On January 19-21, the India Committee organized the ABA Section of International Law’s first event in India – “U.S. and India Key Legal Aspects of Cross Border Business” held at Mumbai’s gorgeous sea-facing Taj Lands End Hotel. Bringing together 178 participants, from India, USA as well as other Asian and European countries, the 2½ day event resulted in useful exchange of contacts for participants as well as sharing of legal and business insights into cross-border work between the US and India.
The conference opened with a gala dinner on Thursday, with opening remarks from Peter Haas, the U.S. Consul General in Mumbai, and Darius Khambatta, the Additional Solicitor General of the Government of India. The sessions over Friday and Saturday explored the legal and regulatory aspects, both of Indian investments into the U.S., as well as U.S. investments into India. Speakers shared their experiences on various key issues of cross-border investments, including taxation, immigration, franchise issues, intellectual property protection and dispute resolution. With uncanny timing, one of the most significant recent decisions for foreign investors in India, the Indian Supreme Court’s decision in the Vodaphone tax case came out during the lunch break on Friday, which made Vodaphone every panel’s favorite topic of discussion during the following sessions, as well as offline during Friday’s dinner. The positive outcome of the case and its implications on revitalizing the use of Mauritius and other offshore vehicles for transactions with India generated an additional layer of positive buzz to the goodwill created by the conference. (Indian tax authorities have since sought review of the decision before the Supreme Court, which is expected to be heard at the end of February.)
The organizers also pulled together pre-conference meetings with senior officials of the Securities Exchange Board of India (SEBI), the Bombay Stock Exchange and BNY Carnegie Mellon in Mumbai. The SEBI meeting was especially fruitful, with a refreshing exchange of information on matters of concern for Indian as well as US securities regulators, such as the parallel situations in India and US relating to consent decrees. NY District Judge Rakoff recently created waves by not accepting the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC’s) settlement with Citibank where Citibank neither admitted nor denied the allegations. Similarly, SEBI is awaiting the decision in a Delhi High Court case filed to challenge the legal validity of consent orders. The SEBI officials expressed an interest in continuing interaction with U.S. legal professionals on such matters of mutual interest, and the India Committee is exploring ways and fora for this.
Richa Naujoks is an Associate in Nixon Peabody LLP’s Mergers & Acquisitions and Public Transactions teams. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Richa Naujoks