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Following the 2017 elections that brought him to power, Lenin Moreno’s administration has demonstrated his willingness to take an independent line distinct to that of his one-time political mentor, Rafael Correa. The new government continues to implement policies to encourage more foreign investments, with a particular focus in the mining sector. Such policies include tax reforms to eliminate windfall profits and the application of a capital gains tax to all mining corporations. The government has also opened a number of new areas for mining exploration and announced new concessions to various international players; overall, law firms have noted a distinct uptick of activity in the infrastructure sector and, particularly, the increasing participation of Chinese companies.

February 2018 also saw a ‘seven-question’ referendum held in February, which, among other things, resulted in the return of presidential term limits; apparently innocuous, acceptance of the re-instatement of a two-term limit (removed in 2015 by Moreno’s predecessor) were in effect a vote of confidence in the Moreno administration and a rejection of the possibility of another Correa administration. The referendum’s other questions tackled issues including the barring of those convicted of corruption from public office and the banning of mining entirely from protected and indigenous areas. Headline economic developments include a sharp hike in general corporate income tax which has been raised from 20 to 25 per cent. Other recent legislative changes include new regulations enacted by the Ministry of Labour regarding labour harassment, with employers now required to develop internal investigation procedures. Other restrictions that previously prevented companies from having more than 20% of their headcount made up of foreign employees have been lifted.

In the legal market, following CorralRosales and Carmigniani Pérez Abogados’ mid-2017 demerger, CorralRosales has now absorbed the former Estudio Jurídico Gallegos, giving a considerable boost to the firm’s international IP strength. Overall, Pérez Bustamante & Ponce (PBP) remains the predominant market player with relatively recent market entrant Ferrere Ecuador (established in 2015), increasingly seen as its primary competitor in the wake of a significant spin-off and departures from full service heavyweight Bustamante & Bustamante. Mid-sized firms with a slightly narrower service offering – such as CorralRosales and Fabara & Compañía – also continue to compete strongly and offer top-notch service. However, smaller start-ups, most notably Flor & Hurtado (a spin off from Bustamante & Bustamante) and Pino Elizalde Abogados, (whose founding partners come from the Guayaquil-based Coronel & Pérez and Noboa, Peña & Torres, Abogados, respectively), are among the latest of a number of small new firms seeking to provide an alternative for both local and multinational clients; both opened their doors in 2017. Additional mid-size firms of importance include Coronel & Pérez, Romero Arteta Ponce, Consulegis Abogados, Falconi Puig Abogados, Paz Horowitz Abogados, Lexvalor Abogados and Carmigniani Pérez Abogados. Gonzalez Peñaherrera & Asociados and Sempértegui Ontaneda Abogados come to the fore in energy and natural resources-related matters in particular – although both have a broader service offering; while Bermeo & Bermeo Law Firm, Falconi Puig Abogados and Romero Corral Abogados all impress in the IP sector. Jaramillo Dávila Abogados and Almeida Guzmán & Asociados are the foremost specialist firms in the labour and tax sectors, respectively. Innovative ‘outlierTobar ZVS Spingarn is also increasingly relevant.

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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.

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  • 2018 FCPA Enforcement Actions and Highlights

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  • Legality of advertising with statements on the effects of medical treatments

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  • 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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