Published April 2020
Through this uncertainty, our commitment is to provide law firms with the information and insight they need to navigate the current market. As such, we are reporting on how covid-19 affects our audience, including what it means for specific practice areas, as well as the impact on law firms themselves. All these articles can be found here and are free to view.
The covid-19 pandemic is throwing up a harsh reality for employers, which are having to consider an increasingly drastic set of options to handle the changes the crisis might make to their businesses and workforces. Closures and mass layoffs are looming large for many companies, but lawyers are advising businesses to consider these options with caution.
Covid-19 landed in Latin America on 26 February, bringing with it an onslaught of labour and employment issues for the region’s companies and workers. Latin America’s top labour lawyers are now advising their clients on how to handle their workforces in the wake of the crisis, as the evolving outbreak presents unique employment issues for businesses.
The coronavirus pandemic and the imposition of travel bans and other related measures has shown us that immigration plays a key role in supporting national security priorities. Leonor Echeverría, a partner in the Costa Rica office of US immigration firm Fragomen, details the impact of covid-19 on immigration in Latin America and considers what path countries should follow from now on.
Covid-19 has left companies in hot water, with many falling behind on credit payments and commercial obligations. Law firms are busy keeping their clients’ businesses in the clear and trying to help them mitigate the financial problems covid-19 might cause.
After the outbreak of covid-19, Argentina’s decision to delay presenting bondholders with an offer to restructure billions of its international debt did not come as a surprise to many. But local lawyers think the country must urgently take the bull by the horns if it wants to maintain access to international capital markets.
Following examples from around the world, Brazil has moved to temporarily amend its bankruptcy law to help the economy through covid-19 – but ambitions to get longer-term amendments through at the same time look likely to be dashed.
Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP partners Dennis Hranitzky and Susheel Kirpalani consider the impact of the current public health crisis on sovereign debt workouts in Latin America. By Jordan Fermanis
Ecuador is one of covid-19’s worst-hit countries in Latin America. Before the pandemic, it was already expecting a difficult 2020, but the coronavirus has further worsened that forecast and a foreign debt crisis is now looming large.
The covid-19 pandemic has paralysed the world economy. Companies are in survival mode, but also need to make plans for the day after. Marval O'Farrell Mairal partner Ricardo Beller recalls the different paths companies followed to overcome Argentina’s prior crises and considers their value today.
During what is usually high season for the industry, Latin Lawyer speaks to external counsel advising companies in Latin America’s tourism and hospitality sector, which has been hit hard by the covid-19 pandemic.
In the decade ahead of the 2017 Centre for Aviation (CAPA) summit in Colombia, Latin American airlines had tripled their flight seats on offer and the region was comfortably the world’s fastest growing for online reservations. At the summit, experts expressed optimism for the region’s aviation sector – but three years and a pandemic later, global airline revenues are forecast to lose a whopping US$315 billion.
The covid-19 crisis has led to a dramatic downturn in global mobility. LACCA asked member firms of Ius Laboris, the world’s largest HR and employment law firm alliance, to provide guidance on the pandemic’s impact on travel, global mobility and immigration for businesses in Brazil and Argentina.
This year has turned out significantly different than expected. The spread of covid-19 has triggered what may be the worst public health and financial crisis in modern history. Many industries are suffering severe consequences, but among the worst hit is the aviation sector. Machado Meyer Advogados partners Fabio Falkenburger and Marina Estrella, and lawyer Vitor Barbosa discuss the uncertain market scenario for airport concessionaires in Brazil and find that broader measures are needed to save the industry.
Brazil’s federal senate has passed an emergency coronavirus bill that includes a provision to delay the country’s data protection law until January 2021.
Latin Lawyer speaks to Carlos Miguel Rivas, a lawyer and tech start-up co-founder whose new app is helping to track and contain the covid-19 epidemic in El Salvador.
Technologies that foster remote working are having a moment. The covid-19 pandemic means most of us are working from home, with lawyers relying on online communication platforms to contact colleagues and clients. Within this era of remote working, tech threats loom larger than ever. Law firms must ensure their lawyers, clients and data are protected.
With Brazil’s Federal Supreme Court set to decide the lawfulness of a government order for telecoms companies to provide information on up to 226 million residents, the country’s attorney general has issued an opinion arguing that the government’s scheme is constitutional given the circumstances presented by the covid-19 pandemic.
Peruvian officials have warned that a proposed emergency measure suspending the collection of toll fees on the country’s road network in response to the outbreak of covid-19 could result in multiple International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) claims.
Covid-19 is creating challenges and uncertainty for international arbitration practitioners across Latin America, but it is also generating opportunities, says Aníbal Sabater, a partner at Chaffetz Lindsey LLP.
Appeals court judge Maria Teresa Gazineu was about to close another hearing session with her colleagues at Rio de Janeiro’s state court – Brazil’s second-biggest – when she spoke to Latin Lawyer about the full adoption of electronic systems allowing the hearings to be held completely online.
Sergio Bermudes Advogados has helped Brazil’s association of private health service providers CNSaúde issue a request asking the Supreme Court to provide clear interpretation to Brazil’s quarantine law.
