30 October 2014 by , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , and

Best Lawyers in South Africa announced

The Sixth Edition of Best Lawyers in South Africa has been released and Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr’s lawyers have once again featured prominently in the list. Most notably, Emil Brincker, Director and Head of Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr’s Tax Practice, has been named the Best Lawyers’ 2014 Johannesburg Tax Law Lawyer of the Year. In addition, David Thompson, Director and Cape Regional Head of the Corporate and Commercial practice, has been named the Best Lawyers’ 2014 Cape Town Corporate Law Lawyer of the Year.

According to bestlawyers.com, for a lawyer to be included in the best lawyers list, they  must first  be nominated, then their name  appears on a ballot for a specific practice area and geographical region. Pending positive evaluation, and good standing with the Bar Association, they may be included in the Best Lawyers list.

Nine directors in Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr’s Cape office were included in the Best Lawyers List and 26 lawyers from the firm’s Johannesburg office were included.

According to Brent Williams, CEO of Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr (who is also featured on the Best Lawyer’s list), “Emil and David are highly respected lawyers in South Africa and on the continent. My colleagues have taken to heart our firm’s business strategy of being the leading business law firm in our own jurisdiction and (through its partnership with DLA Piper Africa) in Africa.

“The firm’s strategy requires that we remain active and visible in key service areas and markets that are critical differentiators and indicators for us as a business law firm and, as one of the leading large law firms in Africa, namely, mergers and acquisitions, capital markets, tax, finance and banking, commercial dispute resolution and arbitration, technology, employment law and projects and infrastructure. Emil and David have worked with their local teams in collaboration with teams from our partner firms on the continent to help make this possible.”

David Thompson, says that, in terms of trends to note in the commercial law sector this year, the revised Black Economic Empowerment Codes of Good Practice, which become effective on 1 May 2014, are stimulating the restructuring of BEE deals in South Africa. The revised Codes now have five pillars  -  Ownership, Management Control, Skills Development, Enterprise and Supplier Development and Socio-Economic Development. Failure to reach the sub-minimum requirement on a priority element such as Ownership now has a penalty consequence of dropping one B-BBEE status level, which must be taken into account when structuring a deal.

“Also, since we listed the first Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) on the JSE in 2013 (Tower Property Fund) we have seen and been involved in many consolidations (both successful and unsuccessful) in the REIT sector, as well as conversions of Property Unit Trusts to REITS,” Thompson says.

“In addition, there is a lot more African activity in terms of corporate  transactions. Sectors such as mining, oil and gas, energy, real estate, infrastructure and retail continue to offer opportunities for African investors. We are seeing many more multi-jurisdictional deals involving ourselves in South Africa, alongside our  DLA Piper Africa partner firms, as well as DLA Piper international lawyers. An example of such a deal would be the Fedex transaction, completed this year, which covered several areas of law including M&A, competition, regulatory, tax, general commercial (including employment), transportation, customs and excise, property and TMT, across seven African jurisdictions.

Emil Brincker outlines some key 2014 trends in the tax sector, “In September this year, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released its first recommendations for a co-ordinated international approach to combat tax avoidance by multinational companies. The OECD/G20 Base Erosion and Profit Shifting Project (BEPS) was formulated to combat international tax avoidance by multinational enterprises through artificially shifting profits to low tax jurisdictions and eroding the tax bases of their primary high tax jurisdictions of operation. South African multinationals most now ensure that they are compliant with the seven deliverables of the BEPS Action Plan.

“The US-based Foreign Accounts Tax Compliance Act (FATCA)  is also impacting the operations of South African financial institutions that qualify, according to FACTA, as  Foreign Financial Institutions. In June this year, the United States and South Africa signed an intergovernmental agreement where it was agreed that South African financial institutions were not subject to the FACTA 30% withholding tax, were deemed to be  compliant with FATCA if they fulfilled their reporting obligations in terms of the Act.  Qualifying South African businesses must ensure they are compliant with these obligations.

“Also the slowing South African economy has put pressure on revenue collection, which could potentially cause budget gaps for the fiscal year,” he adds.

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