Coronavirus – do you need legal assistance?
The situation we now are in is demanding for many businesses. There is a lot of uncertainty and many questions related the coronavirus. Our experts are available on short notice and advice on a wide range of legal issues and areas related to the coronavirus.
Below you will find an overview of our areas of expertise as well as contact information within these. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions or in need of legal assistance.
Procurement Competition Law Restructuring and Insolvency Oilservice Shipping / Offshore Contract Law / Trade Law / Construction Law Data protection and information security Banking Finance Employment Law Compliance M&A Commercial Property Capital Markets Tax Insurance Law State Aid and EU / EEA Law Fisheries and Aquaculture Public Law IT / IP: Software and License Governance
During a pandemic public authorities may be able to use the expedited procedures, or in some situations completely disregard the public procurement law requirements. In a spirit of cooperation suppliers may take direct initiatives towards the public instead of passively awaiting requests. Cooperation may have to take place more as partnerships where the public authorities take more risk, than as detailed elaborated strict contracts.
Contact person: Alf Amund Gulsvik, Specialist Counsel, email@example.com
The Corona virus has had a great impact on supply and demand and is expected to do so for a long time. Market players are already experiencing a shortage of supply (due to hoarding) or a surplus of capacity due to a decline in demand. It is illegal to solve such commercial challenges through discussions with competitors and companies risk high fines by doing so. Several competition authorities have already warned that significant resources will be committed to uncover and prosecute cartels related to the Corona virus.
Contact person: Preben Milde Thorbjørnsen, Senior Lawyer, firstname.lastname@example.org
Companies risk facing illiquidity in the months to come. Many will ultimately need to go through financial restructuring to ensure continued operations. Wikborg Rein's restructuring team help companies and creditors respond quickly to the crisis to ensure a viable financial platform and save values for all stakeholders.
The oilservice industry is global and the industry is and is expected to continue to be severely affected by Covid-19, both directly on project execution level and indirectly due to the plummeting oil price. Relevant key areas and issues:
- Provision of manpower (service), goods and material will be affected.
- A number of contractual issues are expected to arise, relating to assessment of force majeure, delay and termination.
- We expect implication on rig charter parties and offshore services, with key issues related to contingency plans, applicable rate, extra costs and termination issues.
- EPC(I) projects will have difficulties to be delivered on time and at cost.
Our team in shipping and offshore assists in a wide range of legal issues related to the industry, including building and construction projects, delays in transportation and deliveries as a result of trade restrictions / prohibitions, other transport barriers as a result of quarantine and safety orders (e.g. change of crew on vessels and rigs) and possible consequences for charter parties, COAs and other charter contracts for vessels and rigs.
What happens to contractual obligations when the factual situation changes? Does this constitue a force majeure situation, and if so, what will be the legal consequences? How do you best handle these issues towards your counterpart? Wikborg Rein has one of Norway's leading specialist teams within contract law / commercial law, and we are already heavily involved in these issues. We are ready to assist clients through the demanding situation that has now arisen.
Contact persons: Ola Ø. Nisja, Partner, email@example.com,
Hans Jørgen Langeland, Specialist Counsel, firstname.lastname@example.org and
Marius Egeland, partner, email@example.com
Contact persons Bergen: Morten Valen Eide, Partner, firstname.lastname@example.org and
Fredrik Gisholt, Partner, email@example.com
Employers need to understand to what extent they will be permitted to register and share information related to their employees. Collection and further processing of health information is subject to strict regulations. The situation we are in also pose certain challenges related to information security and cyber security, both because more employees are connecting to the company´s it-systems remotely and also because some people take advantage of the vulnerable situation businesses are in and seek to exploit this to their advantage through creating false messages or profiles etc. to get access to systems or information.
The corona virus creates a challenging situation for both lenders and borrowers. Wikborg Rein is one of the leaders in Norway both on financing and general contract law and can advise on how to deal with such situation.
Contact person: Johan Rasmussen, Partner, firstname.lastname@example.org
The corona virus situation raises several employment law issues. Schools and kindergardens are closing down, and employees must work from home or cannot perform work. The situation may also lead to a need for temporary lay-offs and other measures. Our employment law team responds to all questions related to this.
Corporate compliance often requires international travel. This applies to the ability of Norwegian companies to effectively follow up on compliance matters in subsidiaries abroad, as well as follow up on whistle blowing issues and red flags. Pending restrictions related to the corona virus may prevent the organization from conducting such required compliance activities. Many companies also experience significant compliance and security challenges when employees, who normally work in secured office facilities, now work from home.
