Switzerland updates

Competition & Antitrust

Contributed by Lenz & Staehelin
ComCo reduces antitrust fines due to damages compensation paid to cartel victims
  • Switzerland
  • 26 September 2019

The Competition Commission (ComCo) recently closed its investigations into bid rigging in the construction industry and issued fines of Sfr11 million, an amount which would have been much higher had the commission not deducted the damages compensation paid by the cartelists to the victims from its claims. By introducing the possibility of compensating cartel victims for damages in antitrust proceedings, ComCo has chosen to advocate civil antitrust law to the detriment of its leniency programme.

Federal Administrative Court rules on abuse of dominant position
  • Switzerland
  • 15 August 2019

The Federal Administrative Court recently upheld a Sfr7 million fine issued by the Swiss Competition Commission in 2010 against SIX Group regarding the processing of credit and debit card payments. This long-awaited decision dealt with numerous legal questions of relevance to dominance cases; however, it is not yet final, as an appeal is pending before the Federal Supreme Court.

Secretariat of Competition Commission advises on merger filing obligation based on dominant market position
  • Switzerland
  • 30 May 2019

Under the Cartel Act, a merger filing is generally required when the relevant turnover thresholds pursuant to Article 9(1) of the act are met. However, in addition to these thresholds, the act provides for a filing obligation based on a dominant market position. As a result of legal uncertainty, a leading media group recently asked the Secretariat of the Competition Commission whether its intended acquisition of a small media agency would trigger a merger filing obligation even if the turnover thresholds were clearly not met.

Redaction of personal data in reports published by Swiss Competition Commission
  • Switzerland
  • 09 May 2019

The Federal Administrative Court (FAC) recently confirmed that the Swiss Competition Commission's decision to publish the contents of a preliminary investigation's final report must comply with the Federal Act on Data Protection and the Cartel Act. In the case at hand, the FAC held that the public interest in publishing largely prevailed over the private interest of an undertaking in maintaining its good reputation.

Federal Administrative Court rules on right to silence in competition investigations
  • Switzerland
  • 14 March 2019

In a recent bid-rigging investigation, the Federal Administrative Court held that assessing the procedural role of a witness or company representative must be based on the circumstances at the time of the interrogation. The court found that interrogation of a witness is permissible only if it concerns purely factual information that could have no direct incriminating effect on the complainant with regard to a possible violation of competition law.


Construction

Contributed by LALIVE SA
Model for dealing with geotechnical uncertainty: FIDIC Emerald Book for underground works
  • Switzerland
  • 29 July 2019

The 2019 Conditions of Contract for Underground Works (Emerald Book) is a new standard form specifically for underground works that is the result of a lengthy collaboration between the International Federation of Consulting Engineers and the International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association. The Emerald Book contains several features aimed at addressing geotechnical uncertainty, including geotechnical baseline reports and mechanisms to adjust the time for completion and contract price.

Swiss innovations in construction arbitration
  • Switzerland
  • 01 April 2019

New Swiss arbitration rules that are intended specifically for construction disputes contain several notable changes that may foreshadow the evolution of international construction arbitration procedures. Some or all of these innovations, which are aimed at improving efficiency and facilitating settlements, may prove to find widespread adoption among parties negotiating international construction contracts and arbitral institutions revising their rules.

Employer termination of a construction contract
  • Switzerland
  • 05 November 2018

Terminating a construction contract is the last resort for employers frustrated by delays, defects or other problems. Three recent Supreme Court cases illustrate some of the pitfalls of termination for employers. In all three cases, the employers' attempt to terminate for cause was construed as termination for convenience, exposing the employers to significant liability towards the contractors, including for lost profits.

Contractors beware: clauses requiring employer pre-approval of additional work costs
  • Switzerland
  • 10 September 2018

Clauses that require a contractor to obtain the employer's pre-approval of the cost of any additional works are increasingly common in lump-sum construction contracts. According to a recent Federal Supreme Court decision, these pre-approval clauses will be applied strictly, subject to certain exceptions. In its decision, the court enforced such a clause to deny a contractor's claim to recover the cost of additional works performed by a subcontractor.

Contractors' obligation of diligence and duty to inform persist even after termination
  • Switzerland
  • 02 July 2018

A recent decision by the Swiss Federal Supreme Court ruled that a contractor's duty of loyalty continues even after termination by the employer. When the contractor stops its works for any reason, it has the duty to take all necessary measures to prevent any harm to the employer and must provide to the employer all relevant information about the works.


