GC Powerlist: Central America
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GC Powerlist > GC Powerlist: CENTRAL AMERICA
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For 29 years, The Legal 500 has been analysing the capabilities of law firms across the world. The GC Powerlist is the latest publication from The Legal 500, turning its attention to the in-house function, and recognising those corporate counsel who are driving the legal business forward. The latest edition is the GC Powerlist: Central America, which identifies an array of the most influential and innovative in-house counsel working in the region...read more
We have canvassed opinions from law firm partners and in-house counsel across Central America, to identify corporate counsel that have been instrumental in changing or forming opinions within their company or industry; developing brilliant technical solutions to complex issues; creating innovative structures to ensure that the in-house function is driving the business forward; or providing a business working model that other corporate counsel should follow. Our team of experienced researchers assessed the nominations, speaking both to general counsel and nominating lawyers to finalise each list. The GC Powerlist: Central America features not just information on why that individual has made the list, but also comment from those in-house lawyers about how they have helped shape innovation in the legal industry.
If you have feedback on the GC Powerlist: Central America, or wish to nominate other in-house individuals (either in Central America or global), please do get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We hope that this listing will stimulate debate around the role of the in-house lawyer and help corporate counsel with possible improvements and efficiencies in running their departments.
GC Powerlist: Central America
(listed in alphabetical order; click on an individual to view an expanded biography)
Legal director (Dominican Republic & Caribbean Markets)
Philip Morris International
General counsel and country compliance head
Citibank Costa Rica
Juan Francisco Alfaro del Cid
Head of legal
Associate general counsel and legal director (Latin America)
Corporate and legal affairs director
Jose Miguel Arellano
Executive director of legal affairs and corporate relations
Central American Bottling Corporation (CBC)
Director of legal affairs
B&R Shipping and Trade
Legal vice president
Banco Dominicano del Progreso
Superintendencia de Electricidad y Combustibles
Head of legal
Amzak Capital Management
Enel Green Power Guatemala
Legal affairs director
Pfizer Central America & Caribbean
Ana Maria Bonilla
Head of legal
Procter & Gamble
Corporate legal manager
Legal vice president
Juan Héctor Castro
Head of Legal, patents and compliance
General counsel and secretary
The AES Corporation
Vice president and general counsel
Walmart Central America
Manager of legal services for the expansion program
Panama Canal Authority
Senior legal director
Jorge de los Ríos
General counsel and business integrity officer (Central America and Andean Region)
Salvador Del Valle
Minera San Rafael
Jose María Etchegaray
Manager of corporate affairs
Favio Luciano Flores
Director of legal affairs (Latin America)
Grupo Financiero Ficohsa
Ivette Lorena Franco
Validation assistant manager/General counsel
Luis Enrique Gomez
Director of legal advice
Del Monte Fresh Produce Group
Legal director and corporate relations director
Regional legal manager
Partner, corporate vice president and director of legal department
Regional Legal Director for the Greater Caribbean and Latin American Division Compliance Specialist
Regional legal director (greater Caribbean Region and Latin America) division compliance director
Bolsa Nacional de Valores de Costa Rica (National Stock Exchange of Costa Rica)
Luis Antonio Herrera
Director of legal services
Legal director, compliance and ethics
Consejo Nacional de Supervisión del Sistema Financiero
adidas Latin America
Legal director and compliance officer
Luis Pedro Jegerlehner
Head of legal / legal manager, Central America and the Caribbean
Legal Manager (Central American and Caribbean)
Confederación Patronal de la República Dominicana (COPARDOM)
Giselle Marie Leger
Manager of legal unit
General counsel (North and Central America area and Colombia)
Legal vice president and secretary
IKEA Santo Domingo
Corporación Minera Dominicana
Julieta Rodriguez Molina
Angel Alfonso Molina
Baxter México, Central America, Caribbean and Venezuela
Legal vice president
Central Bank of the Dominican Republic
Legal vice president
Enel Latin America
Head of legal department
DHL Express Central America
Regional general counsel
Marie Claire Palacios
Americas Media Services
Legal affairs manager
Major League Baseball
María Pía Logiovane
General legal advisor
Philips Latin America
Florida Ice & Farm Company (FIFCO)
Jose Antonio Polanco
Head of legal and compliance (Latin America)
Banco de América Central
Arelí Mojica Quintero
Manager of Legal and Reputational Risk
Jorge Luis Real
Vice president of legal risk and secretary
Banco Latinoamericano de Comercio Exterior, S.A. (Bladex)
Juan Rablo Restrepo
Regional Legal Counsel (Central America and the Caribbean)
Manager of legal and reputational risk
Banco de la Producción
Chief counsel (Central America, Caribbean and Andean Countries)
Banco de Reservas
Walmart México y Centroámerica
