The IBA’s response to the war in Ukraine
Covid-19: Insurance aggregation under the spotlight in business interruption cases
Three connected judgments handed down in mid-October relate to some of the biggest insurance claims for business interruption caused by Covid-19 to come to trial. The judgments, on preliminary issues, were delivered by Justice Butcher at the High Court of England and Wales, with the overlapping claims brought by policyholders Stonegate Pub Company, Greggs and Various Eateries. Stonegate claimed against insurers Amlin, Liberty Mutual and Zurich; Greggs against Zurich; and Various Eateries against Allianz.
Essentially, the policy-holding companies brought claims for business interruption losses connected to Covid. The insurers, while acknowledging the businesses suffered loss from having to close during the Covid lockdowns, claim that the losses are aggregated into one single business interruption loss (SBIL), because they’re all connected with one ‘occurrence’: the pandemic.
The policyholders argued there were numerous events that caused loss, and that under their policy wording they should receive insurance payouts for each event. Stonegate’s claim is in excess of £1bn; Greggs is claiming over £150m; and Various Eateries more than £16m. The insurers contended that each company should receive just £2.5m, the SBIL limit under their policies. The judge was also asked to look at the trigger for the relevant clauses in each policy.
Stonegate and Greggs’ insurers also raised the issue of furlough payments the companies had received under the UK government’s job retention scheme, contending that these payments should be taken into account when calculating losses. The Court found in their favour; the policyholders are appealing. Stonegate also argued that it should recover additional increased cost of working (AICW) losses. The Court found that AICW applies to each single occurrence of loss, but it’s limited to non-‘economic’ losses.
Butcher J’s judgments didn’t deal with quantification, and the amount the companies may eventually recover is still to be decided. He did, however, make several key decisions. Notably, the judge said that every time a location had been closed due to a government order or because Covid-19 was found on the premises, this would constitute a ‘covered event’.
He also listened to arguments about when those events should be aggregated into ‘occurrences’, disagreeing with the insurers that there was a single occurrence. Instead, he held there were at least two occurrences by reference to which losses may be aggregated: namely the instruction on 16 March 2020 for people to stop non-essential contact, and the instruction of 20 March 2020 for all pubs, bars and restaurants to close and not reopen.
On any aggregation dispute there’s been in the past, appellate courts can come to different conclusions. It’s going to run and run
Senior Vice-Chair 2021–22, IBA Insurance Committee
The Stonegate judgments came almost two years after the UK’s Supreme Court handed down judgment in a test case brought by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) on behalf of policyholders to decide issues relating to business interruption insurance and Covid. But David Pryce, Managing Partner of Stonegate’s solicitors Fenchurch Law, says the test case didn’t resolve the key issues in Stonegate’s claim, particularly on aggregation.
Pryce says Butcher J’s decisions were not an outright win for either side, although he points to the 60 per cent costs judgment in favour of Greggs as a sign that, overall, the decisions were more favourable for policyholders than insurers. ‘This is the most mixed bag collection of decisions since the High Court decision in the FCA test case’, he says.
At a consequentials hearing in November, permission to appeal was granted on certain points, notably aggregation and furlough, with all parties having something they want to take to a higher court. The policyholders had until January 2023 to ask the Court of Appeal for permission to appeal on the issues where permission is not yet granted. ‘Settlements are going to be difficult to achieve in the interim for other policyholders while these cases are subject to appeal, and to some extent that’s difficult for the policyholders’, Pryce says.
Sophie Fairclough, an associate at Mishcon de Reya who acted for Various Eateries, agrees that on the aggregation issue the judgments were largely a win for policyholders, although they’ll still have to prove that losses are connected to events from the period for which they’d bought cover. The insurers also claimed a win, with a statement from Amlin saying that the Court ‘fundamentally supported [the] insurers’ position’.
Policyholder Stonegate noted the ‘far from conclusive’ case outcome, adding that Stonegate ‘believe that the Court’s interpretation on a number of issues which are generally applicable to policyholders is out of step with the approach taken by the Supreme Court in the Test Case and with the approach of Courts in other jurisdictions (such as on furlough)’ and they intend to appeal those elements.
