Firm Profile > Gladei & Partners > Chisinau, Moldova

Gladei & Partners
63 VLAICU PARCALAB STREET
SKY TOWER, SUITE 10D
MD-2012, CHISINAU
Moldova

Leading firms Tier 1

Gladei & Partners' first-rate reputation sees it act for international financial institutions, the largest banks in Moldova and multinational corporates. Roger Gladei is widely recognised as an eminent practitioner in the banking and finance sphere. The team also excels in large-scale cross-border projects involving areas such as energy, infrastructure and construction. Iulian Pașatii coordinates the real estate and construction practice. Elsewhere, the firm features prominently in high-profile corporate transactions, as was evidenced in 2018, when Gladei and others assisted a consortium led by EBRD with the Moldovan law aspects of its €23m investment in Moldova Agroindbank, which controls 30% of the Moldovan banking market. Contentious work is another mainstay of the practice, particularly in the context of commercial (including banking, insolvency and employment) and corporate litigation and arbitration; Vitalie Ciofu is a key figure in this space. In September 2018, Gladei was re-elected as the President of the new Court of International Commercial Arbitration of AmCham.

Practice head(s):

Roger Gladei

Other key lawyers:

Testimonials

They deliver excellent service and have a good understanding of business needs. The team is focused on making deals succeed. They regularly work on cross-border matters and work well with lawyers from other jurisdictions.

Roger Gladei is an outstanding professional, with an unparalleled ability to interpret Moldovan banking regulations. He has an immense understanding of banking, and an enviable reputation and weight in the local banking community.

I have worked with Dan Nicoara and Roger Gladei. I found them to be friendly, responsive, commercial, sensible and very articulate and intelligible.

Key clients

EBRD

Kaufland

German Development (GIZ)

Black Sea Trade and Development Bank

World Bank

European Commission

FMO

CEFTA Secretariat

Horizon Capital

Google

Europcar

FOX Networks Group

AGCO

Engie

Tymbank Maspex

SADE

Ludwig Pfeiffer

Siemens

HTC Europe

Credit Europe Bank

Deniz Bank

Zurich Insurance

MFX Solutions

Moldova-Agroindbank

Moldindconbank

Mobiasbanca

BCR – Erste Group

ProCredit Bank

Doverie Holding

Invalda

QSI School International

Ergomed

HEIM Partners

Support Market

Indra Sistemas

La Triveneta Cavi

Microinvest

Mogo

Glass Container Company

The firm: The firm relies on the 25 years’ experience of its Partners, and is unique on the market in combining the in-house and independent counsel expertise. The firm is a recognized market leader in its core areas – banking & finance, capital markets and M&A, but has also built significant expertise in traditional and renewable energy, TMT, infrastructure, manufacturing, retail, construction & real estate,  beauty & pharma areas. Gladei has been recently advising on competition, data protection, internal affairs, regulatory clearance & compliance, labor & immigration white collar crimes and many other matters.  All major IFIs active in Moldova, all reputable foreign banks and most of the MNEs doing business in Moldova are among the firm’s clients.

Areas of practice: Debt and equity finance: structuring and documenting cross-border and local financings, syndicated/club loans, acquisition finance, convertible loans, shareholder loans, secured finance, debt restructuring, assignment and set-off.

M&A/capital markets: legal due diligence, transactions with financial instruments (on or outside the regulated market), public offerings, acquisition financing, merger control/competition clearance, transaction notification/registration and public disclosures.

Commercial contracts: international trade, distribution and transportation; management, consultancy and project management contracts, joint ventures, partnerships and other business contracts.

Corporate and regulatory compliance: business set-up, licensing and authorisation, reorganisation and liquidation, corporate affairs and corporate governance, regulatory compliance, competition clearance, investment and shareholder agreements, safe share transfers, internal contracts (employment, management, service provisions, copyrights, etc).

Energy and natural resources: market access, renewable energy projects (including government support and off-take agreements), energy generation, distribution, transmission and supply certification, licensing and environmental protection.

Infrastructure and PPP: local presence, public tenders, concession of public assets and services, drafting and negotiating PPP and concession agreements and tax regime.

Real estate and construction: legal due diligence, acquisition structuring, urbanism and planning documentation, property development, asset management, general contracting and works agreements (including FIDIC-based), construction authorisations and permits and real estate leasing.

Litigation and arbitration: commercial debt collection, insolvency proceedings, shareholder lawsuits, employment and management disputes; IP, royalty and tax disputes; administrative proceedings, white-collar crimes, international commercial arbitration, out-of-court settlements, enforcement of foreign court judgments and arbitral awards.

ICT and media: audiovisual licences and permits, technology transfer and licensing contracts, outsourcing and network access agreements, TV channel distribution, data protection and privacy, e-commerce, representation before governmental agencies, infrastructure, project and equipment finance.

Pharmaceutical and healthcare: importation, packaging and labeling, regulatory approvals, medicine advertisement, private hospital foundation and operation.

Intellectual property: IP regulatory services, licensing and assignment of IP rights, internet name domain protection, cease and desist letters, defending IP rights in front of Moldovan PTO and courts and enforcement of IP rights.

Consumer protection: abusive contractual provisions, pre-contractual information, product liability and recall, warranties and distance contracts.

