Panama, May 22, 2020.
The German-Panamanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, in alliance with the Swiss-Panamanian Chamber of Commerce, the Franco-Panamanian Chamber of Commerce, and the Panamanian-Dutch Chamber of Commerce, held the Webinar “Main Banking Regulation in times of COVID-19” (Rule 4-2013 and Rule 2-2020).
This Webinar was presented by Kharla Aizpurua Olmos, partner at Morgan & Morgan.
COVID-19: Additional, exceptional and temporary measures adopted by the Superintendency of Banks of Panama and the Panama Banking Association.
Updated on May 21, 2020.Rule 2-2020, as amended by Rule 3-2020 of the Superintendency of Banks of Panama (hereinafter, “SBP,” for its initials in Spanish).
On March 16, 2020, the SBP issued Rule 2-2020, which was subsequently amended by Rule 3-2020 (here in after referred to as “Rule 2-2020″) and “establishes additional, exceptional and temporary measures for compliance with the provisions contained in Rule 4-2013 on credit risk”.”.
Rule 2-2020 creates a new category of credits named “modified credits” and it allows banks, in agreement with their debtors, to modify the conditions originally agreed without this being considered a “restructured credit.”
Relevant topics for the purposes of this agreement are:
- These credits must: (i) meet financial viability criteria through their new terms and conditions, taking into account the debtor’s ability to pay and the bank’s credit policies; (ii) be subject to special monitoring by the bank; and (iii) be recognized as restructured, if debtors fail to comply with the modified terms and conditions;
- loans classified as normal and special mention, as well as restructured credits that are not in arrears payment, may be modified;
- contracts that are modified must be identified for special monitoring by the SBP;
- during the duration of exceptional and temporary measures, for purposes of negotiating specific terms and interest rates, banks shall take into account the current situation facing the country;
- the modification of the credits is exempt from charges and fees by the bank except for legal, notary and registration expenses paid to third parties;
- modification of the loans shall be exempt from the requirement to update the appraisal;
- the bank shall establish specific policies and procedures for the management and monitoring of requests to change the conditions of these credits;
- the date of modification shall be the date on which the debtor has accepted the modifications by any means or modality (including electronic means, tacit acceptance, presumed acceptance by silence, etc.); and
- As an exceptional and temporary measure, banks will be able to use up to 80% of the dynamic provision for the establishment of specific provisions. To use more than 80%, banks must obtain authorization from the SBP. Banks may only pay dividends once they have refunded the amount of the dynamic provision that corresponds to them according to their credit portfolio.
Circular No. SBP-DR- 0118-2020 of April 8, 2020.
The SBP issued the circular to:
- Request banks to ensure that they do not charge interest on interest, moratorium interest, or interest capitalization on loans that have been modified under Rule 2-2020;
- Reiterate that modified credits are exempt from the application of commissions and charges, except for legal, notary and registration expenses which are to be paid to third parties; and
- Urge financial institutions to administer the interest rate applicable to modified credits so as not to impair, as far as possible, the financial situation of customers.
Official Statement on the Moratorium Extension Agreement until December 2020 issued by the Panama Banking Association (hereinafter, “ABP”).
On May 4, 2020, the ABP issued the official statement on the moratorium extension understanding (here in after referred to as the “Commitment Understanding”) until December 2020, in which the ABP announces the extension and incorporation of new financial relief measures to support their customers affected by COVID-19.
The Commitment Understanding establishes that:
- The benefits granted under the Commitment Understanding are for “persons who have had their employment contract suspended or terminated, the self-employed and commercial workers, whose activity has been affected by the health measures established by the Executive Branch” and is mainly to extend the moratorium until December 2020;
- The Commitment Understanding applies to residential mortgage loans, personal loans, car loans, credit cards, small and medium-sized enterprises loans, commercial loans, transport and agricultural loans, and
- It is expressly established that during the remainder of 2020, banks’ commitment continues not to foreclose on existing residential mortgages.