DAC Beachcroft, representing the insurers in Stonegate/Various Eateries, declined to comment directly, while Clyde & Co, representing the insurers in Greggs, didn’t respond to requests for comment. Greggs, Various Eateries and Liberty Mutual themselves declined to comment, while Zurich and Allianz didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Kiran Soar, Senior Vice-Chair of the IBA Insurance Committee at the time of writing and a partner at DWF in London, believes that the biggest impact of these decisions could be on the reinsurance market. ‘There remain a number of open claims in the reinsurance market, and numerous arbitrations underway. Insurers will be considering these decisions carefully to understand if they are able to aggregate all of their Covid exposures as one loss occurrence and collect on their reinsurance programmes’, Soar says.
Fairclough agrees. ‘It’s unclear what’s going to happen in the reinsurance market because there’s a lot of exposure for them if all these claims get paid out. The wording doesn’t quite mirror the wording in these policies. There’s quite a lot of debate over whether there is cover for these claims under reinsurance’, she adds.
The case may also have a limited impact in other common law jurisdictions such as Canada, Ireland and South Africa, where similar policy wordings – particularly on aggregation – are used. Insurers in these countries are likely to be following the appeals closely.
Covid-19 has made businesses and insurers far more aware of the large-scale risks of events such as the pandemic, but that has led to more exclusions. Pryce suggests that a scheme such as the government-backed terrorism reinsurer, Pool Re, could be a potential solution to ensuring businesses and policyholders alike are protected from future pandemics. ‘The London market is going to be as well placed as any insurance market in the world to respond to that opportunity because it’s known for writing risks on a bespoke basis and insuring the risks that won’t get insured elsewhere’, he says.
When it comes to the three cases, lawyers expect a continued fight. ‘Stonegate was so big it was inevitable it was going to go to a fight’, says Soar. ‘On any aggregation dispute there’s been in the past, appellate courts can come to different conclusions. It’s going to run and run.’
Image credit: Chansom Pantip/AdobeStock.com
The IBA and Ukraine: a year of collaboration
As an organisation at the forefront of promoting and protecting the rule of law and international justice, the IBA has had a duty to support Ukraine and its legal profession, institutions, infrastructure and population as a whole since the start of the Russia–Ukraine war in February 2022.
At that time, IBA Executive Director Mark Ellis swiftly initiated the Association’s response to the crisis and set out a plan for delivering assistance to Ukraine.
At the outbreak of war, the IBA immediately issued a press release. ‘The IBA publicly condemned Russia’s breach of the most sacred principle of international law – sovereign integrity – on the sad 24 February 2022’, says IBA President Almudena Arpón de Mendívil. ‘Supporting Ukraine on all legal fronts has been a priority for the IBA since then, and will remain so until the illegal actions of Russia in Ukraine’s territory end.’
‘Beyond public statements, the IBA has focused its efforts in three areas: aiding Ukraine’s legal profession; helping to support accountability of any crime against humanity perpetrated during the war with the IBA app eyeWitness to Atrocities; and cooperating with Ukraine regarding its compliance with international legal standards in domestic trials related to war crimes’, she explains.
The IBA and IBAHRI have been involved in many different initiatives in the past year. In addition, the Association has endeavoured to inform its membership and beyond on varied aspects of the conflict and related matters through regular features, articles, podcasts and webinars.
Ukrainian bars and the legal profession
In early 2022, the IBA expressed solidarity with IBA members and lawyers in Ukraine, and the Ukrainian bars, subsequently strengthening ties with the Ukrainian National Bar Association and the Ukrainian Bar Association. The IBA has assisted them with financial contributions in support of their humanitarian efforts and bar running costs.
Given its considerable experience in training lawyers, it was logical for the IBA to undertake training for those lawyers who will be involved in defending the accused in national war crimes trials, as well as providing further training on international criminal law during 2022. Several popular sessions took place online.
In August 2022, the International Legal Assistance Consortium – of which the IBA is a founding organisation – announced the publication of a new report, with research contributed by the IBA, on the impact of the Russia–Ukraine conflict on the Ukrainian justice system.
Documenting war crimes; ensuring accountability
eyeWitness to Atrocities is a powerful IBA-initiated app intended for use as a tool to amass verified documentary evidence of potential war crimes for future trials.
