Interview with Khaled El Demerdash
Legal Director, Egypt Kuwait Holding
Why did you prefer working as a legal director in an in-house company rather than establishing your own law firm?
After I have graduated, my interests were leaning towards working as a professor in my college and I was ranked as the first highest achiever at the university of Zakazik Egypt, but unfortunately they did not appoint anyone at my year. So, I decided to work at a law firm so I worked at Shalakny Law Firm. At that time it was one of the most important law firms in Egypt. I gained much experience and I recognized the difference between the academic and the practical field. After two years I was offered to work at Egypt Kuwait Holding Company as a legal director at Egypt at the beginning of it and luckily I got accepted.
The Majority of law school graduates aren’t actually aware of the role of a legal counsel in an in-house company, is it only about giving a legal opinion and would it differ if it was a limited liability company or any other form of company?
EKH is a holding company which holds a lot of subsidiary companies that practice multiple/several activities. For instance, there is a company that delivers natural gas; companies specialized in chemicals, fertilizers manufacturing companies and others in communications and information technology. Our role as legal counsels starts from the establishment decision of the subsidiary company and choosing it’s legal form, its policy and forming the board of directors. Which means all issues related to the establishment phase, our role also include issues related to the employment contracts and disputes arising between the company and the country or the government? It ends at the phase of the liquidation of the company. So actually it is not limited at giving a legal opinion as the legal department in EKH may be considered as a law firm which is limited to the legal issues of the EKH and its subsidiary companies as the company holds 40 Egyptian subsidiary companies and the same for Arab companies and there’s a legal stuff in each subsidiary company.
Are there any problems the corporation faces from being a multinational corporate concerning laws and procedures or any problems in general as it is said that there is no harmonization between both countries?
Even if Kuwait’s contribution ratio is high it is still considered an Egyptian Joint stock company, which was established according to the Egyptian investment law number 8 for year 1997.
To the extent that we almost forgot about nationalities and we are dealing as if it is an Egyptian company. And, regarding harmonization between both countries, no problem has ever took
place throughout all these years in our company. And they are always keening to increase their
investments in Egypt every now and then it is just the bureaucracy problem in Egypt that can hinder such investments, but we hope that with the new investment law we can overcome this problem.
Is there any other legal position rather than being a legal counsel in EKH?
I believe that everything in the company at the end is related to the legal department whether in the holding company or its subsidiary companies. And every company’s issues differ than the other as there’s a legal stuff as I mentioned before in each company that facilitates the company’s daily work under our supervision because they are not always daily/simple issues, there’s some that needs our intervention for instance the arbitration disputes.
It is known that investments helps in rapprochement between people from different countries and cultures is that true or it may create problems?
No one can ever say that foreign investments can create problems between countries, as the foreign investor will never put his money in a business, except when he is sure that this country will provide him legal protection and whatever he needs to make a successful business, as the investor seeks the best return with the least risk. And, investments have a lot of advantages that we must make use of as it creates jobs and promote for our economic growth, but the sudden changes concerning certain investment law and disrespecting contract obligations that are the main obstruct that we must overcome.
From your own point of view, what do you think of the steps recently taken by the minister of investment here in Egypt?
In fact, the minister of investment is taking a good steps into investment in Egypt, but the main problem at the end is the conflict arising with the state organs. For example, one of the problems that happened was when the minister of investment was the one who supposed to issue the executive regulations of the investment law no.72 for year 2017 and then all of a sudden the prime minister became the one who’s going to issue the executive regulation and it was also supposed to be issued within 90 days from the day of the issuance of the law but it was not issued throughout the 90 days limit. This is just an example of such conflict. In general, the steps taken are good but the problem remains in the practical application of the law.
Would you like to add any advice to law students/graduates?
In Fact, I would like to refer once again that students or graduates shall not focus on the judicial field for the privileges they got but what I have actually noticed in the recent years that a lot of law men quit being judges and refer to be lawyers and establishing their own law firms for example Dr Ismail , he was a judge and now he’s the director of CRCICA and I know a lot of law men who realised that being lawyers is much better for them where there’s no place for pressure as in the judicial field.
My advice that they have to prepare and qualify themselves well to be ready for the practical life because law school fresh graduates are now thousands if not millions and here in Egypt it is not that easy getting a job and law firms actually bet on the fresh graduates that they will be distinguished and as a consequence they will succeed.
I would like to add that in the past years we thought that other fields in law was not that good to specialize in, but on the other hand others believed it is good and they practiced it. For instance, the copy rights, it wasn’t well known here in Egypt as there was many computer programs without license so few only practiced it and the same for arbitration, here in Egypt we have distinguished arbitrators such as Dr . Mohamed S. Abdelwahab.