey State Bar Association. “The NJSBA urges the commission to not rehash settled concepts.”

William Henderson, a professor at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law who wrote a study that spurred California’s task force, says the issue is anything but settled. The rise of technology has put law firms on an uneven plane with new companies that are looking to enter the legal services market. Without the ability to co-invest in law firms, he says, people with the types of skills needed for today’s market—such as technologists, data analysts and others—will not be attracted to law firms.

“What we have is consumer protection for those who can afford legal services, but the ethics rules really limit the ones who can enter the market,” Henderson says.

Those ethics rules won’t be amended without a fight. Jordan Furlong, a consultant on the legal business based in Canada, points out that no bar association has voluntarily vanquished the prohibition on outside owners in law firms. In both Australia and the U.K., direct government intervention was the basis for allowing so-called “alternative business structures.”

Still, recent reforms to California’s bar association may work in reformists’ favour. Last year, the State Bar of California split into two parts: one contains the voluntary trade association activities, while another focuses on regulation and discipline.

That separation, along with a rule that put six nonlawyers on the bar’s 13-member board, limits what legal consultant Mark Cohen says is an incentive for bar associations to bow to pressure from their members to protect lawyers’ revenue streams.

As evidence of this incentive, Cohen points to a doomed pilot program, ABA Law Connect, that used Rocket Lawyer’s technology to provide consumers access to lawyers for as little as $4.95. The pilot was scrapped in early 2016 after bar leaders from Illinois, Pennsylvania and elsewhere wrote a letter decrying the program for what they perceived as a “blue-plate-special mentality.”

“The ABA Law Connect program is not in the best interest of the public, the legal profession or small businesses that operate in our states,” the bar leaders wrote.

Cohen disagrees.

“This is not really about protecting the public. How can they say that when roughly 85 percent of Americans who need legal services can’t afford them at the present rates?” he says. “I think this is just lawyer protectionism.”

Cohen and others believe that nonlawyer ownership in law firms would allow them to harness increasingly important technologies and professional skills to provide new and less-expensive types of legal services.

One example of that is the U.K.’s Gateley plc, one of the few law firms to list its shares publicly following bar regulation reform. The firm increased last year its number of employees by 8.8 percent, to 757 people, many of whom the firm’s chairman, Nigel Payne, says were drawn to the firm by the opportunity to own equity. More than 55 percent of the employees participate in a stock-option program, Gateley said in its most recent annual report in July.

“Being able to offer something different as an employer has helped us not only retain staff since the IPO, but also attract a wide pool of new talent,” Gateley wrote.

For those who are not inclined to wait out a decision from the California bar—or who operate elsewhere in the United States—there may be a near-term way to offer something different to employees.

Burford Capital, the litigation financier that wrote in support of the ABA’s 2016 commission on nonlawyer ownership, says it can finance new ventures that would provide corporate-like equity in today’s law firms. Burford hasn’t publicly shared all the specifics of the plan, but its co-founder, Jonathan Molot, who is also a professor at the Georgetown University Law Center, says it would involve spinning off the nonlegal functions of a law firm into a separate company. That company would receive investment from Burford or others. The firm’s partners would also be investors, allowing them to own a piece of what they helped build long after they stop billing hours.

“I think liberalising the ethics rules is a good idea,” Molot says. “But, that being said, because you’re not looking to move the entire profit center of a law firm into a permanent structure, only a slice of it, I think that can all be done now without any change.”

Change or not, it is a good time for talk.

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FTI Consulting’s Jason Frankl named to NACD Directorship 100 List

FTI Consulting, Inc. FCN, +1.28% today announced that Jason Frankl, a Senior Managing Director in the firm’s Forensic & Litigation Consulting segment, has been named to the 2018 National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD) Directorship 100 List, which highlights the most influential leaders in corporate governance.

“I congratulate Jay on being recognised by the NACD, which for the last four decades has honoured outstanding individuals who significantly impact boardroom practices and performance,” said Paul Ficca, Global Leader of the Forensic & Litigation Consulting segment at FTI Consulting. “Being named to the NACD Directorship 100 demonstrates Jay’s unwavering commitment to upholding the highest level of integrity and excellence in advancing boardroom performance.”

