One of Brazil's leading data protection experts, Marcel Leonardi, has joined Pinheiro Neto from Google.
Leonardi joined the firm today as counsel after over seven years at Google, where he played a key role in negotiations surrounding the drafting of Brazil's internet law and its first general data protection law, which the country's president Michel Temer greenlighted last month.
He is also a law professor at Fundação Getúlio Vargas de São Paulo, and considered by observers as one of the Brazil leading authorities on data protection and privacy law, with one describing him as head and shoulders above his private sector peers.
André Giacchetta, a partner in Pinheiro Neto's technology practice who focuses on privacy and litigation, said in a press release that he had known Leonardi for a number of years and that the firm jumped at the opportunity to hire the former Google policy chief.
"He is one of the best and will be a perfect fit in a booming technology law market. Hism academic record is also impressive. The increasing complexity of the issues involving data management today requires all these abilities," Giachetta said.
Leonardi had been touted by observers as a potential candidate to be one of Brazil's first data protection commissioners, with many saying he is among the best qualified for the job. However, some said his strong ties to Google and the private sector might irk Brazil's civil society.
Brazilian president Temer vetoed the creation of the data protection authority when he sanctioned the new law, but observers expect him or his successor to push through its creation in a separate bill.
When asked by GDR before his move what the new enforcer's approach should be, Leonardi said: "It should keep its door open for companies, and bear in mind that this is first time we do this in Brazil. It would be arrogant of a DPA to think it knows what it is doing."
"It would be better for the DPA to go slow for a few years and not use fines. If the opposite happens, and judges end up ruling against the DPA's decisions, it will become fragile," he said, adding that it will be a challenge for the authority to gain businesses' respect, and not be seen as adding to bureaucracy.
He said he hoped Brazil's new authority would emulate the UK Information Commissioner's Office in adopting a balanced approach to enforcement and taking its advocacy role seriously.
Prior to joining Google, he ran his own law firm, Leonardi Advogados, for over a decade. He also served as the chair of the Brazilian arm of ad tech industry trade body IAB between 2014 and 2016.
The hire is the latest sign of the ambitions Pinheiro Neto has for the practice. In July, it opened an office in Silicon Valley that is headed by senior technology partner Raphael de Cunto.
Besides de Cunto and Giachetta, Pinheiro Neto's multi-disciplinary technology team includes Bruno Balduccini and Fernando Mirandez, who are active in the e-payment, cryptocurrency, financial and insurance tech environment; Angela Kung, whose practice focuses on lifesciences; José Mauro Machado, who covers litigation in e commerce, privacy and IP; and the recently promoted Larissa Galimberti, who focuses on privacy, games and technology transactions.
Alvaro Santos is experienced at venture capital deals, while tax partners Luiz Roberto Peroba and Flavio Veitzman have deep industry knowledge. Pedro Barata focuses on consumer regulations and litigation.
Data protection lawyers are increasingly in demand in Brazil following the introduction ofm the new law. One of Pinheiro Neto's main rivals, Mattos Filho Veiga Filho Marrey Jr e Quiroga Advogados, has also been hiring, bringing in Paulo Brancher from Azevedo Sette a year after it hired former judge Thiago Sombra in Brasília.
Google Brazil did not respond to a request for comment.