Brazil’s Mattos Filho Eyes Growth in Age of COVID-19

More than a decade ago, one of Brazil’s leading law firms sought advice from Am Law 100 firms on how to establish a more collegial internal environment.

The eat-what-you-kill compensation system that had helped Mattos Filho, Veiga Filho, Marrey Jr. e Quiroga Advogados grow into a top-flight firm for tax, corporate and capital markets had spurred infighting and created silos. Those divisions made it difficult to recruit and promote partners to expand in a fiercely competitive market that’s highly coveted by global firms.

After conversations with leaders at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton; Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom; and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett in New York—and at Spanish firms like Uría Menéndez and Garrigues—Mattos Filho opted for a modified lockstep system that has allowed the firm to more than triple its partner count, to 108 from 30, and quadruple revenue.

“Today the firm is more important than any one of us,” said founding partner Roberto Quiroga, who is 58.

Mattos Filho has 650 lawyers spread across five offices in Brazil, as well as offices in New York and London, making it one of Latin America’s biggest firms by head count. Ten years ago the firm had just over 300 lawyers.

The full-service firm ranked second in Latin America by number of mergers and acquisitions deals worked and fourth by value during the first half of 2020, with 16 deals announced worth $1.7 billion, according to data from Mergermarket.

The mere size of Brazil helps firms there consistently rank at the top of Latin American league tables. Brazil is Latin America’s largest economy, with a population of 210 million people and geographic span nearly as big as the continental U.S.

COVID-19 brings work

Brazilian capital markets activity has come roaring back after an initial drought caused by precautions over COVID-19, as record low-interest rates prompt domestic investors to seek alternatives to paltry fixed-income returns.

The first wave of transactions consisted of follow-on offerings for companies seeking rescue capital during quarantine. The success of those sales inspired others to resuscitate plans for initial public offerings. At the same time, a weak local currency has renewed interest in acquisitions in the country.

Domestic firms like Mattos Filho are in a prime position to benefit from the boom: Bar rules in Brazil prevent global firms from providing local law services in the country, and also frown on formal tie-ups between Brazilian and international firms.

Roberto QuirogaRoberto Quiroga

Quiroga said his firm is on track to handle around 80 M&A transactions this year—which is typical—while working on 40 initial public offerings.

After an initial freeze on hirings in March, Mattos Filho recently added positions in capital markets, M&A and litigation to manage the increase in business. The firm hasn’t cut pay or laid off employees during the emergency, though it did tap into a government program to cover part of its payroll for furloughed support positions such as waiters and receptionists.

The Mattos Filho team continues to work from home as COVID-19 claims evermore lives in the country. A top consideration for an eventual return to offices will be schools; a majority of the firm’s lawyers are women and many of those women have school-age children.

Like many service providers around the world, Mattos Filho has noticed an increase in productivity while staff work from home—leading to reflections about the longer-term needs for office infrastructure. But the firm pushed forward in July with the opening of a regional office in the city of Campinas on the belief that face-to-face work will dominate in the long run.

“We need a strong firm to compete if one day the market opens,” said Quiroga.

Other priorities going forward, Quiroga said, include building out Mattos Filho’s environmental and tax practices, with parallel efforts to recruit more Black lawyers. Though Black people account for more than half the population in Brazil, they are severely underrepresented both in law schools and in the legal profession.

Everything You Should Know About Civil Litigation Lawsuits

Civil litigation lawsuits can be highly confusing if you’re not an attorney. The legal jargon is enough to make your head spin sometimes. However, if you’re on either end of a civil action, then you need to know what the process is going to be, and how the suit is likely to move forward.

Civil litigation lawsuits happen every day. Whether you’re the one bringing the action or defending yourself, you’re certainly going to want a good lawyer by your side who can fight for your best interest.

With that in mind, let’s go through how the process works.

What Exactly is a Civil Litigation Lawsuit?

A civil lawsuit:

  • Is when one person tries to hold another individual accountable for a wrongful action
  • Often ends with monetary compensation if the court agrees with the plaintiff

The real difference between a civil action and a criminal one is that criminal cases seek to punish the guilty. With civil actions, the wronged party wants to get compensation. The process starts with the wronged party bringing a complaint against the one who they perceive is at fault.

The standard for a guilty verdict is lower in civil lawsuits.