For any additional information, please contact:
Kharla Aizpurúa O.MO
RGAN & MORGANTel:
265-7777 ext. 7652
Email: [email protected]
Morgan & Morgan advised Parque Industrial y Corporativo Sur, S.A. in connection with the public offering of revolving corporate bonds for an amount of up to US$100 million
Panama, April 24, 2020.
Morgan & Morgan advised Parque Industrial y Corporativo Sur, SA, in relation to the public offering of revolving corporate bonds (hereinafter the “Bonds”), which will be issued in multiple series, which may be senior series or subordinated series under a revolving program in which the outstanding principal balance of the Bonds issued and owed, in a single moment, may not exceed One Hundred million Dollars (US $100,000,000.00), legal tender of the United States of America. The series A of the Bonds may be guaranteed with a guarantee trust that has the usual assets for this type of transaction, such as monies, assigned rights, mortgages, among others.
Parque Industrial y Corporativo Sur, S.A. is a 42-hectare multipurpose project with high-quality, first-world infrastructure and buildings that serve as a storage and logistics center.
January 13, 2020
For a long time, we have heard in different social media, for various reasons, some more positive than others, information related to Turnkey Contracts and the State indebtedness resulting from the Partial Payment Accounts (in Spanish, “Cuentas de Pago Parcial”) and Certificates of No Objection (in Spanish, “Certificados de No Objeción”). Do you know what these legal concepts that have been used to finance the largest State projects in the last two government administrations are? Let’s get today into a few lines, because in the words of Rudyard Kipling “You learn more by what people talk to each other or by what it is understood, than by asking questions.”
- What is a Turnkey Contract?
Turnkey Contracts are regulated by Law 22 of 2006, as amended from time to time, concerning public procurement. This same law defines this type of contracts as: “the one in which the contractor undertakes before the State to perform different services, that must include as a general rule, studies, designs, supplies and execution of a project for a determined global price by the bidder entity, in accordance with the provisions of the contract and of the tender documents”. These contracts may also include the equipment, operation of the project or any other provision within the contractor’s obligations. In addition, the contractor must have its own financing for the project.
Consequently, the contractor accepts responsibility of the project delivery (taking over construction risk) but in addition to the operation, in the sense that the mandate must include as the term says, “turnkey”, the project delivery ready to be put into operation by the State (for the purposes of this article I will refer to the State in general terms, without specifying or differentiating between Central Government, decentralized entities and public companies), which has carried out the correspondent bid.
The greatest responsibility assumed by the State in this type of contracts is the supervision of the construction of the respective project and payment to the contractor.
- What is a Partial Payment Account or a Certificate of No Objection?
First, is that both terms refer to the same type of legal instrument and have only been interchangeably used depending on the entity that issued them. For reference, the Ministry of Public Works, the Social Security Fund, Empresa de Transmisión Eléctrica, S.A. and the National Institute of Culture have named it as “Partial Payment Accounts”; nevertheless; the Ministry of Health and the Metro de Panamá have named it as “Certificate of No Objection.” Therefore, from now on, we will call them the “Payment Documents”. Having clarified the above, the Payment Documents have been regulated through regulations and/or procedures adopted and promulgated by the respective entities as well as in the Turnkey Contracts. There is no law that regulates them.
In general terms, the main characteristics of the Payment Documents are:
- Once each Payment Document has been issued, it constitutes an autonomous, independent, unconditional and irrevocable obligation of the contracting entity for the amount expressed therein and is payable on the date indicated in the document without the possibility that once issued, the entity can make tax reductions, fines, penalties, compensations, deductions, claims or other withholdings.
- The contracting entity may only deduct or compensate amounts from the Payment Documents to be issued.
- Once the Payment Document is issued by the entity and endorsed by the General Comptroller of the Republic, contains the net amount to pay.
- Having issued and endorsed the Payment Document, the contracting entity will only have the resource to initiate corresponding legal proceedings against the respective contractor or the guarantor for taxes, fines, penalties, compensations, deductions, claims or other withholdings; and
- Payment Documents must be paid on the date indicated on them, even in the case of early termination, suspension or administrative resolution of the Turnkey Contract, regardless of the cause or claims between the contracting entity, the contractor and/or the bonding company, with respect to any matter related or not to the project and regardless of whether the project has been completed.