Juan Carlos Rodríguez
Juan Carlos Rojas
Legal affairs manager
Legal and regulatory counsel
3M Central America
Executive legal director
Banco Popular Dominicano
José Ricardo Sánchez
Eduardo Alberto Segura
Panama Maritime Authority
Fox Networks Group Latin America
Manuel Roberto Sisniega
Cámara de Comercio e Industrias de Cortés
Head of legal
Legal director and director of the Center for Conciliation and Arbitration
Associate general counsel (Mexico and Central America)
Legal and regulatory director
Maria Cristina Vila de Van Hoorde
Director of Corporate and Legal Affairs
Regional legal director (Central America and Dominican Republic)
Jose David Zuniga
Vice president of legal department and corporate secretary
CEFA, Central Farmacéutica
As the legal director for leading tobacco company, Philip Morris International (PMI), Adelaida Adames is in charge of all legal projects related to international law, corporate governance and negotiations. PMI’s products are sold in over 180 markets across the world, and the company employees a global workforce of more than 82,000 people; the multicultural scope of the workforce has been integral to the company’s strength and growth with over 80 languages spoken. Adames contributes to this multiculturalism, with an intellect that has allowed her to master four languages herself: Spanish, French, Italian and English. Prior to her role with PMI, Adames spent two years as legal affairs manager for Grupo Puntacana, a conglomerate that has operations in a diverse range of sectors covering airports, hotels, golf courses, restaurants, energy, water and waste services, security and commercial laundry. Adames had a particular input into the hospitality sector during this time, as the Puntacana Resort & Club is one of the most well-known tourist hotspots in the Dominican Republic. Between the years of 2001-2005 she was an associate attorney for Headrick Rizik Alvarez & Fernández, where she specialised in international trade, maritime law, telecommunications and environmental law to name a few.
Minera Panamá, formerly owned by Inmet Mining Corporation and a current subsidiary of First Quantum Minerals, holds the rights to exploit mineral resources in the District of Donoso, Colon Province in Panama. The company currently manages the largest foreign direct investment project ever undertaken in Panama, “Cobre Panama”, which is even larger than the Panama Canal expansion project. With prior experience in the field of mergers and acquisitions, real estate and corporate law attained at a prominent law firm in Panama, Manuel Aizpurua was invited to manage legal affairs at Minera Panamá in 2009. The company’s horizontal organisational structure means a small in-house legal operation, but with great responsibility and management of a wide range of issues. Aizpurua’s legal function has a role that is much more than just supervising and mitigating legal risk associated with the company’s landmark project, it has also evolved to assume other responsibilities, mainly in the areas of public and government relations, as well as being part of the group’s strategic planning team. In addition to being able to provide sound legal advice and effectively coordinating all external legal services, Aizpurua has been able to supply practical advice as well as local knowledge on matters that are specific to his jurisdiction. This level of involvement and advice has facilitated the company’s adaptation to a set of customs and practices that are unique to Panama, therefore avoiding unnecessary delays and smoothing project execution. In particular, Aizpurua has been praised for leading the legal strategy and being part of the negotiating team that achieved a transaction that enhanced the development of company’s $5.5bn Cobre Panama project. He has also worked in an ad hoc committee for an updated and improved infrastructure development tax regime, which now attracts private investment and improves project execution in that particular region. This was achieved in addition to the implementation of a legal strategy and successful management of complex litigations of administrative and environmental matters to enhance the project development schedule.
Cristina Alfaro, general counsel and country compliance head at Citibank Costa Rica, has extensive experience in corporate law, banking law, compliance, and regulatory matters. Described as ‘strongly self-motivated and results driven’, Alfaro is an in-house lawyer dedicated to professional achievement. She has been praised by peers and clients alike for performing effectively in fast-paced, deadline driven working environments. She is recognised as, in the words of one nominator, ‘a highly skilled lawyer able to navigate complex transactions, financial advisory services, mergers and acquisitions processes, development, and improvement of policies, products and programs’. In her 15 years at Citibank, Alfaro has built a reputation as an enabler of the business, giving legal advice and support for revenue generating activities such as cross-border transactions, implementation of product programs, and negotiation and draft of contracts. She has also coordinated and led merging and integration processes as part of M&A transactions. Prior to joining Citi in 2000 she worked as counsel at Corporación de Desarrollo Agrícola del Monte where she assisted the vice president of legal for Latin America.