Peruvian lawyers hope prosecutors will be able to conduct investigations more efficiently after being forced to work remotely amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Brazil’s Felsberg Advogados has helped local medical sterilisation company Bioxxi obtain a court order authorising companies like itself to safely sterilise personal protective equipment (PPE) over the course of the covid-19 pandemic for reuse by medical professionals.
A tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration has refused to extend a deadline for Bolivia to submit its statement of defence in an investment treaty claim, after the state argued that the coronavirus pandemic had made work on the submission “virtually impossible.”
A road concessionaire has reportedly threatened to bring a claim against Peru over a law suspending the collection of tolls in response to the coronavirus outbreak, which if filed would be the first known arbitration brought against a state over its handling of the pandemic.
A report by the Vance Center’s Lawyers Council for Civil and Economic Rights reveals investigations into and allegations of corruption in public procurement linked to government action to fight the coronavirus in the Americas has surged in several countries – and further relaxation of procurement controls may only increase corruption even more.
The rise in demand for dispute resolution in Latin America has spurred the creation of a handful local arbitration funders in recent years. Covid-19 opens the door to new opportunities – and challenges – for this breed of investor. Detlef Huber, managing director at Carpentum Capital, a Swiss litigation fund specialised in Latin America, explains why.
It’s information overload for legal teams at the moment, who are being inundated with guidance from external counsel on how to handle operations amid the covid-19 crisis. As governments race to push through fresh legislation each day, Latin Lawyer finds out how law firms are communicating with clients during this unprecedented time, and what in-house counsel say is and isn’t appealing.
With economies at a standstill, companies fighting for survival and vulnerable local communities in need of pro bono counsel, the work of law firms has taken a drastic turn in recent weeks. Latin Lawyer speaks to law firm partners to learn about what measures they have taken to manage the crisis in the two months since the first covid-19 case was detected in the region.
Even after the spread of covid-19 has peaked, it is likely the world will be a very different place to what it once was. In the legal industry, the pandemic has led to changes in how law firms serve their clients that may well endure beyond the crisis. Some of these changes were in the air before covid-19, but now they seem more necessary than ever, finds Jaime Fernández Madero of Fernández Madero Consulting.
A survey conducted by Latin Lawyer’s sister publication LACCA reveals the majority of Latin American general counsel (GC) polled are most concerned about the threat of economic instability and civil unrest to come as a result of the covid-19 pandemic. By working with clients to make certain changes to business and legal strategy, lawyers can muster up the resilience that has historically characterised the region.
Law firms are a much-needed lifeboat many companies depend on even when a global crisis is not ensuing. A recent poll by LACCA, Latin Lawyer’s sister publication, highlights what companies are looking for when choosing their external counsel in a pandemic. The results indicate GCs are weighing up proactivity, different perspectives and whether a firm can read the room before they decide who to hire.
A charitable organisation co-founded by a partner and an analyst of Kirkland & Ellis LLP has launched a new initiative to deliver necessary supplies to families affected by the covid-19 crisis in Honduras.
Nicaraguan human rights activist Bianca Jagger has urged the international community to impose sanctions on the Nicaraguan government to condemn its weak response to covid-19, while the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) has similarly urged Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega to rethink his approach to the pandemic in an open letter to the government.
It’s painfully simple. With most places around the world ground to a halt amid the covid-19 crisis, the global demand for the world’s most popular energy source – oil – has plummeted. Brazil is no exception. This is far from ideal for state-owned Petrobras, but it’s also concerning for small and medium-sized businesses in the oil sector having to adapt to this new paradigm.
Less than six months ago, Argentina’s world-class shale play, Vaca Muerta, was booming. Since then covid-19 has hit Argentina, oil prices have nosedived, and lockdown measures have made companies close wells and stop new drillings. In preparation for the day after coronavirus, Martínez de Hoz & Rueda partner José Martínez de Hoz considers what Argentina should do to put Vaca Muerta and Argentina back on track.
Mexican state-owned oil giant Pemex dominates its nation’s oil industry, but it’s also the world’s most indebted company. The global oil crisis, in part triggered by the covid-19 pandemic, spells disaster for the government’s controversial plans for the industry, but more private sector involvement could be the silver lining to come.
Bolivia’s oil and gas market has suffered from structural flaws for years, but covid-19 is exacerbating the challenges facing the industry. Indacochea & Asociados energy partners Ricardo Indacochea and Mariana Pereira consider what the global pandemic means for Bolivia’s hydrocarbons sector.
Covid-19 and the oil market crisis present an opportunity for Ecuador to sink or swim. It can either adapt to the new world scenario and reinvent its legal framework to entice foreign investors to its oil industry, or remain paralysed. Pérez Bustamante & Ponce partner Jaime Zaldumbide and associate Patricio Albuja consider how the country can update its out-of-date energy regulations for the future.
Local lawyers have questioned Guatemala’s divisive new electricity law, which impedes power distribution companies from suspending their services to customers unable to pay their bills because of the covid-19 pandemic, arguing it threatens the functionality of the country’s power sector.