In accordance with the information published by the Ministry of Economy and Finance and on the website datosabiertos.gob.pa as of October 31st, 2019, there were Payment Documents that sum up the amount of US$834,770,000 (payable between October 2019 and until the year 2022) as detailed by contracting entity and by the respective project, on the website of the Ministry of Economy and Finance (www.mef.gob.pa) and www.datosabiertos.gob.pa.
- Why are Payment Documents attractive in financing?
Two important facts mentioned in previous answers: in Turnkey Contracts the contractor must have its own financing for the project and the inherent characteristics of the Payment Documents. Based on these two factors, the Payment Documents, as mean of payment for the contracting entities, turn the Turnkey Contracts into a way of securing and conserving the interest of financial entities in relevant State projects.
Financial institutions acquire the Payment Documents at a discount and the contractors assign these Payment Documents to the financial entities. The financial institutions are certain of the payment from the State on the date set forth in the Payment Document regardless of what happened with the respective work or project.
In case of non-payment by a contracting entity, provided that it is part of the Central Government of a Payment Document, there is always the possibility of suing the State, municipality or any other decentralized, autonomous or semi-autonomous entity, under the procedure established in the articles 1047 and 1048 of the Judicial Code.
- What does the issuance of Payment Documents represent for the State?
The Payment Documents do not represent a financial indebtedness to the State, that is, they are not shown in their finances as in the case of bonds issuance. The Payment Documents are accounts payable as a result of investment expenses, which are also of long duration and therefore, must be covered by subsequent general State budgets (the general budget of the State is approved annually).
Based on the foregoing, and since everything must be shown in the annual general state budget, the Ministry of Economy and Finance, for example, per each Turnkey Contract, must: (i) give its no objection to the conditions related to the dates and payment amounts of the work, as well as its duration and the total amount, prior to the call for bid; and (ii) once the bid has been awarded to a contractor, funding proposal must be delivered which will be subject to its review, negotiation and subsequent approval.
- How does the Social Tax Responsibility Law affect?
Law 34 of June 5, 2008 on Social Tax Responsibility, as amended from time to time, aims to establish rules, principles and methodologies to consolidate tax discipline in the financial management of the Public Sector. Said law and the General State Budget Law, refer to the term “Non-Financial Public Sector”, as the group of all the entities of the General Government (composed by the National Assembly, the General Comptroller of the Republic, the different ministries, the Judicial Authority, the Public Ministry and the Electoral Court) and Non-Financial Public Companies (industrial or commercial units owned by the Government that sell public goods and services on a large scale, and that are constituted as stock capital companies or of other type of legal status such as: the Colon Free Zone, the Panama Maritime Authority or the National Charity Lottery). The “Non-Financial Public Sector” differs from the total Public Sector which includes public financial institutions, deposit collectors, Empresa de Transmisión Eléctrica, S.A., Empresa Nacional de Autopistas, S.A., Aeropuerto Internacional Tocumen, S.A. and the Panama Canal Authority.
Article 10 of the Social Tax Responsibility Law provides that the annual laws of the General State Budget and the budget execution shall be subject to the guidelines of this law. In addition, it is set forth that the Gross Domestic Product of the reference shall be calculated by the National Statistics Institute of the General Comptroller of the Republic. The maximum limit of the Tax Balance deficit of the Non-Financial Public Sector will be of 3.50% of the Gross Domestic Product for fiscal year 2019, of 2.75% for fiscal year 2020, of 2.50% for fiscal year 2021 and 2.0% as of fiscal year 2023.
In addition, Article 13 of Executive Decree No. 52 dated June 3rd, 2019, which regulates the Social Tax Responsibility Law, establishes that the investment expenses to be made under the modalities of turnkey projects and of deferred payment projects in a tax term may not exceed 20% of the total investment expenses of the Non-Financial Public Sector in the respective fiscal period.
