Category Archives: Corporate Commercial

Letter of Credit in Mongolia – a Trade Finance Tool

Foreign trade is an important part of the economic life of any country and for Mongolia it is an essential part of its economic life. In recent years foreign trade in Mongolia is expanding, offering consumers a wide variety of goods and services. Thereby traders, both importers and exporters, must carefully and mindfully choose from range of trade finance tools to help their transactions run smoothly.

Most popular and commonly used trade finance tool is a letter of credit. Working with an overseas buyer can be risky because you don’t really know who you’re working with. A buyer may be honest and have good intentions, but business troubles or political unrest can delay payment or put a buyer out of business. In addition, due to different laws, different time zones, and different languages there might occur certain difficulties. A letter of credit spells out the details so that everybody is on the same page. Instead of assuming that things will work a certain way, everybody agrees on the process up front.

A letter of credit is a document issued by a bank that guarantees payment. There are several types of letters of credit, and some of them may be defined by their purpose. Still they provide security when buying and selling. Importers and exporters regularly use letters of credit to protect themselves.

Commercial letter of credit is a standard letter of credit that is commonly used in international trade and may also be referred to as a documentary credit. This is a negotiable financial instrument from an importer’s (buyer’s) bank guaranteeing that payment to an exporter (seller) will be the correct amount and received on time subject to the exporter presenting compliant shipping documents (assuming those documents meet the requirements listed in the letter of credit).

To get a letter of credit, importers must contact a bank in their home country and apply for opening a letter of credit. In Mongolia most banks issue letters of credit. In turn sellers must trust that the bank issuing the letter of credit is legitimate and that the bank will pay as agreed. If sellers have any doubts, they can use a “confirmed” letter of credit, which means that another (presumably more trustworthy) bank will guarantee payment. Sellers typically get letters of credit confirmed by banks in their home country.

However, prior to contacting a bank, important to remember that buyer and seller must have mutual agreement that the payment will be done with a letter of credit and list all requirements to shipping documents in the contract.

Issues with Mongolian Competition Law

Our Mongolian lawyers have encountered an unusual number of inquiries regarding Mongolian competition and anti-monopoly issues in the past few months. The scenario below takes a looks a common situation found in Mongolian trade.

Let’s assume that multinational company A currently sells to several Mongolian counterparties (Supplier Customers) who have a product import permit. Under the terms of sale, title passes to the Mongolian counterparty before the product is imported on either the Russian or Chinese border.

Mongolian wholesale client (Company B) proposes a profit-sharing agreement whereby Company B will Purchase products from Company A for purposes of:

  • storing product in Company B’s facilities and reselling to the other Supplier Customers within Mongolia; and
  • selling to wholesale clients provided that they are not already existing customers of the Supplier Customers.

In this scenario Mongolian Competition Law does not apply to the company A.  The Mongolian Competition Law does not apply to business entities which are not registered in Mongolia and are operating outside of its borders. Since the proposed transaction contemplated by the agreement would have company A deliver the products to the purchaser outside of Mongolian territory, the provisions of the Competition Law would not be applicable.

In our view, Company A and B would not be forming a monopoly because the transaction is cross-border, and A is not a “business entity” within the meaning of the Competition Law.

Company B only occupies approximately 1% of the domestic market for sale and supply of certain products. Accordingly, since it does not occupy a “dominant position” in Mongolia’s market (defined as a party which sells or produces 1/3 or more of a certain type of goods), the prohibitions in Mongolia’s Competition Law with regard to monopolistic activities would not be relevant to its operations.

With regard entering into agreements and monopolies, the following activities are prohibited under the Mongolian Competition Law:

  • mutually agreeing to fix prices of products;
  • dividing markets by location, production, services, sales, name or type of products or consumers;
  • restricting the production, supply, sale, shipping, transportation and market accessibility of products, investment, technical and technological renovation;
  • participating in competitive tender or bid auction or activities procuring goods, works or services by state and local funds having in advance agreed on the price, other conditions and criteria of products;

In addition, the following agreements or entered between business entities shall be prohibited where they contradict the public interests or create circumstances restricting competition:

  •  refusing to establish economic relations without economic or technical justifications;
  • restricting sales to or purchase by third parties of products;
  • collectively refusing to enter into agreements or negotiations which have significance for competition;
  • preventing competitors from joining organizations with the purpose of running their businesses profitably;

Mongolian business entities are prohibited to enter into agreements with effects as described above.

