Although Brazilian legislators have chosen not to endow investment funds with legal personhood, according to a recent judgement by the Superior Court of Justice (STJ) the doctrine of disregard of legal personhood may still be applied to investment funds, when incorporated for fraudulent purposes.
With the changes made by Law No. 13,874/2019 (the Economic Freedom Law) on the Brazilian Civil Code (“BCC”), investment funds were given the legal nature of a “condominium with special nature”. It was established that investment funds are entities without legal personhood that depend on their administrator to represent them, but with the capacity to have their own rights and obligations, and to which the general condominium rules provided by the BCC would not apply.
In the ruling, it was emphasized that, usually, it would not be possible for an attachment order issued on some investor to take effect upon the fund’s assets, as such measure could negatively affect third party investors, who should not be regarded liable for the debt. Similarly, it was pointed out that the quotas of a fund held by investors could not be seized for the purposes of fulfilling the fund’s own obligation, but it was mentioned that both understandings could be overruled if unequivocal proof that the fund was incorporated for fraudulent purposes is presented.
In this specific case, it was also a closed-end fund, that is, any investment would not be redeemable until the end of the foreseen term for the fund’s activities.
Considering the points exposed above, among others, the STJ confirmed the decision that granted the request to reach the investment fund’s assets, an “inverse” legal personhood disregard, once configured deviation of purpose and commingling of assets in its constitution.
It was pointed out, however, that this is an exceptional case, since the only investors in the fund were two companies belonging to the same economic group, and such measure would not affect the assets of third parties unrelated to the lawsuit.
It must also be emphasized that the legal interpretation presented in this trial is recent and has yet to be pacified by the STJ’s jurisprudence. Therefore, it is susceptible to eventual alterations in future decisions.
Our Corporate and Capital Markets team is at your disposal for further clarifications.
Corporate and Capital Markets
Tocantins & Pacheco Advogados
Image: Marcello Casal Jr/Agência Brasi