The use of this type of legal instruments as a form of payment allows contracting public entities to obtain greater efficiency in the financing of projects and to manage their annual budgets based on an agreed payment schedule. To the extent that the limits of the Social Tax Responsibility Law are met and complied, without requesting continuous waivers to these limits, they are still an efficient way to handle accounts payable debt due to the investment expenses necessary to keep public services at appropriate levels of services to the requirements of the population.
Kharla Aizpurua Olmos
Partner, Morgan & Morgan
Panama, December 16, 2019. Morgan & Morgan repeated as a leading Panamanian firm in The Legal 500 – Latin America Guide. Banking and Finance, Corporate and M&A, Dispute Resolution, Intellectual Property, Offshore and Shipping earned the top-tier rankings.
In addition, five lawyers of the firm received recommendations:
With the enactment of Law No. 81 on Protection of Personal Data, the Republic of Panama aims to establish the principles, rights, obligations and procedures that regulate the protection of personal data, also considering their interrelation with private life and other rights and fundamental freedoms of citizens, by natural or legal persons, public or private law, lucrative or not, that process personal data in the terms provided in the Law.
Storage or transfer of personal data:
The storage or transfer of personal data of a confidential, sensitive or restricted nature, outside the territory of Panama, by the company responsible for the storage of data or custody thereof, will be allowed, provided that the company and/or country of residence have standards of protection comparable to those of the Law or if the entity that transfers the data makes sure to adopt all the necessary steps so that it is protected. The following cases are excepted from the aforementioned requirements: (1) when the owner has granted its consent for the transfer; (2)when the transfer is necessary for the execution or enforcement of a contract by the interested party; (3) in cases of bank or money or stock exchange transfers; and (4) in case of information whose transmission is required by law or in compliance with international treaties ratified by Panama.
It establishes the obligation to develop procedures, protocols and processes for the management and transfer of data that includes the appropriate security methods.
Consent of the owner of personal data:
It is established that the processing of personal data can only take place as permitted in this Law, or with the consent of the owner of the data.
Definition of sensitive data:
Sensitive data refers to the private sphere of its owner or whose misuse could give rise to discrimination or entail a serious risk for him/her– for example, of racial origin, religious beliefs, union affiliation, political opinions, data related to the health, life, preference or sexual orientation, genetic data or biometric data, among others aimed at uniquely identifying a natural person.
Sensitive data can not be transferred except: (i) by explicit consent of the owner; (ii) when necessary to safeguard the owner’s life; (iii) when it is necessary for the recognition, exercise or defense of a right in a judicial proceeding; and (iv) when it has a historical, statistical or scientific purpose.
Rights of Access, Rectification, Cancellation, Opposition and Portability:
The rights of owners of personal data to exercise over those responsible for database processing are: (i) Access (to obtain the data and know the purpose and origin for which they were collected), (ii) Rectification (to access and request correction, modification or update), (iii) Cancellation (to request deletion of data), (iv) Opposition (refusal to provide or revoke its consent) and (v) Portability (right to obtain a copy of all personal data in a structure matter in certain circumstances).
The database custodians that transfer personal data stored in a database to third parties must keep a record of them, which must be available to ANTAI, if requested to do so.
Personal Data Protection Council:
The Personal Data Protection Council is created, which has the following functions: to advise ANTAI in relation to the Law, recommend public policies, evaluate cases submitted for consultations and develop internal regulations and it is composed by:
- the Minister of the Ministry of Commerce and Industries;
- the General Administrator of the Authority for the Protection of Consumers and the Defense of Competition (ACODECO);
- the General Director of ANTAI;
- the Ombudsman, or its nominee;
- a representative of the National Council of Private Enterprises (CONEP);
- a representative of the National Bar Association;
- a representative of the Panama Banking Association;
- a representative of Electoral Tribunal; and
- a representative of the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture.
The National Government Innovation Authority will have the right to address the council as a technical advisor.