Talking to Your Lawyer

Unless you’re well-versed in the law and want to represent yourself, you should almost always consult with a lawyer before proceeding any further, because they can tell you if you have a case or not. You might feel like someone did you wrong, but that does not necessarily mean that a court will feel the same way.

What your lawyer is trying to get from your description of the events is whether or not there’s precedent. If they feel like there are prior legal examples of people getting financial compensation for something like what happened to you, they’re going to take the case and encourage you to move ahead with it.

Pleadings

Pleadings will be next. This is where:

  • You will file paperwork in court laying out what the individual did to you
  • They will file responding paperwork, called an answer

You and your attorney must then figure out what court you can use that’s appropriate for your case. You need to have what’s called personal jurisdiction with the court you choose.

This means that you must have a proper relationship with the county, state, or federal jurisdiction where you intend the trial to take place.

The Discovery Process

The discovery process will be next. This is where you obtain information of various kinds that strengthens your case. You have to provide the material you’re going to use against them to the defendant’s legal counsel.

This way, they know what’s coming. You’re not allowed to hide evidence against the individual who wronged you or their legal counsel. This way, there should be a level playing field, at least in theory.

Discovery evidence might include witness testimony transcripts or recordings, various documents, physical evidence, etc.

The Trial

You only proceed with the trial in a civil case if you cannot settle out of court. Settling out of court happens fairly often. If the individual or business entity against which you’re bringing the action sees that you have a solid case against them, their attorney might feel that it’s in their best interest to offer a cash settlement.

Whether you want to take it will be up to you, and your lawyer can help you in this area. If you refuse the settlement offer and go to trial, then you might lose and get nothing. However, if you feel like the sum they’re offering you as recompense does not equal the wrong they did to you, you have every right to go to trial.

The trial will proceed, with both sides trying to prove their case. If you do come out on the winning end, then you’re probably feeling pretty good about yourself, but there is one more step before you can collect your money.

The Appeals Process

At this point, the opposing counsel can file appeals in the form of various motions they present to an appellate court. The appellate court will look for errors that took place during the trial. If there are irregularities, they might overturn the verdict or reduce the amount that the guilty party has to pay.

If you’re able to collect a judgment from a civil case, then perhaps you’ll feel better about what happened. This is a way of getting justice and trying to balance the scales when someone has done wrong.

ARTICLE BY:

Susan Melony
susan.melony@gmail.com

UK-Listed Law Firm Launches in Middle East

U.K.-listed law firm Keystone Law has obtained approval to establish a new office in Abu Dhabi, UAE, the firm has announced.

The ADGM, the UAE capital’s international financial centre, has granted approval to the firm to establish its new office. It would be the AIM-listed firm’s first foray into the region.

The firm said in a statement that a second office in the Emirate of Dubai is “likely to follow due to strong interest from lawyers in the region who are looking to join the firm.”

Waseem Khokhar, former regional managing partner for PwC Legal Middle East, and DWF Middle East, will head up the office. Previously also a partner with DLA Piper in London, he has over 25 years’ post-qualification experience and is also a registered legal consultant with the Government of Dubai Legal Affairs Department.

“The Middle East has a vibrant and diverse legal market, which is now prime for Keystone’s unique model offering independence and flexibility to experienced lawyers,” said Khokhar. “We are currently in advanced discussions to recruit a number of excellent international lawyers to the firm.”

Law firms are joining the throng to set up business at the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM), which has stolen a march on regional financial technology (FinTech) hub rivals to lead the field in the Gulf Cooperation Council, and has vowed to launch virtual asset exchanges before the end of the year.

Founded in 2002 by current CEO, James Knight, AIM-listed Keystone Law claims its ‘plug and play’ platform model disrupts “traditional law firms operating within the legal services mid-market, [permitting] rapid scalability, enabling the Group to increase the number of revenue-generating lawyers more quickly than the traditional model.”

Keystone saw revenues rise 16% in the year ended January 31, after reporting first-half revenues up 15%. It decided to cancel dividend payouts in March due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A full-service commercial law firm with a head office in London and around 350 lawyers in the UK, Keystone has an annual turnover of over £43 million, and is the U.K.’s 77th largest firm, it said in a statement.

Keystone launched operations in Australia in the name of Keypoint Law in 2013, which now has 51 lawyers with offices in Melbourne and Sydney.

Over 90 financial services providers, many with a fintech focus, are now licensed by ADGM’s oversight body, the Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA). The FSRA launched its framework to regulate spot crypto-asset activities, such as exchanges, custodians, and other intermediaries, in June 2018.

