Firm Profile > Gasser Partner Attorneys at Law > Vaduz , Liechtenstein

Gasser Partner Attorneys at Law
WUHRSTRASSE 6
PO BOX 479
9490 VADUZ
Vaduz
Liechtenstein

Banking and finance Tier 1

Gasser Partner Attorneys at Law, notably the official International Swaps and Derivatives Association counsel for Liechtenstein, has a strong record in structured finance matters. The group’s expertise also spans traditional lending transactions, fintech and investment funds. Highlights included department co-head Hannes Arnold advising Postera Capital on the launch of a regulated European investment fund focusing on crypto assets. Group co-head Thomas Nigg and foundation law expert Johannes Gasser are also recommended.

Commercial, corporate and M&A Tier 1

At Gasser Partner Attorneys at Law, department co-lead Johannes Gasser advised a Europe-based client on the establishment of a holding company. Thomas Nigg jointly heads the team that also draws upon the senior experience of managing partner Hannes Arnold. Other key clients include trusts, foundations and individuals.

Dispute resolution Tier 1

Gasser Partner Attorneys at Law is best known for its record in trust litigation and it also handles a steady stream of international arbitration, bankruptcy and debt recovery cases. Johannes Gasser and Hannes Arnold jointly head a group that includes newly made-up partner Carmen Oehri and Michael Nueber, who joined as counsel in 2017 from zeiler.partners Rechtsanwälte GmbH — he splits his time between Vaduz and Vienna.

The firm: As an international independent law firm Gasser Partner exclusively focuses on ‘classic’ attorney-at-law activities. This primarily comprises the legal representation of clients before courts and public authorities as well as providing advice in all areas of the law. As one of the leading and largest law firms in Liechtenstein, Gasser Partner has built up and steadily extended its knowledge and expertise, particularly in the areas of business law and dispute resolution, over the decades. Gasser Partner advises and represents private clients as well as institutional clients from Liechtenstein and abroad. The firm’s institutional clients comprise inter alia banks, asset managers, fiduciary service providers, insurance companies, fund administrators and industrial companies. Due to having offices in Vaduz, Zurich and Vienna and regular close collaboration with foreign law firms, Gasser Partner has excellent global links. Owing to its size and expertise, the firm has specialists in every area of the law. In particular, this enables Gasser Partner to efficiently solve complex international cases.

Areas of practice: Private client, asset and succession planning: advising families and private clients (in particular high-net-worth individuals) in asset and succession planning matters relating to the structuring and the protection of their wealth. Company reorganisation, including the management of issues arising in the succession of private companies.

Arbitration and litigation: representation in civil, criminal and administrative proceedings before all courts and authorities in Liechtenstein. Advice and representation concerning the enforcement of foreign judgments in Liechtenstein. Asset recovery. Representation in arbitration proceedings (ad hoc, ICC, UNICITRAL etc). Presidency in arbitration courts, appointment as party-arbitrators or sole arbitrators. Representation in administrative proceedings and before the Constitutional Court. Client or court-appointed legal expert in all matters relating to Liechtenstein law. White-collar crime.

Corporate, foundation and trust, commercial: domestic and international mergers and acquisitions, including legal due diligence. Legal advice concerning the setting up and the reorganisation of foundations, trusts and corporations in Liechtenstein. Drawing up contracts. Advising and representing members of corporate bodies, directors, trustees, beneficiaries or other stakeholders.

Banking and capital markets: representing financial market participants before all Liechtenstein supervisory bodies (FMA, FIU, etc). Advice and representation concerning licence acquisition for banks, investment firms and payment service providers. Assistance with regard to the establishment of branches and representative offices.

Insurance and investment funds: advice and representation in all insurance matters governed by public and private law. Advising on the establishment of insurance companies and investment funds. Regulatory issues relating to fund management, asset managers, depository banks, representatives and distributors.

