Schmidt, Valois, Miranda, Ferreira & Agel Advogados
Energy experts with international vision
Schmidt, Valois, Miranda, Ferreira & Agel always knew that splitting from its former merger partner and returning to its legacy formation was going to be a challenge. When the Rio energy, infrastructure and natural resources firm split from São Paulo-based L O Baptista back in 2016, client demand in its core practice areas was weak as a perfect storm of historically low global oil prices, the ongoing Car Wash investigation and Brazil’s worst-ever recession took a heavy toll on the engineering, construction and energy companies that formed the back bone of its client base.
But Schmidt Valois quickly proved it could tackle that challenge head on. The firm’s reputation for providing some of the best oil and gas advice in the Brazilian market appears not only undiminished but strengthened by its newfound independence. It has also gone in search of new opportunities. A few months after the division, it entered into a partnership with Portuguese firm MC&A under a Swiss Verein structure giving it access to MC&A’s network of associated firms in Portugal, West Africa and the US. Since then, both firms have been targeting clients and law firms in the US and UK, and plan to further deepen their partnership in the coming years.
Closer to home, a brightening political and economic outlook in Brazil helped boost demand across its core areas in 2017, prompting Schmidt Valois to hire a partner from a boutique to head its corporate and M&A practice at the end of year. In 2018, the firm is weighing up the possibility of a technology practice. It has hired a consultancy to undertake a comprehensive review of its internal practices and policies and plans to change its current modified lock-step remuneration system to make it more reflective of the roles, responsibilities and achievements of each partner.
Most importantly, clients are happy with Schmidt Valois’s current set up. “Our satisfaction and the security they give us means we have no cause to think about what they could do better,” says Panenergy in-house counsel Normando Costa Paes. “We trust in the work and in the legal support they have always given us.”
Schmidt Valois’ strong focus on natural resources and energy is reflected in its counsel list by a strong showing of companies from those sectors including Shell, Total, Petro Rio, Raízen, AES and Japanese oil company INPEX. Energy investor Azimuth and federal bank Caixa Econômica Federal are other clients.
Key partners: Practice head Guilherme Schmidt, Paulo Valois Pires (“fast and efficient”), Rogério Miranda and Antônio Luís de Miranda Ferreira, who wins praise from one client for his knowledge and availability. Sonia Agel, who wins praise from one client for her “dedication to the regulatory demands and a deep knowledge of the resolutions and laws applied to the oil and gas sector”, and Celina Ozorio and Isabela Faria, are also high-profile. Valois and Agel both come recommended in LACCA Approved. Alexei Macorin Vivan was promoted to partner in 2018.
Analysis: Schmidt Valois had a pre-eminent practice in oil and gas work, which also translates naturally into the wider field of energy. The team assists local and international clients including investors, operators and financial institutions on the development of power generation, transmission, distribution and marketing projects. A niche within the department is advising clients in the renewable energy sector on the development and financing of green and brownfield projects. The team also assists clients on all legal aspects involved in the projects, including the analysis of regulatory and tax issues. “The attorneys I deal with are very responsive, hands on and have deep knowledge of Brazilian legislation,” says Roberta Bastos, legal manager at Ouro Preto Oleo e Gás, who also hired the firm for corporate, projects, M&A and tax work. Inestimable expertise on the regulatory front comes from Agel, whose experience includes 25 years as federal state attorney and four years at Brazil’s oil and gas regulator, ANP. Offshore oil explorer AziLat is a long-standing client, for which the team provides regular counsel on acquisitions and farm-in agreements, among other matters.
Work highlights: Schmidt Valois assisted an electricity company in the acquisition of two transmission lines, gave counsel to a Finnish maritime equipment manufacturer in disputes related to a thermoelectric power plant and helped a US energy company structure, draft and negotiate agreements for a combined cycle gas fired power plant project.
Project finance & infrastructure
Key partners: Former Shell in-house counsel Rogério Miranda, who leads on infrastructure and projects work, and former GC of Sete Brasil Isabela Faria, who is a big draw for clients and brings solid experience in project finance. Paulo Valois, who also worked in-house at Shell, and Celina Ozorio, whose experience includes corporate and M&A and anticorruption and compliance, complete the partnership.
Analysis: Schmidt Valois’ excellent reputation in energy provides a solid foundation for this project finance practice, which is very well regarded in the marketplace. The Rio de Janeiro-based team was left largely unchanged after the unwinding of its merger with L O Baptista Advogados in 2016 led the firm to return to its legacy formation. Although the split deprives Schmidt Valois’ team of a presence in São Paulo, throughout the merger, the firm’s sights never really strayed from Rio’s oil and gas-dominated legal market; a focus that is now likely to be redoubled as Brazil’s oil and gas markets recover and drive up demand for infrastructure expertise in the coming years.