Mattos Filho, Veiga Filho, Marrey Jr e Quiroga Advogados has helped Brazil’s Chamber of Electric Energy Commercialisation (CCEE) obtain 15 billion Brazilian reais (US$3 billion) in financing from a syndicate of banks to launch a financial support scheme for Brazil’s electricity sector amid the covid-19 crisis.
Long and unproductive draft sessions, unnecessary paperwork and bureaucracy, time wasted on long-haul flights and everyday commutes in big cities. It is too early to say if covid-19 will put an end to all of that, but a few deals which recently closed in Brazil indicate that the pandemic could revolutionise the way corporate lawyers work.
Antitrust enforcers across Latin America continue to ensure that competition remains in markets, despite economic and social regulations to stop the spread of covid-19 putting a third of the world’s population under lockdown.
The covid-19 crisis is unprecedented, spreading across the globe with unforeseeable consequences for people’s lives and the global economy. As markets across the world adapt to operate under strain, Luís Bulcão Pinheiro talks to M&A partners to find out how deal-making is faring in the era of covid-19.
Ecuador’s antitrust authority has adopted a fast-track merger notification procedure in response to the coronavirus pandemic that has devastated the country’s economy.
The covid-19 pandemic generates complex challenges in almost every area of law. This is because of the deep economic crisis it will produce – some speak of a recession similar to the Great Depression of the 1930s – and the alteration of the conditions in which businesses operate. Juan Tagle, an M&A partner at Chile’s Prieto Abogados, considers the impact on M&A deals in various stages of completion.
Brazil’s antitrust enforcer has allowed a group of global food and beverage manufacturers including Coca-Cola, Nestlé and PepsiCo to pool their efforts as a response to the covid-19 pandemic.
Brazilian ventilator producer Magnamed has hired BMA - Barbosa, Müssnich, Aragão to sign a contract with the government to provide 6,500 ventilators to help prevent the health public system from collapsing amid the ongoing surge in the number of patients depending on the equipment.
Covid-19 has put the world on hold; most experts say the prospect of lifting lockdown measures relies heavily on finding an effective vaccine to stop the virus spreading. Several governments look set to introduce controversial compulsory licensing laws for any breakthrough vaccine to become publicly available, but lawyers in Latin America have voiced concerns about how this will impact IP rights in the region.
Chile is the only country in the world pressing ahead with plans to issue carnets de alta – release cards – for individuals who have recovered after contracting coronavirus. The logic behind the cards is to enable staff who have had covid-19 to return to work quickly to help restart the economy. But law firms and clients must tread carefully, with the legal implications surrounding the use of the cards leaving lawyers divided over their effectiveness.
Latin Lawyer Elite firm Bruchou, Fernández Madero & Lombardi has helped the Argentine Ministry of Health implement a project to raise funds and strengthen local hospitals by providing equipment to fight the covid-19 pandemic.
Marval O'Farrell Mairal in Buenos Aires has helped US pharmaceutical group Pfizer enter the third stage of trials, along with German co-developer BioNTech, of a potential covid-19 vaccine in Argentina.
The covid-19 outbreak puts insurance companies in the delicate position of balancing a huge claims load with their own capital and solvency stability. So far, there is also considerable uncertainty about whether insurance policies cover losses caused by the pandemic, with governments across the region considering issuing regulations aimed at bringing more clarity to the sector.
When it comes to the effect of covid-19 on the economy, one word comes to mind: devastating. While governments are taking action to protect people against the public health crisis, Latin America’s central banks are putting measures in place to brace for the economic impact of the pandemic.
Garrigues (Chile) has helped the country’s Central Bank create a new credit package worth some US$24 billion to help commercial banks strengthen their liquidity and to continue to grant loans to companies during the covid-19 pandemic.
Brazilian Latin Lawyer Elite firm TozziniFreire Advogados has worked pro bono to help Sistema B, a global network for B companies, structure a lending programme that will offer loans to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) during the covid-19 pandemic.
Hogan Lovells LLP in Washington, DC, and Gómez-Pinzón in Bogotá have helped the International Finance Corporation (IFC) provide a US$100 million financing to Colombia’s Banco Davivienda, which will use the loan to help alleviate economic damage caused by the covid-19 pandemic in Colombia.
Shearman & Sterling LLP in New York has helped the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI) make its largest ever notes issuance, raising US$750 million.
The Argentine Central Bank has imposed new restrictions on the local foreign exchange market to limit the purchase and sale of securities in foreign currency and limit the outflow of US dollars.
BLP (Costa Rica) has helped the French Development Agency (AFD) lend US$153 million to the Republic of Costa Rica.
Social bonds allocated to environmental, social and governance (ESG) assets were a relatively new phenomenon in Latin America prior to the covid-19 crisis. But as states, quasi-sovereigns and corporates scramble to shore up their finances in the wake of the pandemic, social bonds could present a much-needed source of liquidity. New York-based Linklaters counsel Alejandro Gordano weighs up the pros and cons of the novel financing instrument.