Sochi Legal, an international legal forum took place on the September 20-21, 2014 in Sochi, Russia's Olympic capital to discuss issues faced by the legal and business community in the rapidly changing market conditions and legal environment. The event was organised by Egorov, Puginsky, Afanasiev & Partners, Russia's leading law firm, and Yug, a leading regional firm.
Sochi Legal established itself as a key legal event this autumn. The forum attracted over 200 candidates from 26 countries, including around 50 in-house counsels and managers of leading Russian and foreign companies. Sochi Legal focused on 10 key discussion panels.
The event began with an opening speech from the co-chairs of Sochi Legal - Dimitry Afanasiev, the member of the Partners' Committee of Egorov, Puginsky, Afanasiev & Partners, and Yuri Pustovit, Managing Partner of Advocates Bureau Yug, which naturally flowed into the discussion on the Future of the Legal Market in Russia. The panel discussed the nature of legal services currently in demand, changes in the market in light of the sanctions, changes to the services provided as well as various law firm management models.
The following panel, Asia Focus: Investors' Expectations, Protection and Investment Support was devoted to the prospects of Russian-Asian relations, opportunities for investment, as well as potential investor risks, and views on Asia's reaction to sanctions. Boris Titov, the Presidential Commissioner for Entrepreneurs' Rights, provided an excellent overview of doing business in China and the potential for growth in this area. The Hong Kong expert summarized the process of listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, and partners from leading Japanese and Korean law firms shared their countries' views on doing business in Russia.
Sanctions and Reciprocal Sanctions: a New Reality panel included expert analysis on the impact of sanctions, their effectiveness and consequences. The panel also explored the implications and opportunities for investments in the Crimea, Russia, and Ukraine.
After lunch the attendees compared the Traditional and the emerging international arbitration centers. The experts discussed whether the current situation may contribute to the demand for emerging arbitration centers as an alternative to the Western centers of arbitration. The panel assessed the effect of lower arbitration costs of the emerging centers, as well as the differences between arbitration procedures and legal culture.
The panel Сompliance and Criminal Liability consisted of two parts: the first focused on international compliance and conflicts between national law and foreign anti-corruption requirements, the second part addressed the Russian criminal risks and remedies for entrepreneurs. Dimitry Afanasiev brought the two parts together and outlined the compliance risks faced by Russian business in the current economic and political environment, suggesting potential ways to navigate the climate.
The panel dedicated to Private Client Services: New Challenges addressed opening of accounts abroad, the regulatory changes in Russia and the changes in attitudes towards Russian customers in the West, issues related to private money in offshore accounts, and complying with the deoffshorisation requirements without ruining one's business. The panel also discussed trusts and funds for Russians, as well as various citizenship opportunities.
During the discussion on the CIS and the Common Economic Space - Legal Issues for Businesses the representatives of the Federal Antimonopoly Services of Russia outlined the antitrust aspects of state integration within the Eurasian Economic Union. These issues were covered by the international trade law and intellectual property experts, while public officers and legal business insiders from other CIS countries gave a summary of the legal environment in their jurisdictions.
The panel Measures to Protect National Tax Interests: Russian Anti-Offshore Package and Foreign Practices to Retain the Tax Income assessed the effectiveness of initiatives suggested by the Russian Government, discussed what businesses should do to get prepared for the anti-offshore measures coming into force, whether the "anti-offshore package" coming into force is likely to affect business and deal structuring, and the various services Russian and foreign lawyers may offer in view of recent developments.
"Russian Regional Law Firms: Areas of Expertise and Scope for Development" panel brought together representatives of Russian leading regional law firms to discuss such topics as the quality of staff, different approaches to specialisation, situations when federal companies and law firms need local lawyers, as well as effective strategies for the development of regional law firms.
The final panel addressed Infrastructure Issues as demonstrated by the Olympic Sochi projects. The key speaker, Stephan Zoechling, the Chief Operations Officer at Transstroy Holding, provided details of the Olympic construction experience, and the panelists which included Russian and foreign lawyers, covered the legal mechanics facilitating the implementation of such projects and mitigation of the associated risks.
Sochi Legal was held in parallel with and in close proximity to the annual Sochi-2014 International Investment Forum attended by thousands of government officials and business community representatives. Dozens of delegates attended both forums. On September 19, 2014 a Round-Table entitled Golden Rules of M&A Transactions was held at the International Investment Forum. The discussion was moderated by Dimitry Afanasiev, the member of the Partners' Committee of Egorov Puginsky Afanasiev & Partners, with Robin Wittering, Firm's partner acting as a key speaker. The attendees addressed the particular aspects of the M&A transactions in Russia, special situations arising out of such transactions, the sanctions' effect on the M&A market and further market development prospects. Kirill Androsov, Managing Partner of Altera Capital, Ruslan Ibragimov, Vice-President for Corporate and Legal Affairs, MTS (Russia), Sergei Ostrovsky, Partner at Ashurst (UK), Igor Makarov, Deputy CEO at Basic Element, Nikolai Gordeev, President and Chairman of the Management Board at UFC Bank, Tomohiro Tsuchiya, Partner at Mori Hamada & Matsumoto (Japan), and Patrick Dziewolski, Partner at Bredin Prat (France), acted as panelists.
The Sochi Legal official agenda was followed by a diverse entertainment program, which included dinner accompanied by a live Jazz band, a cocktail reception with a gipsy dancing performance and a guided tour of the Sochi Olympic sights.
UFC Bank acted as the General Partner for Sochi Legal, and Abrau Durso Wine House provided sparkling wine for the dinner.
Media partners included Mergermarket, Zakon.ru, Pravo.ru, LawFirm.ru, and LawFirmManagement.ru portals, Zakon Publishing House, Korporativny Yurist (Corporate Lawyer), Legal Insight, Yurist Kompanii (In-House Lawyer), and Yurist (Lawyer) magazines, Yug Times and ezh-YURIST newspapers, Russian Legal Information Agency (RAPSI), KADIS, Russian Arbitration Association, and Kazakhstan Bar Association (KazBar).