In the corporate world, managers of diverse employees have significant influence over their employees’ success and play a major role in retaining and developing those employees.
While the same is true in the legal industry, it is harder to determine who is the diverse attorney’s manager. Most associates work with a variety of partners, even at smaller law firms, so it is more difficult to say which partner wears the label of “manager.” Unfortunately, this often means that it becomes less clear who is responsible for developing, supporting and promoting diverse attorneys.
However, it is the underrepresented – people of color, women, LGBTQ+ persons, individuals with disabilities and veterans – who need effective advocates in the workplace beyond their manager. And these advocates are the courageous allies in society that work to create more equitable and inclusive experiences and workplaces.
All law firms have their own distinct structure, and this structure determines who is responsible for guiding a diverse associate on their path to success. Obviously, the partner who assigns work should be the first advocate for the attorney’s career. Second, practice area leaders (or similar positions) may not interact with diverse attorneys regularly but are responsible for the overall success of all the attorneys under their purview. In some cases, firms also have a person in an administrative role who oversees work assignments, evaluations and feedback – another good candidate to be an advocate. And finally, formal and informal mentors play a role.
In the legal world, all the above-mentioned leaders should act as “manager” in an effort to positively impact diverse associates’ career trajectories and enhance the firm’s retention. Issues arise, however, when none, or only one, of these people step up and accept the responsibility.
Ensuring that diverse attorneys have access to formalized work assignments, professional development opportunities, mentoring programs and sponsorship commitments does not happen without a concerted effort.
Firm leaders should focus on these four areas to make sure advocacy happens within the firm:
Wesley Bizzell, senior assistant general counsel of Altria Client Services and president of the National LGBT Bar Association, notes that “time is a challenge,” whether in a corporate law department or a law firm, but that “plain old-fashioned listening” is vital to a manager’s role in supporting diverse attorneys. Creating relationships with diverse attorneys shows the manager is making an investment in attorney careers.
The key is to create a “sincere relationship with people because it will pay off in the long term,” says Ronald Jordan, senior principal director at Carter-White & Shaw. “It is an investment.”
It is critical for diverse attorney success that managers be conscious of how and to whom they assign work and the quality of those assignments. “It’s important to be thoughtful about high-profile work across the team,” explains Bonnie Lau, partner at Morrison & Foerster and alumni chair of the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity. “It is common knowledge that partners tend to rely on their choice colleagues, which often excludes underrepresented diverse attorneys.”
Ensuring a pipeline of work
Developing key legal competencies is vital for all attorneys, and work assignments are the primary mechanism in how attorneys gain that skill and knowledge. No matter who controls the pipeline, “just getting diverse attorneys noticed and valued so that they gain access is what is important,” says Gregory Grossman, partner at Sequor Law.
Managers, however defined in a law firm, need to ensure their diverse attorneys get the experience necessary to stay on track at their firms, and there are many ways managers can do this. For example, to ensure the firm’s work was equitably distributed, Jenner & Block piloted a new work assignment process to create “more oversight and insight starting with the new associates,” notes Courtney Carter, Jenner & Block’s director of diversity and inclusion.
An ally is an individual who helps to create work cultures that attract and retain the highest quality attorneys. These allies commit to diversity, equity and inclusion in meaningful and lasting ways to best support the advancement of underrepresented attorneys. An ally also must demonstrate courage and agree to risk their political capital for underrepresented attorneys.
This includes “offering to introduce colleagues from underrepresented groups to influential people within your network,” says Keyonn Pope, partner at Reed Smith.
Being an ally
What does it mean to be an ally within a legal organization? Senior attorneys who hold positions of influence often act as allies to those with less access, taking responsibility for implementing changes that will enable underrepresented attorneys’ success.
“Being an ally, or accomplice, requires a commitment to use one’s personal and professional platform to create positive change,” says Daniel L. (D.L.) Morriss, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) partner at Hinshaw & Culbertson. Indeed, an ally can perform powerful acts such as recommending newer colleagues for high-profile work, stretch assignments and learning opportunities.
