YourABA December 2011 Masthead

Global risks report on today’s changing landscape

In its Global Risks 2011 report, the World Economic Forum—an independent international organization whose goal it is to engage business, political, academic and other leaders to shape global, regional and industry agendas in order to improve the state of the world—found that two crises present significant global risks today:  economic disparity and global governance failures. 

Vladimir Dlouhy, international advisor for Goldman Sachs, talked about these and other findings of the report during the recent “Global Risk in Today’s Changing Landscape” program.  Within the two crises of economic disparity and governance failures, there are three clusters of economic risks—macroeconomic issues, illegal economic aspects and the water-food-energy nexus.  These imbalances occur both within nations and between countries.  For example, the disparity that exists between different European nations, and the inequity between economic wealth in varying parts of a city.

Despite these difficulties, the world has seen sustained economic gains and unprecedented increase in the standards of living for millions of people globally, if not for all citizens.  And there are plenty of opportunities for business growth and development, continued Dlouhy.

In pursuing those business opportunities, one must keep various factors in mind, said panelist Cathy Marsh, a London-based partner in the Global Project Finance Group at Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP.  Investors and their lawyers must understand what they’re getting into, not only in terms of specific jurisdiction, but must also truly understand the business sector and the particular risks associated with that sector.

From a lawyer’s perspective, Marsh continued, one can’t overstructure a deal in challenging regions of the world.  Ensure that all interests are addressed, and “paper it thoroughly.”  Consider who you’re doing business with at the local level, and also be cognizant of the dispute forum in the jurisdiction in which you’re anticipating doing business. 

Agility and perspective are two necessary qualities in facing current and future global risks, noted Michael Kelley, general counsel and managing director at EMP Global and general counsel at EMP Latin America.  From his business perspective—where ideas from development through the life cycle of the project take several years—the legal, political, business and other aspects of the landscape, change significantly.

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What is needed is a strategic plan, a long-term perspective, local presence, strong government relations and a good personnel team.  Have a plan A, B and C, continued Kelley, and know your exits.  “Don’t be afraid to walk away” if it’s prudent to do so.

General counsel should be proactive, interacting with the “business-end” players all the time.  GCs should be part of the “deal team,” said Kelley.  And it is perfectly fine for them to say no, but they should then try to find an alternative to the idea or project to which they were opposed.  Spending time with local counsel will help general counsel understand local regulations and the players in that jurisdiction. 

Completing due diligence on the stakeholders involved in a potential deal is also critical, explained Witold J. Henisz, Deloitte & Touche associate professor of management in honor of Russell E. Palmer.  For example:  How much do the interested parties care? (e.g., How hard might they be willing to fight?)  What is the relationship between various stakeholders that might allow for coalition building?  Managing relationships with stakeholders is an ongoing process, he continued.

Panelists also explored the possibility and challenges for business in light of the Arab Spring, noting that there has been a loss of business in the short term, but it is improving and offers definite possibilities in the long term.

Ravi Suri, managing director, Regional Head Project and Export Finance for Europe, Middle East, Africa and South Asia at Standard Chartered Bank, also participated in the program as a panelist.  Ana-Mita Betancourt, director and general counsel, Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, moderated. 

The panel was part of the conference, “Law, Justice and Development Week 2011: Innovation and Empowerment for Development,” co-sponsored by the ABA Section of International Law and The World Bank.

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