Department Name Email Telephone
Banking and finance
M&A/capital markets
Commercial contracts
Litigation
Energy
Real estate
Construction
Competition
Infrastructure and PPP
Employment
Data protection and privacy
Pharmaceutical and healthcare
Immigration
Environment
Regulatory advisory
Intellectual property
Mediation
Arbitration
Photo Name Position Profile
 Valeriu Cernei  photo Valeriu Cernei Senior Associate, key litigator.
Mr Roger Gladei photo Mr Roger Gladei Managing Partner, leading and coordinating the advisory work in the firm.
 Ecaterina Nacu  photo Ecaterina Nacu Junior Associate
 Dan Nicoară  photo Dan Nicoară Senior Associate
 Iulian Pașatii  photo Iulian Pașatii Managing Associate
 Vlad Roibu  photo Vlad Roibu Associate.
 Pavel Spatari  photo Pavel Spatari Junior Associate
 Irina Sugoneaco  photo Irina Sugoneaco Senior Associate
Number of lawyers : 10
English
French
German
Romanian
Russian

OVERVIEW OF THE MARKET 

With a steady and energetic GDP growth of 3.6 per cent for 2019 and over 4.5per cent for each 2018 and 2017, Moldova is among the fastest-growing economies in Europe.   

According to the World Bank’s data, in 2018 Moldovan real GDP growth outpaced many of other countries in its region.  According to the IMF, Moldova’s nominal GDP reached U.S.$11.44 billion in 2018 and U.S.$9.08 billion in 2017. In 2019, according to the preliminary data from the National Bureau of Statistics, GDP totaled U.S.$11.97 billion. 

The inflation rate decreased from 9.7 per cent. in 2015 to 0.3 per cent. in 2018, according to the National Bureau of Statisticsthe lowest since 2009. The inflation rate forecast for 2020 naturally takes account of the potential impact of CoVid-19 pandemic and the associated state of emergency, imposed in Moldova on 17 March 2020 for 2 months, that starts high at 6.8 per cent. for Q1 2020 and gradually decreases to 3.0 in Q1 2021, according to the National Bank of Moldova 

With a moderate climate and productive farmland, Moldova’s economy still relies heavily on its agriculture sector, featuring fruits, vegetables, wine, and tobacco.  According to National Bureau of Statistics, the agricultural sector accounted for 13 per cent. and 14 per cent. of Moldova’s GDP in 2017 and 2016, respectively. The agricultural sector accounted for 12.8 per cent. of the Moldova’s GDP in Q4 2019. 

Moldova relies on its traditional advantages, such as being at the crossroads of the major routes linking Europe, the Middle East and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and having competitive-skilled and inexpensive work force.  Recent years have witnessed a remarkable shift in the investment paradigm of the Moldovan authorities, with investment attraction policies aimed to improve the infrastructure (including the road network), reform the education process (to bring it in line with the business needs) and catalyze the technology spillover to Moldovan outlets of foreign investors, including multinational enterprises. The ICT business is gradually increasing its role in the Moldovan economy, being mainly driven by demand for automation and digitalization in the public and private sector. Favorable tax and customs regime, transparency and predictability of regulation, relaxation of licensing and state control rules are among the tools that aim to streamline a steady flow of sound investments in the Moldovan economy.  

On the political dimension, initially after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Moldova had considered its relations with Russia to be of strategic importanceThe frozen international conflict in the eastern part of Moldova and sporadic Russian bans on imports of wine and other food products from Moldova, coupled with increased institutionalized support for Moldovan reform projects from EU and US have irrevocably changed the vector of the Moldovan foreign policy and integration effort.  A proof that Moldova is currently in a robust manner oriented towards the free, market-based, economy principles serve the latest February 2019 nation-wide elections, which for the first time since independence in 1991 resulted in the communist party being left out the from acceding the Parliament. 

In June 2014 Moldova and EU signed the Association Agreement (enacted in 2016), which established a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) with the EU, including a zero levy export and import regime for agricultural products based on renewed quotas. This has been fueling both increased trade with the EU countries and the economic growth in Moldova, brining support for the agricultural sector, modernization of transport infrastructure and reform of government institutions. 

 

NEW LEGAL FRAMEWORK 

Moldovan legislation has been fully revised after 1991 and it currently experiences the third wave of legal reform.  In 1998 Moldova has acceded to the New-York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, in 2011 it has ratified the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States (ICSID) and after enactment of the EU Association Agreement has embarked on a comprehensive process of reforming its legislation to bring it in line with the aquis communautaire. 

Civil and Civil Procedure Code 

The significant amendment of the Civil Procedure Code, enacted in June 2018, and of the Civil Code, enacted in March 2019, are generally aimed to modernize the legal framework and enable the sustainable development of the economy. 

The amendment of the Civil Code is focused on ensuring the exactness and predictability of the civil legislation, expand the freedom to contract, as well as turning more responsible the managers of private entities.  New legal concepts such as the trust, digital assetsale of immovable assets under construction, or the contractually agreed limitation periods have been introduced. Many existing concepts have been developed and brought in line with the current stage of economy or technology evolution. 

The amendments to the Civil Procedure Code are purported to equip better the Moldovan judges and good faith participants to discourage and curb the hindering and protracting of the proceedings.  Also, new concepts such as the written procedure for examining the low-value lawsuits was introduced. 

Administrative Code

Following the enactment of the new Administrative Code in April 2019, all the regulations on the administrative non-contentious procedure and the administrative litigation have been structured so that to ensure coherence and accessibility.  The new code has drawn inspiration mainly from German law and it clarifies the matters of enactment, validity, retraction and revocation of the administrative act as a central feature of the administrative process. 