Real estate and employment: acquisition of real estate in Liechtenstein and abroad. Admission to practise a profession and establishment of foreign companies and employees in Liechtenstein. Green cards for foreigners in Liechtenstein.

Data protection: advice on compliance with Liechtenstein data protection law. Expert opinions. Advice and representation regarding data loss and data theft.

Clients: Gasser Partner provides a full service, be it contentious or non-contentious, to its national and international clients.

Department Name Email Telephone
Administrative Thomas Nigg
Administrative Hannes Arnold
Arbitration and litigation Johannes Gasser
Arbitration and litigation Thomas Nigg
Banking and capital markets Hannes Arnold
Banking and capital markets Johannes Gasser
Competition and intellectual property Hannes Arnold
Competition and intellectual property Johannes Gasser
Compliance Johannes Gasser
Compliance Thomas Nigg
Corporate, foundation and trust Johannes Gasser
Corporate, foundation and trust Thomas Nigg
Commercial Johannes Gasser
Commercial Thomas Nigg
Criminal Johannes Gasser
Criminal Thomas Nigg
Data protection Hannes Arnold
Data protection Thomas Nigg
Employment Thomas Nigg
Employment Hannes Arnold
Insurance and investment funds Hannes Arnold
Insurance and investment funds Johannes Gasser
Private client, asset and succession planning Johannes Gasser
Private client, asset and succession planning Thomas Nigg
Real estate Hannes Arnold
Real estate Johannes Gasser
Tax Johannes Gasser
Tax Hannes Arnold
Photo Name Position Profile
Dr iur Hannes Arnold, M.B.L.-HSG  photo Dr iur Hannes Arnold, M.B.L.-HSG
Dr iur Martin Attlmayr, LL.M.  photo Dr iur Martin Attlmayr, LL.M.
Mag iur Sebastian Auer, LL.M.  photo Mag iur Sebastian Auer, LL.M.
Dr iur Johannes Gasser, LL.M.  photo Dr iur Johannes Gasser, LL.M.
Mag iur Sophie Herdina  photo Mag iur Sophie Herdina
Mag iur Manfred Keller, MBA (A)  photo Mag iur Manfred Keller, MBA (A)
Mag iur Philipp Konzett, LL.M.(EUI)  photo Mag iur Philipp Konzett, LL.M.(EUI)
Mag iur Sophie Lehner  photo Mag iur Sophie Lehner
 Dominique Marxer, MLaw  photo Dominique Marxer, MLaw
 M.A. HSG Thomas Nigg LL.M.  photo M.A. HSG Thomas Nigg LL.M.
Dr iur Michael Nueber, LL.M.  photo Dr iur Michael Nueber, LL.M.
 Carmen Oehri, MLaw  photo Carmen Oehri, MLaw
lic iur Martin Ospelt  photo lic iur Martin Ospelt
Mag iur Christina Delia Preiner LL.M  photo Mag iur Christina Delia Preiner LL.M
Mag iur Eva-Maria Rhomberg  photo Mag iur Eva-Maria Rhomberg
Mag iur Johannes Sander  photo Mag iur Johannes Sander
Mag iur Renè Saurer  photo Mag iur Renè Saurer
Mag iur Pia Summer  photo Mag iur Pia Summer
 Domenik Vogt, LL.M. (WU), LL.M. (Cambridge)  photo Domenik Vogt, LL.M. (WU), LL.M. (Cambridge)
Number of lawyers : 20
English
French
German
Italian
Spanish
UIA
DAV
IBA
ABA
IBLF
AIJA
ISDA
STEP
LegaLink
DRI
Contacts : Dr. iur. Johannes Gasser, LL.M.
Contacts : Dr. iur. Hannes Arnold, M.B.L.-HSG
Contacts : M.A. HSG Thomas Nigg, LL.M.
Other offices : Vienna
Other offices : Zurich

Liechtenstein

Country report

Liechtenstein is a microstate located in the heart of Europe counting not more than 38,000 inhabitants. It is Europe’s third tiniest state – after the City of Vatican and San Marino – but nonetheless a thriving country enclosed between Switzerland and Austria. It provides an excellent business environment for foreign investors by benefitting from both neighbouring countries as well as its access to both the Swiss market as well as the European Economic Area. It is a highly developed spot for specialised industries, sophisticated banking and financial services for international clients.

