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With the election of Iván Duque as new President in June 2018, Colombia should leave behind a period of relative slowdown, with certain economic sectors operating in a wait-and-see mode until the remote possibility of a leftist win had passed. In the end, Duque obtained a comfortable 54% of the vote, but his rival Gustavo Petro’s 42% – largely obtained by amassing the youth vote – is the largest a left-wing candidate has ever achieved in Colombia.

With the electoral period and associated political risk out of the way, economic and business activity is set to rise in the second half of 2018 with some companies and family-run conglomerates entering the market and the capital markets activity picking up with debt issuance, equity offerings and M&A deals. Plans for several infrastructure projects that had been put on ice due to the possible ramifications of the corruption scandal involving Odebrecht, are being re-activated. Fears have receded since the government was compelled (in February 2017) to terminate the contract for the $1.1bn Ruta Del Sol 2 highway project, after the Brazilian construction giant admitted paying a bribe to obtain the concession. The so-called fourth-generation (4G) public-private partnership (PPP) infrastructure programme is starting to come to a close since the National Infrastructure Agency (ANI) has awarded nearly all of the 33 planned road-concessions. Projects in the health and education sectors are being planned, as well as in urban transportation – most notably the prospective development of the Bogotá Rail Metro.

Despite economic challenges, such as high public debt and low productivity, Colombia is in an enviable position compared to other peers in the region. The Colombian peso has been one of the best performers in emerging markets, brushing off the volatility that has affected Brazil, Mexico and Argentina. Inflation is being kept within the central bank’s target of 3% plus/minus 1%. The economy has been recovering from the slump in oil prices of the last years and gross domestic product (GDP) for 2018 is expected to reach 2.5% and increase to 3% in 2019.

The Colombian legal market continues to register the advance of firms challenging the dominance of the so-called traditional big four full-service firms – Brigard & Urrutia, Gómez-Pinzón Abogados (GPA), Philippi Prietocarrizosa Ferrero DU & Uría and Posse Herrera Ruiz. If their standing remains to some degree undisputed, it is notable that their paths are increasingly divergent: Brigard furthering its claim to be undisputed "national champion"; the former Prietocarrizosa opting for the route of regionalization with the PPU project; PHR testing the waters of a relationship with Spanish firm Cuatrecasas; and GPA reorienting in the wake of the departure of former name-partner Eduardo Zuleta and also (in conjunction with its Chilean, Mexican and Peruvian colleagues), looking to increase the profile and activity of the regional Affinitas alliance. Among the chasing pack of international firms, led by Baker McKenzie S.A.S., are Dentons Cardenas & Cardenas and increasingly DLA Piper Martinez Beltrán both of which have thoroughly shaken up specific areas of the market with high profile hirings. Five members of Norton Rose Fulbright’s energy and natural resources department, led by Jorge Neher moved to Dentons Cardenas & Cardenas, including Hernán Rodríguez and Santiago González. Meanwhile DLA Piper Martinez Beltrán hit the headlines of the national press engaging the services of Juan Manuel De La Rosa from Baker McKenzie S.A.S., Felipe Quintero from Garrigues and José Miguel Mendoza a former head of the Colombian public utilities supervisor.

Garrigues and Holland & Knight continue to grow in new areas, whilst the joint adventure of CMS Rodríguez-Azuero and Contexto Legal Abogados has been short lived, and the firms have parted ways.

In the local market, full-service mid-size firms such as Lloreda Camacho & Co., Palacios Lleras and Muñoz Tamayo & Asociados continue to abound. Whereas highly specialised firms and boutiques continue to boom with the likes of Suescún Abogados and Zuleta Abogados Asociados S.A.S in arbitration, Durán & Osorio Abogados Asociados in construction, Godoy Córdoba member of Littler Global in labour, OlarteMoure in IP, Ibarra Abogados in international trade and Archila Abogados in competition.

