Your commercial news round-up: housing, PwC, rent freeze, crypto, mental health

updated on 18 May 2023

Reading time: three minutes 

Rental laws are being reformed, PwC is in trouble with the Australian government, Sadiq Khan wants Labour to freeze rental prices, and a government committee wants to class cryptocurrency as gambling. Before we dive into this week’s round-up, we here at LawCareers.Net want to take a moment to wish all our readers a happy and stress-free Mental Health Awareness Week. 

  • Renters, this story is for you. This week the government announced its long-awaited Renters’ Reform Bill. The bill will: 
    • end no-fault evictions; 
    • eliminate blanket bans on pets;  
    • set minimum standards for the quality of housing; 
    • make it illegal for landlords to place a blanket ban on renting to tenants in receipt of benefits; and 
    • appoint a new ombudsman to review disputes between tenants and landlords.  

While renting campaigners have been mostly supportive of the reforms, it’s faced strong opposition from several Conservative MPs. Tory MP Craig Mackinlay, who’s also a landlord, warned of the “unintended consequences” the bill could have, including landlords feeling the hit of additional regulations and choosing to sell their properties. 

  • PwC Australia has been hit by a tax scandal that’s already seen several of its senior leaders, including the company’s Chief Executive Tom Seymour step down. The accounting giant, known as one of the world’s Big Four, used leaked intel from a tax partner about the Australian government’s tax reform plans to target new clients hoping to evade upcoming tax law changes. Google, Apple and Microsoft are all believed to have been approached by PwC, which leveraged its advanced knowledge of tax reforms to secure millions in fees advising tech companies. The investigation into PwC is still ongoing. At current we know Peter Collins, the PwC partner who was accused of leaking the information, continuously shared secret information to dozens of PwC team members over the course of three years (2014 to 2017). He’s now had his registration as a tax agent terminated, while calls for all members of the PwC team involved in the scandal have been requested to declare their involvement to Australian lawmakers.
  • We’re going back to the housing market for our next story where tension lies between Labour Party Leader Kier Starmer and London Mayor Sadiq Khan over London rent control. Since being elected to City Hall in 2016, Khan has argued for greater rent control. However, after a speech on Monday where he pledged to continue “fighting the corner of renters”, senior Labour Party insiders told the Financial Times that Starmer has no intention of implementing national rent control. In the first four months of the year alone, rent on newly let properties in London rose 17.2%, with average monthly rent exceeding £2,200 for the first time in history. Khan argued that rent control would “give renters badly needed respite”, but property industry groups have warned that “caps on rent increases discourage investment and reduce housebuilding”.
  • From housing markets to crypto markets, a group of MPs have called on the UK government to regulate the crypto currency industry as gambling rather than a financial service. Originally, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) was set to oversee the industry, however the Treasury Select Committee warned that the FCA’s regulation could instil an impression that crypto is “safer than it is”. Harriet Baldwin, treasury committee chair, stated that crypto currency’s “no intrinsic value, huge price volatility and no discernible social good” all make it less of a financial service and more closely resemblant of gambling and it should therefore be regulated as such. The treasury is keen to eliminate any perceptions that crypto is “a legitimate investment”. Sam Richardson, money deputy editor at consumer advocacy group Which?, refused to comment on whether cryptocurrency should be considered part of the gambling industry, but did state that it was “right that MPs are highlighting the risk of investors being exposed to unscrupulous firms or individuals”.  

Check the News every Thursday for this weekly commercial news round-up.    

Follow LawCareers.Net on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram for regular business news updates.