经过近两个月的评选，2021年度 ALB China十五佳公司法务团队再次呈现在您面前。今年的上榜团队依旧来自房地产、投资、信息技术、化学、汽车、互联网、能源、生物科技、消费品、人工智能等极为多元的产业领域。他们以优秀的业绩，呈现了中国顶尖公司法务团队的风采。
除了境内监管环境的变化，伴随中国企业全球运营足迹不断拓展、中企实力不断提升，新一代“made in China”的跨国企业已见雏形，这也对中企的全球合规提出挑战。在上述ALB调研中，“确保企业在全球范围内的合规”，在法务团队“重点关注榜单”中也名列前茅。
2021 ALB CHINA TOP 15 IN-HOUSE TEAMS
Following months of evaluation, ALB is proud to present its ranking of the Top 15 In-house Teams for 2021. The teams that made this year's list cover an extremely diverse range of businesses, including real estate, investment, information technology, chemicals, automobiles, Internet, energy, biotechnology, consumer goods and artificial intelligence, and are flagbearers of China's top in-house teams because of their outstanding performance.
With 2021 coming to an end, "uncertainty" still remains a common theme for in-house teams. Earlier, the uncertainty reflected responses to an unexpected emergency in the form of the arrival COVID-19, but it today it relates to the “new normal” that is to be adapted to, prompting in-house teams in China to rethink and reorganize their work.
The past year has seen intensive regulatory changes in China across a number of areas, such as data compliance, intellectual property and anti-monopoly. These constant significant changes are expected to gradually impact the business world over an extended period of time.
To keep pace with the overall trend of compliance, in-house teams must quickly build well-organized compliance systems for their organizations. On the other hand, as the impact and enforcement of new regulations are still unclear, in-house teams need to be wiser and more forward-looking to balance risk control and business growth. Therefore, in-house teams need to descend from the "ivory tower" and go to the business frontline, and more importantly, have closer interactions with external counsel, academia and policymakers.
Apart from their compliance role, as an important function of organizations, the fifteen winning teams have also delivered eye-catching performances supporting major transactions, as they have been involved throughout projects including IPOs, investment and financing, M&As and strategic partnerships. In addition, the teams have rendered legal support in many key lawsuits, not only protecting the rights and benefits of their organizations, but also advancing judicial practices in China with many innovative actions.
As the world remained largely closed in 2021, enterprises have ramped up digital transformation efforts. In the meantime, regulation over data, the Internet and technology areas are constantly evolving across the globe, pushing the digital economy into the regulatory development era.
In-house teams in China are paying close attention, as reflected in a recent ALB survey that found them citing "risks from new technologies" and "data security and protection" as the top two risks they face in the next five years. They regarded "data and cybersecurity" as the top priority area, and also one of the most important areas to cooperate with external counsel.
Bilibili is a well-known video-streaming and sharing platform in China, and its legal department has gained "first-mover" advantage in this area, established a domestic data compliance system in 2019. From 2020, it gradually established a data compliance control system that complies with GDPR, COPPA and other data-related requirements. In 2021, the compliance work in the field of data and personal information protection has been continuously promoted according to the laws, regulations and standards that have been issued frequently over the past years. Despite more than a dozen of administrative regulatory inspections conducted by competent government authorities, none of the apps of the group have been subject to any regulatory warning, fine, penalty, or sanctions.
The legal and compliance department of 4th Paradigm (Beijing) Technology, an AI technology and service provider, has also confronted a number of challenges in data compliance. According to the team, "in 2021, in the context of the issuance and implementation of the Data Security Law, the Personal Information Protection Law, the Measures for the Administration of Data Security (Consultation Paper) and other related laws and regulations in the field of data security, we carried out work to better understand the company's data operation situations through interviews, established relevant systems, improved supporting agreements and privacy policies, and completed rectification and training."
With the wave of digitalisation sweeping across every industry, so-called "traditional businesses" are not immune. Sumitomo Pharmaceuticals, a global Top 50 pharmaceutical company, introduced "strategic principles for digital-oriented development" for the post-pandemic era, and the company’s China legal team is keeping pace with the "increasingly stringent regulatory enforcement of personal information protection standards, so as to enable reasonable use of personal information available to the company under strict regulation."
So far, Sumitomo Pharmaceuticals has already completed two phases of its personal information protection project with the assistance from the China legal team. The team will continue to play a key role in the ongoing third phase "enforcement of personal information protection policies.”