A Royal Dutch Shell licensee and subsidiary of Grupo Terra, Unopetrol Guatemala is a leading fuel distributor in Central America. The company’s legal head, Juan Francisco Alfaro Del Cid, deals with a plethora of issues in Guatemala and Belize, related to commercial, business, tax, regulatory, compliance and administrative law. Alfaro Del Cid’s arrival in March 2011 has had a profound impact on the company and its legal strategy. Before he joined Unopetrol Guatemala, all legal services were provided by an external law firm, so Alfaro Del Cid had to successfully organise a legal department and oversee the transition to an in-house legal service. As a result of this insourcing, the company’s operating expense budget was reduced by 40%. In addition, Alfaro Del Cid has overseen a reorganisation of the way that external legal resources are procured. He explains, ‘we cut off all retainer fees and now we hire all law firms to represent the company for each litigation, according to experience and specialisation. In every case we negotiated a success fee’. Over the past five years, Alfaro Del Cid has gained recognition in Guatemala’s in-house community for his involvement on a number of M&A transactions, including the acquisition and integration of one of the company’s local competitors. He is also known for his proactive involvement in the country’s pension system reform. Prior to joining Unopetrol, Alfaro Del Cid has worked in a variety of industries (government, insurance and telecommunications), each one requiring a specific regulatory knowledge and expertise. ‘My biggest career challenge has been to adapt to each industry and to have full knowledge and understanding of every aspect of the business, so I am better prepared to provide legal advice and support to the board, CEO and business manager’, he says.
Currently based in Costa Rica, Steven Alvarado oversees a team of 15 in his role of associate general counsel and legal director for Latin America at GlaxoSmithKline. Since joining the pharma company 14 years ago, Alvarado has created the legal department for Central America and has contributed to the establishment of its position as a strategic partner to the business. He has also created and reformed policies to make the legal department more effective, efficient and cost-conscious. While describing his contribution to the company in general, Alvarado says: ‘Generally, we were able to frame the legal department as a proactive group instead of a reactive group. So we try to avoid the fire instead of putting it out. My policies in Latin America have benefited other regional departments as well’. Alvarado has received praise for his ability to mentor younger and less senior employees: ‘I like to have a strong relationship with them, and give them all the legal tools they need to become effective contributors to the business’, he says.
Jennifer Alvarez boasts over 10 years of experience in the insurance and social security sector and has been the head of legal at health insurer ARS Palic for the last 10 years. She is recognised as ‘one of the region’s outstanding corporate counsel’ and a lawyer who is ‘always able to break a complex matter down into its components so that business can continue uninterrupted’. She was previously legal director of Superintendenica de Pensiones (SIPEN), the government pensions body of the Dominican Republic (2002-2005); an incredibly demanding role that won her much praise in her home country. Following that she was a lawyer at Banco BHD. She credits her success as a lawyer to her ongoing enthusiasm for education and spends much of her free time teaching workshops and pursuing courses and diplomas. She has participated as a lecturer at seminars and workshops on social security and labour both national and international law.
Adriana Alvins spent the majority of her legal career working in Venezuela, before moving to Costa Rica in 2014 to head Kimberly-Clark’s legal department for Central America and the Caribbean. Widely praised for her ability to effectively manage and coordinate mobile teams, Alvins is described by a source as an ‘intelligent leader’ with extensive knowledge of business planning and strategy. In her current role, Alvins provides legal support to all areas of Kimberley-Clark, the multinational personal care company, including the company’s supply chain, human resources, finance, sales, marketing and operations. In a short space of time, Alvins has been able to establish herself as a highly reputable professional in the Central American in-house market and forge a reputation for her efforts to develop corporate social responsibility programs in accordance with the guidelines of the corporation; with a focus on sustainability, security in all company facilities, and the activities that should provide and guarantee safety. Before moving to Costa Rica, for two and a half years Alvins held a similar role with Kimberley-Clark in Venezuela. Before that she held a variety of in-house legal roles for a diverse range of international employers, namely Skanska, Technip, Cemex, BBVA and Grupo Pivoca.