Duty to compensate for pecuniary and/or moral damages caused by the unlawful handling of personal data.
National Authority for Transparency and Access to Information (“ANTAI”):
Right to appeal against ANTAI in case of claims to any database storage operator to resolve differences in the exercise of the aforementioned rights. The competent body for the fulfillment of the obligations of this Law is ANTAI except in the case of estities regulated by special laws, in which case the claimant must first submit its claim to the competent regulatory authority. The ANTAI, through the Directorate established to consider the matter, is granted the powers to impose sanctions. The decision of the Directorate in the ANTAI established to consider these proceedings may be challenged through a reconsideration appeal. A subsequent appeal may be filed with the Director General of ANTAI.
The sanctions may be between US$1,000 and US$10,000, depending on the severity and recurrence and may be a written warning, citation before the ANTAI, fine, closure of the database registration or suspension and disqualification of the storage activity and/or treatment of personal data. There are minor infractions (for example: not sending the information required by ANTAI), serious infractions (for example: processing data without the owner’s consent) and very serious infractions (for example: the collection of personal data in a malicious way).
This law will take effect two (2) years after its promulgation.
Mr. Vidal has over 10 years of experience advising domestic and foreign clients in complex transactions related to mergers and acquisitions, project finance, finance, securities regulation, banking law, insurance law, public bids, government contracts, financial leasing, ports, among others. He has also participated and led transactions from several industries such as insurance, ports, construction, energy, real estate, banking, securities, restaurants, hotels and retail.
On the other hand, and with more than 15 years of experience, Mrs. Aizpurua Olmos mainly advises clients in domestic and cross-border financing transactions. She has been involved on matters pertaining to syndicated lending, project finance, governmental infrastructure projects (including transportation and energy), securitization and public offerings.
With more than 10 years of experience, Mr. Raven advises in all aspects of maritime dispute resolution and claims including collision, cargo, oil spill pollution, charter party disputes, and ship mortgage executions, among others. His client portfolio includes shipowners, P&I Clubs, charterers, hull and cargo underwriters, banks and other shipping interests.
These promotions come to strengthen the usual personalized and skilled services provided by Morgan & Morgan and reaffirms our position as Panama´s leading firm.
Morgan & Morgan advised Banco La Hipotecaria, S.A. in the structuring of its first covered bond program
Morgan & Morgan advised Banco La Hipotecaria, S.A. (BLH) in the structuring of its first covered bond program from which BLH may issue covered bonds pursuant to Rule 144A and Regulation S of the Securities Act of 1933 in series, from time to time, up to a maximum aggregate nominal amount of US$200,000,000. The issuer of the covered bonds is BLH and the bonds are full recourse obligations of BLH with dual recourse to a pool of residential mortgages granted to debtors in Panama assigned by BLH to a Panamanian collateral trust, with BG Trust, Inc., an affiliate of Banco General, S.A., acting as collateral trustee thereof.
The pool of mortgages assigned by BLH to the Panamanian collateral trust must comply with certain pool ratio requirements. KPMG has been engaged as asset monitor in order to periodically review the mortgages and confirm if they are complying with said requirements or not. BG Trust, Inc., as trustee of the collateral trust, is entitled to receive, through BLH as servicer of the loans, all payments of principal and interest that the debtors of the pool of mortgages are obligated to pay under the loan agreements. If BLH complies with certain conditions, it may request the collateral trustee to return to BLH the interest payments (but not the principal) received by the collateral trustee from the debtors. In case BLH defaults on its payments of interest or principal under the covered bonds, the flows generated by the pool of mortgages will be used to pay interest and/or principal to the bondholders and the pool of mortgages may be even sold by the collateral trustee and the proceeds of said sale would be used to pay interest and principal due under the covered bonds.
The net proceeds from the issue of each series of covered bonds will be applied by BLH for its general corporate purposes. Brean Capital acted as arranger and sole book-running manager of the covered bonds. The covered bonds have not been registered under the securities laws of the United States, Panama or any other jurisdiction and may not be offered or sold in the United States, Panama or other jurisdictions absent registration or an applicable exemption from such registration requirements.