Although well-known for its banking and financial sector, Liechtenstein is an innovative and export-oriented industrial location. Liechtenstein’s liberal approach allows low-hassle cross-border trade for most entrepreneurs. The legal system makes the most of various agreements to provide an excellent environment for exporters, with entrepreneurs’ and multinationals’ work further simplified by public investment in innovation and export. Latest statistical data indicate that export has risen up to 11% compared to 2017.

The main reason for Liechtenstein’s thriving economy is its liberal economic order. The generated income has been invested into building a swift bureaucracy and solid financial policy without any national debt. Liechtenstein’s economic data shows promising development and strong underlying conditions. Most particularly, strong industrial and financial sectors have led to above-average growth in employment, resulting in an unemployment rate of 1.6%. The unique economic success combined with the geographical location is responsible for the fact that Liechtenstein companies offer more jobs than people live in the country. In 2017, 55.1% of the workforce were daily commuters, mostly coming from Switzerland and Austria.

Business environment and economy

The most well-known part of Liechtenstein’s economy is its financial service sector. Liechtenstein is home to 15 banks managing a total of CHF 294.3 billion and registered a net new money inflow of CHF 39.8 billion in 2017. This shows that Liechtenstein’s financial sector is continuously growing and offers well-demanded services to clients and investors from all over the world. In recent years, Liechtenstein banks particularly increased their international cooperation with U.S., China and India based partners.

Nonetheless, the financial sector is facing substantive challenges. Financial service providers such as banks and trustees are faced with more and more compliance duties, because Liechtenstein is committed to implement necessary changes regarding the latest European anti-terrorist-funding and anti-money-laundering standards. Such changes ensure the integrity and the reputation of Liechtenstein’s financial services, which will eventually lead to a safe and reputable environment the clients can get invested in.

The Liechtenstein legislator undertakes any effort to avoid a shady flavour when investing in Liechtenstein. Due to the fact that Liechtenstein’s financial service providers are able to offer a legal optimum regarding tax liability and asset protection while still ensuring full compliance with relevant regulatory rules, the financial instruments enjoy a clean and reputable prestige vis-à-vis both investors and authorities. The continuing business success of Liechtenstein’s financial service providers proves this approach right.

Another big part of Liechtenstein’s economy is its thriving industrial sector. World-wide active companies such as Hilti AG, Ivoclar Vivadent AG and the Liechtenstein branch of ThyssenKrupp Presta AG develop and produce highly specialised goods. Over 37 % of Liechtenstein’s jobs are within the industrial sector, a figure which is unusually compared to other well-developed countries in Central Europe.

Current opportunities & future prospects

Latest data from the Office of Statistics show that Liechtenstein is experiencing an economic upturn. Low taxes, a liberal legal system and swift bureaucracy ensure a good environment for investments. Parallel to the world-wide upswing, Liechtenstein’s economy is gradually growing. Entrepreneurs in the country are confident about the future development: a survey conducted amongst them show a continuously high confidence, even though the value has decreased slightly in the third quarter of 2018.

As mentioned above, already, the current situation is best reflected by the performance of financial service providers as one of Liechtenstein’s driving force. Despite the fact that recent European legislation has dimmed investors’ grasp for tax and estate planning, Liechtenstein could use the current momentum. Tough legislative and regulatory efforts in the last couple of years now pay off and Liechtenstein is seen as serious and promising country.