Mining & metals
Key partners: Rogério Miranda and Antonio Luís Ferreira jointly lead the area. Paulo Valois Pires, whose practice includes corporate, project finance, environmental and energy work, adds further depth.
Analysis: Schmidt Valois’ highly noted mining practice was left largely unscathed by the firm’s exit from its merger with L O Baptista and return of both firms to their legacy structures. Miranda and Ferreira lead the practice in Rio de Janeiro; offering clients assistance on structuring mining projects, environmental auditing, tax planning and the acquisition, assignment and transfer of mining rights. BHP Billiton, Anglo American and Vale are a snapshot of some of the blue-chip names to hired the firm in recent years.
Work highlights: The team is helping a Brazilian mining company review the amount owned in environmental compensation related to the licensing of one of its mining projects, assisting a group of quota holders on the rehabilitation of an iron ore project located in Rio de Janeiro state, and giving counsel to an Indian mining company on a possible joint venture to mine quartz.
Key partners: Paulo Valois and Rogério Miranda, who both worked in-house at Shell.
Analysis: Schmidt Valois’ strong natural resources is bolstered by an impressive environmental and sustainability practice. The firm’s broad base of prominent mining and infrastructure clients rely on the team for a wide range of matters, including licensing related to large-scale projects, public contracts and environmental disputes at administrative, civil and criminal levels. The department remains unchanged following Schmidt Valois’ split with its merger partner L O Baptista Advogados and continues to be based in Rio de Janeiro.
Work highlights: Schmidt Valois is helping Concessionária ViaRio obtain the necessary installation and operation licenses for the TransOlímpica urban expressway in Rio de Janeiro and is defending sanitation and renewable energy company SERB in three public civil actions relating to adjustments made to waste transfer systems also in the municipality. Another ongoing case sees the firm assisting a mining company on negotiations with environmental agency IBAMA relating to the amount owed in environmental compensation.
Key partners: Practice head Sonia Agel, who is a former general counsel of the national oil and gas agency ANP and Guilherme Schmidt, who previously worked in-house for Shell Brazil. Paulo Valois Pires, Antonio Luis Miranda and Rogério Miranda are the other three partners that work in the area.
Analysis: Schmidt Valois has very strong oil and gas regulatory offering that draws incalculable strength from extensive in-house experience accumulated by its partnership at some of Brazil’s biggest oil and gas players. The firm represents companies before oil and gas and energy regulators at the federal, state and municipal levels. A major case saw the team assist defend several parties involved in the case over Chevron’s oil spill. AziLat and Shell are regular clients of the firm.
Work highlights: Schmidt Valois helped oil and gas company AziLat on a farm-in agreement with OGX relating to two offshore oil blocks and is advising FCW Incorporadora and MPE Engenharia on regulatory matters relating to the acquisition of two power transmission lines concessions. The team is also giving counsel to an oil and gas major on the regulatory structure of its power trading company.
Corporate and M&A
Key partners: Name partners Paulo Valois, Sonia Agel and Guilherme Schmidt, who leverage energy know-how advising clients in the sector on acquisitions and joint ventures. Eduardo Cirne Lima joined the firm from a boutique in 2017.
Analysis: Schmidt Valois’ strong energy focus is evident in its corporate practice. Clients from the sector feature prominently on its books; hiring the team for M&A deals and other corporate matters. For example, offshore oil explorer AziLat drew on the department for its acquisition of two offshore oil blocks from distressed energy company OGX. Then team wins praise from clients for its top-quality service, commitment and availability.
Most recent deals
Key partners: Practice head José Gustavo Braga wins praise from clients for his deep knowledge of the law and comes recommended in LACCA Approved. “Gustavo Braga has solid knowledge on international taxation, corporate income taxes and transactional taxes,” says Marcello Torres, controller at Wilson Sons, a port, maritime and logistics operator. “His ability to identify the most diverse tax implications and opportunities on major corporate restructuring is impressive.”
Analysis: Schmidt Valois’ tax department has been in its current format since the relaunch of the firm in 2016 and offers clients tax litigation, consultancy, review, planning, corporate restructure and preventive advisory services. It reports an uptick of work in the natural resources and infrastructure industries, which had been plentiful before the division of L O Baptista Schmidt Valois into its two legacy firms. Several blue-chip oil and gas and energy companies now feature on Schmidt Valois’ books, while glowing client reviews attest to the quality of legal service offered by Braga and his team.
Work highlights: Schmidt Valois advised Anglo-Dutch oil major Royal Dutch Shell on tax matters related to its acquisition of the BG Group, which included designing the corporate tax structure of two upstream affiliates due to be merged. The team is also assisting a US energy company on the most tax effective structure for the importation of natural gas and giving counsel to a local oil and gas company on a possible farm-in and operatorship of a pre-salt oil field.