The New Zealand Commerce Commission's position towards gun jumping is that "while parties to proposed mergers must naturally engage with each other to explore the merits of a transaction prior to binding themselves and consummating a deal", pre-merger discussions and coordination concerns can arise. Businesses contemplating an M&A transaction with their competitors must therefore bear in mind a number of competition law considerations.
The New Zealand Commerce Commission (NZCC) recently published amended cartel leniency policy guidelines, updating its previous guidelines from 2011. While the changes are mostly cosmetic, the updated guidelines indicate a potential change in the NZCC's approach towards penalty discounts for second-in applicants that seek to fall within its cooperation regime.
The commerce and consumer affairs minister recently tabled a bill in Parliament that will enable the Commerce Commission to undertake market studies. The bill also provides for matters concerning the Commerce Act's competition law regime – namely, repealing its cease and desist regime and empowering the commission to accept enforceable undertakings in order to resolve restrictive trade practice enforcement cases under the act.
The Commerce (Criminalisation of Cartels) Amendment Bill was recently tabled in the House of Representatives. It introduces a new criminal offence for cartel conduct, as well as a requirement for intention for criminal prosecution and a defence against criminal prosecution for individuals who believed that a cartel provision was reasonably necessary for a collaborative activity. This development overturns the previous government's decision to remove criminal penalties for cartel conduct from the bill.
There were a number of key competition law developments in New Zealand during 2017, including the enactment of the Cartels Act, the postponement of the reform of the prohibition on taking advantage of market power and a significant increase in the proportion of declined merger clearances. In addition, the new Labour-led government stated that it is keen to empower the Commerce Commission to undertake market studies before the end of 2018.
A recent High Court judgment has surprised some observers by allowing a representative action of homeowners to proceed against a government-owned earthquake insurer. The judgment is of note because it followed an earlier refusal by the same court to give the group leave to proceed. The case offers the opportunity to compare the unsuccessful and successful applications and briefly survey the landscape of such actions.
The High Court recently issued a decision regarding the coverage offered to the directors and general manager of a trust fund management company by a professional indemnity policy and separate directors' and officers' cover. The decision highlights that courts will consider a number of relevant factors to interpret multiple policies, the most relevant in this case being the commercial intent of the policies as a whole.
The Supreme Court recently considered the liability of those associated with the 2004 Feltex Carpets initial public offering of shares under NZ securities legislation. The decision is a useful determination of a number of securities law liability issues in the NZ context. Among other things, it has clarified that an untrue statement for the purposes of Section 56 of the Securities Act need not be misleading to a material extent to be untrue.
A recent High Court decision adopted the perspective taken in the United Kingdom and Australia on the contractual penalties rule, shifting focus from a comparison between secondary obligations and genuine pre-estimates of damage caused by breach to comparing secondary obligations and the innocent party's performance interest. The decision confirmed the continued relevance of Dunlop Pneumatic Tyre Co Ltd v New Garage and Motor Co Ltd but not the rigour of its application in earlier cases.
Since 1983 it has been the position in New Zealand that a party can recover costs in cases where it has been represented by a lawyer that it employed. However, a recent Christchurch High Court decision held that this is no longer the case. The decision will have a significant impact on entities which are routinely represented in court proceedings by in-house lawyers.
The Supreme Court recently considered a judicial review application about the length of runway end safety areas under a proposed runway extension. Users of the airport might be reassured by the Supreme Court's finding that, under the existing statutory regime, more than a cost-benefit analysis is required; among other matters, a mandatory consideration includes the need to improve aviation safety.
The Supreme Court recently reversed a Court of Appeal judgment that a local authority did not owe a duty of care to a commissioning owner in issuing a code compliance certificate for a non-compliant building. The judgment is significant because it recognises that local authorities owe a duty of care even to commissioning owners that engage their own professionals to ensure compliance with building standards.
The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will come into full effect on May 25 2018 and will impact New Zealand businesses that do business with EU residents or entities or have a presence in the European Union. In addition, the privacy commissioner recently released a report recommending that the Privacy Act be substantially amended (including to comply with the GDPR) and the Ministry of Justice has indicated that privacy reform is a key initiative.