Liechtenstein is also growing into a crypto-hub for Central Europe. The tiny country is already home to more than 100 companies offering blockchain related services. In 2018, Liechtenstein was awarded the “Blockchain Ecosystem of the Year” award by the Crypto Challenge Forum in London and providing a legal framework for this new entrepreneurial spirit has been a major effort of Liechtenstein over the last couple of months. The long-awaited Blockchain Act is currently in parliamentary consultation process and is expected to be passed soon.

Potential investors find themselves in a country that satisfies international regulatory standards while still preserving a high level of discreetness and bureaucratic efficiency. From Liechtenstein, any entrepreneur has unrestricted access to the Swiss as well as to the European markets. Paired with Liechtenstein’s relatively low taxes, a pool of highly qualified employers, and a fast and non-bureaucratic administration, investors will get the most out of their investments.

Legal system and investment vehicles

People investing in Liechtenstein and willing to establish a business will find several legal forms to serve their entrepreneurial needs. Entrepreneurs may act as natural persons overseen by the most liberal regulations but with full liability towards third parties, or choose to establish a legal entity with full legal personality and capacity. Legal persons generally consist of stock corporations (Aktiengesellschaft), establishments (Anstalt), limited liability companies (GmbH) and the single company.

The following issues should be considered in order to choose the legal form fitting the investment’s needs best:

A. Limited liability Company (“Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung”)

The limited liability company, or “Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung”, is a legal form found in nearly all jurisdictions. The minimum capital needed is CHF 10,000 and any natural or legal person can be a shareholder. Shareholders are publicly registered in the share register. The shareholders’ liability is limited to the share capital, but enjoys personal immunity regarding any form of enforcement against the company. As a legal person, the company is obliged to file annual accounts. The LLC is one of the least common legal forms in Liechtenstein.

B. Stock Company (“Aktiengesellschaft”)

The more complex legal form is the stock company. Due to its international recognition and flexibility, it is the most common legal form used for entrepreneurial activities in Liechtenstein. 17% of all legal entities in Liechtenstein are stock companies (a figure surpassed only by the Establishment and Foundations, both of which usually do not perform entrepreneurial activities). The minimum share capital is CHF 50,000 and liability is limited to the assets of the company. In contrast to the limited liability company the stock corporation is obliged to file audited annual accounts.

C. Establishment (“Anstalt”)

An establishment is a legal form similar to a limited liability company. The law on establishments allows for a flexible design of the Anstalt’s statutes, which makes it an attractive alternative to the limited liability company (LLC). It may even change its business type to a foundation-like legal structure if so desired by the stockholder or the holder of the founder’s rights. Indeed, the latter is not uncommon. The most important disadvantage of the establishment is that it is not common in international business. An internationally active firm in the legal form of an Anstalt would most likely face difficulties regarding its legal capacity more regularly than the Stock Company or the LLC. It may be of good service for local undertakings familiar with the legal form of an Anstalt or as holding company that remains in the background of a company group.

D. Single company

The single company has no minimum capital and only low start-up costs. Private property is liable without limitation. However, an accountancy obligation exists only for businesses with gross sales above CHF 10,000. The single company is quick and easy to establish and has minimal regulatory requirements.

All legal entities are subject to a profit tax of 12.5%. The companies described in A), B) and C) may qualify as “Private Asset Structure” when acting exclusively as a holding company. This means that their tax liability is cut down to a yearly flat tax of CHF 1’800.00. Using a Liechtenstein holding company may therefore be a very attractive option, but needs to be elaborated and evaluated very carefully. In an international environment, it is not always the case that other states accept such minimal taxation. It is well advisable to consult an experienced Liechtenstein tax lawyer, trustee or law firm to work out a possible solution.

In order to maintain and increase its international competitive edge, Liechtenstein is continually adapting and developing its legal system. To name but a few examples, tax law, arbitration law, IP law and trust law have been updated within the last couple of years. Since early 2018, Liechtenstein is also working on a new Blockchain Act with the goal to make this new technology usable in a safe and regulated legal environment.