In terms of appealing state body decisions that could affect the rights and interests of individuals or legal entities, the recourse to administrative courts has been kept as a second step in the appeal process. Also, the pre-trial interim measures have been introduced in the Moldovan administrative law. 

Capital Markets Legislation 

Despite the enactment in 2012 of the much progressive Capital Markets Law, transposing 11 EU directives, including MiFID, the Takeover Bids Directive and the Market Abuse Directive, the Moldova’s capital market is still underdeveloped. As of April 2020, the securities of 16 issuers were admitted for trade on the Moldovan Stock Exchange (the only authorized regulated market)including 8 commercial banks, 2 insurance companies and 6 other issuers. 

The weak capital markets infrastructure has thus caused Moldovan business to seek financing abroad, with the first ever largescale Eurobond issuance being committed by a local Agri-group in 2019. 

Employment and Migration Law 

Recent years have witnessed a number of successive amendments to the labor laws. The option of the parties to choose a foreign law to the employment agreements, re-balancing the rights and interests of the employers and employees have marked a definitive departure from the old employee-friendly legal regime. The grounds for employee dismissal have broadened, the legal powers of trade unions have shrunk and the administrative intervention in the employment relation have been reduced to the minimum. This trend has been also confirmed by the Constitutional Court in a judgement issued in February 2020, whereby the employers have been absolved of the obligation to secure the consent of the trade unions in case of redundancy measure. 

Still, Moldovan laws grant employees a range of protections that create obligations for employers. These include among others: 

  • termination of employment by the employer may happen generally for good cause, such as misconduct at the workplace or disloyal behavior; 
  • working under conditions which meet safety and health requirements, including the right to demand the same; 
  • limited working hours which are provided by the law (regular weekly working hours corresponding to regular daily working hours shall not exceed 40 hours); 
  • vacations and holidays established by law (regular vacations shall not be less than 28 calendar days); 
  • compulsory social and medical insurance (voluntary though for the foreign employees of Moldovan business entities), which shall be paid mostly by the employer. 

The Moldovan Code of Administrative Contraventions has introduced higher penalties for the prevention and stoppage of any breaches of the above-mentioned rights. 

Insolvency

Albeit rather new, the 2012 Insolvency Law have already revealed a number of material flaws which determined a recent legislative reform, resulting in the draft amendment law, passed in the first reading back in December 2018 but yet to be enacted. Reformed areas are related to direct access to instituting the insolvency proceeding (no need to obtain first a final court judgment), catalyzing to post-commencement financings, by clear priority and collateral creation rules, encouraging accelerated out-of-court restructuring, based on the pre-negotiated deals concept, and adequate protection for the secured creditors, including those not having pecuniary claims against the debtor in insolvency.  

Renewable energy 

Since 2010, when the Republic of Moldova became a full-fledged member of the Energy Community (thus undertaking to transpose core EU energy legislation), long and sometimes contradictory policy dialog has been in place which culminated in enactment, in March 2018, of the new Law on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources, transposing the EU Directive 2009/28/EC. The law brought new support mechanisms, including feed-in tariffs and net metering, and was followed by the secondary legislation regulating the procedure of auctions for determination of eligible producers, the capacity limits and determining the central electricity supplier (Energocom JSC). The other legal novelties refer to the obligation by the central electricity supplier to purchase renewable electricityguaranteed and non-discriminatory access to the grid, and priority dispatch. 

Ca. 87 per cent. of the energy consumption is covered by imports and under the National Renewable Energy Action Plan Moldovan authorities have committed to scale-up the importance of renewable energy and to reach a target of at least 10% of total electricity generation from renewable energy sources by 2020. 

Foreign Investment Protection

The Moldovan legislative framework is favorable to FDI (see more below – Operating and Divesting from a Company”). Foreign investors are allowed to invest in any Moldovan assets (except for agricultural and forest land) and hold majority equity interests in any business area (with some limitations of investor’s jurisdictions in the financial industry and upon privatization)There is no fiscal tax on the acquisition of shares of a Moldovan entity and also the law does not generally require foreign investors to partner with the state or state-owned enterprises before undertaking projects in Moldova 

Expropriation of foreign investment in Moldova is only permitted on “public interest” grounds. The Law on Expropriation for a Cause of Public Utility, enacted in 1999, has been over the course of 20 years tested for the observance of the explicit provisions containing the conditions and the procedure of expropriation. Affected parties are allowed to negotiate compensation with public authorities. In case an agreement is not reached, an experts’ committee is constituted by a court to determine the amount and timeframe for effecting compensation.   

Intellectual property rights are protected by international and bilateral agreements as a type of investment.   Copyright is generally granted throughout the lifetime of the author and for 70 years after his death. As opposed to protection for the trademarks, patents, industrial designs or other intellectual property objects, there are no formalities required for protecting a copyright.  The former shall be registered with the State Agency on Intellectual Property (AGEPI) against a stamp duty. 

Alternative Dispute Resolution

Arbitration and voluntary mediation are sufficiently regulated in special lawsThe arbitration procedure is usually confidential, more expedited than the public court proceedings and offers more flexibility since the parties may agree on the detailed procedure. 

Foreign court judgements are recognized and enforced on a multilateral or bilateral basis. National laws do not require the exhaustion of local remedies before recourse to international commercial arbitration.  Also, as a matter of general rule neither do the vast majority of the Bilateral Investment Protection Treaties have clauses to the end of need to exhaust the local remedies for appealing to international investment arbitration.   