Mr. Frankl leads FTI Consulting’s Activism and M&A Solutions practice, working with companies and investors to develop and implement strategies to maximize shareholder value. He also advises management teams and boards of directors on how to proactively develop and implement defence strategies. Mr. Frankl is a nationally recognized expert in Nasdaq and NYSE compliance matters, corporate governance and securities trading. He is actively involved with the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs and serves as Chairman of the WLC’s Corporate Advisory Board. He also recently served as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Radcliffe Creek School in Chestertown, Md.

“It is an honour to be named to this year’s NACD Directorship 100 list with so many highly regarded corporate directors, corporate governance experts, policymakers and influencers,” Mr. Frankl said. “Boards face increasing demands from multiple stakeholders, and this recognition is a reflection of our team’s dedication to helping directors address their most complex challenges globally.”

The NACD will honour this year’s winners during the 12th annual NACD Directorship 100 gala at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York on November 28. Honourees will also be featured in the November/December issue of NACD Directorship magazine.

About FTI Consulting

FTI Consulting, Inc. is a global business advisory firm dedicated to helping organizations manage change, mitigate risk and resolve disputes: financial, legal, operational, political & regulatory, reputational and transactional. With more than 4,600 employees located in 28 countries, FTI Consulting professionals work closely with clients to anticipate, illuminate and overcome complex business challenges and make the most of opportunities. The Company generated $1.81 billion in revenues during fiscal year 2017.

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Blockchain technology will revolutionise these 5 industries

You’ve probably heard about blockchain technology through cryptocurrency, but did you know that blockchain technology is expected to revolutionise industries like real estate, transportation and even social justice?

Blockchain technology may have been made for bitcoin, but its potential to make transactions more secure is one of the most exciting possibilities for using this powerful technology. Innovation is most commonly known as the underlying algorithm of cryptocurrency. One day, businesses in every industry may use blockchain to record and verify every transaction. The decentralised characteristic of the utility makes it an appealing business resource, and enterprises covet the transparency and finality the digital recordkeeping application.

Blockchain Can Increase Trust & Accountability

Privacy issues are a concern for every American. With most businesses in the United States keeping their records and transactions mostly online, Americans have begun to become jaded as data breaches hit the news. While blockchain technology can’t prevent all data theft and cybercrime, it could help make transactions more secure, improving trust in businesses’ ability to protect consumer data. With cybercrime on the rise, the technology has arrived just in time. The first applications that will give way to blockchain are the most insecure transaction methods. From all of the disruption I’ve seen already in various industries, I believe that blockchain technology is a viable resource for any industry or field that conducts transactions.

Here are the five industries, institutions and fields that will experience the most exciting disruption due to blockchain technology in the near future.

The Finance Industry

Governments and large corporations are researching blockchain technology closely to unearth ways to utilise the resource. The finance industry is investigating blockchain intensely since fraud is a huge problem for banks and other financial organisations. Finance executives believe that the technology is a potentially ideal solution for security when transferring money from one account to another—always the most vulnerable point in any transaction. Blockchain may disrupt not only the field of digital security but also that of logistics and other fields across many industries. Cryptocurrency has also made its way into the crowdfunding and investment markets and led to the birth of crypto exchanges such as Okcoin, Poloniex and ShapeShift. This shift has not only opened up a number of new opportunities for individuals to invest, but also has created new job opportunities such as a crypto-investment banker. Although new, projections say that this position can expect to make as much as traditional investment bankers who have a median salary of approximately $81,339.

Another new feature brought on by blockchain tech is that investors can now buy into initial coin offerings (ICOs) in the same way that they buy into initial public offerings (IPOs). This is reshaping the investment world by eliminating geographical boundaries and speeding up the investment transaction process.

Social Justice

Enterprises and agencies could potentially use blockchain technology to securely record and verify inventories, monitor resources and redistribute assets. Via these means, the technology can pave the way toward a sharing economy. Inequality, income disparities and consistent income are serious problems in modern capitalist societies around the globe, and new technologies threaten to enhance these problems. Blockchain is a resource that can empower a sharing economy, and it can potentially accelerate the process of ensuring full inclusion in economic prosperity, rather than contribute to conditions that promote inequality and conflicts.