New Article 82-1 of the French Code de procédure civile

Article 82-1 of the French Code de procédure civil and challenge of the competence of the new judicial tribunal (tribunal judiciaire)

Decree n°2019-1333 dated 11 December 2019 (Article 2) has this year introduced a new Article 82-1 in the French Code de procédure civile, which is said to simplify incompetence exceptions (heading of the Section 2 of the said decree : the simplification of incompetence exceptions).

This new Article 82-1 came into force on 1 January 2020 and establishes a new derogatory scheme creating a possibility to challenge the competence of the judicial tribunal. The judicial tribunal was recently created with the merger of the TGI (Tribunal de Grande Instance) and the TI (Tribunal d’Instance), such jurisdictions dealing with civil matters. Due to the coronavirus Covid-19 sanitary crisis, legal practitioners did not really have the time to test this new regime.

As a general rule (Article 74 of the French Code de procédure civile), an incompetence exception has to be raised in limine litis, that is to say, at the first hearing, before any discussions on the ground of the case, and by way of principle, before the same judge ruling on the case. On the contrary, and by way of derogation, the new scheme sets up a possibility to raise an incompetence exception, before the first hearing, either the parties or the judge raising it. If trigged, the parties or their lawyers are informed right away by any means giving fixed date (date certaine). In this perspective, the file is transmitted to the registry (greffe) of the judicial tribunal, which in turn, transfers the case to a designated judge. The competence of this newly appointed judge may also be challenged, by him or the parties, during a period of 3 months, by the transfer of the case to the President of the judicial tribunal. According to the new regulation, the President of the judicial tribunal has to transfer the case to a new appointed judge, and such a decision cannot be challenged. However, the competence of this new appointed juge may be challenged before this new judge by the parties, and the decision ruling on the competence may be appealled within a period of 15 days, as of the date of the notification of the decision.

The President of the judicial tribunal appears to be the keystone of the scheme, which is in line with the role usually attributed to him, as already in charge for example of summary proceedings (e.g. référé). The fixed date (date certaine) and the 3 months timeframe appear to be crucial, and purport to avoid endless discussions on the competence.

However, and surprisingly, this new scheme creates a very sophisiticated legal architecture, not to mention the potential right to call the case before the French Cour de cassation (Supreme Court). In such a context, these new rules may unfortunately be used to artificially challenge a procedure and lenghten it. An author has recently described this mecanism as a potential Trojan Horse, allowing dilatory procedures (Katia Bennadji, Dalloz actualité, 22 July 2020, « L’article 82-1 du Code de procédure civile : cheval de Troie au service de manœuvres dilatoires »). This remains true to a certain extent, as this new Article 82-1 has been introduced in a context where, on the contrary, a lot of other procedural rules are aimed at streamlining the procedure e.g. concentration of the legal means (concentration des moyens), estoppel or prohibition of dilatory procedures.

In a constant movement, the French Cour de cassation draws the outlines of the concentration of the legal means principle. The French Cour de cassation (C. cass. civ. 2, 11 April 2019, n°17-31785), recently stated that the plaintiff, before any rulling on the case, has to expose all the legal means considered as the ground for the claim. This means that, in a same instance, an overruled legal claim cannot be raised again in connection with another ground based on the same object, as the one on which the tribunal has already definitly stated. According to this case law, the rule of the concentration of the legal means, uses the same underpined concept as the fin de non-recevoir (i.e. res judicata pro veritate habetur), but is not an exception procedure as rather deals with the ground of the case. It remains to be seen however how this case law and all the case law hereof, will be used by legal practioners to limit the import of this new Article 82-1. In this perspective, it is reasonnable to think that they may wish to use the concentration of the legal means principle, also in connection with procedure exceptions, such as incompetence.

