Mr. Bobby Majumder is the Co-office Managing Partner of the Dallas Office of Reed Smith LLP. He is also currently co-heading the firm’s India practice. He holds over 20 years of experience primarily in corporate and securities transactions relating mainly to energy, mining, health care, and IT Industry and holds extensive M&A experience relating to the same. Sir represents underwriters, placement agents, and issuer in both public and private offerings of securities. He has also been part of many cross-border and domestic M&A.
Mr. Majumder has represented many private equity sponsors, hedge funds, and venture capital funds in their investments in both public and private companies which includes Amazon.com’s $60 M investment in BankBazaar. He was also named as one of the top India-focused lawyers in India Business Law Journal’s International A-List, published in 2019.
Here is an excerpt from the conversation we had with Mr. Bobby Majumder.
Anukriti: What motivated you to pursue law? Was law always the career you wanted to pursue? Can you please share with us your law school experience?
Bobby Majumder: My parents are both doctors and initially, I too wanted to be a doctor. In fact, I completed my pre-med training at university. However, whilst all of my friends were out having fun, I was stuck in an organic chemistry laboratory and I decided I had enough of that! I think a big early influence then was Susan S. Brewer, who is a good friend of my mother’s and a successful defense attorney who represents hospitals in major medical malpractice cases. Today, Susan is the CEO of Steptoe & Johnson (a large US law firm), and has been since 2009. She hired me as an intern in her office during the summer of my junior year in college.
Perhaps a more subconscious influence back then was watching “L.A. Law” on television during the summer, while I was pondering my post-graduate career. At some point, I realized that I really enjoyed watching lawyers in action, particularly the business lawyers working on big exciting deals. That was the turning point, and I decided that I wanted to be a lawyer.
My father didn’t mind, telling me, and I quote, “As long as you do something professional and get the hell off our payroll, I will be happy.”
My mother was a little more conditional. She sat me down and said, “You don’t sue doctors, you don’t chase ambulances, you don’t defend criminals, and you don’t divorce people. As long as you don’t do any of those things, we will let you sit at our dinner table.”
She meant it, too, so it was clear to me that litigation was too risky, as I could be disinvited to the dinner table, so I became a corporate lawyer.
Anukriti: As the Co-Head of Reed Smith’s India practice, what have been your observations about the Indian Legal systems as compared to the other countries? Also, what are the major things that need consideration to improve the same?
Bobby Majumder: The Indian legal system and the US legal system have the same roots, i.e. British common law. They are both precedent-based systems unlike continental Europe which has a civil law system and is principles-based. Both systems have advantages and disadvantages. As lawyers, we can operate in either system as long as we know the rules. Teach me the rules and I can play the game!
On transactional matters, the similarities of India law to other common law systems like the US make it relatively straightforward to do deals as long as you have the assistance of good India counsel. On litigation matters, litigation in India takes too long and the process is cumbersome. The judges are overworked with dockets that are filled with matters that are sub judice for decades oftentimes. India does not allow for jury trials (other than Parsi matrimonial courts), unlike the US which adds to complications. There are innovations taking place in India litigation practice and more judges are being appointed to handle to increasingly voluminous caseload. However, there is still a lot of progress to be made.
Anukriti: How do you think the Coronavirus outbreak is impacting legal practice and job opportunities internationally and how do you think can that impact be minimized?
Bobby Majumder: The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant effect on the practice of law globally. First, of all with quarantines having been put in place, the businesses of a large portion of our clients have been detrimentally impaired. Their operations have been shut down or significantly curtailed. This has resulted in reduced work volumes overall and slower payments from clients. It is impossible at the moment for us to go visit our global clients due to travel restrictions. In-person negotiation sessions for deals now have to be done via WebEx. They are technically possible but it is not as productive as in-person sessions. We are using technology tools to maintain connectivity with our clients such as Microsoft Teams, WebEx, and Zoom.
Anukriti: Considering the impending global recession how actively according to you would this affect cross-border M&A?
Bobby Majumder: With asset valuations depressed and many companies fighting to maintain their current operations, I believe that cross-border M&A activity for 2020 will be at reduced levels. A number of countries have in fact instituted protective measures to prevent predatory M&A activity during the time at that valuations continue to be unfairly impacted by the business climate resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Anukriti: In light of the COVID-19 outbreak the government in India has announced the suspension of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code of India for a year, to allow the companies to recover from their financial losses. This has ignited a debate on how the Creditors are left with no recourse to recover their dues and how this might allow the Zombie companies to continue to feed upon easy credit. What are your views about this decision, and how different is the approach being deployed by other countries?
Bobby Majumder: We don’t have such measures delaying bankruptcy filings in the US. Instead, the government has made available a huge amount of stimulus through the PPP and Main Street Lending loan programs. These loans are available at concessional rates and which may be, in certain circumstances, forgiven outright. I can understand the rationale for the Indian government to provide relief for corporate debtors. Whether this the right way to go, only time will tell.
Anukriti: During the past few years a lot of corporate scandals have highlighted how Artificial Profits have been declared by a lot of companies through Window Dressing of their accounts. Mostly the senior-level appointees indulge in such practices gaining benefit through their profit-linked earnings or commissions. How do you think can this practice be curtailed to enable more accountability?
Bobby Majumder: This sort of abuse can be managed and minimized by more stringent regulatory oversight of the chartered accountancy firms that audit company financial statements. In the US we have the Public Company Accountants Oversight Board (PCOAB) which is a self-regulatory agency with the remit to police outside audit firms and to maintain quality of audited accounts for public companies traded on US exchanges. In India, SEBI has been very involved in this process also. Mistakes will happen and yes sometimes fraud happens in every jurisdiction but with good oversight then the vast majority of firms will function properly and their financial statements will be reliable.
Anukriti: Your International Clientele allows enormous interaction with legal practitioners from different parts of the world and especially India. According to you how effectively are work ethics being practiced particularly in India?
Bobby Majumder: In our experience, Indian lawyers are as hard-working as any lawyers we encounter in the US or the UK. India lawyers are talented, innovative, and purposeful. I think those Indian lawyers who are involved in cross-border transactional and disputes work typically stand toe-to-toe with practitioners from other markets.
Anukriti: What would you suggest to the people who want to pursue LLM or set up their firm/practices outside India? How beneficial do you feel the same can be as compared to the continuation of the same in India itself?
Bobby Majumder: An LLM from the US or UK can be very beneficial for an Indian lawyer. Many firms in the US and UK hire foreign-trained lawyers who have completed their LLM degree in those countries and then sit for and pass the local bar exams. For India lawyers who want to practice for some time in the US or UK, this also gives them flexibility if they want to return to India bringing back with them experience from working in a US or UK firm and the different styles of law practice. My suggestion on choosing an LLM program is to choose the highest-ranked school you can get into and afford. LLM candidates are not recruited from every university by the AmLaw 50 firms. These are the firms that will be able to make the best use of an international lawyer. So put yourself into the best position for recruitment by choosing such a school and then secondarily look for the best school in or near the place you want to practice.