March 11, 2020 - University of Houston Law Center students and local members of the bar learned from experts in energy tax law at the 2nd Annual Denney L. Wright International Energy Tax Conference held in conjunction with the Houston Business and Tax Law Journal’s 20th Annual Symposium at the Greater Houston Partnership in downtown Houston.
The recent all-day conference explored topics in international energy investments and featured 23 speakers from four continents. The speakers and sponsors represented industry leaders and firms including Exxon Mobil, Dow, AIPN, Haynes & Boone, Thompson & Knight, White & Case, Mayer Brown, BakerHostetler, KPMG, Vinson & Elkins, Thorsteinnsens, Bennett Jones, Macquarie Capital and Miranda and Associates, as well as Law Center Professor of Practice Denney Wright and Bret Wells, the Law Foundation Professor of Law.
“One of the neat, great things about this event is that we’re talking about international tax and energy from a comparative law perspective,” Wells said. “A number of people will practice in one area, but it’s nice to see how different countries approach similar questions in unique ways and comparable ways.
“The ability to bring together a group of speakers from four continents to speak about international and energy issues is a way to create a rich environment for our students, and for practitioners that are here.”
After a 42-year career as senior tax counsel with Exxon-Mobil, Wright joined the Law Center’s faculty in 2016. He made it a priority for the Law Center to host an annual event that crossed international borders.
“I felt very strongly that we needed an international energy tax conference that would focus on international energy investments,” Wright said. “There’s no better place to have it hosted and run than out of Houston and by the University of Houston Law Center.
“Considering the tax and energy program at the Law Center, this puts us even more on the map. To hold an international energy tax conference each year, bringing in the experts that we’ve been able to capture absolutely increases our visibility.”
Students in attendance gained insights from the panel sessions, but also from the opportunity to interact and network with a diverse group of speakers and professionals in attendance.
“It’s a good way for us to have a conversation with our students with thought leaders that practice in this area about the current topics and the currents trends that are impacting the industry in the international and oil and gas area,” Wells said. “That’s a great opportunity for our students, and for those in the practitioner area to meet other key speakers. It’s a great thing for the Law Center to be hosting a thought leader-type project like this.”
Wells served as the opening speaker of the conference, providing an OECD and Regulatory Tax Update.
The following panel, "Mexico 2020 Tax Reform and Energy Investment Issues" included Edgar Klee, a partner at Haynes and Boone's Mexico City office, Mario Barrera and Rodolfo Rueda of Thompson & Knight's Mexico City office, and Ana Duucuron, Dow contract legal counsel.
During the symposium’s lunch program, Megan Rollag, a 3L at the Law Center, led a discussion based on her award-winning paper, “Future of Cross-Border Pipeline Projects in AMLO’s Mexico: What’s the Risk?”
She said that having the chance to gain insights from the professionals in attendance was one of the most valuable takeaways for her from the conference.
“They gave me further points to think about and to look up later — broader aspects of my topic that I haven’t even considered yet,” Rollag said. “It’s really wonderful to see how the dots connect in the big picture, and I really get that when I talk to industry folks and other professionals.”
Additional speakers and panelists during the Association of Petroleum Negotiators focused lunch program included John Bridges, Executive Director of the AIPN, Anastasia Bolshakov, a Board Member from the UHLC student chapter of the AIPN and Chantal Carriere '19 an associate at White and Case in Houston.
The afternoon portion of the conference led off with a discussion entitled, "Jabuticaba - What Makes Brazil a Unique Oil & Gas Province." Speakers were Leandro Duarte, an associate at Mayer Brown in Houston and Norman Nadorff, an adjunct professor at the Law Center and special counsel for Mayer Brown and Tauil & Chequer in Brazil.
They were followed by Alan Alexander, a partner at Vinson & Elkins in Houston and Alex Erlikh, vice president of Macquaire Capital, whose presentation Gulf Coast Amonia was a case study in petrochemical investment in the U.S.
Providing a north of the border perspective on Canadian energy and tax investment issues were Michael Colborne, a partner at Thorsteinssons Law Firm in Toronto, Greg Johnson a partner at Bennett Jones in Calgary and Vivek Warrier, partner and co-lead of the National Energy Industry Team also at Bennett Jones in Calgary.
Luis Miranda of Miranda & Associates in Houston concluded the program with his talk, "West Africa Energy Investment Changes and Challenges."
In the future, Wells said, the conference could be livestreamed, which would draw the eyes of additional practitioners as well as grow the Law Center’s brand and reputation.
“We’re the energy capital of the world,” Wells said, “and UH wants to be seen as an important contributor both in preparing students as well as in providing a stimulating Conference for the exchange of ideas in industry.”
“Another successful conference this year brought participants from all over the world to exchange ideas about energy investments, only the second of many to come,” Wright said. “I thank the sponsors and speakers, as well as the student volunteers and the Law Center for making this happen.”