The app has been prominent in IBA efforts to assist Ukraine, with significant interest from the media and support from the bar associations in Ukraine, the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Supreme Court.
A Ukrainian language version was produced early in 2022, and by October, the app had logged more than 20,000 verifiable items of potential human rights violations, with evidence submitted to the UN Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine – a body set up with the input of the IBAHRI.
Mark Ellis made an official visit to Ukraine in September 2022 with the focus on expanding the IBA’s support. He participated in meetings with the Ukrainian National Bar Association Council, Ukraine’s Supreme Court President, Vsevolod Kniaziev, and Ukraine’s Prosecutor General, Andriy Kostin, discussing among other things cooperation on training and how to establish special tribunals.
The IBA entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Office of the Prosecutor General in October 2022, intended to ensure accountability for war crimes and other international crimes. Kostin welcomed ‘the specialised knowledge and wealth of experience the IBA can bring, particularly in the fields of international humanitarian and criminal law’.
Certain initiatives are focusing on the long-term. Through its Anti-Corruption Committee, the IBA has set up a task force to help Ukraine address and avoid the common pitfalls countries make during the reconstruction process following war or natural disasters. By leveraging the IBA’s vast network of international legal professionals, alongside Ukrainians, the IBA is laying the groundwork for this endeavour and will deliver training, consultation and capacity building in a number of areas.
Strengthening links with Ukrainian institutions
In addition to its MoU with the Office of the Prosecutor General, the IBA signed another MoU in late 2022 with Ukraine’s Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and the Coordination Centre for Legal Provision (CCLAP), setting out terms of support for free legal aid provision to ensure the effective representation of cases concerning war crimes.
Ellis stated that: ‘At the end of this conflict, the international community will undoubtedly assess Ukraine on its domestic trials, and whether they met international standards of fairness and impartiality. I am very pleased that the IBA is partnering with the MoJ and CCLAP in accomplishing this mission.’
A third MoU, being drafted at the time of writing with the Ministry of Defence and the All-Ukrainian Non-Governmental Organisation, aims for the improvement of the legislative framework and ensuring proper defence in cases concerning military crimes. The signatories for the IBA will be Arpón de Mendívil and Ellis.
Ukraine was of course a huge focus at the IBA Annual Conference 2022 in Miami, most prominently with President Volodymyr Zelensky addressing delegates at the Opening Ceremony via video message. The President highlighted the importance of the legal profession, saying that ‘lawyers will ensure that all those guilty of terror are brought to justice […] together we can prove that the law is effective and that the law works’.
Arpón de Mendívil underlines the Association’s crucial obligations: ‘In the end, the law will have the final word about this terrible conflict’, she states. ‘The IBA, representing its members, has a duty to ensure that legal principles are clear, visible and respected.’
Covering the issues
IBA committees and other groups are addressing specific issues of relevance to their fields of expertise, with the IBA Section on Energy, Environment, Natural Resources and Infrastructure Law contributing to a project on accountability for environmental crimes, and the Anti-Corruption Committee’s Asset Recovery Subcommittee investigating the recovery of assets frozen under sanctions – both collaborating with the Office of the Prosecutor General. Elsewhere, the War Crimes Committee has created a legal resources list showing efforts to document and collect evidence at a criminal law standard and ways for lawyers to contribute through pro bono efforts. The Committee's members have also actively participated in the IBA’s training programmes on accountability for war crimes being committed in Ukraine.
The IBA has produced a wealth of Global Insight articles covering issues including Ukraine at war, anti-corruption and autocracy, accountability for atrocities, food security and Ukraine’s potential accession to the EU; and podcasts addressing issues of refugees from Ukraine, international law, sanctions against Russia and holding Russia to account. See more details here.
The IBA has also held webinars by the Art, Cultural Institutions and Heritage Law Committee, Immigration and Nationality Law Committee, Professional Ethics Committee and Rule of Law Forum among others, and has published numerous committee articles exploring the crucial human element of the war, including interviews with Ukrainian lawyers and their experience of living and working through the war.
The IBA will continue its Ukraine-focused projects during 2023 – and for as long as is necessary. As Ellis says, ‘When Russia invaded Ukraine, I was determined that the IBA play a leading role in speaking out against Russia as well as assisting Ukraine during the conflict. We will continue to do both until the war has finished’.
