The pandemic prompted a workplace shakeup, shining a spotlight on employee wellness
Amy Blankson offers tools that can boost happiness as we enter a new world of work
In 2022 uncertainty took hold as inflation, volatile markets and a geopolitical conflict added to the challenges set in motion by the COVID-19 pandemic. In a world of shifting expectations and norms, we focused on creating a distinctive experience for our clients, consistent with the five-year strategy we launched in 2020. This North Star guided our global teams as they developed and executed innovative solutions on high-stakes deals, disputes and pro bono matters.
Our client work placed us at the center of global trends related to energy transition, environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, finance and globalization. We contributed to the dialogue on these issues with published insights including “Scaling up the energy transition,” a report based on a survey that explores how capital providers and companies are setting priorities, staying competitive and managing risk. Through our COP27 video series, we explored themes raised during the annual climate conference and their potential impact on business and industry.
In regions around the world, we increased our capacity to serve clients, promoting 59 new partners and welcoming 39 lateral partners. We developed new ways of working with clients, increasing efficiencies and ensuring consistency. These initiatives included our Debt Finance Solutions Team, which leverages legal technology and other resources to handle certain types of routine work, and our Client Experience Blueprints, a series of tools that codify our global best practices for working with clients before, during and after a matter.
We continued to focus on building a more diverse and inclusive workplace, significantly expanding our diversity data collection efforts so we can quantify our progress. Our people benefited from new and expanded coaching programs, and we took concrete steps to empower our associates, focusing on work allocation, skills development and leadership opportunities.
This review discusses these and other accomplishments and initiatives that made a difference to our people and our clients in 2022. Together we face the future positioned for success.
Amy Blankson offers tools that can boost happiness as we enter a new world of work
Kenneth Cukier talks about the process that can lead to breakthroughs and help us tackle novel challenges
Antonio Zappulla talks about how TrustLaw tackles some of the world’s biggest challenges
The focus on achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 remained a priority for governments, investors and energy companies
Addressing ESG factors became “the new normal” for investors and businesses
Activity across debt and M&A markets slowed as rising interest rates and high inflation saw investors, borrowers and lenders recalibrate risk appetite
Around the world, legal and regulatory developments continued to reshape global interconnectedness
Highlights of our work in 2022
US$2.83 billion in revenue
2,616 total lawyers
Meet the outstanding generation of talented lawyers who strengthened our Firm in 2022
In markets around the world, White & Case earned many of the legal industry’s top accolades
White & Case is committed to fair and ethical operations that respect human rights and recognize the importance of our natural environment.
As a signatory to the UN Global Compact, we affirm our commitment to doing business responsibly by supporting the Compact’s ten principles on human rights, labor, the environment and anti-corruption. The steps we are taking to continue to embed these principles into our Firm are outlined in our most recent Communication on Progress.
Our latest Environmental Sustainability Report includes information on our environmental policies, footprint, key actions and goals.
11 global affinity networks
Our 11 affinity networks foster a sense of community among the Firm’s Black, Asian, Latinx/Hispanic, Middle Eastern, minority ethnic and LGBTQ+ lawyers, business services professionals and their allies. Each network sets its own agenda, initiatives and goals, which are specific to the issues it considers most important. Affinity networks create and enhance awareness of these groups within the Firm and its larger culture, drive community and connection across our global offices, and support their members with career and professional development opportunities.
25 local women’s networks
Our 25 local women’s networks are active in 40 offices across the Americas, EMEA and Asia-Pacific. These networks foster professional development and mentoring activities. They also provide a forum for our lawyers and business services professionals to share perspectives and create programs to support and retain our women while fostering and promoting gender equity.