Liability of a Mongolian Company for Non-Compliance

We have looked at the requirement for a Mongolian company to have an internal control body and discussed a little about the forms such body may take. Our readers may be interested to note that while having such body is mandatory for a Mongolian company under law, there isn’t actually any penalty for a company that does not establish an internal control process.

What this means is that while there is no penalty for not having the review body, the Company will be considered liable under Mongolian law for any compliance violation or audit irregularity caused by the actions of the company’s officers or staff, which result in legal penalties or civil damages. By making the company responsible to maintain the internal control and compliance committee, the law makes the company responsible for any failure of compliance. Such liability will be in effect even where the non-compliance was accidental or was caused by the unapproved actions of a single staff member. The theory is that these things would not happen if the company had established and followed an appropriate internal control process.

Mongolian companies should therefore take the legal requirement to establish a Internal Control and Audit Committee seriously. The internal control system will allow company management to better ensure proper operations of the company and identify and stop potentially non-compliant behavior before it results in a larger problem, potentially carrying legal penalty. Since the law makes the company liable for non-compliance in any case, it makes sense for the company to establish internal procedures to reduce this risk.

Compliance Options for Your Mongolian Company

We talked yesterday about the Internal Control or Auditing Committee every Mongolian company should have. The Committee should operate by a set of rules, which the company approves and implements for itself. Government regulations stipulate that each, “Entity or organization must have its own internal control and auditing procedure in compliance with this regulation and consistence with its activities.”

To comply with this rule, the company must establish the Internal Control or Audit Committee, or for larger companies a complete department devoted to compliance may be used. Smaller companies have the option to appoint a single company officer to be responsible for compliance. This individual office, committee or department will have responsibly to conduct internal compliance reviews and audits.

Internal Control and Audit Requirements for Your Mongolian Company

All types of legal entities, regardless of ownership or organization details, are required to comply with state inspection requirements. Each company is required to establish an Internal Control or Auditing Committee comprised of company officials responsible for monitoring internal company operations and compliance. Whether the company is locally owned or foreign invested, or operating in mining sector, industrial manufacturing or providing a service, the company must establish an internal audit committee.

The Internal Control and Audit Committee is responsible for internal compliance issues for the company, to ensure the company meets all of its obligations as set out elsewhere in Mongolian law. The Committee is broadly responsible for compliance as regards meeting environmental impact and conservation obligations; ensuring quality of products or services provided by the company; monitoring working conditions and workplace safety and health; ensuring the company meets all obligations regarding property registration, utilization, storage and finally, the committee is responsible to ensure accurate accounting of financial records.

If you are unsure if your Mongolian company’s internal compliance and control procedures meet requires of the law, contact your Mongolian legal counsel for a consultation.

Basics of Initial public offering (IPO) in Mongolia

In recent years several Mongolian private companies have gone public, or conducted an initial public offering (IPO), very successfully. This shows that interest and knowledge about IPO is growing both among companies (businesses) and public (investors).

As you may know, an IPO is when a private company or corporation raises investment capital by offering its stock (shares) to the public for the first time. Initial public offerings are often issued by growing companies seeking capital to expand, but they can also be done by large privately-owned companies or corporations looking to become publicly traded. Prior to an IPO the company is considered private, with a relatively small number of shareholders made up primarily of early investors (such as the founders) and professional investors. The public, on the other hand, consists of everybody else – any individual or institutional investor who wasn’t involved in the early days of the company and who is interested in buying shares of the company. The Law on Securities Market requires that to conduct an IPO the issuer must offer its stock to at least 50 and more investors.

In an initial public offering, the issuer, or company raising capital, procures the assistance of an underwriting firm (underwriter), to help determine the offering price, amount (number) of shares and timeframe for the market offering. When a company initiates the IPO process, a very specific set of events occurs. The chosen underwriter facilitates all of those steps. Primarily, an external IPO team is formed, consisting of an underwriter, law firm, audit company, appraiser company, and other experts if required. The external IPO team compiles information and documentation regarding the company (issuer), including financial performance and financial statements, expected future operations, corporate governance and corporate documents, and prepares IPO prospectus, legal opinion, audit report, asset valuation report and other necessary documents respectively that are to be filed to Financial Regulatory Commission of Mongolia (FRC). After the company files its prospectus and other necessary documents with the FRC, it sets a date for the offering.

Going public can be a great way to raise money, increase your company’s profile. However, there are number pros and cons in going public. So, when considering conducting an IPO, one must do all proper researches, calculations and analysis. In doing so we advise to seek professional advice and services from FRC listed underwriters, law firms, audit companies and appraiser companies.