In addition, the estoppel theorie, albeit originally English law concept, is now part of the French legal system. In a considerably important decison, the French Cour de cassation, recognised and introduced into French law, this anglo-saxon concept (C. cass. Ass. Plen., 27 February 2009 (n°07-19.841)) and considers it as a fin de non-recevoir (i.e. a legal mean aiming at having declared the claim of the other party as not recevable). In this respect, the French Cour de cassation has stated that actions of the same nature based on the same conventions, opposing the same parties may give rise to a sanction, provided that a party kept contradicting itself, at the expenses of others. More specifically, the French Cour de cassation, Civ. 2, dated 15 March 2018 (n°17-21.991) reitereted this position, ruling that « (…) the principle according to which no one may contradict itself at the expenses of others, sanctions the procedural attitude consisting, for a party, during a same instance, to adopt contrary or incompatible positions leading the adversary in error as to its intentions ». Thus, it is reasonnable to think that legal practioners will use, inter alia, the estoppel theory to limit the possibility to use incompetence exceptions. In addition, even if the contradiction may occur in the same instance, it cannot be excluded that a judge may wish to streamline the procedure and prevent a party from utilising incompetence exceptions several times, in a same context.

A judge would also have the possibility to use article 32-1 of the French Code de procédure civile, which states that a person acting in justice in a dilatory manner may be convicted to a civil fine up to 3.000 euros, without prejudice of dammages that would be claimed. In that event, the amount related to the civil fine is paid to the French Trésor Public.

To remain in the real trend of the procedure regulation, i.e. constant equilibrium between defense rights and efficiency of the legal system, judges and legal practioners are in the position to put forward a strict construction of Article 82-1 of the French Code de procédure civile. Constructions rules are clear in this respect : exceptions or derogations have to be interpreted strictly, and the scheme created is created by way of exception. This means that each time a lawyer would invoke a competence exception on the basis of this new Article 82-1, the judge would have to conduct a teleological construction, in the view of maintining a sufficient level of efficiency of the procedure, especially in a context where (i) ECHR (European Convention of Human Rights) already imposes an effective recourse in every steps of the procedure and (ii) numerous litigations deal with international matters, allowing the parties to raise incompetence exceptions, also on the ground of judicial international private law.

Up to date as of 22 July 2020.

 

HONG KONG HK

A pathway to citizenship for millions in Hong Kong

The prime minister, Boris Johnson, has announced the move in response to new national security legislation imposed on the territory by China. Speaking during PMQs today, Boris said the legislation “constitutes a clear and serious breach of the Sino-British joint declaration”.

It had been made clear by the UK Government that if China continued down this path the UK would introduce a new route for those with British national overseas status to enter the UK granting them limited leave to remain with the ability to live and work in the UK and thereafter to apply for citizenship.

The UK handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997. Anyone born in the territory before then is eligible for a British National (Overseas) passport – or BNO.The “bespoke” new arrangement is to be implemented in the coming months and would grant BNOs five years’ limited leave to remain in the UK.

They would then be eligible to apply for settled status and would be able to apply for citizenship after 12 months with that status.There would be no quotas on numbers. As of February, there were nearly 350,000 BNO passport holders, while the Government estimates there are around 2.9 million BNOs living in Hong Kong.

If you are unsure of the most preferable option for you and your individual circumstances contact Bermeet.chhokar@herrington-carmichael.com to arrange an informal chat.

This reflects the law at the date of publication and is written as a general guide. It does not contain definitive legal advice, which should be sought as appropriate in relation to a particular matter. 

HONG KONG HK

K&L Gates Expands Hong Kong Office With Former Orrick Team

K&L Gates has recruited a team of three partners specializing in an integrated funds and private equity practice.

Sook Young Yeu, Scott Peterman and William Ho all join from Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, which has decided to close its Hong Kong office. Yeu and Peterman, both funds specialists, were partners with Orrick while Ho, who advises on private equity transactions, was of counsel with the firm. The trio are joined by two associates at K&L Gates.

Yeu, who led Orrick’s Hong Kong office since joining in 2005 through Orrick’s takeover of legacy Coudert Brothers’ China offices where she had been practicing since 1989. She’s advised Asian investors on investing U.S. and other cross-border funds and on private equity investment.

Peterman has an active fund formation practice advising the structuring of various private, investment and real estate funds. Last year, he advised Hong Kong-based fund manager Pacific Hawk Ltd. on launching the first open-ended fund in the city following legislative change. He joined Orrick in 2017 from Jones Day where he was of counsel. Before that, he was a partner with Sidley Austin.

Ho focuses his practice on advising private equity houses and companies on fund raising transactions, investments and mergers and acquisitions. In May, he advised Taiwan-based live streaming site operator M17 Entertainment Ltd. on a $26.5 million Series D from investors including Singapore-based venture capital fund Vertex Growth Fund. Ho joined Orrick in 2018 from Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison where he was an associate for three years. Earlier in his career, he trained and practiced with Slaughter and May.