Allies can also demonstrate support by creating a safe space for attorneys to be their authentic selves, normalizing mental health and wellness issues, and suggesting diverse attorneys to be speakers or panelists. “There are people who support DEI and want to be allies,” explains Taylor Wilson, managing partner of Haynes and Boone, adding it’s important to “empower them to use their voices and privilege to better advocate for change.”
Allies also seek to create systemic change within the organization, not just remove barriers for specific underrepresented attorneys. This can be done through resource funding, salary review, inclusive hiring practices, inclusive employee benefit plans, nursing rooms, wellness rooms, prayer rooms, venue accessibility and all-gender restrooms.
Ultimately, allies must give honest and constructive feedback and overcome fears that the receiver will not accept the feedback. Studies have found that African American lawyers receive extra scrutiny from supervising attorneys, which can lead to poor performance reviews, lower bonuses, less visible assignments and job loss. The feedback should be specific. When pinpointing something negative, offer assistance and highlight ways and resources to improve. The key is to tie all feedback to business goals.
In the legal field, diversity of thought and perspective are critical to servicing clients at the highest level. Managers and allies will help law firms move the needle forward in creating an environment in which all underrepresented communities are afforded equal access to quality work and opportunities.
Remember, the ultimate goal of a diverse workforce is to promote a stronger cross section of perspectives, experiences and insights to solve clients’ legal challenges. This should be the goal of every attorney and law firm leader.
Latinvex singles out the top foreign lawyers in Latin America.
BY LATINVEX STAFF
The editorial and research staff of Latinvex has selected the leading attorneys from international law firms that are involved in the legal business in Latin America.
The ninth annual ranking includes 100 attorneys from 58 law firms — major firms as well as boutique firms — and spans 12 categories, including arbitration & litigation, banking & finance, capital markets, corporate/M&A, energy, FCPA & fraud and project finance.
The criteria used was a combination of factors, including recent track record on major deals and business, prominence of firm in Latin America and rankings by third parties such as Chambers and Partners, Legal 500 and Refinitiv.
Latinvex used data from our annual survey of international firms as well as publicly-available information.
This year, 14 attorneys were new compared with last year’s list.
Keywords: Allen & Overy, Arent Fox, Arnold & Porter, Baker Botts, Beveridge & Diamond, Brown & Rudnick, Cassels Brock, Chaffetz Lindsey, Cleary Gottlieb, Conyers, Covington & Burling, Crowell & Moring, Davis Polk, Debevoise & Plimpton, Diaz Reus, Foley Hoag, Freshfields, Fridman Fels & Soto, Gowling WLG, Haynes and Boone, Herbert Smith Freehills, Hogan Lovells, Holland & Knight, Hughes Hubbard, Hunton Andrews Kurth, Jenner & Block, Jones Day, K&L Gates, Latham & Watkins, Littler Mendelson, Mayer Brown, McDermott Will & Emery, Milbank, Miller & Chevalier, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, Morrisson & Foerster, Nelson Mullins, Paul Hastings, Proskauer Rose, Quinn Emanuel, Reed Smith, Ropes & Gray, Sequor Law, Shearman & Sterling, Sheppard Mullin, Sidley Austin, Simpson Thacher, Skadden, Squire Patton Boggs, Sullivan & Cromwell, Thompson & Knight, Vinson & Elkins, Wasserman West, White & Case, Willkie, Wilson Sonsini, Winston & Strawn and Winston Legal Group.
After years of debate, Brazil recently enacted legislation amending its bankruptcy statute and modernizing the Brazilian insolvency system. The new legislation provides new domestic tools to rescue distressed companies from disaster, including rules that enable DIP financing and allow creditors to propose a plan when the debtor’s proposal is unsatisfactory. In the cross-border insolvency area, the new law implements the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Model Law on Cross–Border Insolvency.
