Energy companies operate under an increasingly complex set of laws and regulations around the world, including those regulating corporate governance, environmental, taxation, employment, health and safety matters. Our lawyers can help your officers, directors and employees understand and appreciate the regulatory regime in which you operate to minimize risks and costs and maximize opportunities.
We have a long history in representing power generators and electricity providers, natural gas producers, and utility companies. In recent years, we have been active in representing clients in the merchant and international power markets, in both acquisition and compliance matters. We have assisted clients in developing, constructing, and operating electric power and natural gas transmission and storage projects. We also have regularly represented institutions that finance and acquire energy assets. We use the know-how accumulated from our involvement in these matters to facilitate our clients' growth in the 21st century.
From representing parties in merger and acquisition proceedings, representing lenders in financing energy projects, representing parties in rate and regulatory proceedings before regulatory bodies, and helping clients understand and comply with the regulations governing their energy marketing and trading businesses, the regulatory attorneys within our Global Energy Practice Group offer a full range of interrelated regulatory services in the United States, Europe, Asia and Latin America. Because we regularly deal with regulatory and compliance issues before a wide range of regulators, represent both developers and financing parties, and work with producers, pipelines, generator and transmission providers, we have the ability to look at transactions and issues with a very broad focus.
Our focus is helping energy companies and investors interpret and interact with the complex laws and regulations impacting their businesses. We advise developers, owners, operators, and acquirers of power projects and marketers of energy from power projects, as well as lenders and investors in these projects. Our work includes negotiating and securing regulatory approvals, and assisting energy companies in establishing and implementing their legal and regulatory compliance programs.
We also routinely represent clients in hearings, investigations and contested actions before energy industry regulatory authorities.
Physical and Financial Commodity Trading
Over recent years the regulation of both physical and financial commodity trading has been an area of increased attention and activity for regulators both in the EU and the US, with new legislation that will take previously unregulated activities under the licensing, supervisory and market conduct regimes of the regulators for the first time already in place, and with more to come into force over the coming months. These new regulatory regimes will not only expand the regulation of commodity derivative trading, but also apply to some purely physical supply contracts. Our lawyers can help you understand and adapt to these new regulatory regimes, as they have considerable experience of obtaining financial services licenses, advising on what can be done without a financial services license and of advising on the requirements for ongoing compliance with such regimes. Our lawyers are also experienced in defending clients against regulatory investigations for breaches of these regulations.
Our regulatory lawyers in the UK also have considerable experience of commodity trading regulation, having worked in this field both for the regulator, the UK Financial Services Authority, and in-house for a commodity trader with extensive global trading activities in physical oil and gas, together with associated trading in soft commodities, emission allowance, metals and in commodity derivatives both OTC and on exchange.
Anti-corruption and economic sanctions
The extraction industries and the trading organizations that trade the commodity products they produce face particular issues in the area of corruption, money laundering and ethics given the scale of the work they undertake and the challenging jurisdictions in which they typically operate. Our regulatory and dispute resolution teams are well versed in anti-corruption legislation, such as the US FCPA and the UK Bribery Act, and can advise on systems and controls to combat corruption and comply with the relevant legislation and can also conduct internal investigations into allegations of corruption.
Sanctions are another area that present considerable challenges to commodity producers and traders. For example, the expansion of sanctions against Iran and Syria the recent imposition of sanctions against Libya and the Ivory Coast have all created issues for oil-producing and trading companies. These economic sanctions are subject to constant change and typically affect countries that are major exporters of oil, gas and other commodities and the penalties for breaching the sanctions are severe. Our lawyers frequent advise on the interpretation of these sanctions and on appropriate compliance measures.
Our government affairs practice is also able to provide clients with lobbying strategies and policy solutions that enable them to receive the focused, consistent and responsive service they deserve, no matter where they are located.
With offices in Washington DC, Brussels and Beijing we are positioned to negotiate and advise in all types of governmental regulatory and legislative issues affecting the business of energy companies with a presence in the American, European and Asian markets.
Our lawyers are active in transatlantic and transpacific wide issues of major concern for regulators and of major impact for energy companies, such as the development of renewable energy, the promotion of technical solutions for zero emissions carbon markets, energy-efficient technologies and practices and renewable energy sources.