Almudena Arpón de Mendívil Aldama becomes IBA President
Almudena Arpón de Mendívil Aldama, a partner at law firm Gómez-Acebo & Pombo in Madrid, has begun her tenure as IBA President for 2023–2024. Arpón de Mendívil is the first woman to hold the position in 20 years and only the second in the IBA’s 76-year history. She succeeds Sternford Moyo of Zimbabwe.
A corporate/M&A partner and Head of the TMT Group at her firm, Arpón de Mendívil was IBA Vice-President from 2021–2022 and has held several other senior positions within the IBA, including as a member of the management board since 2009.
Arpón de Mendívil intends to focus her presidency on five key themes: highlighting the impact of the legal profession in society; approaching gender equality in the legal sector with a frontal and transversal view; positioning the legal sector as a relevant player in the environmental, social and governance agenda; analysing and anticipating human rights protection in the digital environment; and preparing the legal profession – especially young lawyers – for the future. Overarching these themes will be the promotion of the rule of law.
Arpón de Mendívil has begun a regular blog through which she will provide updates on her work as President and about IBA projects more generally, with a particular focus on helping readers to better understand matters in which the IBA is involved and which may be of interest to them.
The IBA’s new Vice-Presidents are Jaime Carey, Managing Partner at Chilean law firm Carey, and Claudio Visco, Managing Partner at Italian law firm Macchi di Cellere Gangemi. The new IBA Secretary-General is Jörg Menzer, Managing Partner of the Bucharest office of pan-European law firm Noerr.
Read the full press release.
LPRU releases new podcast episode on gender equality in the legal profession
The IBA Legal Policy & Research Unit (LPRU) has released a new episode as part of their ‘Sustainable Law in Action’ series. The latest episode features a conversation with Georgia Dawson, the Senior Partner at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer – the first woman to be appointed to this position in a Magic Circle firm.
In the episode, Sara Carnegie, IBA Legal Projects Director, and Beatriz Martínez, project lawyer, talk to Dawson about the challenges that female lawyers face when it comes to both attaining and retaining senior positions in the legal sector. They also discuss the ways in which law firms can adequately achieve and foster a diverse and inclusive environment, including initiatives they can take and measures that can be put in place.
The episode is also part of the LPRU’s ongoing gender project, ‘50:50 by 2030’, which aims to analyse the global underrepresentation of female lawyers in senior roles. As part of this project, the LPRU has published three reports focusing on the jurisdictions of England and Wales, Uganda and Spain, with a forthcoming report on Nigeria.
To listen to the podcast, click here.
For more information about the LPRU’s gender project, visit the project page here.
In memoriam: Gill Shackleton
It is with great sadness that we announce the sudden and premature death of Gill Shackleton, formerly Pilkington, just before Christmas.Gill joined the IBA secretariat in 1981, initially as Director of the Section on General Practice and subsequently also of SERL.For 17 years she managed all aspects of the sections’ activities with flair, energy, minute attention to detail and highly developed organisational skills.
She was much loved by all the officers of the IBA, and will be remembered above all for her charm, her extraordinary sense of humour and her enthusiasm. Our condolences go to her family.
Varied IBA events calendar for 2023
The IBA will again hold dozens of events around the world this year covering a wide range of subjects, with more than ten already available to book. The IBA’s conferences and webinars provide a forum for the dissemination of specialist legal information and are a great way to network and discuss the latest updates and developments in your area of practice.
The first quarter of 2023 sees events in locations including Bogota, Madrid, London, New York, Singapore and Tokyo to name but a few. These will address such issues as the fundamentals of legal business practice, ESG, developments in the private client tax realm, construction projects and M&A in the tech sector.
Further into 2023, the IBA will be putting on conferences in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and North and South America, covering entrepreneurship and the law, competition law and sports law among others.
The flagship event in the calendar, the IBA Annual Conference, takes place this year in Paris from 29 October to 3 November and will bring together thousands of legal professionals for working sessions and social events. You can register your interest in attending to ensure you are contacted when registration opens later in the year.
The IBA webinar programme also continues with a session considering the relevance and role of human rights mechanisms in times of crisis in February, the role of law schools and clinical programmes in ending poverty in March, and a series by the Law Firm Management Committee focusing on business development and relationship management for law firms.