The basic framework of the UNCITRAL Model Law familiar to insolvency practitioners has been road-tested in 48 countries prior to Brazil’s recent legislative change. The Model Law seeks to identify the jurisdiction where the debtor’s center of main interests (COMI) is located, and deems the insolvency proceeding filed in that jurisdiction the “foreign main proceeding.” Under Brazil’s version of the Model Law, an insolvency proceeding filed in a jurisdiction other than the debtor’s COMI and where the debtor engages in non-transitory economic activities or holds property is a “foreign non-main proceeding.” The Model Law’s vision is that a troubled multi-national business will be able to break through the disparate and sometimes contradictory insolvency regimes in different nations. The Model Law promotes cooperation across borders in order to accomplish laudable objectives, such as the rescue of financially troubled businesses.
Where Brazil is the debtor’s COMI, the new law is, in many ways, simply a codification of the existing practice. For many years, in cases where Brazil is the debtor’s COMI, Brazilian insolvencies have sought recognition and cooperation through ancillary proceedings abroad. A prominent example is the liquidation of the Brazilian bank Banco Santos, where the Brazilian trustee was able to recover and sell over 90 pieces of valuable artwork with the cooperation of foreign courts and use the repatriated proceeds to pay creditors.
However, until now, Brazilian courts could not give reciprocal treatment to foreign main proceedings when the debtor’s COMI was outside of Brazil. Indeed, prior requests to enforce foreign bankruptcy decisions in Brazil through exequatur proceedings were rebuffed. See, e.g., Gutmen Investiment Corp v. Manacá S A Armazens Gerais e Administração, Case No. SEC 11277 / VG, rapporteur Min. Maria Thereza de Assis Moura, Decision on request for granting exequatur to foreign judgment (Superior Tribunal of Justice Jul. 1, 2016). See also, Antônio Moraes Sarmento Patrício v. Vera Maria Brak Lamy P. Raposo Patkoczy Fonseca, Case No. SEC 1.734/PT, rapporteur Min. Fernando Gonçalves, Decision on request for granting exequatur to foreign judgment (Superior Tribunal of Justice Feb. 16, 2011).
Under the new law, Brazil embraces the Model Law’s modified universalism and provides its courts with the basis to recognize and provide assistance to both main and non-main foreign proceedings. In some respects, the new Brazilian legislation deviates from the suggested wording in the Model Law in order to emphasize the broad cooperation available.
Opening the Gate: The Request for Recognition
To access comity and cooperation from a Brazilian court, the representative of the foreign insolvency proceeding (foreign representative) must pass through the gateway referred to as “recognition” in the Model Law. The foreign representative must file a request for recognition with the court of the place where the debtor has its principal “establishment” in Brazil under the Model Law definition, meaning the place of operations where the debtor carries out a non-transitory economic activity with human means and goods or services. If a voluntary or involuntary bankruptcy proceeding of the debtor was previously filed in Brazil, the foreign representative must file the request for recognition with the same court where that plenary proceeding had been filed.
The new law sets out the requirements for obtaining recognition of a foreign insolvency proceeding. The request is a straightforward document attaching evidence of the existence of the foreign proceeding, the appointment of the foreign representative, and, in practice, information sufficient to provide the context necessary to grant the relief sought. “One of the key objectives of the Model Law is to establish simplified procedures for recognition of qualifying foreign proceedings that would avoid time-consuming legalization or other processes and provide certainty with respect to the decision to recognize.” Guide to Enactment and Interpretation of the UNCITRAL Model Law on Cross-Border Insolvency, ¶29 (the Guide). In practice, this means that filing an application for recognition should not be an onerous process.
For a proceeding to qualify for recognition under the Model Law (and Brazil’s enactment thereof), it must be a collective proceeding. A collective proceeding is one in which “substantially all of the assets and liabilities of the debtor are dealt with in the proceeding, subject to local priorities and statutory exceptions, and to local exclusions relating to the rights of secured creditors.” See, Id. at ¶70. This requirement sheds light on the Model Law’s intent “to provide a tool for achieving a coordinated, global solution for all stakeholders of an insolvency proceeding,” and not merely to be used by a single creditor pursuing collection or by a debtor winding up its affairs in a proceeding that does not address claims of creditors. See, Id. at ¶69.
