GIR 100 2021

Bär & Karrer

Bär & Karrer

Professional notice

Bär & Karrer returns to the GIR 100 for the first time in six years thanks in part to its work on many high-profile corruption cases that have touched Switzerland, including those involving 1MDB, Petrobras, Fifa and Petróleos de Venezuela.  

The firm

Switzerland-based Bär & Karrer is a 170-lawyer strong corporate law firm operating out of four offices across Switzerland. Its investigations practice began in the 1990s when Andreas Länzlinger, who is still a partner in the firm, helped trace the stolen assets of Holocaust victims being held by Swiss banks. Since then, the firm has established itself as a big player in the Swiss investigations market. In total, the firm has 12 partners and 15 associates in its core investigations team.  

Länzlinger previously served for the Swiss government as a public prosecutor, a judge and an investigating judge for the Swiss army. He has acted for financial institutions in high-profile foreign tax settlements. Stupp has a significant overseas regulatory defence practice and is also the vice-chairman of the board of directors at Goldman Sachs’s Swiss subsidiary.

The firm has four Who’s Who Legal: Investigations nominees: Länzlinger, partners Saverio Lembo and Andrew Garbarski in Geneva, and partner Eric Stupp in Zurich. Lembo and Stupp are also Who’s Who Legal: Business Crime Defence nominees. Garbarski is also listed as a future leader in investigations.

Lembo is leading the firm’s representation of various sporting bodies in cross-border investigations. He acts as Europe’s regional representative to the International Bar Association’s criminal law committee, and also co-chairs the American Bar Association’s international anti-money laundering committee.

Garbarski, a specialist in complex financial crime and asset recovery matters, was recently appointed to the Swiss Justice Ministry’s working group on modernising the country’s administrative criminal law system.

The firm grew its investigations partnership in January 2021 by promoting Zurich-based Pascal Hachem and Laura Widmer, an employment investigations specialist, to partner.

Recent events

The firm’s prowess in Switzerland is exemplified by it being instructed by two of football’s biggest organisations in connection to one of the world’s most famous corruption scandals in recent years.

GIR reported in 2019 that Fifa had swapped out rival firm Niederer Kraft Frey in favour of Bär & Karrer to represent the organisation in a corruption investigation by Brooklyn federal prosecutors and the Swiss Office of the Attorney General (OAG) into allegations of corruption by executives within the world football body. The firm continues to act for Fifa in this matter, alongside Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison, and helped the organisation secure damages from its former general secretary Jerôme Valcke after he was convicted in Switzerland in 2020 of falsifying documents.

Lembo and Anne Berthod represent the South American Football Confederation (Conmebol) in relation to the Swiss Office of the Attorney General’s (OAG) recovery of 36 million Swiss francs from two former Conmebol executives in connection with alleged corruption. The OAG said in October 2020 that it planned to return the money to Conmebol after seizing the Swiss-held funds of the organisation’s former president and its general secretary.

The firm often partners with US firms to assist companies facing DOJ investigations with a Swiss dimension. It recently acted for insurer Swiss Life alongside US counsel at Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz in a $77 million deferred prosecution agreement that the company reached with the US Justice Department in May after admitting that it conspired with US citizens to evade tax by hiding assets in offshore accounts.

Network

Bär & Karrer has four offices across Switzerland in Zurich, Geneva, Lugano and Zug, as well as an extensive international network of correspondent law firms.

Clients

The firm currently acts for football bodies Fifa, Uefa and Conmebol in various high-profile cases. Bär & Karrer has also acted for many high-profile Swiss financial institutions facing overseas investigations, including UBS and Swiss Life.

Track record

The firm handled the US criminal tax case against Swiss bank UBS that eventually led to the creation of the DOJ’s Swiss bank programme, which allowed Swiss lenders to resolve US criminal cases provided they undertook a series of measures, including paying a monetary penalty and providing US authorities with a list of all accounts linked to US parties.

In the case, UBS agreed to pay $780 million in 2009 to settle tax fraud charges brought by the DOJ and SEC. Four years later, the DOJ announced the Swiss bank programme. Since then, more than 80 financial institutions have resolved US tax investigations through the programme.