Alfredo Apestegui is currently chief legal officer for Mesoamerica, a leading firm in private equity investments in Latin America. He currently leads all legal, tax and compliance matters involving the firm’s private equity investment vehicles, and the portfolio companies that they manage, mainly in Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Chile and Central America. His role also encompasses deal negotiation, transaction structuring, and closing of M&A transactions and managing external legal and tax advisors in each jurisdiction. When Apestegui joined the company two years ago, Mesoamerica was undergoing a transition from a firm engaged partially in private equity and partially in M&A advisory to one involved in private equity fulltime. He joined as its first in-house counsel and was heavily involved in building the structure, policies and procedures of the legal department as well as aligning with the right external advisors to elevate Mesoamerica to its next stage. This was, he says, hugely beneficial in allowing him to challenge orthodoxies: ‘Starting in this position two years ago, there had never been an in-house counsel. This challenged me to structure my role from a clean slate, and I strived to do so in a way where I could add significant value to this firm’. As part of this exercise in rethinking the legal team, he made it his priority to ensure that top legal talent is embedded in each of Mesoamerica’s portfolio companies: ‘We believe that this combination provides great results because we get the industry knowledge from top in-house counsel, and expertise in different areas of law from external counsel. This allows me to focus on the areas that matter the most and that add greater value to our firm and our investors’. Apestegui has previously worked in New York and Miami as senior tax counsel and head of tax strategy for the Latin America and Caribbean region at AIG and says this multijurisdictional experience has taught him to ‘never assume that an issue is resolved in a particular way just because it was resolved that way in the previous five jurisdictions you’ve looked at’. He says that the next most valuable proponent is having ‘the best local counsel’ on your side. ‘You need someone who can answer your questions – more importantly, who can anticipate your questions – and who can provide answers with a high degree of technical skill and business or commercial sense’.
For the last 11 years Jose Miguel Arellano has been the legal mind behind Avon’s major transactions in the Mexico City region. In this role his daily input encompasses establishing and directing all the necessary legal and governmental relations strategies for Avon Mexico and Central America companies. In 2010 Avon received the Latin American Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Award for the second year in a row. Arellano was instrumental in driving the ethical initiatives for which the ream was recognised, particularly its humanitarian programs for women, such as the domestic violence awareness campaign, the global fight against breast cancer, and the campaign to help women achieve financial independence. Arellano acts as the company’s legal representative before the local and federal authorities and as the company’s secretary. He also sits on the board of directors. He takes pride in having helped create an environment that allows his staff to have a strong work-balance, and reflecting the company ethos of ensuring all staff have access to training and development programmes that allow them to reach their personal and professional goals. Prior to joining Avon, Arellano was legal director at Daimler Chrysler for Mexico, a position he held from 1984 to 2005. He has also served as vice president of The Chamber and Association of the Industry of Personal Care and Home Care (CANIPEC).
A figure that is widely praised for his labour contract negotiation work in Guatemala, having previously represented various multinational and local companies, Oscar Arroyo is a lawyer with over 20 years of experience in the Central American market. Arroyo has been with his current employer Central American Bottling Corporation (CBC), a major producer and supplier of beverage products in Central America since 1993, where he currently serves as legal director. Over his impressive career, Arroyo has lead the structuring and execution of several merger and acquisition processes in Central America and the Caribbean and has gained recognition for his representation of foreign companies in public biddings for oil exploration contracts in Guatemala. In particular, Arroyo is recognised for his involvement in the first issuance of debt notes by a private firm in Central America listed on the Luxembourg Stock Exchange under Rule 144A. A source stated that Arroyo’s deep understanding of the sector allows him to add important insights to the company’s strategic goals in Central America.