As part of the recognition process, the court must determine the debtor’s COMI, and that will directly affect what relief is available to the foreign representative. The court will recognize the foreign proceeding as a “foreign main proceeding” if it was filed in the jurisdiction where the debtor’s COMI is located or alternatively as a “foreign non-main proceeding” if it was filed in any other jurisdiction. Although the concept of COMI is new to Brazilian law and neither the new law nor the Model Law defines it, that concept has been long present in cross-border insolvency practice and discussed by the international insolvency community for many years. (The Model Law’s concept of COMI must not be confused with the concept of the debtor’s “principal establishment,” which is used in the Brazilian bankruptcy statute to determine the appropriate venue for a domestic bankruptcy case. The Brazilian bankruptcy statute does not define “principal establishment,” and at least three different approaches have emerged in the case law. The approach that seems to be gaining favor is the so-called economic approach — that is, the “vital center of the debtor’s main activities” and “where the debtor has the highest business volume” — as the majoritarian theory. However, to identify a debtor’s COMI, Brazilian practitioners should look not to domestic decisions about the debtor’s “principal establishment” but to the text of the new law, to the Guide and to other jurisdictions where the Model Law has been implemented.) As the Guide explains, the concept of COMI originates from the European Union Convention on Insolvency Proceedings, and it should be interpreted homogeneously in furtherance of harmonization of the notion of a “main proceeding.” See, Id. at ¶¶81-82. Determining the debtor’s COMI is one of the most important steps in cross-border insolvency proceedings, and a consistent interpretation of such concept throughout all jurisdictions that adopted the Model Law is key to promote the uniformity prescribed by Article 8 of the Model Law.
In short, the definition of debtor’s center of main interests is “the place where the debtor conducts the administration of his interests on a regular basis and is therefore ascertainable by third parties.” See, Id. at ¶83. Both the new law and the Model law provide for a rebuttable presumption that the debtor’s COMI is the debtor’s registered office or habitual residence. That legal presumption may be set aside if objective circumstances recognized by third parties indicate that the debtor has its administrative seat in another jurisdiction. The analysis of the objective circumstances may consider different facts, from the location of the debtor’s headquarters or factory where the debtor manufactures its products to the country code of the debtor’s website or phone number.
Such interpretation of the COMI enables parties to better calculate legal risks when entering into transactions. When considering potential insolvency as a risk factor, the party may assume that international jurisdiction will be based on a place known to the debtor’s potential creditors. See, Id. at ¶84.
Interestingly, the new Brazilian law includes a provision to avoid forum shopping that has no equivalent in the Model Law. In Brazil, the foreign proceeding will be recognized as a “foreign non-main proceeding” if the debtor’s COMI was transferred or manipulated with the intent to transfer the debtor’s “foreign main” jurisdiction to another country. While such a provision is intended to increase legal certainty and reduce forum shopping, it could trigger additional litigation about the debtor’s intent and about the appropriate lookback period, which is not specified in the new law.
Types of Relief Available
While recognition turns on the strict application of objective criteria, the consequences of recognition (referred to as the “relief” in the Model Law or as “medidas” in the new Brazilian law) are largely discretionary. This arrangement reflects a need for efficiency and predictability in obtaining recognition, but equips the courts with the flexibility to fashion the relief that should result from recognition.
The new law makes available to the foreign representative broad discretionary relief both before and after recognition of the foreign proceeding. From the filing of the application for recognition to the court’s ruling on such request, the foreign representative may request any injunctive relief necessary to protect the estate, the efficiency of the administration, or the enforcement of Brazilian bankruptcy law.
