Brazil has seen extensive legal changes and enforcement efforts against corruption over the past few years. As a result, local and multinational companies active in the region have increased their anti-corruption compliance efforts, particularly by introducing more frequent and comprehensive anti-corruption risk assessments and touchpoints with government entities and officials, as well as strengthening their anti-corruption compliance programmes.
Despite the steps taken by Brazil to fight corruption in recent years, it remains one of the main challenges for the country. Mindful of this, the new government – which came into power in 2018 on the back of its vow to fight corruption – has promised a series of measures to tackle the issue. The measures include toughening prison sentences for corruption-related crimes, separating investigations involving high-level officials and making illegal campaign donations a criminal offence.
The new year started with a new government taking office. Naturally, this has led many to speculate what the government's priorities and policies will be. In particular, enforcement policies are receiving more attention than during previous inaugurations, largely due to the widespread corruption scandal following Operation Car Wash and the appointment of Sergio Moro (former lead judge overseeing Operation Car Wash) as the minister of justice.
The Superior Court of Justice recently appraised a noticeable theme regarding personal data protection from a criminal law perspective: the validity of police evidence obtained from smartphones without a specific judicial order to do so. The precedent has had a strong effect on investigations of varying scope and importance. Two recent examples occurred in the wake of high-profile anti-corruption and anti-money laundering investigations.
A recent review has detailed the limited application of corporate criminal liability and the indirect legal consequences that companies may face following criminal investigations targeting individuals. Corporations may face harsh administrative and civil penalties for business crimes which only individuals can be held liable for. This is especially true where cross-border investigations result in white collar crime regulations becoming increasingly denationalised and tougher than ever before.
Almost one year on from the enactment of Law 13467/17 (the labour reform), early feedback suggests that the reform has proved to be an effective and positive change. In particular, the reform has increased the use of remote workers, reduced the imbalance of power between employers and employees, made union contributions voluntary and reduced the number of labour-related lawsuits.
Brazilian law's limited establishment of corporate criminal liability does not mean that companies cannot be seriously affected by criminal law enforcement and subject to an extensive range of substantive and procedural matters. Companies' executive boards are not always prepared for such matters, which – especially when criminal investigations attract considerable media attention – can also raise serious and costly reputational issues.
When the labour reform came into force, it amended the provision requiring employees to pay annual contributions to relevant unions, instead making union contributions optional. After the reform was enacted, more than 15,000 lawsuits were filed to challenge union contribution-related matters. The Supreme Court recently ruled that the end of mandatory union contributions was constitutional.
Article 3 of the Law of Environmental Crimes constitutes Brazil's sole provision regarding legal entities' liability. This clause intended to help to increase legal certainty by restricting the circumstances under which a company may be held criminally liable to those where there is evidence of wilful misconduct by its senior executives or board. However, an examination of court practice shows that many federal and state prosecutors have failed to comply with these legal requirements.
After years of extensive anti-corruption investigations launched by Operation Car Wash, the national and international legal community have recognised that Brazil's enforcement of regulatory and criminal matters has become stronger than ever. While work is still needed, it is clear that the use of settlements and plea deals in Brazil is here to stay and that these methods have radically changed the local enforcement landscape.
The recent labour and employment reform enacted in Brazil has introduced important changes to labour and employment relations. One of the principal changes is the introduction of arbitration for the resolution of employment disputes. Although the changing law requires a change of mindset, employers should take advantage of it and begin to consider the possibility of instituting arbitration for certain employment contracts.
In November 2017 the new Immigration Law, which is regulated by Decree 9199/2017, came into force. Later in the year, the Brazilian Immigration Council issued Resolution 6/2017 in order to align its policies with the Immigration Law. By introducing the new resolution and the changes to the guidelines set out in the regulatory decree, the Immigration Council has amended the rights of immigrants who work on board foreign vessels or platforms in Brazil.
In Brazil, employees who work overtime are entitled to statutory premium pay at one-and-one-half times the regular rate. In the past, the courts often voided compensatory time off agreements and granted overtime payment claims to employees on the grounds that their employer had failed to comply with legal requirements. However, the 2017 labour reform introduced more flexible requirements, which should curb litigation on compensatory time off agreements and encourage their use.
The discussion regarding the legal nature of awards is not new to Brazilian labour courts, especially because amounts paid as awards could be considered salary, obliging the employer to include the award in the employee's salary and pay him or her every month or include this amount as a basis for determining the employee's labour rights. The legislative branch has tried to clarify this matter, defining the legal nature of awards, as well as the concept and legal criteria for their application.
The use of outsourcing has historically been uncertain in Brazil, particularly in relation to the outsourcing of a company's core business. However, once in force, the labour reform will create a scenario of greater legal certainty for outsourcing because it expressly authorises the outsourcing of any activities, including a company's core business.
According to a precedent established by the Superior Labour Court, the acquiring company is not liable for the labour debts of other companies within a corporate group that encompasses the acquired company, provided that the entities – at the time of the transaction – were creditworthy or economically viable, except in the case of bad faith or fraud. However, a recent reform to the Labour Code will enter into force in November 2017 and may change the existing understanding in this regard.
The need to modernise the procedural rules applicable to the labour procedure has long been a concern in Brazil. As such, it was well known that labour relations were being modernised and that the law did not satisfactorily account for this progress. In light of this, the newly enacted Law 13,467/2017 will introduce, among several changes not seen in prior legislative amendments, equal treatment of litigating parties and greater legal certainty for both litigating parties and Brazilian society as a whole.
The recently approved labour reform has amended several articles of the Labour Code and Laws 6,019/1974 (temporary employment), 8,036/90 (severance fund) and 8,212/1991 (social contributions). The legislation still protects the constitutional rights of workers. However, it seeks to modernise labour relations by creating rules and defining concepts which allow workers, companies and unions to have more freedom to negotiate their rights.
Struggling against one of the most severe financial and political crises, the government has adopted an agenda that aims to spur an uptick in the economy and reduce the unemployment rate, which hovers around 13%. In this regard, the government has proposed labour and social security reforms. However, some employee unions are urging a general strike across the entire country to obstruct these reforms.