 

DEALING WITH AUTHORITIES 

Generally, Moldova’s regulatory setup is well-organized. To align with international best practices, the Government strives constantly at delineating the responsibility of state bodies, thus creating a good degree of separation between the regulatory and decision-making functions. 

Public Services Agency 

After a recent administrative reform, the State Registry of Legal Entities is held and maintained by the Public Services Agency, which shall ensure the publicity of various events – from registration to deletion – in the lifetime of business companies, certain freelancers (individual entrepreneurs) and other entities (see more below  – Types of Companies and Setting Up). 

Investors may find that the registrars from State Registry of Legal Entities tend to be rather formalistic and bureaucratic, especially when it comes to untested or complex operations. Hence, all registration related documents shall be carefully prepared, taking into account also the local customs. 

Ministry of Justice

Service abroad of trial participants and holding the Movables Charges Registry are some of the attributions falling within the ambit of the Ministry of JusticeNotably, ever since 2013, when Moldova acceded to the Hague Service Convention, the officers of the Ministry of Justice have significantly up-skilled their competences in the area 

National Bank of Moldova 

Operating on various control levels and combining the monetary and FX policy drafting and promoting with the bank supervision, the National Bank of Moldova (NBM) has felt in the recent 5 years a significant pressure both form Moldovan policy-makers and IFIs to ensure restoring the confidence in the banking sector, undermined after the high-scale frauds involving major Moldovan banks with local capital (labelled as the ‘one billion dollars theft’) Recent success stories include the 2018 sale of significant shareholdings in the largest Moldovan bank to an EBRD-led consortium and further 2019 sale of the controlling stake in the second largest bank to EU fit and proper investors, lifting the early intervention regime in the largest Moldovan bank and robust implementation of Basel III standards  

After putting in effect the new banking law in January 2018, the NBM has been focused on reshaping the secondary legislation, including on requirements to bank shareholders and governing bodies, adequacy of capital and transactions with related parties.   

Competition Council

Since succeeding the National Agency for Protection of Competition in 2012, the Competition Council has gained momentum in actively promoting a competitive environment and compliance with antitrust requirements.  Although falling short of experience (but eager to learn from best practices, including via the International Competition Networkthe Competition Council is generally both feared and respected by the local companies primarily for its extensive powers, which include the ability to search companies’ premises without any warrants issued by a judge.  Notably, since the examination of the first foreign-to-foreign transaction in 2016, the Moldovan Competition Council shall be considered for obtaining clearance in foreign deals potentially affecting the local market.    

Courts of Law

With no specialized courts, there is a three-tiered system in Moldova – namely, there are fifteen District Courts, four Courts of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Justice.  These all hear cases based on hard-paper files, save for one District Court in the south of the country where a digitalization pilot project is being currently underwent.  Notably, the delivery of time bound judgments is only scarcely captured in the law, however, this is encouraged by the judge’s administration body, the Superior Council of Magistrates. 

Because the country is a civil law jurisdiction, court judgments under Moldovan law have no official precedential effect. In the recent years, however, the lawmakers and judicial authorities have put more emphasis on the need to have a consistent and predictable case-law. To this end, judges may be disciplinary sanctioned for not observing or abiding to the principle of uniform application of the law. 

Pursuant to the measuring regulations of the Doing Business project, Moldova has generally, in the recent years, strengthened the procedure of enforcing rights; however, since courts are not stricto sensu bound by earlier judgments issued under the same or similar circumstances, this can sometimes result in the ununiformed application of the Moldovan law. 

 

INVESTING IN MOLDOVA 

The question is investing in Moldova easy?” is perhaps the most borne in mind by the local law and policy makers.  Although no perfect gauge of investing exists, Moldova has been constantly, since 2010, trying to climb up the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business ladder. The country was ranked 48 in the 2020 ranking, moving up circa 50 positions in the last 11 years. 

The Moldovan Government has long understood that providing attractive conditions for investors means working in the right direction.  The projection and the results of this is not always well reaching out of the Moldovan borders, as better attention should be given to efficiently communicating the country’s policies to investors and strengthening their robustness.   

Types of Companies and Setting Up  

As of 1 February 2020, out of ca. 125,000 companies registered with the State Registry of Legal Entities, most are the limited liability companies (LLCs) – 88,619, seconded by the joint-stock companies (JSCs) – 2,136. 

Either an LLC or a JSC can be founded by one person, unless the JSC founder is another business entity having a sole shareholder, and an LLC can have maximum 50 shareholders (no limit for JSCs) LLC’s social capital is divided into participatory interest (părți sociale), while JSC’s social capital is divided into shares (acțiuni). Both types of companies’ obligations are secured by the company’s property (patrimony) Corollary, LLC’s members and JSC’s shareholders are not personally liable for the LLC’s and respectively JSC’s obligations.  LLC’s and JSC’s internal bodies are the general meeting of shareholders (the supreme body), the supervisory board (optional for LLCs; mandatory for JSCs if the number of shareholders is higher than 50) and the executive body (individual or collegiate). Notably, in banks the shareholder meeting is not anymore deemed as governing body and more powers are vested into the board of directors. 

LLC has no minimum capital requirement, and can be incorporated in 4 to 48 hours.   

Foreign companies may opt for the old model of opening a Moldovan subsidiary or the new (enacted in Mach 2019) model of operating in Moldova via branches.  The laws do not distinguish between companies incorporated in the European Union or elsewhere. 