49%of our lawyers self-identify as of color
28%of our partners self-identify as of color
43%of our lawyers self-identify as of color
27%of our partners self-identify as of color
Leading publications and alliance organizations continue to recognize our commitment to diversity and inclusion
Using data to create change
Committing to growth opportunities for colleagues in wide-ranging roles
Recognizing the value of our lawyers as they start their careers
Focusing on consistent application of best practices
Leveraging technology to streamline routine work and enhance client service
Collaborating to effect change and build strong connections
Visuals by Roman De Giuli
Around the world, legal and regulatory developments continued to reshape global interconnectedness. Amid intensified geopolitical pressures, countries and regions focused their attention on issues including sanctions, competition and national security—in many cases restricting cross-border flows of goods, services, capital and data. At the same time, the imperative for global cooperation on matters such as climate change remained clear.
White & Case helped organizations around the world as they confronted this evolving landscape. Here are some of the developments that impacted our work for clients in 2022.
The European Union and a broad coalition of countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Japan, Canada and Australia, imposed sanctions against Russia in response to its February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, and numerous major multinational corporations have exited Russia. The repercussions for the global economy have been far-reaching and include supply chain issues, inflation and volatile markets.
In addition, Russia’s actions in Ukraine and the international response became factors for public companies to consider when updating their annual report risk factor disclosures. The SEC specifically noted that companies should provide detailed disclosure regarding risks related to actual or potential disruptions in supply chains and new or heightened risks of potential cyberattacks by state actors or others. Russian sanctions are also among the disclosures companies should consider.
The conflict in Ukraine and subsequent sanctions have also had a chilling effect on M&A involving Russian entities. In particular, buying an asset with operations in Russia may be prohibited under sanctions laws in certain circumstances, so the possibility must be carefully considered. The Office of Foreign Assets Control, the sanctions implementation agency of the US Treasury Department, has issued multiple rounds of new and updated guidance on what types of deals may be permissible, although much of the guidance remains highly complex and is sometimes unclear from a compliance standpoint.
In November 2022 the international climate conference COP27 took place in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. The location of the annual conference provided an opportunity to draw attention to the climate challenges facing the global south, which include the need for finance to respond to loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change, food and water security, supply chain issues and disparities in the technologies provided in developed economies and emerging markets.
Over the years, sessions of the climate conference have helped to shape policy around the world. The US federal government, for example, took action to support a reduction in domestic greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent to 52 percent based on 2005 levels by 2030. To promote the investment needed to reach that goal, in 2022 the US Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act, the largest public investment in the US energy space in modern history.
Meanwhile, the EU has viewed the energy crisis as an opportunity to accelerate its transition toward energy independence, seeking to become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. Recognizing that the transition presents challenges to energy companies, the EU has designed and implemented a broad range of support measures to facilitate the transition and allow them to remain competitive. For example, the EU revised its state aid rules to allow its member states to finance and track energy transition purchases throughout the energy value chain. As a result, there has been more interest in new energy technology from energy industry participants.
In the United States, federal antitrust enforcement agencies acted to further shift the competition agenda away from the consumer welfare standard. The agencies increased enforcement across sectors, including by strengthening merger control, by targeting antitrust enforcement on labor markets—with specific attention to employer-employee non-compete provisions—and by reviving enforcement on interlocking directorates, which result when one person serves as an officer or director of more than one competing corporation. New appointments at both the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice signaled greater enforcement action to come—with buyout firms a particular target. The US Congress and various state legislators also became increasingly aggressive in proposing game-changing antitrust laws, and private plaintiffs were emboldened to challenge company conduct.
By year-end, US and European merger control filings had failed to match the historic highs of 2021, reflecting the impact of the economic cooldown. Filings, however, remained above historic averages, and the downward trend was not universal. Filings were up in Brazil and Saudi Arabia, while merger assessments in Australia rose and Egypt adopted a new merger control regime. The European Commission (EC) received endorsement of its recent change in Article 22 policy from the EU’s General Court. This development is likely to embolden the EC to call in for review suspected so-called “killer acquisitions” even if the transactions do not fulfill any merger control thresholds in the EU.
Other developments included the EU’s adoption of the Foreign Subsidies Regulation (FSR), which gives the EC powers to intervene to tackle foreign subsidies distorting competition in the EU. Due to apply by mid-2023, the FSR will have a major impact on companies that engage in M&A and public tenders in the EU, and that have received financial contributions from non-EU countries.
