Law Desk (LD): How would you evaluate the growth of commercial laws in Bangladesh since Independence?
Omar H. Khan (OHK): Since independence, Bangladesh has taken various initiatives for ensuring sustainable economic growth. In the recent years, the growth has been magnificent. Various laws relating to trade and commerce have been enacted. The Consumer Protection Act, the Competition Act, several amendments to the Companies Act, the BIDA Act, the One-Stop Service Act, regulations in relation to listed companies, laws related to special economic zones, Public-Private Partnership Act, Money Laundering Prevention Act, codification of the labour laws are only to name a few. Enactment of such laws, regulations, policies along with ratification of international trade related agreements, treaties etc., give a very positive ray of hope. In pursuit of sustainable achievement, it is aspired that more commercial laws shall be enacted and updated for addressing the ever-increasing demands, particularly in relation to data protection, intellectual property laws, laws related to businesses conducted through digital platforms, CSR etc.
LD: What are the key legal matters a corporate should consider in conducting their business?
OHK: Before starting a venture, the appropriate legal structure of the business and the pros and cons associated therewith needs to be carefully identified. Upon establishment, the necessary licenses need to be procured. Apart from ensuring legal and regulatory compliance in general, one needs to also be mindful of whether any sector specific laws are applicable to them. It is important to consider compliances with the applicable laws and regulations, timely submission of different regulatory returns, full compliance with the income tax and VAT obligations, audit obligations, etc. In fact, large corporates maintain independent departments/divisions to ensure different aspects of compliance and corporate governance. For SMEs, while engaging large manpower may not be viable, they still need to ensure all the compliances in full.
LD: In your opinion what are the three fastest-growing corporate law areas in the world and how effectively the laws of Bangladesh address such growing need?
OHK: There are many legal areas which are growing rapidly. In my opinion, the following are three of the fastest-growing areas of corporate laws in the world:
i) Digital Security Laws: Bangladesh has recently enacted the Digital Security Act 2018 for ensuring a safe cyber space and it also has an Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act 2009 which addresses a wide range of information and communication related matters. However, I feel there is still an acute need for independent legislation in relation to data protection.
ii) Mergers & Acquisitions (M&As): M&As are growing all over the world. Bangladesh, even being a fast-growing economy, its M&A environment has still been in an immature stage. Nonetheless, it should also be noted that although public M&As are rare, the Bangladeshi market has been primarily driven by private M&As. Moreover, Bangladesh has even witnessed one of its biggest cross-border acquisitions in recent times on a tobacco company and mergers of 2 telcos. With regard to the legal environment, it is observed that laws such as the Companies Act 1994, the Competition Act 2012, laws and regulations relating to Securities, etc. are all in place. We shall focus on smooth implementation of these laws with additional attention on easing the foreign exchange regulations in order to avoid unwarranted delay and procedural difficulties in M&A transactions.
iii) Labour and Employment Laws: There has been a continued growth of this particular area of corporate law over the years. Bangladesh Labour Act was enacted in 2006 (repealing 25 pieces of legislation and codifying largely all labour laws in one piece of legislation), along with the Bangladesh Labour Rules in 2015. It should be noted that the BLA has been amended 5 times since 2006. Moreover, recently Bangladesh EPZ Labour Act 2019 has also been enacted. Considering the organic growth in economy and ever-changing employment conditions, such laws need to be constantly updated.
LD: How competitive is the corporate law practice in Bangladesh and what attributes helped you to stand out?
OHK: Corporate law practice in Bangladesh is, indeed, very competitive and it really takes tremendous hard work and determination to stand out in such a field. Nonetheless, with utmost passion and dedication, we have always aimed at providing the highest possible standard of legal services to each client. I believe and pursue the global business principles of quality, integrity, and unity. Moreover, Legal Counsel is engaged in various social and philanthropic causes, provide pro bono services and also conduct legal practices in the most environmentally friendly way. We have different internal policies and practices in place in the model of top law firms of North American and European jurisdictions. We also maintain our strength in litigations and ADR besides providing advisory services. I certainly feel professionally content to pioneer legal innovations in the country which are replicated not only domestically but also internationally.
LD: What advice would you give to aspiring corporate lawyers?
OHK: Legal field is extremely challenging, yet very rewarding. It takes a lot of hard work, passion, dedication, sincerity and patience. Aspiring corporate lawyers should not only be enriched with the knowledge of substantive law, but also be well-aware, and prepared for the practical challenges and hurdles in the legal field. They should be updated on the current legal affairs and global corporate developments at all times, be smart, sincere and prepare themselves to critically analyse legal problems of their clients to provide the best possible legal solution to them, thereby serving their best interests.
LD: Thank you very much
OHK: You are most welcome.