The recently approved labour reform allows arbitration in individual employment agreements, provided that the employee's monthly salary is twice as high as the cap on social security pensions and the arbitration clause is proposed or expressly agreed by the employee, according to the Arbitration Law. This means that employees with a higher level of education and income can now sign employment contracts for the settlement of any disputes through arbitration.
The full bench of the Superior Court of Justice recently refused the recognition and enforcement of two arbitral awards issued by an arbitral tribunal seated in New York under the International Chamber of Commerce Rules. This decision is historic and important for arbitration, as it is one of the rare cases in which the Superior Court of Justice failed to recognise a foreign arbitral award.
The Sao Paulo State Court was recently faced with a dispute between the contracting parties to a franchise agreement. While the judge rapporteur recognised that the Brazilian legal system provides for competence-competence as a general rule, given the circumstances of this case, he declared the arbitration clause in the relevant franchise agreement to be null.
The Superior Court of Justice recently issued an important decision that not only demonstrates the level of sophistication reached by the superior courts in relation to arbitration, but also the prestige that arbitration has achieved in the country as a dispute resolution method which has a jurisdictional characteristic. The decision is critical for the development of arbitration in Brazil, since it reinforces the state courts' position in favour of arbitration.
December 14 2016 is already being considered 'D-day' with regard to arbitration and corporate law, as before the Brazilian judiciary's court recess, two important precedents were set on the subject. Questions still exist regarding whether these precedents are conflicting and only time and the likely debates following these decisions will be able to resolve them. However, one thing is certain: the judiciary's final decisions in 2016 are likely to cause intense discussions in 2017.
Interchange agreements are relatively new and have been increasingly used by commercial aircraft operators in Brazil. In response to industry requests, the Brazilian Civil Aviation Agency and the Brazilian Aeronautical Registry recently clarified several applicable rules. Due to their novelty, interchange agreements are not always understood in the industry. While such agreements share some similarities with interline and code-share agreements, they have important distinctions.
For the past few months, the Brazilian Aeronautical Registry has experimented with a new electronic filing system that allows parties to file documents electronically 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This system is now operative for documents relating to commercial aircraft. Documents relating to private aircraft, business aircraft and helicopters are still being filed physically. The new electronic system is expected to become available to them during the second half of 2017.
In September 2016 the Brazilian Revenue Service unexpectedly promulgated a change in its treatment of Ireland, which had the potential to wreak havoc on the aircraft leasing sector for the entire country. After four weeks of considerable uncertainty, the changes – as they apply to commercial aircraft leases – were suspended. While the clarifications temporarily resolve the initial concerns regarding commercial aircraft leases, they provide no relief for other important sectors, such as the air taxi sector.
As the revision to the Aeronautical Code is taking longer than expected, the president promulgated interim legal measures earlier in 2016, including one change particularly relevant to air carriers – restrictions on foreign investment in airlines. Although ultimately vetoed, these measures still merit attention, as they are indicative of future legislation.
Brazil's airlines are facing unprecedented economic and financial pressures. With approximately 15 to 20% of their payment obligations fixed in US dollars, they have seen their operational profits drastically decline and are experiencing significant operating losses. Although no airline has sought bankruptcy protection, the risk that a major airline will do so is considerable and lessors should be aware of their rights and risks should this occur.
The Ministry of Finance recently issued Decree 9,299/2018, which partially changed the structure of the Brazilian Competition Policy System (BCPS). The BCPS undertakes three main activities: preventive control, repressive control and competition advocacy. The restructuring focuses on the promotion of competition advocacy in the country.
As in other jurisdictions, the Brazilian authorities have been striving to build a well-respected leniency programme. Evidence from recent years suggests that before allowing a company to benefit from its leniency programme, the Administrative Council for Economic Defence has become more demanding, requesting strong evidence of the existence of collusion, as well as proof of any (potential) impact in the country.
Under the former Brazilian merger control system, several non-classical M&A transactions were subject to merger review by the Administrative Council for Economic Defence. This broad statutory language left much room for uncertainty. With the introduction of the new law, the open-ended wording of the former law has been replaced by a list of reportable transactions.