With tax low rates and a simple taxation system drafted according to the latest European standards, the country seeks to remain attractive to international firms.

As of 1 October 2016, the AIFM-Directive was fully transposed into Liechtenstein law, bringing increased transparency for investors and increased supervision of the activities of Alternative Investment Fund Managers (AIFM) and Alternative Investment Funds (AIF). Liechtenstein subsumed this directive into national law on 19 December 2012. One noteworthy characteristic is the introduction of partial licences concerning permits to work as administrators, risk managers and distributors. This offers additional opportunities for market participants.

In October 2016, the joint EEA Committee decided to integrate the AIFM Directive into the EEA treaty. As of 1 October 2016, the passporting system has brought Liechtenstein AIFs and AIFMs access to the EEA internal market of the 28 EU states plus the EEA/EFTA states of Norway and Iceland.

The distribution of Liechtenstein Undertakings for Collective Investment in Transferable Securities (UCITS) within the European internal market was already possible and the same will apply to the AIF sector. This integration provides Liechtenstein with the same market access opportunities as the EU member states, rendering it an ideal gateway to the European market, particularly when allied to its particular advantages for non-EEA financial institutions and its strong focus on cross-border fund sector activities.

The new Liechtenstein Act on Investment Undertakings (IUG) came into effect on 1 October 2016. It provides four specific categories of investment vehicles, supervised by the Financial Market Authority, which offer excellent opportunities to structure corporate and private assets for particular investors. The fast time-to-market via the so-called certification procedure (“Bescheinigungsverfahren”), in addition to low costs, provide these vehicles with special advantages. The four categories of the new investment undertaking (Investmentunternehmen – IU) are (i) investment undertakings for single investors, (ii) investment undertakings for families, (iii) investment undertakings for interest groups and (iv) investment undertakings for affiliated groups.

In tax matters, Liechtenstein is continuing with its tax compliance strategy. FATCA has been fully implemented and Liechtenstein’s financial institutions have made noteworthy efforts to comply with international reporting standards. The government has strengthened its determination to maintain OECD standards in the long term. To date Liechtenstein has signed over 30 TIEAs and DBAs, which fulfil the required OECD standards. The government signed important tax treaties with Switzerland and Italy in 2015 and showed a clear willingness to sign further tax treaties with countries significant to the Liechtenstein economy. Furthermore, a specific Act on the Automatic Exchange of Information (AIA) came into force as of January 1, 2017, providing for such automatic exchange with the European Union and further countries worldwide.

Liechtenstein is also about to transpose the Fourth EU Anti-Money-Laundering Directive establishing a register for ultimate beneficial owners (UBO). In order to fight money laundering and to omit attempts of financing terrorism, financial service providers will need to register the UBO with said register within 30 days. However, according to the latest developments in the legislative procedure, Liechtenstein will use the leeway the Directive grants and exempt beneficiaries of foundations and trusts from being registered as long as the nomination of beneficiaries lies within the trustee’s or the foundation board’s own discretion (so-called discretionary beneficiaries).

Although banking secrecy, in line with international trends, is undergoing a process of transformation, this applies only to tax matters. Liechtenstein remains a safe-haven both for asset protection and for strict professional confidentiality.

Especially prominent or very wealthy people may find a discreet and cost-efficient solution in Liechtenstein, be it to invest or be it in order to secure their (family) wealth against fragmentation.

Thomas Nigg, Senior Partner

Thomas Nigg, Senior Partner

What do you see as the main points that differentiate Gasser Partner Attorneys at Law’s legal practice from your competitors?

Although our firm has been renamed, it is one of the oldest law firms in Liechtenstein. Accordingly, we proudly look back on more than 70 years of history. This also includes the fact that we can draw on the expertise of lawyers who have been active in our firm for 50 years.