Our law firm is FRC listed. Here at LehmanLaw we have FRC certified lawyers, who will provide you with qualified legal assistance.

Alternative Dispute Resolution: Finalizing Mediation

In a recent post we have previously discussed the practical aspects of mediation in Mongolia. Mediation is one of the better alternative dispute resolution methods for those who are seeking short-term and inexpensive way to settle a dispute. In this article we’ll explore the closing of the mediation process and aftermath.

The mediation process is generally considered more prompt, inexpensive, and procedurally simple than formal litigation. It allows the parties to focus on the underlying circumstances that contributed to the dispute, rather than on narrow legal issues. The mediation process does not focus on truth or fault. Questions of which party is right or wrong are generally less important than the issue of how the problem can be resolved. Disputing parties who are seeking vindication of their rights or a determination of fault will not likely be satisfied with the mediation process.

Nonetheless, if in the mediation process a resolution is reached between parties, a written settlement agreement must be executed. Such settlement agreement is binding for all parties of dispute and considered enforceable contract. As mentioned in our previous post mediation centers operate at courts of first instance (court-based mediation centers), and may operate at government authorities, NGOs and professional associations (other mediation centers). Settlement agreements executed by mediators of a court-based mediation center become a sort of court judgement, as judge of corresponding court issues a court decision confirming such settlement agreement. And if parties fail to voluntarily perform their obligation under settlement agreement, it shall be enforced same as court decision. On the other hand, while settlement agreements executed by mediators of other mediation center are also binding for parties of dispute, these are not enforced same as settlement agreements executed by mediator of court-based mediation center. If parties fail to voluntarily perform their obligations under such settlement agreement, parties have the right to pursue their claims in other forms (such as litigation or arbitration).

However, if in the mediation process parties could not reach any resolution, or parties did not actively seek any resolution, or for other reasons the mediation process could not further proceed, the mediation process shall be terminated. At this point parties of dispute may decide to resolve their dispute through litigation or arbitration.

Franchising in Mongolia: Intellectual Property is More than Trademarks

In the first part of this series we have discussed about trademarks as part of franchise system. In this part we will discuss about other elements of intellectual property that may be utilized in franchise system.

Other critical element of intellectual property in franchise systems are copyrights. Pursuant to law copyright protects the fixation of the expression of an idea in a tangible form, whether written, verbal, graphical or other objective forms. Copyright exists in a variety of items commonly used by a franchise: training videos, marketing material, ads, websites, music, logos and software. There is significant value to the copyright-protected materials incorporated into a franchise system and, like trademarks, these elements are licensed by the franchisor to the franchisee for use in the franchised business. And, unlike trademarks, copyrights do not have to be registered in order to be protected.

Trade dress is what makes a franchise system unique and distinctive from others, including the overall visual look, feel and impression of a location. Some part of trade dress may be protected by copyrights.

Not all franchises involve trade secrets (i.e. confidential information), but it is typical to see franchise systems maintaining some aspects of their operations as strictly confidential and maintained as trade secrets. In Mongolia there is no law that regulates specifically trade secrets or business aspects of trade secrets. However pursuant to Law on Corporate secret, any corporate information, document, research, method, solution, project and etc. which holds economic value may be considered confidential corporate secret (trade secret) and may be protected from divulgence. In the context of the franchise arrangement, the need and desire to share information with franchisees competes with the legal necessity of limiting the distribution of true trade secret material. Reasonable steps to ensure the identification and protectability of trade secrets include: confidentiality or non-disclosure agreements and clauses; marking of claimed trade secret material, limiting the distribution to “need to know”, password protected computer systems and databases, and locks on cabinets and doors. In some cases, a franchisor’s trade secrets are not even divulged to the franchisee, such as the specific recipes or bulk ingredients required to create a quick-service restaurant chain’s signature sauces.

Patents are usually not included in franchise systems, but they can be. Patent registrations are intended to protect an inventor’s rights to specific inventions, such as a newly engineered product, medical device, drug or other innovation. Unless a franchise system has specifically developed its own equipment, it generally will not include any patents within its intellectual property.

It is very important for franchisor, as well as franchisee, to take the time to fully analyze and review any franchise agreement, disclosure document and respective attachments before signing them. While the above information serves as a general overview, as always, one should seek their own legal advice when reviewing a franchise agreement. Only then it is possible to obtain specific information and recommendations relevant to particular circumstances.

