Postboxes and PO Boxes in Bermuda

Postboxes are significant in Bermuda for a number of legal reasons.

First, there are still some colonial red postboxes that exist around the island for sending post, which are not only quaint for tourists to look at, but an important reminder of Bermuda’s historic connections with the UK as a British Overseas Territory.

Second, in the absence of an island-wide, door to door, postal delivery service, many businesses and individuals maintain postboxes at the central or regional post offices for receiving their post (which they then collect at the relevant Post Office Box – PO Box). This practice is sometimes mistaken by the international media as a mere device by which to establish residence in Bermuda for tax purposes without establishing a physical office address (but it should be noted that the PO Box, in and of itself, is not of any legal significance in this respect).

For example, the Daily Mail and the Sun newspapers in the UK were recently very excited by the fact that Google’s Bermuda postal address in Hamilton is PO Box 666 (since 666 is a number that supposedly has Satanic connotations!).

£8bn-a-year in Google postbox: Inside giant’s secret Bermuda haven

But as anyone doing business in Bermuda knows, PO Box 666 simply happens to be the PO Box number for Conyers Dill & Pearman Limited, one of the jurisdiction’s oldest and largest international law firms, as well as its affiliated corporate services, company secretarial, and registered office service provider, Codan.

Conyers, incidentally, were rather unfairly criticized by the Sun newspaper for their interior design taste, with the newspaper describing “the drab-looking office … decked with plastic ferns,
1980s-style furniture and tacky oil paintings” (since which time, Conyers have refurbished their reception space and public meeting areas …)

Thirdly, unlike England and Wales (and many other jurisdictions), it is not legally permissible to effect service, for the purpose of Bermuda court proceedings, by post (with service either having to be effected personally, or by delivery to a company’s registered office address, absent an order for substituted service). However, it is probably legally permissible (from a Bermuda law perspective) to effect service of foreign proceedings by post or by courier in Bermuda, although since there is some scope for argument in this respect, it is usually a more prudent practice to effect service even of foreign proceedings personally, where possible.

Fourthly, some Bermuda lawyers occasionally find themselves being asked by overseas lawyers to act as local ‘postboxes’ for the conduct of litigation. This practice (which is not unique to Bermuda) raises a number of ethical and commercial issues, and it is sometimes difficult to differentiate the practice of ‘postboxing’ from the more acceptable practice of instructing and taking specialist legal advice from overseas Counsel, or working with international colleagues or coordinating counsel in complex, cross-border disputes, transactions, or international arbitrations with foreign legal or foreign factual elements. In this context, it is worth noting that the Privy Council has recently heard argument on an appeal from Grenada, in the case of Janin Caribbean Construction Limited (Appellant) v Wilkinson and another (as executors of the estate of Ernest Clarence Wilkinson) and another (Respondents) (Grenada), regarding the local practice at the Grenadian Bar whereby one attorney agrees to “hold papers” for an attorney of record. The Privy Council’s judgment is reserved for the time being. There are also significant issues that arise in terms of costs recovery on taxation for overseas lawyers’ fees, as well as regulatory and liability issues for overseas lawyers that purport to advise on Bermuda law, or conduct Bermuda litigation, without proper regulatory approvals.

Who knew that postboxes could be so interesting?




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