Jun 23, 2017 11:40 AMJHI wishes our many friends in the Muslim world a happy Eid al-Fitr. We hope you enjoy the celebration of the spiritual, intellectual and human growth you and your families achieved during the month of Ramadan.We would also like to advise clients and friends who do not observe this holiday to expect office closures throughout the Middle East region, including JHI resources in Saudi Arabia & the United Arab Emirates, during the holiday.
Jul 5, 2016 2:41 PMJHI wishes our many friends in the Muslim world a happy Eid al-Fitr. We hope you enjoy the celebration of the spiritual, intellectual and human growth you and your families achieved during the month of Ramadan, despite the challenges to peace and security during the Holy Month this year. We would also like to advise clients and friends who do not observe this holiday to expect office closures throughout the Middle East region during the holiday.JHI will continue its expansion in the region and hopes that, even as they mourn those lost this past week, the good people of Medina, Jeddah and elsewhere in the Kingdom celebrate God-given life and its highest pursuits.
In the United States, we celebrated the 240th anniversary of our Independence on July 4. These past several weeks have seen barbarity at its worst. With specific reference to the terrorist attack at Medina, we in the Land of Liberty, irrespective of faith, stand with and pray for the innocent victims of that atrocity. Everyone has a right to freedom from terror.
While the savage primitives of ISIS/IL are strongly suspected of coordinating the attack in Medina and other places throughout Saudi Arabia, no group as of the date of this writing has claimed responsibility and the motives of the suicide bomber in Medina are as yet unknown. It was nonetheless a murderous act of barbarity that the whole of the civilized world must reject. ANY "cause" served by the use of Terror as a tactic must, summarily, be deemed illegitimate.
Further, when terrorism is employed, the actors betray their so-called "cause" to be nothing more than a pretext for a war of conquest. This is the reality civilized people across the globe must face with the determination that any such enemy will be defeated and placed in history's rubbish pile, along with so many other would-be tyrants of the past.
Jul 17, 2015 1:11 PMJHI wishes our many friends in the Muslim world a happy Eid al-Fitr. We hope you enjoy the celebration of the spiritual, intellectual and human growth you and your families achieved during the month of Ramadan.
We would also like to advise clients and friends who do not observe this holiday to expect office closures throughout the Middle East region during the holiday.
Jul 10, 2015 2:09 PMBy R. Jason Huf
When the Saudi government decided to ramp up the production of light, sweet crude oil and crash the price of it world-wide, the first thing most people in the United States (quite rightly) noticed was the sharp decline in the price of gasoline. It’s the best break working people in America have enjoyed in a long time, and has generated economic growth that no artificial government “stimulus” program can ever hope to match.
Middle East practitioners like myself, on the other hand, immediately understood two things: 1. the increase in production was designed to dampen the profitability of energy projects, particularly by oil & gas producers in the United States – which, in turn, helps to continue to make the maintenance of stability in Saudi Arabia a priority for Western countries and their oil-dependent economies; and, 2. it was a direct attack against the cohesiveness of the Kingdom’s arch-enemy, Iran, and some of its anti-Western allies such as Venezuela and, particularly, Russia (all three countries having economic models with price floors for oil that are unsustainable in the current environment).
Iran's desperate economic situation notwithstanding, they have lashed out and struck back on a variety of levels and are emboldened by recent victories in Yemen, Iraq and Vienna. Iran is increasingly aggressive in the region, and Saudi Arabia is feeling ever distant from the United States. As to the fear of a regional arms race stemming from the unabated existence of the Iranian nuclear arms program, such an arms race is already underway.
Keenly aware that the balance of power in the Middle East continues to swing in favor of Iran and that the United States is decreasingly interested in serving as the region's chief guarantor of security in the region, the Arab states may feel that they are in a desperate situation themselves. Let us not forget, that the despicable and barbaric terrorist organization ISIS/ ISIL was originally cobbled together with the support of Turkey and Qatar to serve as a hyper-radicalized Sunni buffer against encroaching Shia (Iranian) power. The Saudi move to create an oil supply glut and the joint Saudi/ Egyptian military operations against Iranian clients in Yemen seem, thus far, insufficient to halt Iranian momentum.
If the present trend continues, a direct region-wide conflict between Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, et al vs. Iran and Syria seems more likely, not less.
We live in an era when asymmetrical warefare that utilizes non-uniformed combatants targeting civilians to engender fear and instability so as to achieve a political or otherwise socially relevant end (e.g., "terrorism") has become a regular feature, turning cities well behind the lines of a given conflict into battlefields themselves. What do you do when you are a business that has invested in a region wherein the situation has become so uncertain?
