terça-feira, 23 de maio de 2017

Power of Attorney for setting up a company in Brazil – new rules

In order to incorporate a company in Brazil, the foreign investor must appoint a local representative who lives in Brazil.

Traditionally, this representative was required to have powers to receive court summoning and to answer to any civil subpoenas directed at the foreign investor.

This makes sense under Brazilian procedural law, that puts a lot of focus on making sure that respondents will be properly summoned to present his defence in administrative or judicial procedures. Rulings “in absentia” are exceptional.  By requesting the nomination of a Brazilian resident as representative of the investor, Brazilian authorities would always have someone close enough to be summoned by ordinary means (without the need for international communications between courts, etc.).

This is the basic idea.

Now, since Brazil is a very bureaucratic place, people soon noticed that is would be a waste of time to issue a one-line PoA, considering that several other actions also require a power of attorney. For example: registration of the investment before the Brazilian Central Bank, clearance of foreign currency exchange agreement, etc.

Not to mention that any alteration to the articles of the company, such as increase in equity or appointment of new directors, would also require the investor to sign the documents himself, or to name a proper representative in Brazil with powers to do so.

All things considered, a proper PoA would have 3 pages and a LOT of very specific powers.

Now, this “excess” of powers has contributed to a problem. Brazilian courts started to consider that this all-powerful attorney would act, in practice, as a company director. Thus, labour and tax courts started to redirect debt collection suits to the Brazilian representative, whenever the company didn`t have enough assets to pay for the debts.

This situation, albeit technically illegal, has persisted for some time.

Recently, the Brazilian Revenue Service has tried to make the representative`s personal liability official. It issued an administrative ruling stating that any foreign company looking for enrolment before the national taxpayer`s registry (the famous CNPJ) must name a local representative with full powers to manage the investor`s assets in Brazil.

By choosing these word, the Brazilian Revenue Service made clear that the local representative will be considered a kind of local manager, not only a representative able to receive summoning.

Please notice that the enrolment with CNPJ is one of the first steps required in order to incorporate a new company in Brazil, in case the foreign investor is a corporate entity (not an individual).  Therefore, there is no way around this requirement.

And this is not the only recent change.

The federal body responsible for standards in corporate regulation issued new guidelines in 2017. They include a provision requiring that all powers of attorney from foreign investors must not have a time limit. This is to say, they must be valid until a formal cancellation is filed before the Commercial Registry.

The two alteration, combined, result in a local representative that:

a)    Has powers to manage the investor`s assets in Brazil (to control the company);
b)    Is liable for company`s debts, since he will be considered a sort of director;
c)    Has power for an unlimited period of time, until he gives up the job or until his PoA is formally cancelled.

The situation is awkward, to say the least.

It has forced the new PoA documents to become even longer. Now they must include:

a)    Provisions for cancellation;
b)    Protection against tax and labour liability;
c)    Restrictions on powers, to prevent the representative from “taking over” the company.

So, there is little chance you will find a good template for a PoA, readily usable.




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