International employee ownership policymakers met in London this summer as part of the Oxford Symposium on Employee Ownership.
European law firm Fieldfisher's London offices were the venue for an influential international employee ownership (EO) meeting this summer, bringing together leading thinkers in the EO field.
The event in August was chaired by Fieldfisher Tax and Structuring Partner and internationally recognised EO expert, Graeme Nuttall OBE.
Building on last year's successful inaugural gathering, this year's meeting prepared government officials for two days of collegial discussions at the Oxford Symposium on Employee Ownership 2023.
This preparation included overviews of the legal and tax aspects of employee share ownership and EO in the USA and UK, respectively, from:
- Ken Serwinski, Chairman and Co-Founder, Prairie Capital Advisors; and
- Mark Gearing, Partner, and Jessica Kilkelly, Associate, Fieldfisher
There were also insights into the Spanish EO model from Beatriz Gonzalez, President of Agrupacion de Sociedades Laborales De Euskadi (ASLE) and General Director of Betsaide.
Fieldfisher Managing Partner, Robert Shooter, and Senior Partner, David Wilkinson, welcomed delegates, while Fieldfisher Partner and Deputy High Court Judge Nicholas Thompsell explained how English law has been supportive of experimenting with different EO models.
Other Fieldfisher Partners discussed particular topics relevant to establishing and maintaining employee-owned companies:
Head of Pensions David Gallagher discussed pension law implications; Employment Partner Nicholas Thorpe discussed how EO structures are treated under UK employment law; Tax Partner George Gillham explained bona fide tax arrangements; and Corporate Partner Neil Palmer outlined commercial law issues.
Officials also heard of the wide-ranging benefits of EO for a business, its employees and the communities in which it operates from representatives of two employee-owned companies:
- Cindy Turcot, former CEO and President of Gardener's Supply Company, a US-headquartered garden products business 100% owned by an employee stock ownership plan; and
- Nigel Goode, Co-Founder and Director, Kirsty Dias, Managing Director and Chris Gregory, Senior Designer, PriestmanGoode, a UK design consultancy 100% owned by an employee ownership trust.
Following the meeting at Fieldfisher's London office, officials travelled from London to Oxford to join with other Symposium delegates.
With an expanded programme and delegate list, more than 80 delegates from around the world attended the Oxford Symposium on Employee Ownership 2023, representing more than 20 countries including representatives from the Danish Business Authority, the Department of Finance (Ireland), the Slovenian Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, the UK's HM Revenue & Customs and HM Treasury.
A significant feature of the Symposium in Oxford was that, for the first time in decades, representatives from national EO organisations were brought together, in person, comprising:
• Employee Ownership Australia
• Canadian Employee Ownership Coalition
• Demokratisk Erhverv (Denmark)
• Irish ProShare Association
• Japan Employee Ownership Association
• Centro de Capital Incluyente (Mexico)
• Stichting Nederlands Participatie Instituut
• Forum Rozwoju Akcjonariatu Pracowniczego (Poland)
• Inštitut za Ekonomsko Demokracijo (Slovenia)
• Scotland for Employee Ownership
• Southern Africa Employee Ownership Association
• ASLE (Spain)
• Employee Ownership Association (U.K.)
• The ESOP Association (U.S.), and
• Cwmpas (Wales)
The Oxford Symposium is organised by the Centre on Business and Poverty, the Employee Ownership Foundation and Fieldfisher.
Commenting on this year's Symposium, Fieldfisher Partner Graeme Nuttall OBE said:
"I was heartened by the success of last year's inaugural Oxford Symposium on Employee Ownership in promoting the adoption of new employee ownership policy and legislation, laying the foundations for this year.
"EO helps achieve many priority policy objectives for governments including reducing inequality, increasing productivity and providing good work. Every nation needs an employee ownership policy. The delegates at the Oxford Symposium benefit from sharing ideas and experience and return to their countries enthused and empowered to 'grow EO'.
"I am proud that Fieldfisher has been a key part of this initiative, working with the Centre on Business and Poverty and the Employee Ownership Foundation."
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