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 addressing clients’ transactional, regulatory, and litigation matters in the jurisdiction.
The practice earns recognition from international ranking bodies, including the Legal500, Chambers Global, IFLR1000, and Citywealth IFC.
Versatile, accessible, and collegial, the firm’s lawyers provide sound, practical advice and prompt service from its offices in Tortola, BVI, London, UK, and New York City, U.S. International clients include major banks, financial services companies, high net worth individuals, and law firms. Domestic clients include banks, public utilities, communications companies, statutory corporations, individuals, and tourism sector businesses. Clients appreciate the firm’s ability to create opportunities through introductions to others with complementary interests.
With deep roots in the BVI, the firm’s ability to navigate local governing bodies, courts, administrative offices, and enforcement regimes is a definitive advantage for clients. The firm’s intimate jurisdictional knowledge and involvement in developing new BVI products and legislation is particularly notable. Managing Partner Vanessa King is a director of BVI Finance, the organization responsible for the development and promotion of the jurisdiction’s financial services industry. Ms. King and Funds and Regulatory Partner Mr. Kerry Anderson sit on the legislative committee of BVI Finance, which reviews and proposes amendments to current financial services legislation and proposes new legislation to encourage business. London-based Partner Christopher McKenzie, 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.
Litigation: Queens Counsel Paul Dennis leads the firm’s litigation practice, which handles complex, contentious cross-border and domestic commercial, insolvency, probate, and admiralty matters. The team has earned a reputation for excellence in finding innovative legal strategies for difficult or unique facts. Members appear before all levels of the local and regional courts, including the UK Privy Council and the Commercial Court of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, which sits in Tortola—a great asset to BVI registered companies in facilitating the efficient resolution of commercial cases in the BVI system. In 2019, the firm added litigator Dan Wise, a partner with deep experience in asset recovery matters. Recently, Mr. Wise Acted in what is believed to be the first commercial arbitration administered out of the new BVI Arbitration Centre.
Funds and Regulatory: BVI funds legislation provides a flexible, user-friendly and widely-recognized framework for the establishment of collective investment vehicles. Led by Kerry Anderson, the funds team has essential relationships in the BVI regulatory community, which adds value to the advice they offer investment fund managers and regulated business clients. Lawyers advise asset managers; promoters; public, private, and professional funds; and other industry participants in the structuring and restructuring of BVI funds and in regulatory compliance issues affecting funds, including recently added fund types targeted for start-up companies, the BVI Incubator Fund and the BVI Approved Fund, and crypto currency ICOs.
The firm’s funds and regulatory lawyers handle general investment fund applications, as well as complex licensing applications under the BVI’s Financing and Money Services Act, Securities and Investment Business Act, and the Bank and Trust Companies Act. Notably, they have obtained BVI licenses for the only group of foreign funds to offer services in the BVI and helped one of only three money service providers in the BVI to get a license, and continue to provide ongoing advice. Also, they recently guided a client in obtaining licensing for the provision of Forex business, a tightly regulated activity by the BVI Financial Services Commission.
Corporate and Commercial: Led by Vanessa King, team members possess broad and deep experience in international and local corporate and commercial transactions, including advising on stock exchange listings, private equity transactions, joint ventures, redomiciliations, corporate arrangements, mergers and acquisitions, partnerships, corporate restructuring, and related aspects of corporate and commercial law. They are regularly instructed by top financial institutions, law firms, trust companies, investment houses, and corporations on high value commercial transactions and company formation and have a reputation for providing quality advice and finding creative solutions.
Banking and Finance: Structured within the Corporate and Commercial Practice, our Banking and Finance Department counts major international and domestic banks and trust companies, including the only BVI-based financial institution, among its prestigious client base. Services include advising on borrower due diligence and the corporate capacity of borrowers, preparing corporate documents for borrowers in order to satisfy corporate structure requirements to meet financing terms, preparing finance documents, and attending to the completion of transactions at closings, including payment of stamp duty and registration of security documentation.
Trust and Estate: Led by Christopher McKenzie, the T&E team advises trustees (individuals and corporations) and beneficiaries alike on many issues such as wealth protection, probate planning, trust creation, administration, and termination. 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 adopting a more standard form. Clients also receive seamless access to litigation specialists who can provide additional services in trust disputes and contentious probate matters.
Real Estate, Business, and Admiralty: The firm’s real estate team, led by Jenelle Archer, draws on considerable experience in dealing with BVI land laws, which are unique and specific. We represent clients in residential and commercial purchases and sales and work with them through all phases of development, including corporate structuring, financing, title verification, planning, design approval, and construction.
Thanks to a strong working relationship with relevant government agencies and entities, the firm has a thriving 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.
Our admiralty and shipping registration team serves international clients in navigating the advantages and nuances of BVI ship registry law and litigation, as well as vessel purchases and sales.
Intellectual Property: The firm is a BVI licensed trademark agent and manages the largest IP portfolio in the jurisdiction. Its team is equipped to handle trademark, patent, and other IP matters, both large and small, providing quality service with fast turnaround. The firm is known for its expertise in processing significant transactions involving large trademark portfolio acquisitions in a chain of title. The firm’s experienced litigators handle contentious trademark cases in the BVI.
Areas of Practice:
• Banking and Finance
• Corporate and Commercial
• Intellectual Property
• Investment Funds and Regulatory
• Litigation and Arbitration
• Real Estate and Business Advisory
• Shipping and Admiralty
• Trusts and Estates