All webinars are free to attend for IBA members and many are free for non-members too.
SEERIL Law Studies Scholarships now open
Applications for the IBA Energy, Environment, Natural Resources and Infrastructure Law Section (SEERIL) Law Studies Scholarships for 2023 have now opened. The SEERIL Law Studies Scholarships award an amount of up to £18,000 – to be divided among successful applicants – to pursue post-graduate studies that may involve masters, PhD or postdoctoral research topics in the energy and natural resources field.
This scholarship is open to all students free of charge. Applications must be received before midnight British Summer Time on Sunday 2 April 2023 to be considered. The goal of the IBA Office will be to then communicate the Scholarship Committee’s decision to applicants by the end of June 2023.
The winners of the 2021 SEERIL Law Studies Scholarships were Luz María Ortiz Espinosa of the University of Texas at Austin, US; Monsuratu Kadiri of the University of Calgary, Canada; and Wafiq Davids of the University of Cape Town, South Africa.
To download the terms and conditions for the scholarships and to submit an application, please visit the SEERIL Law Studies Scholarships page on the IBA website.
Debevoise & Plimpton and the IBA are establishing a scholarship programme to support IBA interns. The scholarship will be awarded yearly, to a worthy intern from either the London or Hague office.
Further information to follow soon.
‘Who Am I?’ interview series – Patricia Kameri-Mbote
The IBA Section on Public and Professional Interest’s ‘Who Am I?’ interview series comprises candid conversations with some of the world’s leading legal professionals, influencers, change-makers and thought leaders. The series looks beyond the interviewee’s professional image, unveiling their personalities and exploring their life journeys. The series explores what it takes to stand out, to make a difference and to become an exemplary role model in the legal profession.
The latest interview is with Patricia Kameri-Mbote, Director of the Law Division at the United Nations Environment Programme and the former Dean of the University of Nairobi School of Law. She is famously known as the 'women of many firsts’. In this interview she discusses how she created the path for the goals she wanted to achieve, the struggles she faced, the lessons she learnt along the way and the ideologies that helped her get through it all. Watch the interview, and the previous interviews, here.
ESG: Regulators adopt focus on tackling greenwashing
Recent investigations by the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) highlight how regulators are taking action against ‘greenwashing’ – the making of false or misleading claims about the green or sustainable credentials of a product. Regulators across jurisdictions are increasingly focused on tackling this practice.
In September the ACM announced that sporting goods retail chain Decathlon and clothing retail chain H&M had ‘made commitments to [ACM] promising to adjust or no longer use sustainability claims on their clothes and/or websites’, as well as to inform consumers more clearly to minimise the risk of misleading practices. An ACM investigation led to the brands’ commitments and to their donations of €400,000 and €500,000 respectively to different sustainable causes ‘to compensate for their use of unclear and insufficiently substantiated sustainability claims’. Consequently, ACM won’t be imposing sanctions.
H&M acknowledges that ‘the information on sustainability on our website could have been provided more clearly and [been] more comprehensive. Changes are being made through which we commit to better informing our customers about the composition of our products and thus improving our sustainability communications.’ The company highlighted that the ACM’s concerns weren’t about providing false information.
Decathlon did not respond to Global Insight’s request for comment.
In October the ACM announced commitments from energy suppliers Vattenfall and Greenchoice ‘promising to adjust or no longer use sustainability claims on their websites’. The two organisations also committed to informing consumers more clearly to minimise the risk of misleading practices and made donations of €950,000 and €450,000 respectively to sustainable causes as compensation for ‘their use of unclear and insufficiently substantiated sustainability claims’. Because these commitments were also made following an ACM investigation, the regulator didn’t impose sanctions. Vattenfall and Greenchoice did not respond to Global Insight’s requests for comment.
Cecilia Parker Aranha, Director of Consumer Protection at the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), says a regulatory focus on greenwashing is ‘something that we see […] internationally’. She says the CMA is leading the International Consumer Protection Enforcement Network’s (ICPEN) work on greenwashing. The ICPEN represents consumer protection authorities from 70 countries. Its focus on greenwashing demonstrates the issue is ‘a real priority [with] lots of different regulators bringing out new guidance [and] taking enforcement action’.
