Azevedo Sette Advogados em Latin Lawyer 250 | Edição 2019

Azevedo Sette Advogados em Latin Lawyer 250 | Edição 2019

Time-tested mining specialists

Established: 1967, Total lawyers: 245

When you have spent more than half a century not only surviving, but positively thriving within Latin America’s most challenging legal market, you are clearly doing something right. For Azevedo Sette, the secret to its success lies in a combination of carefully considered expansion and opportunistic lateral hiring. Since it was established as a small, mining-focused office in Belo Horizonte, it has used this approach to expand far beyond its Minas Gerais base – a rare accomplishment – to become one of the largest firms by headcount in the Brazilian market.

In 2018, the firm continued investing and was on course to finish the year having grown in revenue by as much as 15% following a return to optimism for Brazil’s economy and a rise in demand for key areas including M&A, tax and labour litigation. Azevedo Sette hired real estate, insurance and M&A partners from competitor firms and promoted a lawyer to partner in its tax team. The additions also served to minimise the impact of the departures of prominent TMT and M&A partners to rival firms.

Azevedo Sette expects the Brazilian economy to finally pick up in 2019, with infrastructure and M&A work driving growth. To prepare for an uptick in work, the firm is addressing its career plan and compensation system to ensure its lawyers are incentivised to pursue a career all the way up to the partnership.

Another important focal point for this firm now is to increase its attractiveness to international clients. In 2018, it launched an Italian desk, which is a small but decisive step in its plans. Like any good mineirinho, Azevedo Sette’s leaders have stuck to a strategy of growing bit by bit without much fuss, which helped establish the firm in the national arena and should serve it well in plans for expanding its reach further afield. Those who thought such conservative but steady growth would not take the firm that far were proved wrong long ago.

Furthermore, this firm has its clients’ backing. Valerio Teixeira from food company Embare goes on record to commend the firm’s “effectiveness, responsiveness and experience”. Another client from a logistics company highlights the team’s “technical skills and availability”, while an engineering client recommends Azevedo Sette’s “tailor-made services”.

Offices

Azevedo Sette has six main bases throughout the country: Belo Horizonte, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Brasília, Goiânia, and the newest, Recife. The firm closed its Vitória office in 2017.

Alliances and networks

The firm is a member of the Legal Network International and LexUniversal networks.

Clients

Azevedo Sette’s long client list includes blue-chip clients for the banking, agribusiness, retail, mining, energy, telecoms, automobile and tech sectors, among many others. Mapfre, Amazon, Johnson Controls, Santander and Mercedes-Benz are some examples. According to a study, ‘Who Represents Latin Americas Biggest Companies’, published by the Latin American Corporate Counsel Association, which is affiliated to Latin Lawyer, Azevedo Sette represents 36 of 100 of the biggest companies in the region, being among the top 10 Brazilian firms in the ranking.

PRACTICE AREAS

  • Corporate and M&A

Key partners: Luiz Azevedo Sette, former associate general counsel at Microsoft; Frederico Bopp Dieterich, former in-house counsel at Andrade Gutierrez Group; and Ordélio Azevedo Sette, former president of the International Chamber of Commerce of Brazil, whose broad practice includes infrastructure, project finance, disputes and mining law. Other key names are Luís Ricardo Miraglia, who is praised for his skilful handling of transactions, and Roberto Ribas Wilson, who earns plaudits from one client for his “very flexible, very service oriented” approach. Dieterich, Luiz Azevedo Sette, Ana Paula Terra Caldeira, Fernando Azevedo Sette and Ricardo Barretto all come recommended in LACCA Approved, a survey of in-house counsel, published by the Latin American Corporate Counsel Association, which is affiliated to Latin Lawyer. In 2018, the firm hired Alexandre Lins Morato from Cescon, Barrieu, Flesch & Barreto Advogados, while and Paulo Brancher and Joyl Gondim de Alencar left to join Mattos Filho, Veiga Filho, Marrey Jr e Quiroga Advogados and Demarest Advogados respectively.

