One of the most important assets that a franchise business has is its customer data. For a franchise business, data protection/data privacy regulation should be a key compliance issue. This is particularly the case in Europe, which has had comprehensive data protection laws for many years, and is reforming those laws into a legislative framework that will feature some of the strictest and furthest-reaching data protection obligations in the world.
Within the last few weeks, both the EU and the UK have published proposals for greater screening and control of foreign direct investments (FDI) into their territories. In both cases, these proposals seek to balance the protection of critical national infrastructure and technology on the one hand and an open foreign investment environment on the other.
The EU proposals seek to address an increase in inward investments by individuals and businesses from emerging economies such as Brazil and China, whose share of investment into the EU over the past 20 years has increased by over 1000 percent and 600 percent respectively.
Greenberg Traurig advised CVC Capital Partners with respect to an agreement for the acquisition of Żabka Polska from Mid Europa Partners. The transaction is subject to customary competition authority clearance. The sale of Żabka is the largest ever transaction in the Polish food retail sector and the largest ever private equity exit in Poland.
Żabka Polska is Poland’s leading convenience retailer operating under two brands: Żabka and Freshmarket. Żabka Polska is among the fastest growing and largest convenience retail chains in Poland, with over 4,500 stores, operating across the country. To read the full press release, click here.
Greenberg Traurig is pleased to confirm that Danielle Martin has announced she will leave Reed Smith to join us as a shareholder in London, adding to the momentum since the six-partner KWM group joined us there last week. Dani focuses her practice on complex transactions in the private equity real estate sector and is set to join Greenberg Traurig at the beginning of February,” said Richard A. Rosenbaum, Greenberg Traurig’s Executive Chairman. “This is a natural fit, as we grow in a strategic and disciplined manner to build out our top tier global real estate sector in today’s disruptive environment. To read the full press release, click here.
The final draft of the Equality Act (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2017 (the Regulations) and accompanying Explanatory Memorandum was published 6 December 2016. Subject to parliamentary approval, the Regulations will come into force 6 April 2017. The Regulations introduce a mandatory gender pay gap reporting requirement for non-public sector employers with at least 250 employees.
To whom do the Regulations apply?
The Regulations apply to any “relevant employer”, namely private/voluntary sector employers with 250 or more employees on the “relevant snapshot date”, which is 5 April in the relevant year. The reporting requirement applies to individual employers within a group, rather than a groupwide basis.
The way apprenticeships are funded in the UK is changing as of Spring 2017. With this change, some employers will be required to contribute to a new apprenticeship levy and there will also be changes to the funding for apprenticeship training for all employers. The Apprenticeship Levy (the Levy) will come into effect 6 April 2017 and a new apprentice funding system is set to be in place as of May 2017.
The purpose of the Levy is to provide funding for apprenticeships and a new “digital service account”. Essentially, companies in England will have an opportunity to reclaim the Levy through the digital service account (an online tool allowing an employer to create apprenticeship schemes) if they are prepared to run their own apprenticeship training, either for new recruits or to allow existing staff to develop new skills. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will have their own arrangements for supporting employers to access apprenticeships. Companies should therefore decide whether to accept the Levy as a standalone tax or view it as an opportunity to operate Government-funded apprenticeships allowing them to develop their own workforce.
As discussed in our recent GT Alert, “Brexit: 100 Day Update“, the UK Prime Minister Theresa May recently announced plans for a “Great Repeal Bill” for the repeal of the 1972 European Communities Act (ECA). Under the ECA, European Union (EU) law was established as part of the UK’s legal order and was given supremacy over the UK’s domestic laws.
It is intended that the Great Repeal Bill will enter into force on the date of Brexit (which appears to be March/April 2019 at the earliest). It is expected that the Great Repeal Bill will preserve the majority of existing EU law in domestic UK legislation until the UK Government has had an opportunity to assess individual EU-derived domestic laws and decide whether to retain, amend, or remove them. This process is likely to take many years, depending on the resources devoted to it. New, post-Brexit EU law, including the decisions of the European Court of Justice, will not form part of UK domestic law.
On 8 November 2016, the French Parliament approved new anti-corruption legislation. Championed by the Minister of Finance Michel Sapin, the law that is commonly known as Sapin II will fundamentally change the compliance landscape for French companies. In particular, it will place a positive obligation on large companies, and their subsidiaries, to implement anti-corruption compliance programs. Failure to comply with this mandatory obligation will open the company, and its directors, to sanctions. This can include a fine of up to 200,000 Euros imposed on the CEO or board of directors, and a fine of up to 1m Euros for the company itself.
Companies falling within the scope of this obligation include those whose head office is located in France, employ at least 500 people and have revenue of at least 100m Euros. The compliance program must include a code of conduct, whistleblowing procedures, risk assessments, due diligence on suppliers and third parties, accounting controls, training, and disciplinary policy for non-compliant staff.
These new rules will be enforced by a new anti-corruption agency created under Sapin II and headed by Xaviere Simeoni. The aims of the new agency are to assist companies in setting up compliance programs, perform controls, sanction non-compliance and supervise monitorships. Guidelines setting out its policies and procedures in more detail are anticipated.
The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has recently launched an investigation into the treatment of customers by online gambling companies. This is in response to concerns raised by the Gambling Commission that certain aspects of behaviour by online gambling companies, including misleading promotions, unfair terms, and the blocking of payouts might be breaching consumer protection laws. The investigation forms part of a wider joint programme of work between the CMA and the Gambling Commission tackling issues of fairness and transparency in the UK gambling industry.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) announced on 15 September 2016 that it will start to investigate environmental crimes under international law, raising the prospect that company executives could be prosecuted in The Hague in respect of corporate activities with serious environmental impacts.
An ICC policy paper on case selection and prioritisation states that the ICC Prosecutor “will give particular consideration to prosecuting [Rome Statute of the ICC] crimes that are committed by means of, or that result in, inter alia, the destruction of the environment, the illegal exploitation of natural resources or the illegal dispossession of land“.
This marks a departure from the ICC’s historic focus on genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes associated with armed conflict. The ICC’s announcement does not, however, constitute an extension of its jurisdiction, but rather the ICC will now investigate environmental crimes which arise within its existing remit – for example, environmental impacts which reach the threshold of and constitute crimes against humanity in their own right.
This development will require companies to carefully consider their activities in certain countries, particularly those activities which may, and potentially with the involvement of national governments, result in mass human rights violations such as the forcible transfer of populated land for commercial exploitation (so-called “land-grabbing”).
Any prosecutions would be subject to the normal rules and procedures governing the ICC including the requirement that any potential criminal activity can only be prosecuted if it takes place in a country which has ratified the Rome Statute, if the perpetrator originates from one of these countries, or if the UN Security Council refers a case to the ICC. In addition, the activity must have taken place after 1 July 2002.
The United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Italy, Mexico, South Korea, and Japan are among the countries that have ratified the Rome Statute, but the United States has not yet done so.
The ICC’s policy paper is available at https://www.icc-cpi.int/itemsDocuments/20160915_OTP-Policy_Case-Selection_Eng.pdf.