Contact person: Geir Sviggum, partner, email@example.com
Contact person Bergen: Tor H. Rustan Knudsen, Specialist Counsel, firstname.lastname@example.org
The corona virus may affect ongoing transactions with regards to renegotiations/price discussions but will also open up for new interesting opportunities when the virus outbreak has been stabilised. As one of Norway's leading law firms within M&A, we have extensive practice within all parts of transactions also in connection with acquisitions of distressed assets.
Ongoing purchasing processes and lease agreement negotiations are now increasingly being affected by one of the parties invoking reservations, such as finance reservations or approval from the board of directors. Tenants that are being instructed to suspend its businesses, are now addressing the landlords demanding rent reductions or delayed payments, and also rent reliefs. In building projects, it is vital for the landlord to clarify the legal implication of any delay by the contractor and the contractor's right to invoke force majeure, and the landlord's obligation to hand over the lease object to the tenant at the agreed time. The Norwegian Health Preparedness Act has provisions on requisition of real estate (time-limited right of use/other special right of use) that could be applicable in a disaster situation. There are also exceptions in the procedural rules, in such a way that the authorities can make a decision without prior notice to the owner.
The coronavirus has had a massive effect on the capital markets. Questions arise inter alia related to whether market participants are required to complete ongoing transactions, how the listed companies shall handle their disclosure obligations to the market, and the effect current restrictions will have for the arrangement of planned ordinary general meetings in listed companies. Our capital markets team assist in connection with these questions.
The Government and the Parliament has agreed on several measures related to tax to support the businesses in Norway. It has been agreed to temporary lower the social security contribution with 4 percent point. It has been granted a postponement of the payment of the pre-taxes on 15 March, until 1 May 2020. It has also been granted a postponement of the next VAT payment on 15 April 2020. All tax payers must also use the possibility in the current system to re-calculate a correct basis for prepayment of taxes. The tax authorities will not use fines in connection with late reporting related to employees. It will also be possible to carry back losses of MNOK 30 to previous years' profits. There is also a postponement of payment of net wealth tax for owners of business which will have a loss in 2020. Finally, the airplane passenger duty has been temporarily suspended from 1 January 2020.
Contact person: Anders Myklebust, Partner, email@example.com
The corona virus gives rise to numerous particular questions on insurance coverage for land-based business enterprise, aquaculture, shipping and offshore industry. Our insurance team are ready to advise on questions relating to coverage under insurance in any form, inclduing trade disruption insurance, credit insurance and travel insurance.
Aid to businesses as a result of the ongoing pandemic will to a great extent need approval by the EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA) or the EU Commission. A case in point is the Commission's approval – in less than 24 hours – of an extensive crisis package in Denmark for businesses having to cancel activities due to the prohibition of large crowds. ESA has announced it has set up a dedicated task force to handle COVID 19-related measures. The State aid rules may apply to large packages (such as those put in place by central government) and to smaller-scale or local measures in favour of individual businesses – such as special guarantees granted by local authorities or payment extensions for tax claims etc.
Furthermore, many rules of EU law are being suspended due to the crisis. Extensive restrictions on the free movement of persons are in place between EU/EEA countries, and the EU has proposed special derogations in certain areas, such as air transport. We follow these developments closely in order to identify any measure of relevance to Norwegian businesses or businesses operating in Norwegian markets.
Contact person: Hanne Zimmer, Specialist Counsel, firstname.lastname@example.org
The corona situation may bring fish farming companies in a situation with reduced capacity for well boats, harvesting plants, logistics and sale. This can necessitate applications to, and approvals from, authorities regarding increased license capacity in sea, sea lice levels or other biological provisions fish farmers are subject to. Wikborg Rein has thorough experience and knowledge in this respect, and we are able to assist on short notice.
Contact person: Grunde Bruland, Partner, email@example.com
The Norwegian government has carried into effect a series of measures aiming at reducing the spread of Covid-19, including shutting down kindergartens and schools and banning cultural and sports event. State and local authorities have wide powers to carry out such measures under the current circumstances and dependant on the further development firmer or additional measures may be imposed, for instance obligation to clean objects or premises. For some parts of the population stricter measures have been put into force, for instance travel ban abroad for medical personnel.
Pursuant to The Act for Emergency Preparedness for Medical Personnel, the authorities have wide powers to adopt resolutions beyond medical personnel to other parts of the population and other type of businesses. The authorities may request the possession of things and objects and (temporary) rights of use of properties. Moreover, the authorities have the power to impose restrictions on enterprises or trade. Specific administrative procedural rules make it possible to adopt resolutions without prior notice to the one being hit by the resolution.
As many employees are working from home offices, questions may arise related to the provision of IT solutions and software. We can assist in ensuring that the company has software licenses and service agreements that cover changes in the use of IT systems.
Contact person: Hanna Beyer Olaussen, Specialist Counsel, firstname.lastname@example.org