Gibraltar firms braced for financial shake-up

Gibraltarian lawyers are bracing themselves for a shake-up in their company law, after the European Commission referred a case on accounts confidentiality to the European Court of Justice.

The UK-dependent territory is a major offshore financial centre, where there are almost as many companies registered as there are people (31,000). Significant change to its commercial legislation is certain to affect this sector.

In particular, the European Commission wants the UK Government to force Gibraltar to adopt EU rules on annual accounts and consolidated accounts.

This change would impose tougher requirements to disclose accounts than now exist, laying down established formats for profit and loss accounts and balance sheets.

President of the Gibraltar Bar Association Robert Vasquez tells The Lawyer he doubts the case will reach court, predicting the law will be reformed instead.

He says: “Any change brings about losses and gains. It will be a matter of how a lawyer manages his practice and additional planning.”

He does not predict a wholesale collapse of the territory's offshore industry under a more open regime, saying: “Players who want to preserve their reputation will continue to come to Gibraltar.”