Well, that depends on the industry you are in, how much risk you (and your insurance providers) are willing to absorb, and what kind of talent you think you can attract to work in such an environment.
As for myself, I remain committed to my relationship with Jeddah. The Jeddah office consists of local personnel, I have spent years developing my practice, and I have never been one to simply throw away the fruits of my own hard work. At present, my inclination is to stay the course.
In fact, having considered this contingency for some time, I am currently leaning toward expansion, rather than withdrawal. I feel it may soon become time to further live up to my firm's catch phrase - and, follow my natural instincts - and explore.
Whereas some firms may be examining their options on executing an exit strategy, I am exploring the possibility of expanding into new jurisdictions and expanding the range of assistance I can provide to Western companies that remain in the region.
As an attorney, your practice is client-driven. Some companies will stay, some will leave and new businesses will enter one or more Gulf Cooperation Council markets. There will continue to be a need for Western legal expertise working hand-in-hand with local practitioners throughout the region.
Perhaps more fundamentally, I am proud of the work I have done over the years. From assisting with Shari-ah-compliant finance to education reform, I have been a small piece of a small piece in the jigsaw puzzle of helping to foster an environment wherein one may someday see a broad-based, self-sustaining middle class in the Middle East.
This sense of accomplishment will be foremost on my mind as I look toward Exploring the Boundaries of My Own Business...
– Jason Huf
Friday, July 10, 2015
New York, NY
Nov 25, 2014 5:53 PMArbitration clauses are often heavily negotiated and complex enough to be referred to as “a contract within the contract”. The reasons for this are obvious (even to us transactional practitioners). The exact terms of a dispute resolution clause can have far-reaching consequences.One of the goals in crafting such a clause is to mitigate the irreconcilability of disputes as they arise by putting your client in the best possible position in the event of a scenario that triggers termination and subsequent arbitration. Naturally, both sides have this in mind during negotiations. But, what happens in jurisdictions where the enforceability of arbitration clauses may be considered by some, fairly or unfairly, to be a somewhat unsettled question?Until recently, while the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (or, KSA) has been a member to the New York Convention (on the enforcement of arbitral awards), this did not always lead one to predict with certainty that a Saudi court would recognize the validity of the arbitration clause in your agreement with a local party and direct that party to resort to arbitration, as per your agreement. In the past, senior judicial officials and other legal professionals in Saudi Arabia have on occasion issued public pronouncements that arbitration clauses are contrary to Shari’ah and are therefore invalid, and should not be enforced by Saudi courts.That is to say, in Saudi Arabia you may have had the right to enforce an arbitral award granted by a tribunal (keeping in mind the difficulty some may experience in attempting actual collection in the Kingdom), but such public pronouncements may have lead some to wonder if you could successfully assert that the underlying dispute be entered into arbitration in the first place (in the KSA), depending on whether or not the judge in the Saudi court deciding the question deemed your particular arbitration clause (or, arbitration clauses generally) to be appropriate under, or contrary to, Shari'ah.
Today, some are hopeful that the passage of the KSA's new Arbitration Law of 2012 (based on the UNCITRAL Model Arbitration Law) to supplant the KSA Arbitration Law of 1983, and the creation of judicial training centers and the subsequent appointment of judges to serve in a new commercial court system in the KSA, will lead to greater clarity on the subject of the enforcement of arbitration clauses. As with any legal reform, time will tell.In the neighboring United Arab Emirates (UAE), the considerations differ. The validity of the arbitration clause, the formation of the contact, and the nature of the relationship between the parties themselves are just a few of the considerations that a court could measure in weighing the enforceability of a given arbitration clause.
Any Emirati national (individual or corporate) has the right to avail itself of the protection and justice of the courts of the UAE. In the past, this may have prompted some local parties in the UAE to move that a local court should assert jurisdiction, despite the existence of an arbitration clause. It should be said, however, that in the UAE (a commercial hub in the Gulf region that has become famous for the "City of Dreams", Dubai, and increasingly the "Green Emirate" of Abu Dhabi), such motions should rely on more than this basic right if a party wishes to succeed in its attempt to escape arbitration under a valid clause.
Following certain provisions of the UAE (federal) Civil Code, judges in local courts should hold that validly written arbitration clauses are enforceable, except when there exist particular circumstances. For example, in disputes arising from registered commercial agency agreements a judge may deem an otherwise valid arbitration clause unenforceable and declare it void on the grounds that clauses calling for alternative dispute resolution (or, ADR) in such contracts are contrary to, or inconsistent with, "Public Policy". (Please note: the commonly used, colloquial term "sponsorship agreement" is much broader and could refer to several different types of business relationships in the UAE; whereas, "registered commercial agency agreements" refers to a specific type of business relationship, which must also be properly registered with the relevant government office in accordance with both the law and the terms stipulated in the agreement itself.)So, what do you do when doing business internationally, and some of your relationships are with parties in the Middle East?Negotiate an arbitration clause.
