Have you noticed any changes in Brazil over the years in the competition and antitrust law area?
RM: I would say that in terms of changes in the law, we have not seen substantial changes. However, there have been changes in the composition of the antitrust bodies. The general-superintendent has changed and a couple of members of the administrative tribunal, and that can have an effect on how fast the cases move and are solved in the merits.
How will trends continue to change or develop in the next five years?
JA: In the next five years, the authority will continue to investigate the cases they currently have. In the next few years, we could see the reduction of those cases, as the authority is still overwhelmed with work, and I think they are going to have to give some priority in relation to the cases involving the construction companies for bribery/anti-trust illegal agreements, which have taken place here in the last couple of years. It’s all over the news—the car wash investigation. I think the authority for the next five years will tend to be more pragmatic in relation to merger reviews. In fact, they have been doing that, and they will continue. One final point on that—we have a new General Superintendent on the board since late last year. The Superintendent has a very important role. As a member of the board, he was already part of the system. He has a major role both in merger and conduct review. We will be in a much better position to tell what will happen in the next couple of years when we can get his initial approach to cases.
LRS: Speaking on that, it is important to point this out about the new superintendent: He already said he intends to focus on important unilateral conduct cases that he believes should be investigated in Brazil. Although, of course, we see a lot of cartel case being investigated by the authorities, we could also see—at least based on the interview that the superintendent has had in the recent past—that he is going to focus a little more on unilateral conduct cases, and that is an important development for Brazil.
In what other ways do you see your firm accommodating to changes that may occur in the practice area?
RM: I believe we will continue to have an important involvement in merger review. Certainly, this last year was a year where we saw CADE intervening in many transactions, either rejecting transactions that were proposed or engaging very actively in settlements with companies. Certainly, this is a very important part of our practice. In terms of investigations, besides the unilateral practice that CADE will focus on as Leonardo mentioned, in view of the amount of cases that CADE has opened against the cartel practice, it has raised the bar for compliance, and we will certainly see more and more work overturn on investigations and companies calling us to help them bring their practice to compliance and check whether their business units are in compliance.
JA: It is very important for us. As Renê mentioned, we of course are working very closely to our clients because it’s very important for the companies to understand all the issues CADE is raising. A transaction that were denied or barred last year may be an example and the focus of the authority in terms of issues that a transaction can lead to in the Brazilian market, so it is very important for the companies to start an examination of the issues that could be raised before CADE very early in time so they can be prepared if they want to pursue the merger or acquisition that they foresee. Also, companies need to be well prepared to do the right thing in terms of awareness for the employees so that all the decisions rendered by the authorities are well-known in relation to the imposition of fines for conduct that the authorities are investigating in what are the main concerns for CADE in terms of company behaviors in the marketplace.
What growth has your firm been experiencing for the last few years?
LRS: Last year, we completed 75 years in the business. We have a strong internal culture, and we grow usually organically—it is home grown, so we have people that start here; the three of us were trainees at the firm at some point. Last year we made several partners—no partners in the antitrust area. We have some senior associates that are going to run for partnerships in the next few years. This is a natural trend in our practice, and we see this in a positive manner because it reflects the growth and the strength of our group.
What characteristics does your firm have that led to being recognized as a “Law Firm of the Year”?
RM: One of our main strengths is that we have five partners that work with antitrust, and we know this is a practice where senior involvement is necessary. The clients want fast answers, precise, well-based, and knowledgeable advice. When we have five partners involved in complex cases, it has shown that this is valuable to our clients because we can guarantee that the case will be conducted by someone with experience and a high level of expertise. In reflecting this, we can see that all of us will be involved in high-profile cases, both in mergers and conducts. This really is not only something we do and believe in our antitrust practice—this a reflection of what our firm believes in, which is a lower ratio between partners and associates ( i.e., to ensure that a partner will be advising and will be deeply involved in the matter, personally involved in communications with the client and with the authority).
JA: Just to emphasize something Renê said—it is hard to say this without bragging, but the big difference you’re going to see in our team and our cases, mainly across the board as a general thing, is that we are going to get partners that are hands-on, you are going to get cases with partners to oversee what is going on and participate actively, and that makes the difference in the final result of the case. Another thing that might be relevant is that, as a firm, we emphasize to our associates to work, study abroad, to get that experience outside, and we get that to our team, and that really helps. A final point that makes our practice unique in comparison to other practices is that we have a very strong team both in São Paulo and in Brasilia—very close to the authority. A lot of people from the authority have worked with us at some point in the past. So we have people doing the real work in Brasilia and doing the real work in São Paulo. You have a mix that can provide our clients with the best service.
LRS: Also, I would point out our experience in litigation, because our Antitrust Group is within the Litigation Department of our firm. Thus, we also carry this litigation expertise that helps clients whenever they have an administrative decision that should be challenged in the courts in Brazil. This litigation experience and background has proven to be instrumental to our clients’ needs.
RM: I would also add another point, which is independence. We are lawyers in the right sense of the word. Our focus is to give quality and business-oriented advice to our clients. At the same time, we strive to interact with the authority in a cooperative manner. After many years of experience with CADE, it is fair to say that they know our practice, building up on reciprocal trust, allowing us to advocate our points with the authority in a straightforward manner. This can help when it is time to make a settlement.
Are there any closing remarks?
JA: What we can say as a closing remark is what we can offer to the client, not only in antitrust. This is what we take advantage of being in a full-service law firm. Antitrust is sometimes the main part of the case, but usually you can get help from other partners to address other issues involving the case. Usually, if you are going to settle, you can get a tax advantage and see how far it can go, and we have the right capabilities to provide all services needed by clients.