The bank had previously tapped the firm in 2003 to conduct an internal investigation into potential wrongdoing linked to its money transfers. In 2004, the US Federal Reserve fined the bank US$100 million for processing US-dollar transactions with countries subject to US sanctions, such as Cuba.

In another major financial institution investigation, Bär & Karrer carried out an internal investigation in 2015 for Basler Kantonalbank into the bank’s potential involvement in one of the largest fraud cases in Swiss history. The fraud, which was carried out by an external asset manager, caught out over 500 victims who lost around 300 million Swiss francs.

Bär & Karrer is a leading Swiss law firm with more than 170 lawyers in Zurich, Geneva, Lugano and Zug. Our core business is advising our clients on innovative and complex transactions and representing them in litigation, arbitration and regulatory proceedings. Our clients range from multinational corporations to private individuals in Switzerland and around the world.

We have offices in the German (Zurich and Zug), French (Geneva) and Italian (Lugano) speaking parts of Switzerland. While our Zurich office is our main location, all our offices provide the full range of legal services.

We advise corporate clients from a broad range of industries as well as private clients on all aspects of Swiss law. We unite specialists from across all practice areas under one roof which allows us to work highly efficiently on multi-facetted mandates.

We have an extensive international network of correspondent law firms, which are market leaders in their jurisdictions. Thanks to these close working relationships, we can seamlessly assist our clients on cross-border and international issues.

Bär & Karrer was the first Swiss law firm with a specific focus on internal investigations and so far remains recognised as a market leader for this practice area. This standing is the result of a constant growth and recognition.

Bär & Karrer was repeatedly awarded "Switzerland Law Firm of the Year" by the most important international legal ranking agencies in recent years:

  • Citywealth: Law Firm of the Year Switzerland 2021
  • IFLR: Legal Adviser of the Year Switzerland 2019, 2015 and 2014
  • Mergermarket: European M&A Award Switzerland Legal Adviser of the year 2019, 2018, 2016, 2015 and 2014
  • STEP: International legal team of the year 2020
  • Leaders League: Trophees du droit Meilleur Cabinet Suisse 2016
  • Chambers: European Awards Switzerland law firm of the year 2016, 2013, 2012
  • Legal 500: Most Recommended law firm in Switzerland 2016, 2015 and 2014
  • Euromoney LMG: Life Science Firm of the Year Switzerland & European Financial & Corporate Firm of the Year 2020

Our Investigations practice

Any company can suddenly face a crisis which threatens its reputation, financial interests and relationship with its stakeholders. Such a situation may be linked to an internal investigation - a cornerstone of an efficient and sustainable corporate compliance organisation.

The first hours and days are essential in a crisis. Our experts can support you to create an initial action plan as well as assess the situation more thoroughly beyond the first response.

Well-considered and targeted action

Forensic measures, such as an internal investigation may be necessary. The successful conduct of an internal investigation takes experienced and independent external experts as well as a focused set of objectives and thorough, yet efficient procedures.

The practice teams at Bär & Karrer have gained extensive experience in leading and conducting internal investigations in corporates across various industries, such as banking, insurance, pharmaceutical, technology, manufacturing and infrastructure over the course of many years. We offer a combination of experience in corporate governance, compliance organisation and processes, regulatory, and white-collar crime related matters, including the handling of cooperation activities with domestic and foreign authorities.

Knowledgeable and advanced

While independence is a key requirement, our investigators are business-minded, with a view on industry specific business practices and processes. Our investigation activities are structured in a target-oriented and efficient manner. This enables the client to identify issues for remediation both during and after the investigation. Our role and mission are to integrate the efficient management of internal and external resources so that the investigation is cost and time efficient. We use advanced technology for mass data management.

General areas of the Bär & Karrer investigations practice include:

  • Guidance on Corporate Governance matters
  • Advice on the planning and conducting of internal investigations at board and management level
  • Conducting and managing internal investigations
  • Advice on compliance organisation matters, policies and processes
  • Representation of corporate clients in administrative (regulatory) and criminal proceedings
  • Advice relating to compliance related internal sanctions and other remediation measures

Website: www.baerkarrer.ch

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