American Energy Grids

Energy grids in the United States are deteriorating and outdated. Today’s energy networks are vulnerable to elements such as natural disasters and climate changes. Many researchers are working on solutions to replace the outmoded system, and some believe that blockchain will provide the answer.

In Brooklyn, New York and other municipalities, participants in an energy experiment collect power using solar panels and exchange it using computerised “smart contracts.” The participants also install smart power meters as a part of the project. They use blockchain to secure and verify all transactions sans utility companies or any other third-party, saving on costs and increasing efficiency.

Blockchain technology could also help to fend off attacks from more than just Mother Nature. In 2018, information came to light that Russian hackers were able to gain access to United States electric grids, giving them the ability to cut off and control power. With our massive dependency on electricity, potential attacks could cause mayhem and economic damage. More secure networks, like those offered by the blockchain, could reduce the likelihood that hackers would be able to gain access to American energy grids.

The Real Estate Field

The real estate industry exemplifies the disruptive potential of blockchain technology. The transfer of real property is a complicated and extensive process, but blockchain technology can potentially allow property buyers and sellers to transfer property rights instantaneously. Sellers could use the technology to securely transfer titles and deeds to new owners, and buyers could pay for the transactions via cryptocurrency. Stakeholders could also use blockchain to send property information to the appropriate government agencies.

Closing costs are a big expense for homeowners and buyers alike. While blockchain technology won’t cut out commissions and related expenses, a simpler buying process could potentially reduce the cost and hassle of buying a home, making it more realistic for young people to get into the real estate market.

The Transportation Industry

Researchers imagine a future where blockchain and the Internet of Things (IoT) combine to make smart cities a reality. Municipalities could connect sensors for street signs, traffic lights, vehicles and other items to the IoT, enabling the rerouting of traffic for maximum efficiency. Scientists hope that by using blockchain in this manner they can reduce commute times, traffic congestion and vehicle emissions. The blockchain technology can also provide potential conveniences such as vehicle parking and be charging location and payment; traffic ticket payment; and accident and maintenance monitoring services.

Final Thoughts

Analysts forecast that bitcoin will achieve a total value of $1.2 trillion towards the end of 2018. However, forward-thinking individuals see the value of blockchain beyond its original application for digital currency transactions. Bitcoin took off rapidly as more people brought into the idea of a currency that’s free of government or institutional regulation and valued based on quantifiable, although highly complex, supply and demand. While the excitement about bitcoin is tempering, there’s great interest in its underlying blockchain technology. It’s hard to not see the value in cutting out middlemen, increasing security and saving precious time and expenses.

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K2 Intelligence named in The Recorder’s ‘Best of 2018’ list

K2 Intelligence, an industry-leading investigative, compliance, and cyber defence services firm founded by Jules B. Kroll and Jeremy M. Kroll, announced today that it has been named by California-based legal news site, The Recorder to the “Best of 2018” list of legal services vendors in the categories of “Forensic Account Provider” and “Private Investigation Firm.”

“As a long-time partner to the legal industry, it’s gratifying to be recognised by The Recorder for the many investigative services we provide to law firms and their clients to help them succeed,” said Robert Brenner, chief operating officer for K2 Intelligence. “We believe it is our unique combination of investigative expertise, the best multidisciplinary teams, and customized technology that positions us to address the most complex legal challenges. For The Recorder and the members of the California legal community to acknowledge these facets of our investigative, analytic, and advisory excellence is a great honour.”

According to The Recorder, the “Best Of” awards were developed to help lawyers and law firm administrators identify the finest legal products and service providers. The annual “Best Of” supplements recognise the vendors that stand out among their competitors in providing lawyers with the essentials they require to compete in today’s legal market.

About K2 Intelligence

K2 Intelligence is an industry-leading investigative, compliance, and cyber defence services firm founded in 2009 by Jeremy M. Kroll and Jules B. Kroll, who is credited with originating the modern corporate investigations industry. Redefining 21st-century corporate intelligence, the firm combines subject-matter expertise with cutting-edge technology, bringing to bear the industry’s best multidisciplinary teams to solve its clients’ most difficult problems.

With offices in New York, London, Madrid, Geneva, and Los Angeles, K2 Intelligence advises governments, companies, boards, and individuals in business areas including investigations and disputes; regulatory compliance, cyber defence, construction and real estate, strategic risk and security, and private client services.