And, retain an experienced attorney with local knowledge (preferably one with a presence in the specific jurisdiction in question: the laws of Middle Eastern jurisdictions, like the laws of countries in other regions of the world, are subject to change).
If the local party with which your company is doing business has attachable assets outside of the Middle East in a country where collections may be deemed less frustrating, that can be a plus. But, as with just about everything else, there is no substitute for experience -- and solid, relevant legal experience may be one of your best assets at the negotiating table.
Oct 7, 2014 6:12 PMIn the Middle East, the old joke among Western lawyers goes something like this: “First you negotiate the contract, then you close the contract. And then, you renegotiate the contract… ”All good jokes are rooted in the truth. While there certainly are some local parties in the Middle East who are committed to keeping their word and sticking to the deal they negotiated, there does exist this unfortunately common dynamic wherein the local party will test, stretch and even flat-out ignore the terms of an agreement they just executed. One might even lose money betting against a breach occurring before the ink dries.And yet, throughout the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region, billions of (US) dollars worth of business is successfully transacted each and every year by and between foreign and local parties. How does that work?It starts with understanding what local businessmen already know: going to court, dumping your local agent (or, colloquially speaking, your “sponsor”), etc, are usually your last best options. You can see your company effectively frozen out of the market if you make such a move without an almost perfect sense of deftness. And, even if eventually successful, should your company go this route, you have embarked on a long, aggravating and expensive disruption of business that will give rise to discussions that start with, “Why don’t we just pull out of there?”We will talk about arbitration clauses (and, the enforceability of them in GCC jurisdictions) in a subsequent posting. For now, you also need to understand that the local sponsor, or other local parties with whom your company does business, who busies himself with stretching the terms of your agreement is primarily (if not entirely) in the business of sponsoring foreign enterprises (or otherwise makes his money conducting business with foreign parties). Maintaining sponsorships or other replationships with foreign investors (and, protecting their reputations and pride) tend to be the top priorities of local companies. So, when such companies appear to breach their agreements, what do they hope to gain by playing around?Usually, more money. And, usually, not much more. More often than not, you can settle the matter by amending a couple of terms and (slightly) goosing up their sponsorship “fee” (or, whatever other payment, profit or compensation they may be receiving).What about the law of contracts? Why can’t I look for a new sponsor and/ or seek judicial recourse?Remember that the laws requiring you to obtain a sponsor in the first place are protectionist in nature. On an unofficial level, shopping around for more pliant for cooperative sponsors isn’t designed to be easy.Also, while consideration, reliance and other concepts are necessary to show a promise made in contract is enforceable under the laws of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), such is not the case to show the existence of an enforceable contract in Saudi Arabia (KSA). In the KSA, if you make a promise, you’re stuck with it.Isn’t the other side stuck with it, too???Well, in the Middle East, there is the law the way it is written, and the law the way its enforced. And, to further complicate things, that which is enforced is not always written, and that which is written is not always enforced. If you wind up in a KSA court, you may have a judge whose primary concern is sending a signal to his government, more than adjudicating a dispute between the parties before him. In the UAE, much may depend on whether the judge enjoyed his breakfast, or if he is miserable from a belly ache, as he reads your company’s brief… (And, keep in mind, the UAE imports its judges from other countries – those judges tend to be mindful of who gave them their jobs.)As to getting another sponsor, while the UAE and the individual Emirates therein may not employ “black lists” per se (as does the KSA), you should nonetheless do your best to avoid running afoul of bureaucrats at relevant ministries and other governmental offices who may have a cousin, friend, or other acquaintance who may just happen to be your soon-to-be former sponsor or other business partner/ associate. Business licenses have to be renewed every year, and your specific business may well depend on successfully bidding on government tenders; and, while Abu Dhabi and Dubai, for example, may look like big cities, they still very much operate as “small towns” on many different levels.That’s not to say successfully changing your sponsor and/ or winning a contractual dispute with a local party in the Middle East is impossible. Such has been known to happen in Abu Dhabi, and even in Jeddah (where arbitration clauses are less likely to be deemed enforceable by local courts, even though the KSA is a party to the New York Convention). Accordingly, you should protect yourself in the governing documentation the way you would in any other international agreement.Have the standard choice of law, venue, and language clauses, as well an arbitration clause (which can be something of a contract unto itself) and, especially, a (carefully written) termination clause. If an American-based company (or, even if you are based in another Western country but have operations in the US), make sure the documentation includes language concerning your refusal to violate the provisions of the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (over the last several years, the trend has been increasingly robust enforcement of the FCPA). American companies might also think to include a so-called “anti-boycott” clause in the agreement, given the on again/ off again enforcement of boycotts against Israel by some Arab states.Although the general mood in the GCC seems to favor a direction wherein the laws are being changed to relax the hold local parties (especially those deemed “sponsors”) have over foreign direct investment in their respective markets/ jurisdictions, it is usually best to try to renegotiate when a breach occurs. Such renegotiation should, generally speaking, settle upon a slight increase in the amount of earnings the local party derives from the deal.
