The world is changing fast. From the emergence of new digital technologies creating commercial opportunities, to fast-changing macroeconomic issues like the climate crisis, political unrest and economic volatility generating cause for concern, it is a rapidly changing world indeed – and for global in-house counsel, it's a challenging landscape to navigate.
Commercial opportunities in this new world are varied, but volatile. Cryptocurrencies and NFTs are both examples of exciting but ultimately uncertain prospects. High risk but potentially high reward, it's critical that the right action is taken to balance the potential return with the risk it entails. Despite several high-profile NFT devaluations, particularly in the art space, the appetite for investment is still strong, with weekly sales rising from 100 in 2017 to 50,000 in 2022, and year-on-year growth of 3,246% - driven perhaps by ongoing hype around the metaverse, which will radically change the role NFTs play financially. Yet NFTs are still very much an emerging investment, and global recognition of their status as an asset is still patchy. While some jurisdictions recognise NFTs as an asset for taxation purposes or in insolvency proceedings, they are not automatically covered by the same protections as physical assets, creating a confusing situation for investors and their counsel.
Similarly, cryptocurrencies continue to generate both excitement and fear, and face a comparatively disparate legal standing that varies between jurisdictions, particularly when it comes to insolvency and inheritance disputes. The collapse of ‘stablecoin', as well as the bankruptcy of major crypto exchange FTX and crypto trading platforms Voyager and Celcius, has rocked the market but not necessarily cryptocurrency investment appetite – as you will see from the insight of our members in the Commercial chapter of this publication.
Digital change is not only impacting businesses and individuals from a purely commercial perspective. It seems that we have emerged from the global pandemic into a different world, one where digital tools have enabled us to change both the way we work and where we work from. There were approximately 35 million ‘digital nomads' worldwide in 2021 – a figure likely to have increased in 2022 due to post-pandemic travel restrictions easing – with most of those nomads being high earners taking home $50,000-250,000 a year. Many governments are recognising the economic opportunity these nomads represent and creating (or easing) legislation to encourage them. It raises an interesting premise for both individuals looking for a lifestyle change, and businesses looking to source from a wider pool of talent. Yet every opportunity brings with it challenges, and throughout these chapters our members highlight some of the most important issues to be aware of. For organisations, it's about balancing employee expectations and demands with implications on employment contracts, taxation and basic day-to-day operations. For individuals it's an equally delicate matter, with potential pitfalls regarding tax and income needing to be managed alongside the personal and professional opportunities remote working can bring.
Underlying all of the above subjects is the issue of ESG – the environmental, social and governance aspects of every investment, every opportunity, every choice. It is increasingly difficult to ignore the impact that our actions – as businesses, investors, individuals and advisors – are having on the world around us, both environmentally and socially. To build a sustainable future, as well as a commercially viable one, we need to address this impact and drive change.
When it comes to deal making, ESG has become an area of critical importance, both as an integral part of due diligence but also as a driving force for future acquisitions. During the first half of 2022, regulatory and commercial ESG pressures saw a spike in mergers and acquisitions focused on companies that provide ESG-related software, consulting and outsourced services, with ESG-focussed M&A rising 111%.
In the following pages, 75+ IR Global members share unique insight from the jurisdictions into the rapidly changing world we live and work in. Tackling everything from IP protections in the metaverse to the practical and legal implications of remote working, A Global Guide for In-House Counsel provides a broad scope of perspectives from experts around the world to help you navigate an exciting and challenging future.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.