The rules related to responsible disclosure of sustainability information are part of a great transition of our economy based on awareness of […] the impact of goods and services
Former Co-Chair, IBA Environment, Health and Safety Law Committee
Michael Showalter, a partner at ArentFox Schiff, says that US regulators have been more focused on greenwashing related to securities, compared to product-related greenwashing. He explains there’s ‘concerted regulatory focus from the US Securities and Exchange Commission and other financial regulators happening at least at a nascent level, while product-related greenwashing issues are not advancing at the same speed – at least federally’.
Gerbrich Kozijn, a senior enforcement official at the ACM, says the ACM ‘chose clothing and the energy sector because […] behavioural studies showed that consumers mostly paid attention to sustainability’ in those sectors. The ACM, she says, aims to create a level playing field, ‘so that businesses who are green can honestly claim their sustainability performance’. As Parker Aranha highlights, greenwashing is ‘bad for those businesses who are innovating’ as ‘there’s a risk of them being drowned out’.
Ouiam Zirar, also a senior enforcement official at the ACM, believes it’s important to acknowledge that ‘companies are the ones with the power of information, not consumers’. As consumers begin to demand more green or sustainable products, ‘companies need to be honest about their green claims or broader sustainability claims’, she says.
Tackling greenwashing also helps to build and maintain consumer trust in green products. Tonje Drevland is Head of Section, Supervisory Department, at the Norwegian Consumer Authority (NCA). She says that as consumer demand for more environmentally friendly products has grown, so too has ‘green’ marketing, and believes it’s hard for consumers to determine whether green claims are true. ‘If we do not work to prevent false green claims on behalf of the consumers,’ she says, ‘consumers may lose trust in green claims in general.’ This could undermine efforts to develop and sell legitimate green and sustainable products.
She highlights work the NCA has done on the use of the Higg Material Sustainability Index (MSI) in the clothing industry. Following an investigation into a Norwegian clothing company’s use of the data tool in its marketing, the NCA ‘concluded that the trader’s use of Higg MSI data in marketing was misleading, and therefore prohibited under the Norwegian Marketing Control Act’.
Restoring consumer trust is central to the UK Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) work on greenwashing. Mark Manning, a technical specialist in sustainable finance and stewardship at the FCA, says consumers want to invest in funds that have a sustainability aspect but ‘they don’t know which products to trust’. The FCA is proposing rules on greenwashing for companies that offer sustainable or green funds. These include a general anti-greenwashing rule covering all regulated companies to address misleading marketing. There would also be three categories of sustainable investment product labels and restrictions on how terms such as ‘sustainable’ or ‘green’ can be used for products that don’t qualify for these labels.
Manning says applications to the FCA’s funds authorisation gateway ‘that really were not of the quality we would expect’ prompted it to write to fund managers in 2021. Its proposed rules followed. The regulator’s work is also informed by research on how consumers understand information and make decisions.
The structure that regulation offers can also help businesses assess their exposure to greenwashing risk. Manning argues the FCA’s proposed rules could boost companies’ confidence in their labelling of sustainable products by giving them a framework through which they can evidence their claims.
Parker Aranha says the CMA has advised the UK government on how the country’s consumer protection regime could better support its net zero and sustainability goals – for example, by implementing statutory definitions of environmental terms that are commonly used in marketing and labelling, such as ‘carbon-neutral’ or ‘biodegradable’. She believes that ‘businesses would welcome some degree of standardisation’ as ‘it would be helpful to consumers and […] regulators to have that kind of firm standard to hold people to’.
Some regulators have published guidance for companies on making green claims. For example, the ACM’s sustainability claims guidelines outline five rules of thumb for businesses. The CMA has also produced a green claims code. Lina Pimentel, former Co-Chair of the IBA Environment, Health and Safety Law Committee and a partner at Mattos Filho in Brazil, argues that ‘the rules related to responsible disclosure of sustainability information are part of a great transition of our economy based on awareness of […] the impact of goods and services.’
Parker Aranha stresses that any evidence used to back up green claims should be robust and up to date. Businesses should also engage with their audience. ‘Test what you’re saying,’ she says, ‘because very often consumers will draw different conclusions from what you’re saying than you might expect.’
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