May 12, 2014 11:06 AMFrom time to time, a trial balloon is floated in one GCC jurisdiction or another concerning the imposition of a new tax, whether it be an individual income tax, corporate tax or a value added tax. The most recent of these is now floating over Dubai, which is still grappling with the residual effects of the 2008 crash while maintaining high levels of infrastructure spending.A prominent Emirati businessman based in Dubai publicly raised the idea of a corporate income tax in Dubai and voiced his general support for such an idea. This is easily to understand, given the depletion of Dubai's oil reserves, the reversal of 2008 and resulting cash crunch, and the Emirate's continued high level of spending. However, it would be somewhat akin to Killing the Goose that Laid the Golden Egg.Dubai rose up from the desert, transforming itself from a small trading post adjacent to Sharjah into the "City of Dreams", on the basis of its business-friendly laws, easy access to the oil-rich Gulf region, an unburdensome regulatory environment, quick access to financing and investment capital, and clever marketing revolving around the fact that the Emirate is Tax-Free.
While there are numerous government fees, paid annually, along with payments to sponsors, exceedingly high rental costs and other expenses one could say amount to a sort of taxation, companies and individual entrepreneurs from all over the world continue to flock to Dubai, drawn to the City of Dreams by the prospect of Tax-Free wealth. Imposition of a corporate income tax could threaten this influx and inspire existing businesses to relocate elsewhere in the Gulf. Even if such a tax were quickly repealled, reestablishing Dubai's image, carefully crafted and astutely marketed for many years, might be next to impossible. And, isn't the real "Dream" not quick wealth, but having a broad-based economy not entirely dependent upon oil in the very heart of the Gulf region?
If Dubai is the City of Dreams, the "Green Capital" of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi, has been the Emirate of Reality. With much of the UAE's energy resources, over half the country's population and land mass (much of it still undeveloped), and a very similar body of business law and regulations, and a robust banking industry, Abu Dhabi is also Tax-Free. Abu Dhabi may not be known for a miraculous boom of the sort that made Dubai famous, but it has enjoyed steady, broad growth that has withstood the 2008 crash.Today, and not accidentally, Abu Dhabi is a leading target for foreign direct investment. A corporate income tax in Dubai would not only enhance the relative attractiveness of Abu Dhabi to newcomers to the region, it might also encourage some of Dubai's existing businesses to take a two-hour drive and check out why the Emirate of Abu Dhabi is "green" in more ways than one.
Mar 6, 2014 1:38 PMThe government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) recently announced its intention to establish training centers for judges. Such training centers will be administered by the KSA Ministry of Justice. This comes on the heels of King Abdullah's creation of 5,000 new judgeships in the KSA, and is accompanied by vocal opposition from the Kingdom's more traditional, conservative quarters.
For years, the commercial community in the KSA (both local and foreign) has expressed a need for greater transparency in Saudi courts. Procedurally and substantively, a perceived lack of predictability has resulted in a chilling effect on commerce in the KSA.
Arbitration clauses in contracts are of uncertain enforceability in the KSA, as senior judicial officials have, in the past, deemed such clauses to be "contrary to Shari'ah". Accordingly, irrespective of any arbitration clause in any business arrangement entered into, in the event of an irresolvable conflict between the parties one could reasonably expect such a dispute to be adjudicated before a Saudi court.
The uncertain enforceability of arbitration clauses and perceived unpredictability of the courts have combined to generate something of a chilling effect on investment in the KSA. Meanwhile, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) provisions that call for entities native to any GCC Member State to be treated as a local company by the governments of each of the other Member States have added to the investment boom in smaller Gulf countries such as Qatar and the United Arab Emirates: some companies enter those jurisdictions in the hope that, at some point, they might be able to access the much larger Saudi market without completely exposing their investment (or, their employees) to the Saudi legal system.
It is hoped by many in the commercial community that the addition of 5,000 new judges, uniformly trained in the enforcement of commercial and corporate law, will improve the overall business environment in the KSA by generating a greater sense of transparency and predictability in the courts.