Establishing a Mongolian Franchise Business: Protect Your Intellectual Property

In a recent blog post we discussed the franchise business model and it’s rapid growth in Mongolia. In a new three-part article series, we will dive deeper into franchise agreements in Mongolia and look at intellectual property, which is one of the most important aspects of a franchise system, and its importance.

Intellectual property law and business law have many areas that overlap. Franchising, in particular, is a unique business model, with the franchisor’s intellectual property at its core.

As such, intellectual property is one of the most important elements of any franchise. Within the franchise agreement, one of the core assets and rights that franchisor will be granting to franchisees will be a license permitting a franchisee to utilize their intellectual property and, in turn, franchisor is declaring to a franchisee that franchisor owns the intellectual property and will protect and defend it. So, it is important for franchisor to make sure that they actually own and can protect intellectual property that they are purportedly licensing to franchisees. Especially, when entering into a franchise agreement with franchisee, who will operate in another country.

These days most people are familiar with the term “intellectual property”, but not everyone understands the differences between various types of it. Intellectual property may include trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, trade dress (i.e. the look, feel and distinctive elements of a franchise system, such as the interior design, layout and other visual aspects of a franchise location) and sometimes patents under which franchise businesses operate.

Trademarks are perhaps the most commonly recognized and well-known element of intellectual property. The Mongolia Law on Trademarks and Geographical Indications defines trademarks as expressions with distinction, which are used by legal entity or individual in order to distinguish their products or services from that of others. Trademarks can include business names, taglines, service names, logo designs and specific color or color combinations, etc. They are among the visual components of a franchise business.

Just because franchisor has used their trademark for many years it does not mean that trademark is legally protectable nor that they own it. First, franchisor needs to properly register their trademark with intellectual property authority. Secondly, if franchisor is entering into franchise agreement with franchisee, who will operate in another country, franchisor needs to register their trademark in the country where franchisee will operate as well. This way franchisor asserts their ownership of trademark and ensures protection of their trademark from other infringers (such as copycats and confusingly similar marks).

Mongolia’s Double Taxation Treaties

Many countries have entered into tax treaties (also called double tax agreements, or DTAs) with other countries to avoid or mitigate double taxationDouble taxation is the levying of tax by two or more jurisdictions on the same declared income, asset or financial transaction. Double liability is mitigated in a number of ways, for example:

  • the main taxing jurisdiction may exempt foreign-source income from tax,
  • the main taxing jurisdiction may exempt foreign-source income from tax if tax had been paid on it in another jurisdiction, or above some benchmark to not include tax haven jurisdictions,
  • the main taxing jurisdiction may tax the foreign-source income but give a credit for foreign jurisdiction taxes paid.

Another approach is for the jurisdictions affected to enter into a tax treaty which sets out rules to avoid double taxation. In the all over the world, over 3000 double taxation agreement (DTAs) are in effect.

Mongolia has entered into “The Agreement for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with respect to Taxes on Income and on Capital” with other 25 jurisdictions as of 2017. Namely,

Country In force since
1 The People’s Republic of China Jan 01, 1993
2 The Republic of Korea Jan 01, 1993
3 The Federal Republic of Germany Jan 01, 1997
4 The Republic of India Jan 01, 1997
5 The Socialist Republic of Vietnam Jan 01, 1997
6 The Republic of Turkey Jan 01, 1997
7 The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland Jan 01, 1997
8 The Republic of Hungary Jan 01, 1997
9 Malaysia Jan 01, 1997
10 The Russian Federation Jan 01, 1998
11 The Republic of Indonesia Jan 01, 1998
12 The Republic of France Jan 01, 1999
13 Czech Republic Jan 01, 1999
14 The Kingdom of Belgium Jan 01, 1999
15 The Republic of Kazakhstan Jan 01, 2000
16 The Republic of Kyrgyz Jan 01, 2000
17 The Republic of Poland Jan 01, 2002
18 The Republic of Bulgaria Jan 01, 2002
19 The Swiss Confederation Jan 01, 2002
20 Ukraine Jan 01, 2003
21 Canada Jan 01, 2003
22 The Republic of Singapore Jan 01, 2005
23 The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Jan 01, 2005
24 The Republic of Austria Jan 01, 2005
25 The Republic of Belarus May 28, 2001

Mongolia’s double tax treaties with United Arab Emirates and Kuwait were terminated from 1 January 2015 and 1 April 2015 respectively. Mongolia’s double tax treaties with Luxembourg and The Netherlands were terminated from 1 January 2014 due to failure to provide for the balance and equity rights of parties.