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  • Korean Financial Regulators Advance Legislation to Introduce Regulatory Sandbox to Spark FinTech

    The 2018 year in review in Korea was notable for the sluggish overall economy, uncertainty surrounding the geo-politics and impact on Korea due to the global trade wars, on-going concerns related to the lack of jobs and unemployment, increased taxes and burdens for businesses and families, and no meaningful improvement or clarity in the current situation for 2019. In response, the Korean National Assembly passed a legislation called the Financial Innovation Support Act (the “FinISA”) on December 7, 2018 to spark the financial services industry in conjunction with FinTech products and services. The FinISA, which will soon take effect in March 2019, is intended to lay the legal foundation to introduce a regulatory sandbox for innovative financial services, where FinTech firms test their new products and services without certain regulatory oversight pursuant to exemptions for a limited period of time (“Sandbox”). As the FinISA exempts or defers application of existing finance-related regulations for new financial technology, products or services with the purpose of fostering the creation of innovative and new financial products and services, it will also support the stabilization of such services in the financial services market at the end of the testing period and is expected that the FinISA will support a revitalization of the FinTech industry which experienced sluggish growth in recent times. In particular, as companies and investors become more interested in security tokens and Security Token Offerings (“STO”) which are regulated by the Financial Investment Services and Capital Markets Act (the “FSCMA”), there have been on-going discussions and debates as to whether the FinISA could lead to a breakthrough in the crypto-asset industry based on blockchain technology. Crypto assets encompasses those assets which utilize blockchain technology where the asset is digitalized by utilization of cryptography, peer-to-peer networks and a public ledger of verified transactions resulting in a ‘units’ of such a crypto asset without any involvement by middle-persons or brokers (e.g., cryptocurrency.

    The sacking of Nissan’s high-profile chairman may have beenproof that nobody is infallible. But Nicola Sharp argues that it should also beseen as an indicator that no company can be considered safe from wrongdoing.
  • 2018 FCPA Enforcement Actions and Highlights

    Overall, 2018 was a more active year in terms of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act ("FCPA") enforcement actions compared to 2017.
  • Legality of advertising with statements on the effects of medical treatments

    Advertisements featuring statements on the effects of medical treatments are only permissible if they are supported by sound scientific evidence. This was reaffirmed by the Oberlandesgericht (OLG) Frankfurt, the Higher Regional Court of Frankfurt.
  • Sayenko Kharenko announces new partner promotion

    Sayenko Kharenko announces new partner promotion
  • ECJ – Distinctive character necessary for registration as EU trade mark

    For a sign to be capable of being registered as an EU trade mark, it must be distinctive across the entire European Union. This was confirmed by the Court of Justice of European Union (ECJ) in a ruling from 25 July 2018.
  • Supporting local and international charitable organizations

    As one of the leading law firms in Cyprus, we are active promoters and supporters of local economic growth by sponsoring local events, applying environmental-friendly practices, minimizing our ecological impact, and most importantly, by raising money for local charities and non-profit organizations.
  • BAG – Employers can claw back bonus payments

    The Bundesarbeitsgericht (BAG), Germany’s Federal Labour Court, confirmed in a recent ruling that employers can claw back collectively agreed bonus payments from employees under certain circumstances.
  • Stricter supervision in relation to the Scheme for Naturalisation of Investors in Cyprus by Exceptio

    Recently there were a lot of publications within the European Union expressing concerns about the allegedly very high number of Cypriot passports being given to foreign investors the last few years. The Council of Ministers has decided on 9th January 2018 with the decision with number 84.069, to impose a stricter supervision of all the parties involved in the Scheme for the naturalisation of non-Cypriot investors in Cyprus by exception.
  • 19% VAT on Plots

    In order to harmonize the  Acquis Communautaire on the Taxation of untapped and undeveloped plots of land, the Cyprus Government enacted, on 03/11/2017, relevant legislation for the imposition of 19% Value Added Tax (VAT) on these properties, with a date of enforcement being 02/01/2018. The relevant legislation refers to plots/pieces of land offered and/or provided for construction for economic purposes.

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