In 2014, the main engines of growth for VASS Lawyers were represented by public procurement, litigation, arbitration and competition law. The last year balance shows that the share of legal services related to public procurement are still majority, registering a significant growth despite the adoption of abusive legislative measures, such as the introduction of the good conduct guarantee.
“It has been a complicated and unpredictable year with many changes in our field of reference – public procurement. Drastic reduction of public investment or introducing severe pecuniary penalties for economical operators who formulate claims could have led to a decline of the activity in this area. However, economical operators continued to formulate not only complaints and claims, but also complaints before the European Commission. Also, the decrease of the workload regarding infrastructure projects was compensated by a significant increase in areas such as defence and security, medical equipment or food business” Iulia Vass, VASS Lawyers Managing Partner.
Moreover, introducing a significant number of complaints to the European Commission on the violation of provisions of European law also led to an important first victory: the cancellation of a public procurement procedure regarding a national IT system with an estimated value of over 30 million Euros. Meanwhile, VASS Lawyers has still represented its clients’ interests before the N.C.S.C. and the competent courts, in disputes regarding the award procedures of complex contracts in the utilities field, supply of cartridges or medical equipment.
In what concerns the organization of public procurement procedures, the team has provided legal assistance regarding the award of utilities public procurement contracts with an estimated value of over 180 million Euros. Furthermore, VASS Lawyers continued to assist private companies with the award procedures of works, services or supply contracts with European funding, including a contract having as object the construction of an Olympic pool with an estimated value of 21 million lei.
Thus, in early 2014, Legal 500 ranked the firm as a first tier in public procurement and PPP, adding that “the reputation of VASS Lawyers in public procurement and public-private partnerships is definitely on the rise; the “exceptional and dynamic” team, appreciated for “vast knowledge and friendly approach” is fast becoming a major contender on high-profile mandates”.
Arbitration projects, civil and administrative litigation were also important pillars of growth in 2014. VASS Lawyers represented a large number of companies in disputes concerning the cancellation of negative ascertaining documents regarding the fulfilment of contractual obligations, an obstacle in their eligibility for future public procurement contracts. Also, the firms’ portfolio did not lack disputes regarding the execution of public procurement contracts, including their annulment or cancellation, or the recovery of debts arising by the execution of contracts. A major success was achieved by the team of lawyers in a dispute concerning the abusive execution of a bank guarantee of over 1 million Euros.
Disputes regarding challenging the financial corrections applied to projects financed from EU funds continued to represent an important activity within VASS Lawyers. An example to that purpose is legal assistance provided to a major real estate company in connection with a works contract for the construction of a leisure compound, with an estimated value of approximately 52 million lei.
Also, noteworthy are the financial and banking litigations in capital markets focused on recovering the value of shares traded on the stock market fraudulently or on removal of unfair contractual terms in credit agreements. Arbitration was also present in the 2014 portfolio, VASS Lawyers representing leading companies in arbitrations referring to the medical or infrastructure fields. Last but not least, an important part is represented by labour disputes arising from termination of employment or collective agreements.
The third axis of development in 2014 was represented by the competition area, whose share in the legal services provided by VASS continued to grow. The firm has assisted many companies during investigations triggered by the Competition Council regarding the alleged participation with rigged tenders in public procurement procedures.
“Even from the beginning, my work was closely related to competition and state aid. As a partner, I have supported the growth and consolidation of this area of practice through active involvement in complex projects from food business or defence industry. Moreover, the overall growth registered by VASS Lawyers in 2014 faithfully reflects this aspect “, Bianca Bello, VASS Lawyers Partner.
The consultancy activity was accompanied by an intense journalistic activity that targeted areas such as public procurement, litigation, arbitration, contracts or competition. VASS Lawyers published during the last year multiple articles in local and international forums. For the first time, 2014 marks the publication of a comprehensive guide to public procurement and PPP made available for free to all those interested. The guide can be downloaded here: www.vasslawyers.eu/Legal-Guide-Romania_Public-Procurement-and-PPP/