Partners Ricardo Arias and Kharla Aizpurua Olmos, and associate Pablo Epifanio, participated in the transaction.
In the framework of a globalized world and social networks that are established as a measure of possible interest of economic, social and political groups, data protection regulations become more relevant. In fact, the European Union through the General Data Protection Regulation 2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council of April 27, 2016, establishes mandatory requirements, as of May 25, 2018, on regard to data protection, and which also apply to individuals in charge of the processing of data who are outside the European Union but who handle personal data of interested parties residing in the European Union.
In the case of Panama, our greatest protection is directly established through our Constitution, mainly in articles 42 to 44. These articles establish the regulatory framework in which the criterion that must be met is the consent of the owner of the personal data to obtain, process and store them. Additionally, it allows them to have access to that information in order to update or delete it from the respective database. The habeas data action is established in these articles to guarantee the right of access to personal information.
How does this affect companies?
For labor purposes, our Labor Code establishes the obligation for the employer to keep a record with information of the workers; this record is subject to inspection by the Ministry of Labor and Workforce Development. The worker in accordance with the constitutional protection has the right to access, update and amend that information, as appropriate.
Based on the regulatory framework and principles established in the Constitution, in case of the local practice, personal data protection has been included in special laws that regulate them depending on the specialization of the matter or business. Special laws such as the following, all of which follow in general terms the constitutional principles:
- Law 51 of July 22, 2008, as amended, which defines and regulates electronic documents and electronic signatures and the provision of data storage services for documents and certification of electronic signatures and adopts other provisions for the development of electronic commerce;
- Law 51 of September 18, 2009, as amended, that dictates rules for the storage, protection and provision of data of telecommunications services users and adopts other provisions;
- Law 24 of May 22, 2002, as amended, which regulates the information service on the credit history of consumers or clients;
- Executive Decree 52 of April 30, 2008, which adopts the single text of Decree Law 9 of February 26, 1998, as amended, and which regulates the banking regime and the Superintendency of Banks;
- Law 68 of November 20, 2003, as amended, which regulates the rights and obligations of patients, in terms of information and free and informed decision;
- Law 81 of December 31, 2009, which protects the rights of users of credit cards and other financing cards; and
- Law 33 of April 25, 2013, as amended, which creates the National Authority of Transparency and Access to Information.
Remarkably, there is no express prohibition in Panama regarding the movement of personal data outside Panama. Existing laws have a more focused approach to the administration and processing of information and its storage. In this sense, there is the General Directorate of Electronic Commerce of the Ministry of Commerce and Industries, which regulates data storage service providers, an entity that regulates the protection of data that must be followed by businesses and imposes the obligation to maintain security measures and protection of information.
I would like to conclude by mentioning that to date, there is a Personal Data Protection Bill that has been submitted to the National Assembly, being the second attempt this year to pass a national law that compiles the regulation on this matter.
Panama, July 31, 2018. For the second consecutive year, Ms. Kharla Aizpurua Olmos, Senior Associate of Morgan & Morgan, has been appointed as member of the Board of Directors of Fundacion WIP Panama. She has also been designated as member of the Board of Directors of Fundacion Dona Felicidad.
WIP Panama is an organization established with the purpose of furthering cooperation and communication among female lawyers around the country, as well as to address the main concerns on professional opportunities and development for them.
Dona Felicidad is focused on helping communities in extreme poverty through health, education and entertainment activities.
These new appointments ads to the pro bono practice of Ms. Aizpurua Olmos who regularly participates as volunteer in the Legal Open Houses organized by the firm in very low-income communities. Furthermore, she played a key role in the team responsible for drafting the bill to organize national volunteering in the Republic of Panama, and serves as counsellor to different Panamanian NGOs.
As a lawyer, Ms. Aizpurua Olmos concentrates her practice mainly advising clients in domestic and cross-border financing transactions. She has been involved on matters pertaining to syndicated lending, project finance, securitization and public offerings.