Analysis: Azevedo Sette’s thick book of corporate clients testifies to the firm’s strength in the area and hints at the deep bench of talented lawyers within the department. In 2018, the firm’s transactional lawyers were in high demand from foreign and domestic clients to assist on the acquisition and sale of assets. Among these was US healthcare company Owens & Minor, which hired the firm for the Brazilian leg of its US$710 million global acquisition of Halyard Health’s surgical and infection prevention business; Spanish insurance company Mapfre, which drew on the team for the US$636 million buyout of its Brazilian joint venture business partner BB Seguridade from local insurance provider BB Mapfre; and Brazilian real estate company LOG, which engaged the firm to acquire a majority stake in a Belo Horizonte commercial property owned by local counterpart BTS Properties. Another innovative and high-profile recent transaction saw the firm’s lawyers advise logistics company Transpes on the acquisition of a special purpose vehicle developing 56 schools in the city of Belo Horizonte as part of Brazil’s first education-focused public–private partnership. Whether acting as buyer and seller, both sets of clients say the team’s expertise, knowledge, technical skills and professionalism led them to engage their services. One representative of a Japanese consumer products company exults commends “the close relationship” the company has established with the firm since entering Brazil and commends the “expertise of the professionals” who attend to them.

Top deals

3G Fundo acquires Odebrecht subsidiary

Most recent deals

Demarest and Azevedo Sette steer shipping M&A

Azevedo Sette behind commercial real estate buy in Brazil

US healthcare company closes LatAm leg of global acquisition

  • Mining & metals

Key partners: Practice head Leonardo Pereira Lamego, who also takes the lead on environmental matters. Other important names are Fernando Azevedo Sette, Ana Paula Terra and Leonardo Farinha Goulart.

Analysis: Azevedo Sette’s sizeable mining practice has five partners dedicated to the area; providing the department with a multidisciplinary offering stretching from M&A and competition law, to project finance and real estate. The whole team is based in Belo Horizonte; a convenient platform to access the firm’s mining clients in the industry’s heartland of Minas Gerais. Since it was established over half a century ago, the department has become a one-stop-shop for mining matters ranging from royalties, mining rights and environmental law, to due diligence and administrative and judicial litigation. Given the labour-intensive nature of the industry, the department works closely with Azevedo Sette’s employment practice. International mining players have frequently retained the firm. Clients have praised the firm for its pace, assertiveness and objectivity.

Work highlights: The firm assists Anglo American with a range of mining matters from real estate and environmental cases to contractual disputes. Lawyers provided a legal opinion to Votorantim’s mining subsidiary, Nexas, supporting its IPOs in the US and Canada.

  • Project finance & infrastructure

Key partners: Belo Horizonte-based Frederico Bopp Dieterich, who is a former in-house counsel with Andrade Gutierrez and still advises the company and its subsidiaries as outside counsel. Other key partners are Fernando Azevedo Sette, who is also based in Belo Horizonte, and Leonardo Moreira Costa de Souza, based in São Paulo.

Analysis: Azevedo Sette’s broad infrastructure and project finance practice also includes practitioners with notable experience of administrative law and PPPs. Among its greatest assets is Dietrich, who draws in first-hand experience working in-house at Brazilian conglomerate Andrade Gutierrez and continues to advise the company as outside counsel. Queiroz Galvão, another industrial conglomerate, is another very significant client and retains the team for public bids for major infrastructure projects, such as highways. The firm has a great deal of experience in many infrastructure sectors, including water and sanitation, airports (the concessionaire of one of the country’s major airports is a regular client), hospitals, subways and more.

  • Administrative law

Key partners: Frederico Bopp Dieterich and Leonardo Moreira de Souza jointly lead the department. Another noted name is Rafael Adler, who earns plaudits for his efficiency by one satisfied client. 