BASF, a well-established chemical giant, is on a similar path of transformation. According to BASF’s China legal team, it has provided continuous support to the implementation of the "digitalization" strategy of BASF Group, in the context of China's ever-changing cybersecurity and data privacy regulatory regime.
In recent years, the China legal team has assisted with the rapid growth of BASF's e-commerce business in the country. In 2021, the team supported the setup of Digital Hub China in Nanjing, BASF’s second digital hub globally, and carried out specific tasks and made necessary preparations with the aim to ensure compliance with the effective China legislation requirements in cybersecurity and data privacy aspects.
This year, the team also helped BASF introduce to China Xarvio, one of the digital products that help the farmers to produce their crops most efficiently, and presented extensive arguments over market barriers of digital services and cross-border cybersecurity concerns.
A NEW ERA OF COMPLIANCE
In the ALB survey mentioned above, the ever-changing regulatory landscape was named as another primary concern by in-house teams. They identified "increasing number and complexity of regulations" and "global compliance" as other significant challenges over the next five years.
In this context, in-house teams that made the list this year highlight the need to build internal compliance systems, and share with ALB their best compliance practices.
For example, the legal and compliance team of Generali China Life Insurance has been "staying on top of regulatory changes, and led efforts in repealing or revising existing rules and policies and establishing new ones,” and delivered remarkable results. "We have amended more than twenty internal policies and rules this year, and supervised the implementation of the amended policies by communication and checks."
In addition, the team has also strengthened the information technology construction of compliance management and control, with the new compliance management system expected to go live in the first quarter of 2022. To tackle new issues detected in routine operations, the team embarked on the upgrading and updating of the existing Insurance Company Compliance Manual, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2021.
In the past year, the legal and compliance team of China Resources Land Limited has been focusing on regulatory compliance, apart from supporting company's many investment, financing and M&A projects in real estate and emerging sectors. In 2021, the team released the Integrated Compliance System Roadmap of China Resources Land Limited, which clarifies the compliance management organizational structure, institutional framework, key areas of focus and working mechanisms.
On this basis, the team assisted the company in setting up a compliance committee, released the Compliance Management Guidelines of China Resources Land Limited, and nailed down compliance obligations in key business areas. In addition, the team also leveraged technology tools in compliance and completed the construction of an information technology platform for legal and compliance management.
M&G is a household stationery brand in China. What is less known is that M&G has business presence in not only all cities and towns in China but also in more than 50 countries and regions around the world. "As an important function, M&G’s legal department is responsible for supporting the implementation of the company's strategies and the growth of its business,” and compliance is naturally an important part.
A more extensive business reach often requires more robust internal compliance and control. As the M&G legal department puts it, "to cope with a more complex business model with broader geographical coverage, the team has gradually established a compliance management system that meets the requirements set for listed companies and fits the company's current business needs. We have structured a sound institutional framework that includes the Anti-Fraud and Internal Investigation Policies, the Guidelines on Anti-Monopoly Management, the Information Disclosure Management Policies, the Information Security Management Policies and the Measures for the Protection of Trade Secrets, and have set up a cross-departmental mechanism to collaborate with audit, internal control and human resources departments."
Indeed, with the expanding global footprint and growing strength of Chinese companies comes a new generation of multinational “made in China” enterprises. This poses a great challenge for Chinese enterprises to ensure compliance globally.
China National Oil and Gas Exploration and Development Company (CNODC) is a typical example. Headquartered in Beijing, CNODC has business presence in the Middle East, Central Asia-Russia, Americas, Africa and other places in the Asia Pacific, and has supported numerous gas and oil investment projects in the past few years.
When asked about its experiences in overseas compliance, CNODC's legal affairs department revealed its “secrets” which seem appear to be grounded in common sense. "Based on an in-depth understanding of our operational status and business profile, as well as business-related compliance risks in areas of geopolitics, international politics, business environment, relations with host countries and third-party management, the legal affairs department conducts risk assessment and analysis, and identifies key risk areas. Therefore, the team learns from the compliance management experiences of leading international peers to develop overseas compliance management systems, in both Chinese and English, that fit business reality and meet normative international compliance requirements." In addition, the team also provides "compliance toolkits" for three major areas: anti-corruption, anti-monopoly & anti-unfair competition, and economic sanctions, so that compliance reviews may be incorporated into routine business processes.
As companies continue to expand their business reach, in-house teams are also thinking about possible transformation. One of the strategies they have chosen is to accelerate their embrace of technology, an area in which this year's winning teams have also made significant achievements.
