“It is pretty quiet on the dispute resolution market, as hearings are not held in the summer,” says Ivana Disovic, Partner and attorney in law in cooperation with Karanovic & Partners. “In contrast, we see high activity in the M&A market,” she says, pointing in particular to China’s Zijin Mining becoming a strategic partner in Serbia's RTB Bor copper complex, which K&N advised on.
Disovic reports that important amendments to the Serbian Company Law entered into force on June 9, 2018, requiring that the value of shares acquired by compulsory acquisition be determined by the market. “The previous law resulted in a lot of problems, leading to disputes,” she explains, “and share owners would try to get higher prices for their shares via litigation.”
The fact that the methods of evaluation applied varied from court to court made it particularly difficult for lawyers. “It was a challenge to predict what the outcome of the proceedings would be,” Disovic says. “But now the issue is resolved and it is significant for us.” The newly-amended law, she explains, has a clearer structure, providing lawyers to advise clients with more certainty. “It is good to have a precise law, which stipulates situations that may occur in real life,” she says.
In addition, Disovic describes an increase in mobbing ⎯ psychological harassment in the workplace ⎯ claims in employment disputes, which she describes as both emotional and difficult for firms representing the defendant companies (as Disovic often does), on whom the burden of proof rests. “I have noticed that such proceedings are frequently initiated in order to obscure the liability of employees who have bridged their duties,” she explains, going on to claim that plaintiffs regularly distort proceedings with “emotional outbursts” in court, which, she says, makes it “hard to determine relevant facts and focus on the incidents themselves.”
In addition, she believes many of the proceedings are initiated not by real victims of bullying, but instead by employees with higher positions in companies. Genuinely abused employees, she explains, "are frightened to make claims, due to fear of losing their jobs,” especially in a time of low salaries and high competition in Serbia.
Disovic also ties the increase of lawsuits involving mobbing to amendments to the Law on Prevention of Harassment at the Workplace that were introduced in Fall 2010, which needed time to sink into the market. And, she says, although Serbian courts are fairly restrictive in terms of the amounts awarded to plaintiffs – inevitably less than EUR 10,000 – companies are more concerned about potential damage to their reputation, as the law requires that verdicts be published in the country’s media.
“It is a controversial issue,” she says. “The law was amended with good intentions, but I am afraid that the purpose of that law is not being fulfilled.”