Analysis: Azevedo Sette’s administrative law department comprised of four partners and five associates draws significant strength from the firm’s well-regarded infrastructure practice. A high-profile source of work is advising concessionaires on multi-million-dollar urban transportation, energy and other projects. Massive public and private spending on the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro provided a welcome boost to the department. Construction companies, such as Andrade Gutierrez, Queiroz Galvão and Zopone, and telecoms companies like Claro, are among the department’s regular clients.

Work highlights: Azevedo Sette Advogados is helping Brazilian mining company Samarco devise a model to secure water for the company’s operations, which involved structuring options for the provision of water and sewage services to public stakeholders, and advising the concessionaire of Confins airport on a dispute relating to a competing airport in the same area.

  • Labour

Key partners: Leila Azevedo Sette, Luanna Vieira de Lima Costa, Gustavo Magalhães Assis and Paulo Ciari de Almeida oversee the department.

Analysis: Azevedo Sette’s capable labour practice is relied upon by the firm’s regular clients for high-volume contentious work and strategic matters. Its well-stocked team of 46 attorneys assists domestic and international companies on administrative and judicial litigation, and class action suits, collective lawsuits and collective labour disputes, among other matters. Skincare products manufacturer ISDIN recently hired the firm to successfully reduce its labour passive contingency by more than 1.5 million reais. The department’s responsiveness, professionalism and business-savvy approach are features most frequently singled out for praise by clients. For this representative of a food company, it is the “effectiveness, responsiveness [and] experienced team” that sets the department apart.

Work highlights: Azevedo Sette provides regular counsel to trade fair organiser Messe München, online retailer Amazon and car parts supplier Johnson Controls on labour matters related to employment contracts, services agreements, strategic litigation and the expansion of commercial activities in Brazil.

  • Tax

Key partners: Seven partners are prominent in the practice: Leandra Guimarães and Frederico da Fonseca Silva in Belo Horizonte; Aldo de Paula Junior, Maurício Pernambuco Salin and Ricardo Barretto in São Paulo; and Rodrigo Badaró de Castro in Brasília. Clarissa Cerqueira Viana Pereira was promoted to partner in Belo Horizonte in 2018. Guimarães and Barretto come recommended in LACCA Approved.

Analysis: Azevedo Sette’s tax practice is growing, both in litigation and tax planning. Seven partners and 27 associates advise foreign and domestic client across a range of industries. Energy drink manufacturer Red Bull, Spanish insurance group Mapfre and Santander Brasil are examples of companies that hire the team for administrative procedures and lawsuits against tax authorities and for strategic tax planning.  A landmark case in the pharma industry saw the team assist on a dispute over whether taxes should be paid on the minimum price laid out by the state for sale of drugs to hospitals, or on the actual price paid. Clients applaud the integrity, creativity and technical skills of the team, and commend the accuracy and depth of their advice on complex subjects.

Work highlights: Azevedo Sette is helping Pharlab assess the tax efficiency of procedures adopted by the pharmaceutical company. Lawyers are also advising multinational food, snack and beverage company Pepsico Group on administrative and judicial litigation cases and tax aspects related to its operations in Brazil. The firm is giving tax counsel to energy drink manufacturer Red Bull on contracts for the distribution, logistics and storage of its products.

  • Telecoms & media

Key partners: Ricardo Barretto, who is widely seen as one of Brazil’s leading names in this field and receives praise for his responsiveness, proactive approach, excellent language skills and knowledge, and Luiz Sette, who also heads the corporate and M&A and IP practice areas. Paulo Brancher left the firm to join Mattos Filho, Veiga Filho, Marrey Jr e Quiroga Advogados in 2018.

