Russell Cohen - Spear's Magazine

Russell Cohen

Farrer & Co

Russell Cohen
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Even clients with access to private jets are still reluctant to travel, reports affable Farrer partner Russell Cohen. ‘They’re sitting at home, talking to their loved ones, their family offices – and they’re getting on with things.’

That means meetings which might have previously been scheduled four weeks in advance in, say, Zurich, can take place immediately. ‘Now,’ says Cohen, ‘it’s a case of “Let’s have a call tonight”.’

Increasingly, he says, ‘Clients understand that life’s not about avoiding tax.’ That’s just as well, since the UK government faces a challenge if it’s to balance the public finances. ‘I don’t think they’ll do that with austerity,’ says Cohen. ‘I think they’ll do it with taxes – and I don’t think there’ll be anyone lining up to defend the wealthy from these taxes.

‘I also think there will be a renewed appetite for transparency. I don’t think the post-pandemic world will have much sympathy for someone who says “I want privacy”, because of the clear value of the importance of raising tax.’

One of his clients has a trust in a jurisdiction which requires personal information to be stored on a register, which isn’t disclosable unless it’s in the public interest. ‘This is the kind of example where someone’s idea of what is in the public interest now might be different from a few years ago,’ says Cohen. ‘Someone described it to me as an “evolution of stigma”. Overnight there’s been a groundswell of opinion.’