Operating and Divesting from a Company 

Beside traditional operational requirements, referring to having a proper book-keeping and reporting, employment and labor immigration, complying with customer protection, product safety and competition requirements, the newer requirements the Moldovan companies have to pay proper care or refer to personal data protection (including registration as data operators), know-your-customer and other AML/TF requirements. Non-banking financial intermediaries (‘non-banking credit organizations’) have also to put in place internal control and risk management systems and have the well-designed administrative framework. Banks are to comply with the NBM prudential regulations inspired from Basel III, while insurance companies are on the way to fully adopt the Solvency II Directivepartially being already implemented via the Law 242/2017 (on restrictions of the shareholder rights) and the Law 133/2018 (Chapter II and Art. 144 of the Directive) . 

Articles of association remain the core corporate document of any company, and its provisions are binding both upon the shareholders and the management. Shareholder agreements are not specifically regulated in the Republic of Moldova and are enforceable based on the freedom to contract principle. Shareholder agreements are binding for the shareholders involved but not for the company or third parties acquiring the shares in good faith, without knowledge of restrictions in the private agreement. Under banking regulations, shareholder and similar agreements are deemed to give rise to action on concert and must be disclosed to the issuer and to the regulator.  

Antitrust clearance is mandatory and non-compliance may result in severe sanctions.  Under the Moldovan law, an economic concentration generally exists where (i) the combined aggregate turnover of all the companies concerned is more than MDL 25 million (ca. EUR$1.3m) in the previous year, and (ii) there are at least two companies involved in the economic concentration which had separately a turnover greater than MDL 10 million (ca. EUR0.5m) in the previous year. As of March 2019, though, different financial thresholds may be provided for in the mass-media legislation. The notification with the Competition Council shall be filed before the implementation of the share transfer or similar transaction, implementation meaning the conclusion of the agreement, the announcement of the public bid or the acquisition of a controlling interest. 

Taxation

Moldova has a favorable tax regime which includes a low corporate income tax rate of 12%, with tax depreciation allowances for capital expenditure and an extensive tax treaty network.  

Being one of the key areas of concern for the Government, taxation has been permanently reshaped and fine-tuned with the latest material iteration in late 2018 when a legislative package for fiscal reform has brought novelties like cutting the income tax for private persons from 18 to 12 per cent.; reducing the employer’s contribution to the State Social Insurances Budget from 23 per cent to 18 per cent; doubling of the personal exemption, from U.S.$700 to U.S.$1400. 

Open discussions with the tax authorities have shown to be good practice. Recent fiscal reforms provided the possibility of securing tax rulings granted by competent Moldovan tax authorities which are binding in respect of a particular set of facts. 

Capital, payments and profits of foreign investors are freely transferable to their home jurisdictions. Favorable tax regime for new investments in Free Economic Zones have featured benefits in relation to VAT, income tax and customs duties. 

As of February 2020, Moldova has 50 operational Double Taxation Treaties which include among others countries from the European, Asian and the African continents.  These treaties prevail over national legislation and provide for more favourable tax rates, including for withholding tax.   

In response to the economic hit caused by CoVid-19, the Government has put in place business protection measures, including salary taxes cut, tax payment deferral, VAT restitution and state controls freezing. Business subsidies, insolvency protection and employment support are among the measures expected to come in the second wave of state response to pandemic effects. 

Roger Gladei, Managing Partner
Dan Nicoara, Senior Associate 

Moldova

OVERVIEW OF THE MARKET

With a steady and energetic GDP growth of 4.8, 4.5 and 4.3 per cent for 2018, 2017 and 2016, respectively, Moldova is among the fastest-growing economies in Europe.

According to the World Bank’s data, in 2018 Moldovan real GDP growth outpaced many of other countries in its region.  According to the IMF, Moldova’s nominal GDP reached U.S.$11.44 billion in 2018 and U.S.$9.08 billion in 2017.

The inflation rate decreased from 9.7 per cent. in 2015 to 6.4 per cent. in 2016 and remained almost on the same level in 2017 at 6.6 per cent., according to the National Bureau of Statistics. The inflation rate for 2018 amounted to 3.0 per cent., according to the National Bank of Moldova.

With a moderate climate and productive farmland, Moldova’s economy still relies heavily on its agriculture sector, featuring fruits, vegetables, wine, and tobacco.  According to National Bureau of Statistics, the agricultural sector accounted for 13 per cent. and 14 per cent. of Moldova’s GDP in 2017 and 2016, respectively. The agricultural sector employed 33.7 per cent. of the domestic labor force in 2016.

Moldova relies on its traditional advantages, such as being at the crossroads of the major routes linking Europe, the Middle East and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and having competitive-skilled and inexpensive work force.  Recent years have witnessed a remarkable shift in the investment paradigm of the Moldovan authorities, with investment attraction policies aimed to improve the infrastructure (including the road network), reform the education process (to bring it in line with the business needs) and catalyze the technology spillover to Moldovan outlets of foreign investors, including multinational enterprises. Favorable tax and customs regime, transparency and predictability of regulation, relaxation of licensing and state control rules are among the tools that aim to streamline a steady flow of sound investments in the Moldovan economy.

On the political dimension, initially after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Moldova had considered its relations with Russia to be of strategic importance. The frozen international conflict in the eastern part of Moldova and sporadic Russian bans on imports of wine and other food products from Moldova, coupled with increased institutionalized support for Moldovan reform projects from EU and US have irrevocably changed the vector of the Moldovan foreign policy and integration effort.  A proof that Moldova is currently in a robust manner oriented towards the free, market-based, economy principles serves the recent February 2019 nation-wide elections, which for the first time since independence in 1991 resulted in the communist party being left out the from acceding the Parliament.