In 2014, Carlos Atiles joined Agencias Navieras B&R, a company that acts as commercial and port agents for shipping lines, providing stevedoring services around the world. His current position at the oldest shipping company in the Dominican Republic is director of legal affairs, ensuring the smooth operations in the nationally important industry. Atiles has been recognised by colleagues for having particular specialities in intellectual property rights, trade-related regulatory practices and corporate affairs and for playing an important role in the company receiving a certification from the Business Alliance for Secure Commerce (BASC), which accredits the system management control and security processes. His career began in 1995 at the National Council of Private Enterprise as a legal assistant before a switch to Banco de Reservas, the leading Dominican banking institution, in 1997. After a three year spell there, he joined The Embassy of the Dominican Republic to the US where, as the first secretary he gave technical assistance on matters such as human trafficking, intellectual property and negotiations for the Dominican Republic–Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA). Between 2005 and 2014, Atiles was at General Directorate of Customs of the Dominican Republic (CDG). As a specialist he initially led negotiations between the CDG and US Homeland Security over a Container Security Initiative. Later he created, developed and implemented CDG’s intellectual property (IP) policies, then led negotiations on the implementation of IP obligations with the US Trade Representative for at CDG under the DR-CAFTA agreement, and with European Union under an economic integration agreement. From 2010 to 2014 at the CDG, Atiles participated in a trade facilitation initiative that sought to streamline customs procedures with the use of information technology, by giving importers and exporters the information to comply with all government regulation in a single electronic environment. He was a member of the drafting group for the Electronic Customs Declaration regulatory framework, assisted in the amendment of the IP observance policies and gave legal assistance in the development of the CDG Regulatory Policies during this time. Using his vast experiences of international negotiation and management of complex operational change, Atiles has been able to add significant value to Agencias Navieras B&R since joining.
For the past seven years, Omar Bairan has been legal vice president of leading Dominican bank Banco Domincano del Progreso. Among the leading financial services counsel in Central America, he is an expert in the fields of tax, risk and insurance law. Bairan has spoken on global tax transparency and tax compliance at a number of forums and is recognised as a leading voice in international tax and banking regulation. He reports directly to Banco Domincano del Progreso CEO Mark Silverman Multz and forms an important part of the bank’s senior leadership committee. Bairan began his in-house career at Grupo BHD in 1998 before moving in 2006 to serve as director of financial services consulting at The Object Management Group (OMG), a non-for-profit technology standards group.
Edward Barett is the legal director at the Dominican Superintendencia de Electricidad y Combustibles, a public sector institution tasked with monitoring the proper operation of the electricity, gas and safety networks in the country. Barett has been described in the past as ‘responsive, decisive and a well-organised’ legal professional with a highly commercial outlook. Having served at the superintendence for over 13 years, Barett is tasked with developing the legal framework of the whole electricity sector in the Dominican Republic, creating rules and procedures in the wholesale and retail electricity market, anti-fraud laws, rules regarding the granting or revoking of licenses for the installation of electric facilities and rules setting the standards for quality of service for the monopolistic activities. Over the years, Barett has established himself as a well-recognised public sector lawyer, capable of successfully outlining the legal policy of Superintendencia de Electricidad and providing advice to the board in all matters. In addition, Barett has been involved in notable litigation and arbitration cases, some of which outlined the acceptable norms in the country. Prior to moving to the public sector, Barrett spent five years as an associate senior attorney at Pellerano & Herrera.
Roberto Batres, the legal manager at Ambev Centroamérica, has overseen a rapid evolution of the Guatemala-based team. Over the past eight years, the department has grown from a one-person function, to a team comprised of several employees that oversees compliance and corporate relations and affairs. In addition, the department has shifted its focus from being predominantly involved in preventative actions to actively contributing to business growth. Batres has played a vital role in this transformation by successfully overseeing the consolidation of the legal structure and thus enabling the company to do business more effectively in Guatemala. During his eight-year tenure at Ambev Centroamérica, a leader in the Central American brewing market, Batres has made a particular impression with his work during an important arbitration victory before the International Chamber of Commerce, related to the distribution of Mexican beer brands in Guatemala. His involvement ranged from the planning of a legal strategy and coordination of internal and external counsel, to the execution of arbitration in both Mexico and the legal proceedings that arose in Guatemala’s legal team. ‘This was important, because Mexican brands today represent a significant part not only in terms of business and marketing results for the company’, Batres explains, ‘but also [affects] the strategy in the medium and long term’. Batres previously worked for three years at Guatemala City based law firm Carrillo y Asociados and for five years in the legal department of Grupo Financiero de Inversión (made up of Banco Americano (today Ficohsa) and Financiera de Inversión).