On the other hand, we understood at a very early stage that in a small country like Liechtenstein you have to learn to think outside the box. Many years ago, this led us to recruit lawyers from foreign jurisdictions in order to be able to offer our clients a wide range of expertise.

In my opinion, the combination of decades of expertise in our own law firm combined with the understanding of foreign legal systems is the essential characteristic that distinguishes us from other law firms and at the same time makes us so attractive for foreign clients.

Which practices in your member firm do you see growing in the next 12 months? What are the drivers behind that?

Over the past few months we have had an enormous increase in inquiries regarding blockchain technology. This can primarily be explained by the fact that the Liechtenstein legislator recognized the enormous potential of token technology at a very early stage and took a pioneering role with regard to legal regulation by its own law, enacted in May 2019. Although other states have already introduced regulations regarding blockchain technology, these only regulate individual applications like crypto currencies or virtual assets.

Due to the great potential of the blockchain technology as a basic technology, the Liechtenstein legislator has decided to create a legal basis that goes far beyond today’s current applications, in particular crypto currencies or the Initial Coin Offerings (ICO).

Further we can also see that the foundation business is picking up again. This area, which has made Liechtenstein famous in recent years, suffered a considerable decline after the financial crisis of 2008. However, we can see that some clients return to Liechtenstein after attempts in other jurisdictions.

As we are often told, this is partly due to the legal stability that Liechtenstein can offer due to its almost 100-year tradition in this business, but also to the fact that many states have tightened the regulatory provisions in response to international pressure to such an extent that these jurisdictions can no longer offer any advantages in relation to Liechtenstein.

What’s the main change you’ve made in the firm that will benefit clients?

We have expanded our focus and are now able to cover the entire field of commercial law. As one of largest law firms in Liechtenstein which, however, was primarily highly specialized in foundation and trust law, in the last 5 years, we have developed to the largest law firm in Liechtenstein which can proudly say that it can draw on expertise in the entire field of commercial law. In order to achieve this target, we have recruited lawyers from foreign jurisdictions with extensive specializations in almost all areas of commercial law.

This broad focus allows us to offer our clients comprehensive advice in all areas of business life.

How is technology changing the way you interact with your clients and the services you can provide them?

Technological development is a driving factor in today’s interconnected business world. The difficulty here is to filter out those innovations that offer the highest advantage to our firm and thus to our clients. In this area we are constantly looking for innovative solutions that allow us to work as efficiently and cost-effective as possible. In this context, one of the most remarkable innovations of recent years is the storage of data in a cloud. With increased security, this offers the possibility of exchanging a vast number of documents digitally with the client. Just a few years ago, the effort involved was incomparably greater.

In the future, we will continue to keep up to date and adapt as effectively as possible to the circumstances. We also have high expectations for the upcoming 5G transmission standard. Here we expect a multitude of innovations which will allow us to work even more effectively with and for our clients.

Can you give us a practical example of how you helped a client add value to their business?

In the past 3-4 years we have noticed that a few large and medium sized companies which have had their own legal department have decided to close these departments and instead employ our firm as in-house law firm. These clients appreciate the higher efficiency and cost structure and in particular the fact that we can provide them with an external view. It is this external view and therefore the possibility to compare that offers these clients special added value and at the same time reduces costs.

Are clients looking for stability and strategic direction from their law firms – where do you see the firm in three year’s time?

In fact, over the past few years, we have seen that our clients are accessing us earlier than it used to be. In the past clients often sought our advice only when proceedings were already pending before a court, today it is more and more often the case that our advice is sought in advance. This allows us to be active in the preliminary stages which in many cases also prevents costly court proceedings from arising. In this connection, we can also see that clients are placing more and more value on continuity in the form that they require our firm to keep an eye on all legal issues.

We have already implemented a number of measures that I expect to be effective in the coming years. Which is why I am very confident that we will continue to grow organically over the next three years and, above all, we will be able to significantly expand our international network of partner firms.