Navigating legislative changes in 2024

Singapore Business Review, in collaboration with leading legal experts, highlighted four pivotal measures expected to significantly influence businesses and investors in 2024.

Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes Bill

Topping the list is the “Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) (Amendment) Bill” (CDSA), which regulates funds generated from criminal activities like drug trafficking, corruption, and money laundering.

Notably, this comes in the wake of Singapore’s recent major money-laundering scandal, leading to the arrest of 10 individuals and the seizure of assets exceeding S$2.8 billion.

According to Keith Tnee, senior partner at Tan Kok Quan Partnership, the amendments in this bill aim to hold individuals accountable for retaining, controlling, or having access to funds derived from criminal activities. He highlighted an extension of the bill’s scope to include those who negligently fail to investigate the origins of these illicit funds.

“It seeks to extend the scope [of the older bill] to people who may negligently failed to investigate into the provenance of these offences,” Tnee said.

“This could be relevant to companies that handle large sums of money coming from overseas, particularly those from the banking or financial industries, and they could potentially see more stringent measures being imposed on the industry,” Tnee added.

Significant Investments Review Bill

The second highlighted bill is the Significant Investments Review (SIR) Bill. This focuses on safeguarding Singapore’s national security by scrutinising significant investments and control entities deemed critical to national interests.

Joo Khin Ng, partner at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, outlined restrictions requiring government approval for ownership/control stakes, limitations on foreign investors’ voting rights, and potential divestment mandates for entities posing security threats.

Ng explained that the minister will have the authority to designate entities operating in Singapore or providing goods/services in the country, subject to a notification and representation process.

“Before the minister designates any entity, the minister must, unless it is not practicable or desirable to do so, give notice of their intention to designate the entity to the entity concerned and give the entity at least 14 days from the date of notice to make written representations on the proposed designation,” Morgan Lewis explained.

Workplace Fairness Legislation

In addition, the Workplace Fairness Legislation aims to protect workers from discrimination based on various factors and provide a framework for reporting and addressing workplace discrimination, according to Ng.

“It will also provide a clearer legal framework for reporting and addressing workplace discrimination,” said Khin.

According to the International Bar Association or IBA, the bill will “provide employees with specific causes of action and access to damages for workplace discrimination” and provide “specific enforcement mechanisms for the government to impose penalties for companies that engage in workplace discrimination.”

This bill doesn’t cover workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics (SOGIESC).

“Instead, [it] will have to be dealt with under the existing non-binding Fair Employment Guidelines,” added IBA.

Amended Insolvency, Restructuring and Dissolution Act

Lastly, amendments to the Insolvency, Restructuring and Dissolution Act (IRDA) extend the Simplified Insolvency Programme (SIP) until 2026.

Tnee dubbed SIP as an easier and cost-effective debt restructuring option for companies, especially crucial amidst potential financial challenges.

“Given the potential financial headwinds, we may see some companies seeking recourse under this program for a couple of months,” Tnee stated.

“Companies with corporate debtors may face some difficulty in recovering some of the debts of these SMCs because of the debt restructuring programme,” added Tnee.

Tnee stressed the importance for companies to establish systems to monitor credit extension and debt repayment, serving as crucial indicators of debtors’ financial stability.

More from OMY: Singapore proposes new law to oversee investments in critical entities

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