In June 2014 Moldova and EU signed the Association Agreement (enacted in 2016), which established a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) with the EU, including a zero levy export and import regime for agricultural products based on renewed quotas. This has been fueling both increased trade with the EU countries and the economic growth in Moldova, brining support for the agricultural sector, modernization of transport infrastructure and reform of government institutions.

NEW LEGAL FRAMEWORK

Moldovan legislation has been fully revised after 1991 and it currently experiences the third wave of legal reform.  In 1998 Moldova has acceded to the New-York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, in 2011 it has ratified the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States (ICSID) and after enactment of the EU Association Agreement has embarked on a comprehensive process of reforming its legislation to bring it in line with the aquis communautaire.

Civil and Civil Procedure Code

The significant amendment of the Civil Procedure Code, enacted in June 2018, and of the Civil Code, enacted in March 2019, are generally aimed to modernize the legal framework and enable the sustainable development of the economy.

The amendment of the Civil Code is focused on ensuring the exactness and predictability of the civil legislation, protection of the validity of contracts, as well as turning more responsible the managers of private entities.  New legal concepts such as the trust, digital asset or sale of immovable assets under construction have been introduced, while many existing concepts have been developed and brought in line with the current stage of economy or technology evolution.

The amendments to the Civil Procedure Code are purported to equip better the Moldovan judges and good faith participants to discourage and curb the hindering and protracting of the proceedings.  Also, new concepts such as the written procedure for examining the low-value lawsuits was introduced.

Administrative Code

Following the enactment of the new Administrative Code in April 2019, all the regulations on the administrative non-contentious procedure and the administrative litigation have been structured so to ensure coherence and accessibility.  The new code has drawn inspiration mainly from the German law and clarifies the matters of enactment, validity, retraction and revocation of the administrative act as a central feature of the administrative process.

In terms of appealing state body decisions that could affect the rights and interests of individuals or legal entities, the recourse to administrative courts has been kept as a second step in the appeal process.

Employment and Migration Law

Recent years have witnessed a number of successive amendments to the labor laws, re-balancing the rights and interests of the employers and employees, and marking a definitive departure from the old employee-friendly legal regime. The grounds for employee dismissal have broadened, the legal powers of trade unions have shrunk and the administrative intervention in the employment relation have been reduced to the minimum.

Still, Moldovan laws grant employees a range of protections that create obligations for employers. These include among others:

  • working under conditions which meet safety and health requirements, including the right to demand the same;
  • limited working hours which are provided by the law (regular weekly working hours corresponding to regular daily working hours shall not exceed 40 hours);
  • vacations and holidays established by law (regular vacations shall not be less than 28 calendar days);
  • compulsory social insurance (voluntary though for the foreign employees of Moldovan business entities), which shall be paid mostly by the employer.

The Moldovan Code of Administrative Contraventions has introduced higher penalties for the prevention and stoppage of any breaches of the above-mentioned rights.

Insolvency

Albeit rather new, the 2011 Insolvency Law have already revealed a number of material flaws which determined a recent legislative reform, resulting in the draft amendment law, yet to be enacted. Reformed areas are related to direct access to instituting the insolvency proceeding (no need to obtain first a final court judgment), catalyzing to post-commencement financings, by clear priority and collateral creation rules, encouraging accelerated out-of-court restructuring, based on the pre-negotiated deals concept, and adequate protection for the secured creditors, including those not having pecuniary claims against the debtor in insolvency.

Renewable energy

The long and sometimes contradictory policy dialog have culminated in enactment, in March 2018, of the new Law on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources, transposing the EU Directive 2009/38/EC, followed by the secondary legislation regulating the procedure of auctions for determination of eligible producers, the capacity limits and determining the central supplier of electrical energy (Energocom JSC).

Under the National Renewable Energy Action Plan Moldovan authorities are committed to reaching a target of at least 10% of total electricity generation from renewable energy sources by 2020.

Foreign Investment Protection

The Moldovan legislative framework is favorable to FDI (see more below – ”Operating and Divesting from a Company”). Foreign investors are allowed to invest in any Moldovan assets (except for agricultural and forest land) and hold majority equity interests in any business area (with some limitations of investor’s jurisdictions in the financial industry and upon privatization). The law does not generally require foreign investors to partner with the state or state-owned enterprises before undertaking projects in Moldova.

Expropriation of foreign investment in Moldova is only permitted on “public interest” grounds. The Law on Expropriation for a Cause of Public Utility, enacted in 1999, has been over the course of 20 years tested for the observance of the explicit provisions containing the conditions and the procedure of expropriation. Affected parties are allowed to negotiate compensation with public authorities. In case an agreement is not reached, an experts’ committee is constituted by a court to determine the amount and timeframe for effecting compensation.

Intellectual property rights are protected by international and bilateral agreements as a type of investment.   Copyright is generally granted throughout the lifetime of the author and for 70 years after his death. As opposed to protection for the trademarks, patents, industrial designs or other intellectual property objects, there are no formalities required for protecting a copyright.  The former shall be registered with the State Agency on Intellectual Property (AGEPI) against a stamp duty.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

Arbitration and voluntary mediation are sufficiently regulated in the local law. Foreign court judgements are recognized and enforced on a multilateral or bilateral basis. National laws do not require the exhaustion of local remedies before recourse to international commercial arbitration.  Also, as a matter of general rule neither do the vast majority of the Bilateral Investment Protection Treaties have clauses to the end of the need to exhaust the local remedies for appealing to international investment arbitration.