Analysis: Azevedo Sette has a top-tier practice that blends traditional telecoms regulatory skills with less common specialisms in the technology and media law spheres. In the technology area, the team assists clients on the drafting and negotiation of contracts for software distribution and licensing, outsourcing, personal data protection, domain name issues, and joint ventures and partnerships for online businesses, mobile payments and internet applications. The department has a niche advising media and entertainment clients on matters ranging from IP rights and audio-visual tax benefits, to the financing of sport and cultural events and payment platforms in online gaming. US technology giant Microsoft, social network Twitter, telecoms company Claro, media-streaming company Netflix, mobile marketing and advertising company Pontomobi and media communications company Quarup are examples of clients.

Work highlights: Azevedo Sette is assisting FOX Channel, the Latin American version of the US television network, on matters related to technology and anti-piracy on the internet. The team is also helping Brazilian media conglomerate Grupo Globo on litigation cases related to intellectual property and product liability and is regular counsel to a telecoms company on matters including tax, product liability, consumer protection and contract law.

  • Intellectual property

Key partners: Luiz Sette (formerly Microsoft’s Brazilian GC), Paulo Ciari de Almeida Filho, who is a “trusted partner to our business” in the words of one client, Ricardo Barretto and Roberto Soares. Barretto and Soares come recommended in LACCA Approved.

Analysis: Azevedo Sette’s eight partner IP team assists clients on copyrights, trademarks and patents, for industrial, technological, advertising or artistic use. The firm also has a focus on assisting software companies in Brazil and draws on expertise from across the firm’s seven offices. Microsoft has retained the firm for the protection of its intellectual property in Brazil and for anti-piracy matters since 2000. One satisfied client singles out for praise the “responsiveness, integrity and consistent results” achieved by the team.

Work highlights: Microsoft is a regular client. It uses the firm for the protection of its intellectual property and prevention of software piracy and copyright infringement. The team is also helping a group of software and IT companies to protect their IP rights and assisting them on anti-piracy matters in Brazil, and advising another in a lawsuit against a financial institution accused of violating the copyright of software.

  • Litigation

Key partners: Ricardo Azevedo Sette, founder of the Brazilian Defence Lawyers Association; Paulo Ciari de Almeida Filho, who is described as a “great attorney, business-oriented with high knowledge of the topic” in São Paulo; João Capanema Barbosa Filho, who previously worked in-house at Furnas Centrais Elétricas, in Belo Horizonte; Rodrigo Badaró de Castro, whose practice includes IP, telecoms and information technology law, in Brasília. Other key names include Marcos Augusto Leonardo Ribeiro, who earns plaudits from clients for his attentiveness, knowledge and top-quality work, and Leonardo Farinha Goulart, who is praised for his technical knowledge. Castro, Ribeiro and Roberto Mariano de Oliveira Soares come recommended in LACCA Approved.

Analysis: Azevedo Sete’s broad-based civil litigation and arbitration practice is spread across three of its main offices in São Paulo, Belo Horizonte and Brasília. Nine partners and almost 80 associates focus on the area, assisting clients in three main areas of litigation: special-lawsuit, credit and mass litigation. Other big-name clients include Mercedes-Benz and retail group GPA, which hired the team to assist on scores of lawsuits related to manufacturing defects, violation of the terms of guarantees and product liability among other matters. Many partners also practise arbitration, a growing area at the firm. Clients confirm that their business-like approach extends to this practice too and commend the team’s business-oriented approach, expertise and impressive results on complex cases.

Work highlights: Azevedo Sette is helping real estate developer Brookfield Incorporações challenge a request from local government relating to the payment of charges for changes in the company’s lease conditions, and representing Toyota and Mercedes-Benz in separate lawsuits relating to the alleged malfunctioning of airbags on some of their cars.

  • Private wealth

Key partners: All-rounder Fernando Azevedo Sette leads this department. Leandra Guimaraes and Mauricio Pernambuco Salin, who specialise in estate planning, and corporate partner Ordélio Azevedo Sette, the former president of the International Chamber of Commerce of Brazil, are all active.

Analysis: The firm has helped clients with matters pertaining to Brazil’s