Public and Administrative Law

Government intervention and the ever-increasing volume of regulatory measures are an inescapable aspect of today’s economic climate. The global financial crisis has placed governments under major pressure to tackle significant levels of budget deficit and debt burden.

In this context, public and administrative law has become a crucial aspect of the business world.

Simont Braun is able to handle all of the issues relating to this area of law.

 

Our Services

Simont Braun’s dedicated team enjoys broad experience in all fields of public and administrative law. Advising on both transactions and litigation, whether at the national or international level, our team provides bespoke guidance and assistance in all aspects of public law and government contracting, including administrative contracts, public procurement contracts in all fields of public law, government-owned assets, financing of public projects, public-private partnerships, public utilities, licences, permits, authorisations and regulatory.

We also represent clients before regulatory authorities, the European Court of Justice, the Belgian Supreme Court, Constitutional Court, Council of State and other national jurisdictions. Whether the issue concerns a public organisation, a municipal, regional or federal government or a European institution, our team is always able to handle matters with an in-depth understanding of the sector in which our clients operate.

Our lawyers assist their clients in drafting laws and regulations, and in the creation or reorganisation of public or private operators. We have an extensive understanding of the manner in which public authorities intervene in the economy: state aid, public holdings, inter-municipal entities, economic expansion laws, public service concessions, management agreements, etc.

 

Our Approach

We work in an integrated manner with our Banking, Corporate and Real Estate departments. We therefore handle issues and projects from a variety of perspectives, taking into account the wider economic and legal context.

 

Experience

  • Representing two major public bodies during their merger.
  • Assisting a public company in the development of a new underground line.
  • Regularly advising both public authorities and private Belgian and foreign-based firms on the choice of the most suitable structure for public procurement and assisting them in drawing up offers and/or scope statements, notably concerning the award criteria; monitoring of drafting and signature procedures and handling any appeals.
  • Regularly assisting public authorities in drafting laws and regulations in the broadest aspects of law.

 

IT Contracting and Litigation

The development of information technologies has brought about an explosion in the use of IT contracting and litigation services, and it is our mission to help clients navigate the challenges and opportunities presented by these new means of doing business.

Our fields of expertise

Our in-depth understanding of our clients’ objectives and our long-term strategic approach enable us to achieve a real commercial advantage in IT contract negotiations.

Simont Braun assists clients in a wide range of matters, such as drafting and negotiating agreements for the development, integration and maintenance of software and platforms, data and information provision, disaster recovery, software licensing, cloud computing arrangements, distribution and reseller contracts.

Our expertise covers multiple fields, including big data, cloud services, the internet of things, online payments, open source, cybersecurity and the legitimacy of reverse engineering.

As and when required, we frequently act in civil and criminal proceedings to defend our clients’ interests.

Some recent projects

  • Regular assistance provided to a German health insurer and a Belgian all-round insurer in various IP and IT matters including data protection issues, and the negotiation and structuring of several IT outsourcing projects.
  • Assisting a national professional institute in the drafting and negotiation of a major contract with an IT service provider to establish an electronic platform providing client services for the digitisation of administration and invoicing systems.
  • Representing a public authority in criminal proceedings against computer hackers.
  • Assisting a renowned Belgian university in data protection issues within the context of multiple IT projects, including transferring a substantial proportion of their IT assets to a public cloud computing environment.
  • Assisting an online insurance platform throughout their project definition and implementation phases.

e-Business and e-Commerce

Globalisation and new technologies are changing consumer behaviour vis-à-vis shopping and advertising. Selling and buying goods or services online is now part of our daily life. In this new economy, an in-depth, commercially-focused understanding of the applicable law is crucial.

For both young entrepreneurs and well-established retailers, e-Business and e-Commerce raise many questions about applicable law, data protection, consumer protection, trade practices, intellectual property and regulatory aspects.

Simont Braun combines the necessary multi-disciplinary tools and knowledge to help clients build and maintain a secure and remunerative e-Business and e-Commerce environment.

Our fields of expertise

Simont Braun’s lawyers have gained in-depth knowledge and experience of online business and commerce. Whatever your commercial and marketing needs, our team can assist you to develop and promote your brand efficiently and securely via all forms of media. We have broad expertise advising clients on innovative marketing techniques, loyalty schemes, cookies, client onboarding, use of social networks for marketing purposes and digital marketing in general.

Always taking into account our clients’ business constraints, we provide legal advice to ensure that your sales, price promotions and marketing fully comply with applicable regulations in Belgium.

We also assist clients in their relationships with customers and business partners (drafting and negotiating agreements, managing long-standing relationships, etc.).

We frequently act in civil and criminal proceedings on liability issues in the digital environment, as well as in negotiations designed to settle commercial disputes.

Some recent projects

  • Advising a French digital credit institution in the development of their micro-credit payment solution and fraud prevention system in Belgium, ensuring full compliance with the applicable regulatory network.
  • Advising an online payment company seeking to make its services available in Belgium.
  • Assisting an online insurance platform throughout project definition and implementation.
  • Assisting one of Belgium’s largest web-shops in all aspects involving the implementation of new regulations and regarding product compliance in general.

