John Horner has stepped down after five years as convener of the New Zealand Law Society Commercial and Business Law Committee, having first joined the committee in 2004.
“To get through the variety and pace of workload provided, you could describe John as collaborative yet decisive,” committee member Sarah-Jane Weir says.
“Without those qualities it wouldn't be possible to make it through what's come before us.”
When appropriate, John hasn't hesitated to stand up on behalf of the NZLS to protest at conduct which takes advantage of others.
“Many in the profession will have commended John's leadership around the NZLS position to the Financial Markets Authority (and the media), and on the unacceptability of certain ‘low-ball securities offers’.
“John has taken the lead on a number of the submissions and responses, but has also been very willing for all the voices on the committee to be heard and to lead where appropriate. And he's ably managed it when perhaps those voices have a slightly different viewpoint,” Sarah-Jane says.
“Sometimes the turnaround times required have been extremely tight, even when the area of law which the consultation or bill is concerned with has a major impact on ‘our’ (the legal profession and/or our clients) current way of doing things. John's dealt with that pressure with equilibrium.
“John has been welcoming and approaches committee business with warmth and enthusiasm ‒ not altogether easy when all our business and discussions are conducted via the more impersonal media of email and teleconferences,” Sarah-Jane says.
“Part of John's skill has been in navigating and ensuring a response on the very wide variety of what's come before us in the last 20 months alone.
To give some oversight of the parameters of what's come up in the last 20 months, just some examples of the breadth of entities seeking input and on the matters on which the committee has commented are:
- a discussion paper on consumer law review released by Ministry of Consumer Affairs canvassing changes to among others, several of “cornerstone” consumer protection acts, including the Consumer Guarantees Act 1993 and Fair Trading Act 1986 ‒ if this proceeds, a major overhaul of NZ consumer protection legislation;
- Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Bill ‒ input on commercial and business law issues forming a part of the NZLS submission to the select committee on the Bill (which was under urgency and the timeframes were extremely tight);
- submissions to Ministry of Economic Development on its consultation draft Financial Markets Conduct Bill ‒ an enormous "omnibus" piece of proposed legislation which, if enacted, will substantively re-write the Securities Act, Securities Markets Act, Unit Trusts Act and others.
The overhaul of the law relating to the financial services sector has been the major general area of work over John’s time leading the committee.
Other areas of business regulation which the committee has been closely involved in include takeovers law, competition and consumer law and companies law.
“The challenge has been to keep abreast of the plethora of reform initiatives and give due attention to proposals which amount to fundamental reform as well as less publicised technical changes,” John says.
“As lawyers with clients that each have their own agendas and perspectives, the committee has endeavoured to present objective feedback into the law reform process with the objective of enhancing clarity of law which can be applied in practice in a straightforward manner.
“With less focus on the policy matters and more focus on clarity of law for the benefit of all stakeholders in business, including the lawyers, the committee’s feedback has been well received.
“The committee has, and continues to be, well served by dedicated and experienced practitioners, which has made the job of being convener immensely rewarding, both in terms of learning more about both the law and the legal process as well as contributing to reform.
“What I will miss is the sharing of ideas and experiences between committee members and the debates and discussions about what is good law and what isn’t.”
John is a mergers and acquisitions partner at Quigg Partners. His speciality areas include all aspects of mergers and acquisitions transactions from due dilligence to competition law and capital raising.
This article was published in LawTalk 783, 21 October 2011, page 15.