We are experienced in advocating major regulatory and legislative changes, and are keyed into the relevant institutions and main players in relation to energy policy and legislative initiatives. Major activities include:
- Advocacy and lobbying at all levels of public institutions to influence public energy policy measures on the basis of evidence, best practice, and new ideas
- Communication of the scale and diversity of issues to decision-makers, the public and media to create a clear and timely understanding of clients' advocacy and arguments for businesses in the energy industry
- Analysis of relevant legislative and regulatory provisions/proposals and development of appropriate strategies
- Networking and alliance-building with a wide variety of organizations active in the energy sector
- Acquisition support. We represented Southwestern Energy Company in the sale of its local distribution company subsidiary.
- Anti-bribery legislation. We are advising various clients in the oil, gas and associated engineering and construction industries in the UK and elsewhere on compliance with the Bribery Act 2010 and the US FCPA.
- Anti-money laundering. We are advising the trading division of a global energy producer on anti-money laundering systems and controls and market conduct and abuse issues.
- Commodity transactions. We are advising a major investment bank in relation to a global revolving credit agreement in the aggregate principal amount of up to $1 billion for the financing of margin payments in relation to exchange-traded commodity broking and prime broking activity. The advice focused on the regulatory aspects of the commodity transactions (metals and soft commodities), margining and clearing, client money considerations and the regulatory capital impact.
- Export controls. We represented a US natural resources firm in a voluntary disclosure of millions of dollars in exports made in violation of US export controls. This matter concluded without the imposition of penalties.
- FERC approval. We represented hedge funds in obtaining FERC approval for investments in holding companies which own electric generating facilities and establishing compliance programs for future investments.
- Interstate transport. We have represented natural gas producers and local distribution companies before the US regulator, FERC, with respect to for interstate transportation services.
- Market dominance proceeding. We represented a European utility in its successful defense to the action of the UK regulator, Ofgem, under Article 82 and Chapter II of the Competition Act. Ofgem claimed that the utility’s withdrawal of meter-reading services in certain areas of the UK was an abuse of its market dominance. The case involved an attempt by Ofgem to use Article 82 and Chapter II in a novel and unprecedented way–to force the utility to continue to operate a business that it no longer wished to operate. Ofgem issued a formal decision exonerating the utility in 2007.
- Regulatory approval. We represented BP Alternative Energy North America Inc. in obtaining regulatory approvals for the acquisition of 535 MW Whiting Clean Energy electric generating facility.
- Regulatory approval. We represented an investment company in the acquisition of an interest in an interstate natural gas pipeline.
- Regulatory approval. We represented Fortis Bank S.A./N.V. in obtaining regulatory approval for its $700 million acquisition from Duke Energy of its Cinergy gas, power trading and marketing businesses in the US and Canada. The Houston-based company has been renamed Fortis Energy Marketing and Trading, GP. As part of the acquisition, our regulatory team obtained approval from the Federal Reserve Board to engage in energy trading activities as an activity “complementary” to activities that are financial in nature. We also advised Fortis on regulatory filings required by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
- Trade sanctions. We are advising major energy trading firms on issues relating to trade sanctions, FSA regulation and the EU Regulation on Energy Market Integrity and Transparency.
- Trade sanctions. We counseled a global oil and gas company on the application to its US subsidiary and to its US supply chain of the US sanctions against Cuba.
- Trade sanctions. We are monitoring Iran sanctions legislation for a foreign company with US operations and evaluating the legislative implications for its global energy operations.
- Trading compliance. We represented a financial institution with regulatory issues relating to its natural gas- and electricity-trading activities.
- Trading regulation. We are advising on the financial services and other regulatory issues relating to the formation of a oil and gas trading entity dealing in physical and financial instruments.
- US acquisitions. We represented several financial institutions in the acquisition of interests of electric generating asset.
- US pipeline transportation agreement. We represented Southwestern Energy Company and Chesapeake Energy Corporation in the negotiation of precedent agreements with, and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission proceedings with respect to, major expansion of interstate pipelines and new pipelines for the transportation of crude oil NGLs.
- US pricing investigation. We assisted a major international energy distributor in various investigations conducted by the FTC, Congress and various state Attorneys General into the company’s pricing practices and in connection with a so-called “price gouging” investigation post-Hurricane Katrina.