Data Protection And Privacy

The collection, use and transmission of personal data are omnipresent, especially since society has recognised the monetary value of personal data.

It has therefore become vital to protect personal data against all types of abuse. We have seen numerous regulations emerge at both national and European level to control the processing of personal data and, consequently, protect privacy.

The latest – and most notable – regulation to date is the famous GDPR, which places the protection of personal data at the heart of all data processing activities performed by companies.

Our areas of work

Simont Braun’s Data Protection specialists guide clients through the complex regulatory framework governing the collection, use, transfer and protection of data. Our job is to reconcile legal requirements with business needs, while leading our client towards the path of data processing autonomy.

We assist clients in numerous matters such as GDPR compliance, the drafting of privacy policies and (international) data transfer agreements, negotiating commercial transactions, revising employment contracts and internal policies, e-mail monitoring, compliance checks for websites and applications and regulatory investigation.

Our clients value the multi-disciplinary structure of the firm, as we are able to combine our capabilities in terms of intellectual property, corporate, white collar crime, healthcare, and procurement contracts, enabling our clients to comprehensively address their data protection and privacy risks.

We offer particular expertise to assist companies providing online services and those operating in regulated sectors (such as financial services, healthcare and pharmaceuticals).

Some recent projects

  • Advice to a French (digital) credit institution on the data protection and privacy issues related to their new micro-credit payment solution in Belgium and to their fraud prevention system.
  • Assistance to an online payment company seeking to make its website available in Belgium.
  • Assistance to an online insurance platform regarding data protection matters throughout project definition and implementation.
  • Review of the privacy policy and general terms of use of various applications and websites.
  • Advice to a public authority on the privacy and secrecy implications of a system for listening to sounds in certain public places for surveillance and security purposes.
  • Assistance to a group of hospitals for the setting-up of an electronic platform to centralise and manage medical data, ensuring the platform’s compliance with data protection regulations.

Mediation

More than ever, enterprises tend to prefer efficient and swift solutions than lengthy judicial proceedings to solve their disputes. Mediation has many advantages, in particular, the confidentiality of the process and the possibility to get a tailor-made solution.

At Simont Braun, we understand this market reality and listen carefully to our clients’ needs to guide them towards the most appropriate and constructive path to solve their issues.

Hence, our dispute resolution team is regularly involved in mediation proceedings and several of our lawyers are trained to the mediation process and are or will be soon registered mediators.

Our areas of expertise

In all our practice areas, Simont Braun assists clients through the entire mediation process, from the decision to choose mediation (which as from January 2019 could under certain circumstances also be imposed by the court) up to the implementation of the agreement between the parties.

The role of a lawyer in mediation is crucial. Some of our lawyers are trained to the process and will accompany the client through the different phases of the mediation. They will notably assist them with the identification of the subject matters that must be addressed. In the “options phase”, where parties are asked to be creative and to propose as many potential solutions as possible, our lawyers may suggest ideas. When an agreement is reached, we will take the lead over the drafting and submit it to the court for approval.

In addition and from a more general point of view, our role during the entire mediation process is to keep the client informed of the judicial framework and consequences of the solutions that are discussed so that the client can make a fully-aware decision.

Special expertise

Thomas Braun is a registered mediator to the “Commission Fédérale Médiation”. He is also a member and former president of the Belgian Chamber of Conciliation, Arbitration and Mediation in Real Estate matters (C.C.A.I.). He is also a registered mediator to the Brussels Business Mediation Centre (B.B.M.C.).

Emmanuel Cornu was involved in the first mediation proceedings organised by the Boards of Appeal of the EUIPO (European Union Intellectual Property Office).

Charlotte de Leval (counsel), Marc Baetens-Spetschinsky (senior attorney) and Fanny Laune (senior attorney) have followed a professional training in mediation to become registered mediators.

 

Arbitration (National and International)

Efficient, flexible, confidential and business-oriented, arbitration is the primary dispute resolution channel for clients with international business activities. In today’s global economy, arbitration also has the major advantage of extensive international enforceability.

Our fields of expertise

Simont Braun is recognised for its broad experience in national and international arbitration, with its lawyers regularly performing a wide variety of roles, such as arbitrator, counsel to parties in arbitration and expert witness in Belgian law. Our in-depth understanding of business disputes and procedural rules enables us to conduct both arbitration and post-arbitration procedures (enforcement and annulment of awards).

Our arbitration team raises and defends cases in national and international arbitration proceedings, both ad hoc and under the aegis of arbitration institutions, including the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), CEPANI, WIPO and the American Arbitration Association (AAA).

Our lawyers also appear before state courts in proceedings brought to set aside or defend arbitral awards, or to challenge or apply for exequatur.

Lucien Simont and John Bigwood are renowned arbitrators. Paul Alain Foriers, Steven Callens, Thomas Braun, Fernand de Visscher and Emmanuel Cornu frequently act as counsel or arbitrator in their respective practice areas. Rafaël Jafferali has been selected as a Future Leader by Who’s Who Legal in the Arbitration category in 2018 and 2019.