DEALING WITH AUTHORITIES

Generally, Moldova’s regulatory setup is well-organized. To align with international best practices, the Government strives constantly at delineating the responsibility of state bodies, thus creating a good degree of separation between the regulatory and decision-making functions.

Public Services Agency

After a recent administrative reform, the State Registry of Legal Entities is held and maintained by the Public Services Agency, which shall ensure the publicity of various events – from registration to deletion – in the lifetime of business companies, certain freelancers (individual entrepreneurs) and other entities (see more below  – ”Types of Companies and Setting Up”).

Investors may find that the registrars from State Registry of Legal Entities tend to be rather formalistic and bureaucratic, especially when it comes to untested or complex operations. Hence, the registration documents shall be carefully prepared, taking into account also the local customs.

Ministry of Justice

Service abroad of trial participants and holding the Movables Charges Registry are some of the attributions falling within the ambit of the Ministry of Justice, which seem important for the foreign investors. Notably, ever since 2013, when Moldova acceded to the Hague Service Convention, the officers of the Ministry of Justice have significantly up-skilled their competences in the area.

National Bank of Moldova

Operating on various control levels and combining the monetary and FX policy drafting and promoting with the bank supervision, the National Bank of Moldova (NBM) has felt in the recent 5 years a significant pressure both form Moldovan policy-makers and IFIs to ensure restoring the confidence in the banking sector, undermined after the high-scale frauds involving major Moldovan banks with local capital (labelled as the ‘one billion dollars theft’).  Recent success stories include the 2018 sale of significant shareholdings in the largest Moldovan bank to an EBRD-led consortium and further 2019 sale of the controlling stake in the second largest bank to EU fit and proper investors, lifting the early intervention regime in the largest Moldovan bank and robust implementation of Basel III standards.

After putting in effect the new banking law in January 2018, the NBM has been focused on reshaping the secondary legislation, including on requirements to bank shareholders and governing bodies, adequacy of capital and transactions with related parties.

Competition Council

Since succeeding the National Agency for Protection of Competition in 2012, the Competition Council has gained momentum in actively promoting a competitive environment and compliance with antitrust requirements.  Although falling short of experience, the Competition Council is generally both feared and respected by the local companies primarily for its extensive powers, which include the ability to search companies’ premises without search warrants issued by a judge.  Notably, since the examination of the first foreign-to-foreign transaction in 2016, the Moldovan Competition Council shall be considered for obtaining clearance in foreign deals potentially affecting the local market.

Courts of Law

There is a three-tiered court system in Moldova – namely, there are District Courts, Courts of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Justice.  These all hear the cases based on hard-paper files.  Notably, the delivery of time bound judgments is only scarcely captured in the law, however, this is encouraged by the judge’s administration body, the Superior Council of Magistrates.

Because the country is a civil law jurisdiction, court judgments under Moldovan law have no official precedential effect. In the recent years, however, the lawmakers and judicial authorities have put more emphasis on the need to have a consistent and predictable case-law. To this end, judges may be disciplinary sanctioned for not observing or not obeying to the principle of uniform application of the law.

Pursuant to the measuring regulations of the Doing Business project, Moldova has generally, in the recent years, strengthened the procedure of enforcing rights; however, since courts are not stricto sensu bound by earlier judgments issued under the same or similar circumstances, this can sometimes result in the ununiformed application of the Moldovan law.

INVESTING IN MOLDOVA

The question ”is investing in Moldova easy?” is perhaps the most borne in mind by the local law and policy makers.  Although no perfect gauge of investing exists, Moldova has been constantly, since 2010, trying to climb up the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business ”ladder”. The country was ranked 47 in the 2019 ranking, moving up circa 50 positions in the last 10 years.

The Moldovan Government has long understood that providing attractive conditions for investors means working in the right direction.  The projection and the results of this is not always well reaching out of the Moldovan borders, as better attention should be given to efficiently communicating the country’s policies to investors and strengthening their robustness.

Types of Companies and Setting Up

As of 1 April 2019, out of the 165,449 companies registered with the State Registry of Legal Entities, most are the limited liability companies (LLCs) – 100,303, seconded by the joint-stock companies (JSCs) – 4,385.

Either an LLC or a JSC can be founded by one person, unless the JSC founder is another business entity having a sole shareholder, and an LLC can have maximum 50 shareholders (no limit for JSCs).  LLC’s social capital is divided into participatory interest (părți sociale), while JSC’s social capital is divided into shares (acțiuni). Both types of companies’ obligations are secured by the company’s property (patrimony).  Corollary, LLC’s members and JSC’s shareholders are not personally liable for the LLC’s and respectively JSC’s obligations.  LLC’s and JSC’s internal bodies are the general meeting of shareholders (the supreme body), the supervisory board (optional for LLCs; mandatory for JSCs if the number of shareholders is higher than 50) and the executive body (individual or collegiate). Notably, in banks the shareholder meeting is not anymore deemed as governing body and more powers are vested into the board of directors.

LLC has no minimum capital requirement, and can be incorporated in 4 to 48 hours.

Foreign companies may opt for the old model of opening a Moldovan subsidiary or the new (enacted in Mach 2019) model of operating in Moldova via branches.  The laws do not distinguish between companies incorporated in the European Union or elsewhere.