Upon recognition of the foreign proceeding, either as a “main” or “non-main” proceeding, the foreign representative may request any relief necessary for the protection of the assets of the estate and in the creditor’s interest. The drafter’s intent to provide Brazilian courts with the flexibility to fashion meaningful relief is evident in two provisions in the Brazilian law that differ slightly from those in the Model Law. First, in the list of discretionary relief available after recognition, the Model Law includes a catchall provision allowing the court to grant “additional relief that may be available to [the trustee] under the laws of this State.” See, Model Law, Art. 21 (g). The Brazilian law would allow the court to “grant any additional relief that may be necessary” and is not limited by reference to the powers of a Brazilian trustee. See, Art. 167-N, V – Law 11.101/2005.
Second, the new Brazilian law includes a provision with no parallel in the Model Law by clarifying that the relief available under the cross-border insolvency chapter of the new law are “merely exemplary” and that relief available under “other laws” may be sought. See, Art. 167-A §2 – Law 11.101/2005. It is unclear whether this phrase would allow lawsuits, such as claw backs, under non-Brazilian laws, or whether it is limited to “other [Brazilian] laws.”
In addition to the permissive relief, the new law provides for automatic relief if the foreign proceeding is recognized as a “foreign main proceeding”: i) the stay of specific lawsuits against the debtor; ii) the toll of the statute of limitations for the enforcement actions against the debtor; and iii) the avoidance of transfers and encumbrances of the debtor’s non-current assets without previous court authorization.
It is important to note that under Brazil’s bankruptcy laws the stay of proceedings against the debtor is narrower compared to some other jurisdictions. Brazilian insolvency law provides numerous legal exceptions to the stay or suspension of lawsuits. In broad terms, Brazil’s insolvency laws impose a stay only to non-tax judgment enforcement proceedings and other actions directly related to the debtor’s assets. Ordinary lawsuits and arbitration proceedings at a pre-judgment phase are not stayed either by operation of Brazil’s general insolvency law. Accordingly, obtaining automatic or discretionary stays under Brazil’s adoption of the Model Law imposes a less robust set of prohibitions.
Granting Recognition to Foreign Insolvency Proceedings vs. Granting Exequatur to Foreign Judgments
Brazilian commentators have expressed some concern that the new law’s recognition of foreign proceedings could be confused with the previously existing mechanisms for international judicial assistance in Brazil, namely exequatur of foreign judgments and letters rogatory. In fact, granting recognition of foreign insolvency proceedings has little or nothing to do with granting exequatur. The Model Law was created as a necessary alternative to the legal systems’ traditional approach to judicial cooperation under the comity doctrine and exequatur. See, Guide, ¶8.
While the new law sets forth a streamlined process by which the bankruptcy courts (courts of first instance) shall recognize foreign proceedings, the Brazilian constitution grants to the Superior Tribunal of Justice (STJ) — a centralized court superior to the state and federal courts of appeals — jurisdiction over exequatur of foreign judgments and letters rogatory. Those who understand the purpose and effect of the recognition of foreign insolvency proceedings, including those who drafted Brazil’s new law, do not see a conflict with the STJ’s exequatur jurisdiction. Acknowledging that recognition under the new law does not encroach upon the STJ’s exequatur jurisdiction, the new law expressly submits to the STJ’s constitutional jurisdiction over exequatur “whenever applicable.” See, Art. 167-A§6 – Law 11.101/2005.
While this reference to the STJ’s exequatur proceedings has been the source of some debate leading up to the law’s implementation, most Brazilian commentators take the position that such provision does not impede the local bankruptcy courts from recognizing foreign insolvency proceedings. Indeed, recognizing a foreign insolvency proceeding is not tantamount to enforcing an order issued by the judicial authority of a sovereign state. For example, a foreign administrative proceeding in which no court orders whatsoever have been made is eligible for recognition under Brazil’s new law. In addition, the Brazilian legislature implemented a system to recognize foreign insolvency proceedings and expressly granted jurisdiction to the trial court of the place where the debtor has its principal “establishment” to hear such cases. It would be illogical to interpret that, in writing rules with specific provisions on the jurisdiction to process requests for recognition, the legislature, in fact, intended the Superior Tribunal of Justice to have jurisdiction to rule on such petitions.