Some recent work experience

Our team is currently involved in multiple arbitration proceedings before different bodies including the ICC, CEPANI and various ad hoc panels, covering general commercial relations, engineering contracts and post-acquisition disputes:

  • Representing the sellers of a company in ad hoc arbitration reviewing their entitlement to substantial earn-out payments.
  • Representing a Belgian-based dredging company in an ICC arbitration brought against a Dutch shipbuilding company.
  • Regularly acting as arbitrator (ICC, CEPANI or ad hoc arbitrations) in disputes pertaining to all types of commercial relations, notably distribution agreements and business partnerships.
  • Acting as arbitrator (CEPANI arbitration) in a dispute regarding a company share sale.
  • Acting as arbitrator (ICC arbitration) in a highly specific case where the parties involved only wanted the arbitrator to rule on the correct interpretation and implementation of their distribution agreement.

Supreme Court

As the highest court in Belgium, the Supreme Court does not deal with questions of fact, but only with questions of law. It verifies the legality of the judicial decisions that are brought before it.

Because of the specific nature of this task and the technical nature of the cassation procedure, the representation of parties in civil, commercial and social matters (in the broad sense) is restricted to lawyers accredited to the Supreme Court, who together form a separate bar consisting of only twenty members. At our firm, we have two such lawyers: Paul Alain Foriers and Caroline De Baets.

Their presence has the advantage that we can assist and represent our clients at all stages of the procedure.

Our fields of expertise

Paul Alain Foriers and Caroline De Baets are supported by a team of lawyers, some of whom have completed the four-year course organized by the Bar of Lawyers practicing before the Supreme Court.

They act before the Supreme Court in disputes relating to all areas of law – including tax law and criminal law, which are not covered by the aforementioned restrictions. They can also act before the Constitutional Court, the Court of Justice of the European Union or the Benelux Court of Justice as regards the preliminary reference procedure.

Paul Alain Foriers and Caroline De Baets can of course also rely on the expertise of the lawyers within our firm’s other departments.

Dispute resolution

Dispute resolution has been a long-standing area of focus at Simont Braun. We are also acknowledged as having strong expertise in arbitration (both domestic and international) and mediation. Whenever possible, we encourage mediation to solve conflicts.


Our Services

Simont Braun’s lawyers act before courts at all levels in civil, commercial and administrative matters, as well as in special proceedings, such as appeals relating to registrations of trademarks or services, bank and stock exchange regulations, merger control, gas & electricity regulation, financial criminal law, etc.

Our lawyers also act in national and international arbitral proceedings as counsel, legal expert or arbitrator.

Simont Braun tends to favour mediation to solve conflicts. Our firm is a signatory of the Bmediation Charter and includes several mediators registered with the Federal Mediation commissions.

A unique feature of Simont Braun is that two of our partners are admitted to the bar of the Belgian Supreme Court (Cour de Cassation/Hof van Cassatie): Paul Alain Foriers and Caroline De Baets. Their in-depth knowledge of the case law of the Supreme Court is a highly valuable asset for all proceedings before Belgian courts. Our lawyers also have longstanding expertise in proceedings before the Council of State (administrative supreme court) and the Constitutional Court.

Simont Braun also stands out thanks to its breadth of experience before supranational courts, such as the Benelux Court and the European Court of Justice.

Our litigators are used to handling cases combining cross-border aspects and/or international proceedings.

We also handled one of the first major class actions in Belgium (Deminor – Fortis dismantling).


Our approach

Besides a team dedicated to litigation, the lawyers of our other departments, notably Corporate, Banking & Finance, IP, Tax, Labour law and Real Estate, are also renowned litigators in their respective areas of expertise.

At Simont Braun, we firmly believe that for work to be of the highest quality, it must be handled by lawyers capable of anticipating and understanding potential judicial issues, and that a dispute in a complicated matter is best handled by a specialist with in-depth knowledge of its specific features.

Our teams of experts are fully aware of business needs and realities and will always focus on finding constructive solutions, with litigation being the last resort.

See also our dispute resolution expertise in Banking, Finance & Insurance, Corporate, M&A and Capital Markets, Employment, Intellectual Property, Information Technology, Public & Administrative law, Real Estate & Construction, Tax and Financial Criminal Law.


Market recognition

   

R&D and Intellectual Property

Simont Braun’s Tax Department works closely with our highly experienced IP Department, enabling clients to benefit from the special corporate income tax regime covering “innovation income” generated via certain qualified IP rights (patents, supplementary protection certificates, copyrighted software resulting from R&D projects, etc.).

Our Tax Department also assists clients in structuring the personal income tax of employees who assign or license copyright to their employer.

Our department examines the various copyrights assigned or licensed, and assists clients in assessing the specific compensation as remuneration for professional services rendered and the amount to treat as compensation for the assignment or licensing of copyrights, which may benefit from an attractive tax regime. In this context, we regularly request rulings from the rulings commission to ensure that our clients enjoy legal certainty.

 

Public Entities

We advise our clients on all tax matters, whether they are public entities or are involved in operations with public entities, such as public-private partnerships.