The trio bring in-depth industry experience in the technology, media, telecommunications, and fintech sectors, said David Tang, K&L Gates’ Hong Kong-based Asia managing partner, in a statement. “The additions of Sook, Scott, and Will significantly broaden and deepen our funds and private equity practices in Asia,” he said.

Last year, K&L Gates added in Hong Kong capital markets partner Guiping Lu from elite Chinese firm Haiwen & Partners.

Simpson Thacher Adds To London M&A With Gibson Dunn Partner

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett has made a rare lateral partner hire in London, bringing in private equity partner James Howe from U.S. rival Gibson Dunn.

Howe is set to join Simpson Thacher after four years at Gibson Dunn, which he joined in 2016 from Proskauer Rose.

He is the latest addition for the usually lateral-averse Simpson Thacher in London, though the firm brought on board Linklaters’ former global tax head Yash Rupal as a partner in February.

The firm’s last heavyweight hire prior to that was in 2018, when the firm hired Clifford Chance M&A infrastructure partner Amy Mahon to its ranks following a trend of recruiting from the Magic Circle firm, where the firm’s London managing partner Jason Glover joined from in 2010.

Glover said in a statement: “Given his experience advising many of the most sophisticated private equity sponsors on a wide range of high-profile transactions, James is a perfect fit for the firm.

“His dealmaking prowess further bolsters our existing top-notch global private equity mergers and acquisitions capabilities, adding further depth to our extraordinarily talented bench of lawyers in London.”

Gibson Dunn has seen several exits from its London office in recent months, including leveraged finance partner Amy Kennedy who joined Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld in March, and corporate partner Jonathan Earle, who left the firm at the beginning of 2020.

 

Bird & Bird to Close Berlin Workspace Due to COVID-19 Impact

Bird & Bird is closing its Berlin base due to the impact of COVID-19, a spokesperson confirmed on Tuesday.

The space, leased from a co-working provider, MindSpace, is located in Berlin’s Friedrichstrasse, near to the Brandenburg Gate.

Since the office was slated to house lawyers with business in Berlin temporarily, there are no job cuts associated with the closing of the space, according to the spokesperson.

The firm opened the base just over a year ago. It said at the time it would be used for client meetings and as a venue for conferences and events.

Bird & Bird has permanent German offices in Düsseldorf, Munich, Frankfurt and Hamburg.

Goldman Sachs to pay $3.9B settlement in Malaysia 1MDB corruption case

The Malaysian government announced Friday that Goldman Sachs has agreed to a total settlement of USD $3.9 billion in the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) corruption scandal. In return, the government will dissolve all the criminal charges and proceedings against the firm. The agreement includes a $2.5 billion cash payout by the investment bank and a guarantee to return at least $1.4 billion in proceeds from assets seized by authorities all over the world in relation to this scandal.

Goldman had raised $6.5 billion for 1MDB by arranging three bond sales in 2012 and 2013. Malaysian government officials, including former prime minister Najib Razak, had allegedly siphoned money from the state investment fund. Consequently, the Attorney General of Malaysia instituted criminal proceedings against the Goldman Sachs subsidiaries in December 2018.

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) had finalized a settlement agreement with Malaysian authorities in October 2019. The DOJ had recovered $700 million from Low Taek Jho, who was the mastermind behind the scheme. Combining all the agreements, the Malaysian government will now receive over $4.5 billion. Minister of Finance Tengku Dato’ Sri Zafrul Aziz said, “This settlement represents assets that rightfully belong to the Malaysian people. We are confident that we are securing more money from Goldman Sachs compared to previous attempts, which were far below expectations.”

2020 Global Awards are LIVE

We have presented these prestigious Leaders in Law – 2020 Global Awards to our selected winners in recognition of both their excellent service & expertise in their field.

We have undertaken detailed research using our independent team to enable us to create a shortlist of up to 5 potential winners in each category. The shortlisted parties have been carefully scrutinized. We focus on service range, service type, geographical location, geographical location, how the business operates and the expertise each expert or firm can offer to companies that either trade or may want to trade in their chosen jurisdiction.

An independent awards panel in each country then reviews the shortlisted experts/firms and then chooses the eventual winner in each category.

To view the Leaders in Law 2020 Global Awards and Winners, please view the “Leaders in Law 2020 Global Awards” publication on the AWARDS page.