The details are as yet unknown; and, conservative elements who view laws and their interpretation as coming from God, not precedent, statute or human beings generally, still have opportunities to oppose the establishment and effective administration of such training centers. JHI will continue to track such developments as they arise.
Feb 26, 2014 1:14 PMStories concerning the 2022 World Cup tournament seem to have taken all the oxygen out of news and information about Qatar. True, Doha is scheduled to be the first Arab state to host the world's largest soccer tournament, and this promises to generate something of an increase to the country's construction boom. But, there's more to this small, wealthy Gulf state than sports.Businesses, whether they be engineering firms, banks, energy companies, franchisors, purveyors of luxury items or manufacturers of fast-moving consumer goods, might be interested to know that Qatar is the world's third largest producer of natural gas and has a legal and regulatory enviroment wherein compliance is relatively inexpensive. With the highest GDP per capita in the world, Qatar's consumer base is awash in disposable wealth and opportunities abound.As a law firm, JHI takes particular notice of Qatar's bifurcated legal system. The civil courts there are completely separate from and independent of the Shari'ah courts, and the rest of the government generally. These separate courts that deal with matters relating to foreign commercial interests provide a level of transparancy and predictability for which Gulf-Arab jurisdictions, fairly or unfairly, do not always have a reputation. This, in turn, provides an additional layer of security to companies that expand into, or otherwise invest in, Qatar.Conduct your own economic survey and have accounting crunch the numbers and provide you with the tax implications of such a venture. Then, if satisfied (or, excited), contact an experienced law firm and ask them to provide you with a legal and regulatory survey.Take a look at Doha beyond the glamour of sports and see if you would like to Explore the Boundaries of Your Business.
Oct 2, 2013 7:29 PMIrrespective of generally good relations with Western countries, Kuwait is rarely mentioned by Western companies looking to expand into the GCC region. While the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have attracted billions of dollars worth of Foreign Investment capital over the last 10 years, oil rich Kuwait has quietly relied on its most famous resource for economic growth.This could change, however, with the implementation of Kuwait’s new Commercial Licenses Law. Not traditionally seen by potential foreign investors as one of the more “business friendly” Gulf States, the new law consolidates the function of approving applications for commercial licenses into a single government office.Kuwait is awash in disposable income and should be an attractive target for businesses looking for an expansion opportunity. Simplifying the application process for commercial licenses is a step in the right direction. And, JHI will continue to keep abreast of legal developments impacting Kuwait’s business environment.
Sep 17, 2013 3:36 PMThe law firm of Jason Huf International, pc (JHI) is proud to announce our expansion into Jeddah, Saudi Arabia through the formation of an Associated Firms relationship with the Khalil Khazindar Law Firm. The addition of a Jeddah office provides JHI's clients with reliable, experienced and ethical assistance "on the ground" in Saudi Arabia.
Further, the strategic alliance between Mr. Huf and Mr. Khazindar offers a powerful combination from which our clients can draw upon. Their total experience in the Gulf region, ethical approach to the practice of law and jointly held passion for crafting tailor-made legal solutions present a real opportunity for their clients with matters in the Middle East.
Mr. Huf and Mr. Khazindar share a commitment to extending to each and every corporate client - regardless of size - the kind of personalized attention your company expects and deserves. Accordingly, we are well-positioned to assist US companies looking to do business in Saudi Arabia.
Sep 5, 2013 5:40 PMThe new UAE Companies Law of 2013 (the “Companies Law”) did not alter the minimum local ownership requirement of companies founded in the United Arab Emirates (“UAE”) and may subject Limited Liability Companies to some of the same (or, very similar) regulations under which Joint Stock Companies in the UAE operate. This was met with disappointment by some current and prospective foreign investors and a yawn by others. However, it is not the final word on available options for doing business in one of the fastest growing markets in the world.The upcoming Foreign Investment Law is still under discussion within the government and a draft is scheduled to be circulated later this year. In the meantime potential foreign investors, and current investors looking to restructure their operations, can still avail themselves of the facilities provided by the various Free Zones that fall outside the scope of the Companies Law.By utilizing the appropriate Free Zone for incorporation, foreign investors can enjoy 100% ownership of their enterprise in the UAE while paying lower costs associated with corporate governance mandates and other regulatory compliance matters. Long story short, JHI does not see the Companies Law as a serious impediment to a foreign investor’s goals and ambitions in the GCC region.
Such investors should contact experienced legal counsel for a thorough description of their companies' options in the UAE and beyond.
Jason Huf International, pc
"Exploring the Boundaries of Your Business."