El Salvador-based Beatriz Beltranena is legal director and general counsel at asset manager and private equity investor Amzak Capital Management, where she is responsible for overseeing the firm’s portfolio of companies in the Central American region. In her 10 years with Amzak, Beltranena has worked on some of its most important deals, including helping to develop and structure the legal department of portfolio company Amnet Telecommunications – formerly the largest triple play telecoms company in Central America – ahead of its sale to Millicom-Tigo in 2008. Before joining Amzak, Beltranena spent seven years as general counsel and country compliance officer at Citibank El Salvador where she was responsible for implementing US regulations such a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), anti-bribery and money laundering regulations. She is member and contributor to the board of directors of the El Salvador chapter of Vital Voices Global Partnership, an non-governmental organisation dedicated to training and empowering emerging women leaders.
Expert energy in-house lawyer Alejandra Bermúdez has experience in business and energy law and high levels of knowledge in regulated sectors. She handles all legal work, social impact assessments and risk evaluation at Enel Green Power Guatemala. Her role touches upon all legal issues related to the generation, transportation and marketing of renewable electricity; including corporate transactions, regulatory matters, negotiation, drafting and review of energy contracts, risk assessment, policy compliance and business strategy for the company and its board members. She also leads all regional teams for compliance with horizontal objectives, such as contract negotiations, implementation of policies and standardised practices and has played an integral role in monitoring social issues in direct support to the country manager and head of community relations and sustainability. She actively participates in the management of compliance with company policies in the field of business and human rights and corporate and social responsibility. She is a committed teacher to her staff and highlights ‘the need for continuous learning and innovation as mechanisms to develop schemes to break established patterns’. She takes pride in having developed a management environment that allows her to train leadership qualities and give responsibility.
Formerly a private practice lawyer at law firm Gonzalez & Uribe, Gabriela Bogantes is now a widely recognised figure in the Costa Rican in-house market. Bogantes, currently Pfizer’s Central American and Caribbean legal director, is the primary legal contact at for the pharmaceutical and consumer healthcare business, as well as a primary lawyer for the Oncology business unit in wider Latin America. In this wide-reaching role, she manages a complex region of countries (33 markets) and has showcased a highly impressive ability to support the company with minimal legal contingencies, despite the wide variety of legislations and environments. In addition, Bogantes is known for her active participation with all business units for the successful deployment of a company reorganisation, business development initiatives and a rationalisation of distribution relationships across the region. These actions have had a huge impact on the reduction of risk in several actions taken by Pfizer. Bogantes has also made several improvements to the legal department, including changing the invoice scheme for external counsel and maximising the department’s budget.
A highly-skilled financial in-house lawyer, Ana Maria Bonilla has spent her entire legal career in the banking sector. With deep experience in Latin American legal frameworks in Mexico, Brazil, Costa Rica, Panama, Chile and New York, Bonilla currently heads the legal department at Banco General, the largest bank in Panama City, with a total workforce of more than 3,400 trained employees. Over the past three years spent at the bank, Bonilla has established herself as a legal professional proficient at negotiating legal documentation for bilateral and syndicated transactions, including multi-regional deals, trade finance, vendor finance and project finance and has demonstrated an impeccable track record of being able to negotiate from both a commercial and legal perspective. Prior to joining Banco General in 2013, Bonilla spent seven years as a senior legal counsel at the Foreign Trade Bank of Latin America and before that nearly six years as a legal counsel responsible for corporate banking, financial institutions and private banking at BNP Paribas.
Michael Bruce joined Procter & Gamble as legal manager in 2013. Working out of the company’s Costa Rica-based regional headquarters, Bruce arrived just as the company was increasing its presence in the country. In 2014, a new supply-chain planning centre turned Costa Rica into the hub for Procter & Gamble’s operations in Latin America, consolidating its presence in a country that already hosted its financial services and business transformation centres. Bruce’s first task was to plough through the legal work related to this regional consolidation, something nominators say he accomplished with great ease while demonstrating a ‘sharp eye for the finer points of commercial risk’. Before moving in-house, Bruce spent 10 years as a partner at leading Central American firm ACZALAW, and opened its Costa Rica office in 2003. He has published a number of widely-cited commentaries on trade and investment law in Central America and has a reputation as one of Costa Rica’s most talented legal minds.
Honduras-based Michelle Canelo is responsible for all legal affairs (with the exception of tax) across Central America at global food, agriculture, financial and industrial product provider Cargill. In addition to handling a range of legal matters – from environmental law to competition and intellectual property – she is responsible for talent development within her team, appointing and managing legal providers, and monitoring and promoting the organisation’s guiding principles. She is also frequently involved in sale and acquisition processes and is considered to be an important voice within the company. She has led the 10 lawyer Central America team at Cargill since 2008 and has, in the words of one nominator, ‘grown continuously with the business to add value with each passing year. She is not a person who is satisfied with “good enough”. She demands the best’.