Corporate Finance/M&A

Contributed by Meyerlustenberger Lachenal
Due diligence requirements regarding share ownership and related compliance in M&A transactions
  • Switzerland
  • 16 October 2019

In Swiss M&A practice, share deals remain the most common method of acquiring a business from a third party for several reasons. Due to strict Federal Supreme Court precedents, legal due diligence regarding share ownership and related compliance has always been a fundamental component of legal due diligence in Swiss share deals. Recent legislative changes have further increased the importance of thorough due diligence in this regard.

Bulk transfers
  • Switzerland
  • 28 August 2019

Under Swiss law, the acquisition of a business may be structured as a mere share deal, a mere asset deal or – according to the Merger Act – a statutory merger, demerger or bulk transfer. This article outlines the corporate law aspects of bulk transfers and distinguishes between domestic and cross-border bulk transfers.

Private mergers and reorganisations
  • Switzerland
  • 12 June 2019

Under Swiss law, the acquisition of a business may be structured as a mere share deal, a mere asset deal or – according to the Merger Act – a statutory merger, demerger or bulk transfer. This article outlines the private law aspects of private statutory mergers and distinguishes between domestic and cross-border statutory mergers.

Approvals for share deals in Switzerland
  • Switzerland
  • 30 January 2019

Sale and purchase transactions with respect to privately held companies in Switzerland are usually structured as share or asset deals or, in certain cases, bulk transfers or mergers. This article provides an overview of the approvals and authorisations that might be required with respect to a share deal in Switzerland. In particular, it focuses on the laws regulating foreign investments in Switzerland and summarises their key characteristics.

Opting-out clauses in Swiss takeover law
  • Switzerland
  • 01 August 2018

The Takeover Board recently assessed whether adopting an opting-out clause which will apply only to two specific investors and only for a period of five years is permissible from a takeover law perspective. In its decision, the Takeover Board confirmed its case law on selective opting-out clauses. However, there is still considerable legal uncertainty in this area.


Corporate Tax

Contributed by Walder Wyss
Fundamental changes to Swiss withholding tax on interest payments
  • Switzerland
  • 09 August 2019

The Federal Council recently announced its intentions to resume the temporarily suspended Swiss withholding tax reform and set out the general framework to introduce a paying agent tax system with regard to interest payments. However, as the Federal Council's communication did not contain any details, it remains to be seen how the reform will be set out in the draft bill expected in Autumn 2019 and how it will affect paying agents and investors.

Switzerland adopts new corporate tax reform
  • Switzerland
  • 24 May 2019

Swiss voters recently approved a new corporate tax reform, which will set the basis for new rules on Swiss corporate taxation and secure and enhance Switzerland's overall attractiveness as a business location. The reform includes a patent box, an R&D super deduction and a notional interest deduction for high-tax cantons. There are also substantial non-tax (revenue-raising) measures and new provisions on social security contributions.

Welcome relaxation of Swiss withholding tax rules on foreign bonds guaranteed by Swiss parent company
  • Switzerland
  • 22 February 2019

The Swiss Federal Tax Administration recently relaxed its practice under which bonds that are issued by foreign resident issuers, but guaranteed by their Swiss resident parent company, are requalified as domestic issuances which trigger Swiss withholding tax on interest payments. The revised rules significantly increase the permissible use of proceeds in Switzerland.

Intra-group debt financing: updated safe haven rates and thin capitalisation rules
  • Switzerland
  • 15 February 2019

The Swiss Federal Tax Administration recently published the 2019 safe haven interest rates to be used on intra-group loans. Against this backdrop, this article provides an overview of the relevant Swiss tax rules associated with determining whether intra-group financing constitutes equity or debt for tax purposes and the consequences of each characterisation.

End to rulings on Swiss principal companies and finance branches
  • Switzerland
  • 30 November 2018

In the context of the bill on the Federal Act on Tax Reform and AHV Financing, the Swiss Federal Tax Administration recently announced that, as of 1 January 2019, it will abstain from granting rulings which safeguard the tax privileges of new principal companies and finance branches. Existing rulings for these regimes will no longer be valid after 1 January 2020 as part of the overall Swiss tax reform.


Derivatives

Swiss financial market infrastructure regulation – revised reporting duties
Meyerlustenberger Lachenal
  • Switzerland
  • 28 November 2018

The Federal Council recently agreed to push back the effective date for derivative transaction reporting duties for small non-financial counterparties to 1 January 2024 and extend the corresponding transitional period. The corresponding amendment to the Financial Market Infrastructure Ordinance will enter into force on 1 January 2019. The reporting duties already in force for other market participants are unaffected.