Accenture Greater China’s legal department is one of them. According to the team, "we have laid emphasis on the use of legal technologies in legal services, including the use of artificial intelligence (AI), to achieve the all-around intelligent operation and management." All members of the team attended technology quotient (TQ) training to study cloud computing, artificial intelligence, security, blockchain and others.
In addition, an end-to-end contract management platform was realized so that online approval, automated approval and tracking of global compliance status have been realized in many compliance areas. Further, the team leverages the legal shared services center worldwide to provide universal and standardized legal services of a high volume. For example, 70 team members in Dalian, with the help of technology, reviewed more than 1,000 domestic and international procurement contracts and more than 4,600 customer contracts last year.
"Smart" has also been one of the keywords of PingAn Real Estate’s legal compliance department in the past year. The team has launched the "Smart Legal" and "Smart Compliance" initiatives. "The Smart Legal platform aims to use technology, systems and processes to improve daily project management of the company's legal affairs, collect data, and make full use of technology to analyze data, so as to facilitate external counsel management, knowledge management, personnel and project management by in-house counsel and increase efficiency,” says the team.
The Smart Compliance system, on the other hand, aims for a perfect match of human resources and technology tools from the perspectives of conflict-of-interest reporting, affiliated-party transactions management and sanction control, thus empowering compliance and helping business growth.
Over the past few years, in-house teams can be seen as exerting growing influence in their organizations and even in the broader society, as a result of accelerated innovation and continued capability building amid an ever-changing regulatory landscape. The teams on this year's list continue to transform from being "supporters" to "leaders.”
China Harbour Engineering Co. (CHEC) is another Chinese company with a global footprint, having been involved in the financing, M&A and construction of numerous infrastructure projects under the Belt and Road Initiative in the past few years. CHEC's legal team told ALB that in supporting these projects, the team has played an active role in the early-stage process of investment project screening, project evaluation and investment decision-making, "issuing legal opinions and risk warnings.”
The legal department of I-Mab, a company in the heavily-regulated biopharmaceutical industry, has been "working side by side" with business units, shifting its role from being reactive to proactive. As a colleague in I-Mab's global business development department put it, "The legal department has been proactive in advising and advancing all cross-border and domestic projects. What impressed us most is that the actionable legal advice and solutions provided by the Legal Development serve the dual purposes of controlling risks and facilitating business."
Undoubtedly, the shift in the role of in-house teams relies upon the "opportunities" from the transition in a company's business model. More importantly, however, it is rooted in the continued exploration of innovative operating models. A typical example is the legal affairs department of Luzhou Laojiao Group. The group was the first among State-owned enterprises in Luzhou to set up a legal team, by recruiting 28 in-house counsel in 2017. Lately, the team innovated the "1+N" service model internally where an in-charge executive leads a number of legal specialists to serve multiple designated subsidiaries, so as to ensure that in-house counsel are integrated into the production and operation frontlines of subsidiaries.
It is a welcome sign that when "supporting" and "advising" companies on business, in-house teams have even started to apply newly formulated standards and policies to the benefit of the entire industry or sector. The risk management department at Shenzhen Angel FOF Management Co. is such an example. The team has developed many standards for the angel investment industry, including industry norms on "angel projects" and "use of funds" verification standards, guiding the development of the angel investment industry. Further, within the national legal framework, the team has explored the establishment of a compliance system consisted of "full profit relinquishment,” "exemption of liabilities on due diligence basis" and "compensation by investors with subordinate obligations" rules, and formed a complete set of robust parent fund/sub-fund performance evaluation system, reshaping the ecosystem of the national angel investment sector.
ALB firmly believes that in the future, the in-house teams of Chinese companies will play a more active role not only in the business development of their organizations, but also in the development of rule of law and the optimization of the macroeconomic structure in China.
LIST OF WINNERS 获奖名单
ALB TOP 15 IN-HOUSE TEAMS
*Winners are listed by their company names in alphabetical order. 获奖名单按公司名称首字母排序
This October, ALB invited China-based enterprises’ in-house teams to submit self-evaluation forms of their work and achievements in the past 12 months. Based on the received responses, the ALB research team then carefully selected the top 15 among them basis the following criteria:
1. Involvement in and completion of significant transactions/projects; being a direct contributor to the company’s growth or profit;
2. Arbitration/lawsuits won, and thus having saved the company from financial or reputational loss;
3. Innovative and in-depth involvement in the company’s operations and promotion of compliance;
4. Efficiency and complexity of work based on the scale of the team;
5. Other accomplishments/activities (i.e. educational, pro bono, charitable, etc.).