Operating and Divesting from a Company

Beside traditional operational requirements, referring to having a proper book-keeping and reporting, employment and labor immigration, complying with customer protection, product safety and competition requirements, the newer requirements the Moldovan companies have to pay proper care of refer to personal data protection (including registration as data operators), know-your-customer and other AML/TF requirements. Non-banking financial intermediaries (‘non-banking credit organizations’) have also to put in place internal control and risk management systems and have the well-designed administrative framework. Banks are to comply with the NBM prudential regulations inspired from Basel III, while insurance companies are on the way to adopt the Solvency II Directive.

Articles of association remain the core corporate document of any company, and its provisions are binding both upon the shareholders and the management. Shareholder agreements are not specifically regulated in the Republic of Moldova and are enforceable based on the freedom to contract principle. Shareholder agreements are binding for the shareholders involved but not for the company or third parties acquiring the shares in good faith, without knowledge of restrictions in the private agreement. Under banking regulations, shareholder and similar agreements are deemed to give rise to action ion concert and must be disclosed to the issuer and to the regulator.

Antitrust clearance is mandatory and non-compliance may result in severe sanctions.  Under the Moldovan law, an economic concentration exists where (i) the combined aggregate turnover of all the companies concerned is more than MDL 25 million (ca. EUR$1.3m) in the previous year, and (ii) there are at least two companies involved in the economic concentration which had separately a turnover greater than MDL 10 million (ca. EUR0.5m) in the previous year. The notification with the Competition Council shall be filed before the implementation of the share transfer or similar transaction, implementation meaning the conclusion of the agreement, the announcement of the public bid or the acquisition of a controlling interest.

Capital, payments and profits of foreign investors are freely transferable to their home jurisdictions. As of April 2019, Moldova has in place 50 Double Taxation Treaties which include among others countries from the European, Asian and the African continents.  These treaties provide for more favourable tax rates, including for withholding tax.

Roger Gladei, Managing Partner
Dan Nicoara, Senior Associate

Roger Gladei, Managing Partner

Managing Partner Roger Gladei explains how the firm is adapting to clients’ changing needs.

What do you see as the main points that differentiate gladei & partners from your competitors?

Our partners have the practical experience of in-house work, so they know the corporate life from inside. Our key lawyers have also economic or international business background, so they speak the client’s language. We’ve been really sticking to our values, posted on our web-site from day one, namely turning our knowledge into value for clients, drive for excellence, trusted partnership and forward thinking.

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

M&A, and particularly due diligence and transaction structuring, has been keeping us very busy. We’ve established strong cooperation with reputable foreign law firms, teaming up in large-scale cross-border deals having Moldovan element. This pays off for the client, we noted.

Public procurement and infrastructure projects is another area which will be requiring significant legal support. Moldova has recently received important EU and US support for infrastructure projects, and contractors do need to avoid the pitfalls in local setting up or business operation.

Legal risk management is growing in demand, both from SMEs and large MNEs, covering all aspects of corporate life, from employment, authorization, data privacy and IP protection, to regulatory compliance, corporate governance and antitrust matters.

Last but not least, real estate development and construction has made our lawyers burn the midnight oil, especially due to inconsistent regulation and lack of uniform enforcement. The market is growing and so the demand for qualified legal service.

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

First, we’ve implemented the integrated approach, where the client can find all business services needed in one stop. We’ve established working relations with reliable selected accountants, tax advisors, property valuators, translators, notaries, court bailiffs, so that the client doesn’t need to lose time shopping around and can benefit of our experience.

Second, we’ve consolidated and deployed our internal intellectual capital, accumulated over the years, to deliver proven and tested solutions to the client.

Third, we’ve gone pro-active. Good foreign and international clients have strong internal systems and business processes, but the practice has shown that local legal risk management is the Achilles’ heel. And the price for non-compliance is too high.

Is technology changing the way you interact with your clients, and the services you can provide them?

Tech is a threat we are turning into an opportunity. Digital internal workflow, seamless client communication, data privacy and protection are the areas coming into my mind first when I think of recent developments. Also, in novelty for the Moldovan market, with the support of USAID BRITE program we’ve launched a dedicated business support on-line platform www.controale.md where any Moldovan business facing state inspections may find first-hand practical advice.

The feedback is very positive, now the local businessman is not powerless when facing the state inspector and we are happy to hear the businessmen saying they are not going to pay bribes anymore.

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

The above on-line support platform is an example. Another one refers to a client who recently implemented, with our legal support, an outstanding fin tech project, a pioneering in the market. Moldovan businesses have gained better access to finance and so the support for growth.

Another example relates to a full legal review of all core business contracts a Moldovan bank entrusted to us. Having banked on our 22 years of experience in banking and finance, the bank understood that preventing legal risks would save significant effort and avoid legal troubles, sometime irremediable.

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

Clients look for effective and efficient legal solutions, not mere advice, factoring not only the legal but also the business components. The client needs you to put yourself into his shoes, to treat his business as your own. The client wants you to fight for him, and there is no better reward for us than hearing the client to be full of confidence in us.

It is our 10th year of operation as a law firm and so a good occasion to plan for the future. I am very proud that we managed to evolve from a small specialized firm to a full-fledge multi-disciplinary team, with deep expertise and practical experience in the most needed legal practice areas. We’ve forged a strong team of talented professionals, keen and able to transform their knowledge and expertise into value for the client. I am fully confident in the future with such a team.