Ilan Goldberg is a founding partner of the firm with a notable career in insurance and reinsurance law spanning more than 20 years. His focus runs along financial lines: surety, cyber, D&O, and errors and omissions. He has worked on several cases related to property and casualty, marine and aviation. Goldberg’s key clients include established national and multinational companies such as IRB, Chubb, Austral, AIG, Argo, Zurich, Zurich Santander, Axis, Axa, Cesce, Generali, Itaú, Bradesco and Porto Seguro. Other regular clients, include foreign law firms such as Clyde & Co, RPC, Hogan Lovells and CMS Cameron McKenna.
WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO A CAREER IN INSURANCE LAW?
When I was a teenager, I intended to be an engineer. I have an older brother who, at that time, was studying engineering and, in some sort of way, it had an influence on me. But I was not that good with mathematics and decided to change my plans. History, geography and Portuguese suited my skills and, in this sense, law school appeared as an option to me.
Insurance law has been another step. In 1998, a friend of mine used to work as an in-house lawyer for an insurance company in Rio de Janeiro, and needed a lawyer to assist their insureds in third-party claims. This was how it all began for me. In comparison with tax, real estate, labour, corporate, etc, insurance law is very specific and the number of qualified lawyers is small. I realised that I could be one of them. Once you start doing insurance law, it is difficult to stop.
YOU HAVE HELD SEVERAL PROFESSORSHIPS, AND HAVE WRITTEN WIDELY ON INSURANCE MATTERS. HOW DO ACADEMIC MATTERS AID AND ENHANCE YOUR PRIVATE PRACTICE?
I have always combined strong practice with academics. Solely academic work can be pure theory; and solely practising can be rhetorical and superficial. When it is possible to combine both, the final result is much better. I consider myself a good blend of practitioner and academic.
WHAT PARTICULAR CHALLENGES ARISE WHEN REPRESENTING MULTINATIONALS IN THE INSURANCE SPACE?
Everything is globalised now. Whether the client is a huge multinational or a domestic one, the challenges will be pretty much the same. And when it comes to large risks in insurance, globalisation will be definitive. I do not see the issue posed in the question as a tricky one.
YOU SPEAK FIVE LANGUAGES. TO WHAT EXTENT IS THIS AN ADVANTAGE IN YOUR WORK?
Reading documents in their original language makes a subtle difference. Translations can be good, but never will be the same in comparison with the originals. More than studying languages, I like to speak with clients in their own language. It generates more comfort and improves the relationship.
WHAT IS THE MOST MEMORABLE CASE YOU HAVE BEEN A PART OF?
It is difficult to select one. I’d choose a list of my top three.
First, the losses caused by the collapse of CSN’s conveyor belt system in 2014. The arbitration between IRB and the National Indemnity Company in New York was really interesting.
Second, loss adjustment, claims and consultancy under the D&O insurance of Petrobras. I was working as an adviser for a foreign law office that represented a pool of reinsurers.
Third, the collapse of Vale’s dam, Brumadinho in 2018. I was instructed by the reinsurer to analyse the claim, with an eye on the insurance policy regarding the reinsurance contract.
I could mention many more cases, but, let’s keep it to this top-three list.
IN WHAT WAYS DO YOU THINK THE LAW RELATING TO D&O IS IN NEED OF REFORM?
As far as I can see, the law relating to D&Os is okay. There is no need to reform it. The problem is a consequence of the way in which some judges interpret it. A D&O shall be liable because of its misconduct. In Brazilian law, however, in certain practice areas, such as labour or tax law, a D&O can be found liable simply because he or she is a D&O. This seems awful but, in the eyes of the insurers, it generates more space for the growth of D&O insurance.
YOU HEAD THE FIRM’S INSURANCE AND REINSURANCE PRACTICE. WHAT ARE YOUR PRIORITIES FOR THE DEPARTMENT OVER THE NEXT FIVE YEARS?
We are having the best time in the firm’s insurance department since we began our activities. I’m getting older – I’m 43 now – and, as a consequence of the “grey hair” things are happening more and more. The “grey hair” can be understood as more than 20 years of intense experience and, as I said, combining lots of practice and academics. Clients see the difference in our opinions, memos, handling of claims and consultancy, and in court.
We will keep pushing hard over the coming years, and keep rendering excellent legal services.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO A YOUNGER PRACTITIONER STARTING OUT IN THE INSURANCE FIELD?
There’s no secret linked to our history. The key is simple: study and work very hard. Do it on a committed basis, no matter what. Your knowledge is priceless and, exactly because of this, impossible to purchase. You will be distinguished among a very competitive and qualified competition because of your knowledge. It will be hard, I know, but the result will be beautiful in the end.