Another context in which the STJ’s exequatur jurisdiction may become relevant is where the Brazilian bankruptcy court is asked to cooperate with a court order entered in the foreign proceeding. The new law requires the bankruptcy court to cooperate “to the maximum possible extent with the foreign authority or with the foreign representative[.]” See, Art. 167-P – Law 11.101/2005. This provision implies that certain deference may be given to orders made in the foreign main proceeding, such as orders confirming a plan of reorganization, orders made in a claim dispute between debtor and creditor, and discovery orders. The cooperation called for in the new law does not require that such orders be enforced directly in Brazil. Cooperation can be achieved by giving deferential treatment to such orders in light of the law’s international origin and objectives. Giving deferential treatment means recognizing the foreign court’s better position to rule on the matter as the court with the main interest and most information on the issue, and to refrain from reviewing the matter de novo. It also means recognizing that when acting as the ancillary court, the Brazilian court cannot impose its own domestic priority scheme or claims process on the debtor. The ancillary court must remain focused on the goals expressly noted in the new law: promotion of international cooperation with foreign courts and representatives, greater legal certainty, and fair and efficient administration of cross-border insolvencies. By giving deferential treatment to an order in the foreign main proceeding, the ancillary court may avoid a conflict and a duplication of efforts that could weigh down efforts to rescue a struggling enterprise.
A Plenary Bankruptcy Proceeding
A debtor whose foreign main or non-main proceedings have been recognized in Brazil may commence a full liquidation or reorganization case if the relief available in the ancillary case is insufficient to accomplish its purposes.
As a preliminary matter, it is important to understand the distinction between the ancillary proceedings contemplated under the Model Law and the plenary proceedings that may be commenced to reorganize or liquidate a company under Brazilian law. The gateway for ancillary proceedings is through the Model Law’s streamlined recognition process and simple eligibility criteria, embodied in Articles 167-H and 167-J of the new Brazilian law. The reward for entering through this gate is the relief described in Articles 167-L, 167-M, and 167-N of the new law. Ancillary proceedings are an act of comity between nations and thus they are simple proceedings that attempt to avoid duplication of effort. In this vein, the Model Law and Brazil’s enactment of it do not establish a separate claims process or reorganization plan in the ancillary proceeding. Indeed, the Model Law envisions that these should be handled in the foreign main proceeding.
A plenary proceeding, on the other hand, is a full liquidation or reorganization case, which in Brazil is governed by the other chapters of Law 11.101/2005. A debtor whose foreign main or non-main proceedings have been recognized in Brazil may commence a liquidation or reorganization case only if the debtor has assets or an establishment in Brazil, and that Brazilian plenary case will apply only to the Brazilian assets or establishment. The new law sets forth measures for cooperation and coordination between the Brazilian plenary case and the foreign main proceeding.
It should be noted that even in the absence of a petition for a plenary proceeding, Brazil’s new law allows the court to grant broad discretionary relief to the recognized foreign proceeding. Thus, there may be few instances in which foreign representatives might be interested in filing a plenary proceeding petition with the Brazilian court. This may change if Brazilian courts limit in practice the relief available to ancillary proceedings under their ample discretion. In any event, creditors also may initiate an involuntary plenary proceeding, especially if they are interested in establishing a claims process in Brazil, which is unavailable in the ancillary proceeding.
Generally, the party filing for a voluntary or involuntary plenary proceeding must show the petition meets the bankruptcy requirements under Brazilian law. Specifically, the foreign representative will have to show in the reorganization petition that the debtor is in regular business activity for more than two years and meets other requirements of the statute, such as not having been through reorganization in the last five years. See, Art. 48 – Law 11.101/2005. To initiate a liquidation proceeding in Brazil, the requesting party must show the so-called “legal insolvency” of the debtor by meeting one of the three statutory requirements: 1) unjustified default of an obligation over 40 minimum wages; 2) nonpayment of any amount under a judgment enforcement action; or 3) performance of any of the seven acts of bankruptcy listed in the statute (e.g., fraudulent transfer of property to avoid creditors or default on an obligation provided for in a reorganization plan). See, Art 94 – Law 11.101/2015.