Across Europe dawn raids, which were suspended during the pandemic, were on the rise. The EC and national competition authorities revived these unannounced inspections to clear their backlog. Additionally, the Digital Markets Act entered into force in the EU, introducing new rules for certain core platforms including search engines, social networks and messaging services that act as digital sector “gatekeepers.”
Around the world, foreign direct investment (FDI) regimes continued to proliferate and mature. Within the EU, Belgium and Sweden both introduced new legislation that, if enacted, would take effect in Q1 2023. Outside the EU, Switzerland is also considering an FDI regime. In the UK, a new investment screening regime took effect in January 2022.
FDI scrutiny remained a priority for the US government. In September 2022 President Biden issued the first-ever Presidential Directive defining national security factors for the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to consider in evaluating transactions. Specifically, the Executive Order directed CFIUS to consider issues relating to supply chain resilience, impact on US technological leadership, assessment of aggregate investment trends in industries, cybersecurity risks and sensitive data.
The world trading system faced uncertainty in 2022. Serious institutional questions regarding the functioning of the World Trade Organization (WTO) remained unresolved and arguably intensified. No significant negotiations advanced under the auspices of the WTO, and the organization’s Appellate Body—once seen as a model for other international agreements—remained without any members and inoperable. At the same time, one of the recognized “exceptions” to the WTO principles of non-discrimination—preferential trade agreements—continued to increase dramatically. As of December 1, 2022, there were 355 regional trade agreements in force, up from just 37 in 1995 when the WTO was created.
Individual WTO Members confronted myriad challenges in 2022, including inflation, unequal income distribution, poverty and a global health crisis. Citing national security and national economic interests, countries around the world adopted national programs that appeared to conflict with their commitments to the multilateral system. Concepts such as “near shoring,” “national industrial policy” and “national content requirements” challenged the bedrock principles of the multilateral trading system—non-discrimination, national treatment and negotiated tariff bindings—all of which had previously led to the globalization of supply chains.
Despite these challenges, global trade carried on, and governments continued to rely on the trade regulatory structure established by the WTO. Global trade reached a record US$28.5 trillion in 2021. Even if 2022 levels decrease, international trade remains unquestionably strong.
Around the world, regulators continued their close watch over cryptocurrencies and other digital assets. Concerns that Russian actors could use cryptocurrencies to evade sanctions related to the invasion of Ukraine presented another reason for regulatory scrutiny.
In the United States, federal regulators vowed to work to prevent attempts to circumvent sanctions by using cryptocurrencies. For example, the Senate Banking Committee held a hearing that signaled their regulatory interest in the crypto ecosystem, and particularly in the potential use of cryptocurrencies to get around US sanctions. At the US Treasury Department, Secretary Yellen described cryptocurrency as a “channel to be watched” for avoiding the sanctions’ impact, and both the Office of Foreign Assets Control and Financial Crimes Enforcement Network have moved to clarify and emphasize their efforts to enforce sanctions related to cryptocurrencies. The US banking regulators, seeing the volatility in the cryptocurrency space and the losses incurred by banks, have acted to limit the ability of US banks to engage in, or provide services to, the cryptocurrency industry.
Along with the increased regulatory focus on cryptocurrencies—and on the areas of data protection, cybersecurity and online content—cross-border disputes involving technology companies were on the rise. As a result, technology companies are increasingly looking to international legal forums to bring claims against states, especially where the prospects of obtaining redress in domestic courts are slim.
Investment treaty arbitration—a binding international dispute resolution mechanism that arises from consent by two or more States in a treaty—is one option that technology companies are increasingly considering. As more of them seek to use this tool, arbitral tribunals may need to apply common treaty provisions to new and emerging technologies, considering issues that may include whether digital and delocalized or decentralized assets qualify as protected investments in the host state’s territory and which methodologies may apply to quantify damages in the technology sector.
Photo by Artur Debat © Getty Images
A highway in Spain with contactless toll payment lanes