Since the entry into force of the new Competition Law, practitioners, investors and the competition authority have spent much time discussing the review of transactions involving investment funds. Most issues in connection to these discussions arise as a result of the authority's regulation that sets forth a broad definition of 'group of companies' whenever investment funds are involved.
The year 2012 was key for the modernisation of antitrust law and policy in Brazil, with the new Competition Law finally entering into force. The new legal framework changed the dynamics of the antitrust review process – not only for the antitrust authority, which now has a new deadline to review merger cases, but also for companies, which must now deal with a ban on closing obligations during the merger review process.
The discussion regarding the legal nature of awards is not new to Brazilian labour courts, especially because amounts paid as awards could be considered salary, obliging the employer to include the award in the employee's salary and pay him or her every month or include this amount as a basis for determining the employee's labour rights. The legislative branch has tried to clarify this matter, defining the legal nature of awards, as well as the concept and legal criteria for their application.
The use of outsourcing has historically been uncertain in Brazil, particularly in relation to the outsourcing of a company's core business. However, once in force, the labour reform will create a scenario of greater legal certainty for outsourcing because it expressly authorises the outsourcing of any activities, including a company's core business.
According to a precedent established by the Superior Labour Court, the acquiring company is not liable for the labour debts of other companies within a corporate group that encompasses the acquired company, provided that the entities – at the time of the transaction – were creditworthy or economically viable, except in the case of bad faith or fraud. However, a recent reform to the Labour Code will enter into force in November 2017 and may change the existing understanding in this regard.
The need to modernise the procedural rules applicable to the labour procedure has long been a concern in Brazil. As such, it was well known that labour relations were being modernised and that the law did not satisfactorily account for this progress. In light of this, the newly enacted Law 13,467/2017 will introduce, among several changes not seen in prior legislative amendments, equal treatment of litigating parties and greater legal certainty for both litigating parties and Brazilian society as a whole.
The recently approved labour reform has amended several articles of the Labour Code and Laws 6,019/1974 (temporary employment), 8,036/90 (severance fund) and 8,212/1991 (social contributions). The legislation still protects the constitutional rights of workers. However, it seeks to modernise labour relations by creating rules and defining concepts which allow workers, companies and unions to have more freedom to negotiate their rights.
In order to improve the definition of and conditions for the use and disposal of fluids, gravel and cement paste resulting from drilling and production activity in Brazil, the Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) recently published Normative Instruction 01/2018. In doing so, the IBAMA established new definitions and specific criteria that must be followed, subject to the penalties provided in the law.
The Brazilian National Agency of Petroleum, Natural Gas and Biofuels recently published Notice of Public Consultation and Public Hearing 20 in order to collect input regarding the new rule which will increase the flexibility of the local content rules provided for in concession contracts entered into between the seventh and 13th bidding round for onerous assignment, as well as the first production sharing bidding round of the exploration of oil and natural gas blocks.
The initial expectation from some market analysts with respect to the outcome of Brazil's 14th bidding round was conservative, with Brazil's political turmoil and the downturn in the oil and gas sector clearly inciting this uncertainty. However, it seems that the government's initiative to extend the special customs regime for the import of rigs, vessels and equipment until 2040, as well as its adjustment of the rules in relation to local content requirements, ensured the round's success.
A recent decision rendered by the Brasilia Federal Court of Appeals suspended one of the most anticipated Petrobras international tenders for the charter and operation of a floating production, storage and offloading unit in the Libra field, the largest oil field in the pre-salt region. The suspension will remain in effect until the Brazilian National Agency of Petroleum, Natural Gas and Biofuels rules on Petrobras's local content waiver request.
President Michel Temer recently enacted Law 13.365/2016. The law makes the participation of Petrobras as the exclusive pre-salt operator optional, while setting out Petrobras's pre-emptive right. With the enactment of the new law, the Brazilian government is preparing to conduct the second production sharing round, which will offer four pre-salt areas, in the second half of 2017.