Relevantly, the new law provides that the insolvency of the debtor is presumed if the foreign proceeding was recognized in Brazil as a “foreign main proceeding.” However, it is not clear if such presumption of the debtor’s insolvency is sufficient to show the “legal insolvency” requirement in liquidation petitions.
Outbound Cross-Border Insolvency and Communication With Foreign Representative and Courts
The new law does not limit its rules to inbound cross-border insolvency proceedings. It also includes rules related to outbound proceedings, which empower the representative of the Brazilian insolvency proceeding and the Brazilian court to seek recognition abroad and to act in that proceeding.
Under the new law, the trustee in the Brazilian liquidation and the debtor in the Brazilian reorganization are automatically authorized to act as representatives of the Brazilian proceeding in foreign jurisdictions. The Brazilian court may appoint a different representative for the Brazilian liquidation when necessary.
Moreover, the new law abrogates the long-established requirements of formal communication with foreign courts through letters rogatory. It expressly grants broad communication powers to the Brazilian bankruptcy court and trustee with foreign courts, representatives, and authorities.
Overall, the new law adheres closely to the Model Law and provides Brazilian bankruptcy courts with the tools to effectively cooperate in cross-border insolvencies. After many years of receiving international assistance for Brazilian insolvency proceedings, Brazilian courts are now ready to reciprocate. The tools for effective cooperation are in place and the Brazilian legal community is eager to usher in a new era.
An Omani citizen is seeking to overturn a Florida court’s recognition of his English bankruptcy, which he describes as “a divorce case being played out on the international stage”.
On 19 May in the US Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Florida, Talal Al Zawawi filed a notice of appeal against a recognition order granted to Grant Thornton’s Michael Leeds, Colin Diss and Hannah Davie as his bankruptcy trustees.
Al Zawawi initially opted to have the appeal heard by a bankruptcy appellate panel, but it has since been transferred to the local district court. The grounds of appeal have yet to be published.
The bankruptcy court recognised the trustees on 6 May, six weeks after granting them interim recognition.
The trustees sought recognition to block any party from transferring property owned by Al Zawawi, including any ownership interest he may hold in four Florida companies and a Texan company that does business in Florida, as well Omani businessman appeals US recognition of English bankruptcy as to obtain discovery powers to investigate his finances.
Judge Lori Vaughan issued the recognition order despite an objection from Al Zawawi, who argued that he did not have any ownership interests in the five companies.
“This case does not involve an international business entity or any other form of international intrigue,” Al Zawawi said in his objection. “It merely involves a divorce case being played out on the international stage.”
Al Zawawi, a UK resident with Omani citizenship, has been subject to bankruptcy proceedings in England since June last year. His ex-wife had filed a bankruptcy petition against him over failure to pay a 2019 divorce decree, which required him to pay her £24 million (US$34.1 million).
The businessman received a prison sentence a month after the decree was issued, due to his failure to comply with an order to disclose financial information to his ex-wife’s lawyers. His assets are currently subject to a worldwide freezing order.
The trustees responded to Al Zawawi’s objection by claiming that he was a director of the Florida companies, that the companies owed US$94 million of assets between them and that he indirectly owned them through a Curaçao holding company, Qapa Investing Corporation.
They have obtained a Curaçao attachment order against Qapa, which is coowned by the businessman and his six siblings.
Since securing the recognition order, the trustees have filed notices of examination on the US branches of several banks, including Barclays, Citibank and Deutsche Bank, seeking documents relating to Al Zawawi’s financial affairs.
Judge Gregory Presnell has been assigned to the appeal proceedings in the district court. He has yet to schedule a hearing.
To read the original article, click here.
Sequor Law is a Miami-based international law firm representing financial institutions, sovereign governments and state owned enterprises, public and non-public companies, insolvency practitioners and individual clients in the areas of asset recovery, financial fraud, insolvency and financial services litigation.
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