The British Virgin Islands, a premier offshore jurisdiction, is well regarded for its progressive, yet stable, legal environment. In 1989, O’Neal Webster was among the first law firms to establish exclusively in the BVI to serve onshore and offshore corporate, finance, banking, business, real estate, and trust and estate clients. As such, the firm has accumulated a great wealth of knowledge and experience in transactional, regulatory, and contentious matters in the BVI, serving both national and international parties.
The practice is particularly noted by clients and peers for its talent and attentive service, earning recognition from international ranking bodies, including “Legal500,” “Chambers Global,” “IFLR1000,” and “Citywealth IFC,” among others. The firm’s global footprint is augmented by an office in the UK, an active presence in Asia—in particular Hong Kong—and through membership as the exclusive BVI law firm in the Lex Mundi network.
Sophisticated, accessible, and collegial, the firm’s lawyers provide sound, practical advice and prompt service. Domestic clients include banks, public utilities, communications companies, statutory corporations, individuals, and tourism sector businesses. International clients include major banks, financial services companies, high net worth individuals, and law firms. Company formation and administration services are provided through O’Neal Webster’s affiliated financial services company, Coverdale Trust Services Limited.
With deep roots in the BVI, the firm’s ability to navigate local governing bodies, courts, administrative offices, and enforcement regimes is a clear advantage for clients. The firm’s intimate jurisdictional knowledge—the business of the Territory and the needs of the client—place it in a valued position to advise Government on new products and legislation in the development of the offshore finance industry in the BVI. Notably, Partner Vanessa King and Managing Partner Kerry Anderson sit on the legislative committee of the Financial Services Business Development Committee of the Premier’s Office, which reviews and proposes amendments to current financial services legislation and proposes new legislation to encourage business. Partner Christopher McKenzie, former chair of the STEP BVI Legislation Drafting Committee, was instrumental in drafting the Virgin Islands Special Trust Act, which revolutionized the trust industry in the BVI. The Committee continues under its current chair, O’Neal Webster Partner Vanessa King.
Litigation: Queens Counsel Paul Dennis leads the firm’s active litigation practice, which handles complex cross-border litigation emanating from the BVI, as well as domestic business disputes, and has earned a reputation for excellence in matters of insolvency and restructuring, asset tracing, probate disputes, and general commercial litigation. Lawyers combine innovative legal strategies with the dedication of advocates, experienced before all levels of the local and regional courts including the UK Privy Council and Tortola’s Commercial Court—a great asset to BVI registered companies in facilitating the efficient resolution of commercial cases in the BVI system.
Funds and Regulatory: Having secured strong relationships in the BVI regulatory community, the firm’s investment fund and regulated business practice grows steadily, and handles two new fund types targeted for start-up companies—the BVI Incubator Fund and the BVI Approved Fund. Lawyers handle general investment fund applications, as well as complex applications for licensing under the BVI’s Financing and Money Services Act, Securities and Investment Business Act, and the Bank and Trust Companies Act.
Over the past five years, the team has obtained BVI licenses for the only group of foreign funds to offer services in the BVI; helped one of only three money service providers in the BVI to obtain a license, and provides ongoing advice; and guided a client to successfully obtain licensing for the provision of Forex business, which activity is very tightly regulated by the BVI Financial Services Commission.
Real Estate, Business and Admiralty: The firm’s real estate lawyers draw on their considerable experience in land law in the BVI. They represent clients in residential and commercial transactions, and work with them through all phases of development, including title verification, planning and design approval, corporate structuring, and financing.
Thanks to a strong working relationship with relevant government agencies and entities, the firm has a successful and long standing track record in negotiating licenses and permits for a range of development enterprises, including the tourism sector and others in real estate acquisition, planning, construction, and sales. A seasoned admiralty and shipping registration team serves international clients in navigating the advantages and nuances of BVI ship registry law, as well as purchase and sales.
Banking and Finance: The practice counts major international and domestic banks and trust companies, including the only BVI-based financial institution, among its prestigious client base. Services provided by the Banking team include the performance of due diligence in relation to borrowers, advice regarding corporate capacity of borrowers, preparing corporate documents for borrowers in order to satisfy corporate structure requirements to meet financing terms, preparation of finance documents, and attending to the completion of transactions at closings, including payment of stamp duty and registration of security documentation.
Trust and Estate: The BVI boasts an attractive jurisdiction for international wealth planning, tax, and financial structures. Whether seeking to take advantage of cutting edge legislation by utilizing a VISTA trust or simply wishing to adopt a more standard structure, our lawyers can advise trustees (individuals and corporations) and beneficiaries alike on many issues such as wealth protection, probate planning, trust creation, administration, and termination. Clients also receive seamless access to litigation specialists who can provide advice in relation to trust disputes.
Intellectual Property: O’Neal Webster is equipped to handle trademark, patent, and other IP matters, both large and small, providing quality service with a fast turnaround time as our guarantee. The firm is pleased to have been designated as a BVI licensed trademark agent, which is now required for establishing trademarks under the BVI Trade Mark Act, 2013. The firm handles over one thousand trademarks registered in the BVI. The firm has expertise in handling major transactions involving large trademark portfolio acquisitions in a chain of title, and has experienced litigators who handle trademark cases in the BVI.
Areas of Practice:
• Banking and Finance
• Business Advisory
• Corporate and Commercial
• Intellectual Property
• Investment Funds
• Real Estate
• Shipping and Admiralty
• Trusts and Estates