Ernesto Alfonso Carrasco joined Honduran financial holding Grupo Financiero Ficohsa in 2000 as deputy manager, and in 2006 assumed his role as legal director for the group’s banking arm, Banco Financiera Comercial Hondureña (Banco Fichosa). In his current role, Carrasco has 18 direct reports and leads legal aspects of all M&A negotiations. In 2014, Banco Ficohsa acquired the assets of Banco Citibank de Honduras (excluding Citi’s corporate banking arm) making it the largest bank in Honduras. This led to a “regionalisation” of the group’s structure and meant a reorganisation in the legal team. Carrasco is credited with changing the company’s relationship to external counsel, helping to significantly reduce external spend while improving response times in a number of jurisdictions. On his relationship with the CEO and other senior members of management Carrasco says he has a ‘dynamic, supportive, relationship based on trust. It is important to state that my ability to respond to various legal needs of the group come from a great support and trust received from our upper management’.
Distinguished legal manager Laura Castañeda has impressed peers and clients by leading a number of strategic projects in the market and has won recognition in the Latin American press for her many achievements. In her time at Cementos Progreso – one of Guatemala’s largest companies – her legal expertise has produced outcomes that many in the market believed were impossible. For example, she led on a $850m recovery of one of the group’s companies, helping to remove it from a liquidation process in just three months. Internally, Castañeda has drawn particular notice for her role in re-organising the legal department of the group to transform it in an internal ‘mini-law firm’. ‘We implemented a “time keeper” system to control and record data across the department and show how this productivity gives value to the business’, she says. Castañeda has been instrumental in creating the legal policy of the group and further solidifying the relationship with the board and the CEO. As a senior figure herself, she is most proud of her ability to make a positive social contribution, commenting that at Cementos Progreso, a significant employer in Guatemala, the lawyers ‘have a huge responsibility to be leaders of change in the country’. She also holds a number of senior positions outside the office and is a director of the Board Gremial Extractive Industries, a member of the labour commission on behalf of Chamber of Industry of Guatemala, and has previously served as a member of the board of the Colombian Chamber of Business in Guatemala (CANEGUA).
Described by his co-workers as both a ‘loyal and innovative employee’ and an ‘inspiring person to work with’, Belisario Castillo runs the legal department of Banvivienda, a Panamanian bank with more than 30 years of presence in personal, private, commercial and agricultural banking. Having served as the vice president of legal since 2013, Castillo has developed the legal function into a highly organised unit capable of balancing the commercial needs of the business with legal risks and has been able to consistently impress peers with his balanced and disciplined approach to management. Through the continuous and efficient analysis and review of agreements issued by the banking regulator and the review and analysis of principles, agreements or ordinances issued by intergovernmental institutions, Castillo’s team is able to keep up with international legal regulations while maintaining its business in line with local laws and corporate guidelines. In addition, Castillo has achieved standardisation of legal processes within a wide network of the bank’s subsidiaries and affiliates. Castillo’s previous role of vice president of legal and compliance with the Panamanian bank Unibank, allowed him to demonstrate his ability to efficiently liaise with contractors and external legal advice, as well as his capability to understand the needs of the business. Prior to that Castillo worked for five years as a secretary to the board of directors and executive director of the legal department at Banco Nacional de Panama.
Since 2004, Karina Castillo has developed the legal department at Scotiabank in the Dominican Republic from scratch, and eventually established a function of 12 people to provide services to a network of 62 bank branches across the country. Since 2013 Castillo has also been in charge of the regional compliance function and heads a further team of 16 employees. In her role as director of the legal department, Castillo has contributed significantly to the growth strategy of Scotiabank through her work on various acquisitions in the Dominican Republic, actively participating in the due diligence process as well as providing support in the process integration and growth of such acquisitions. Over the past few years, Castillo has been developing Scotiabank’s compliance structure in the Dominican Republic: ‘We have developed a structure that is in line with the new challenges of both local regulatory requirements in the Dominican Republic and internationally’, she says. ‘We have contributed to strengthening the culture of compliance and prevention of money laundering and anti-terrorism within our organisation and have raised awareness of the importance of managing the risk of regulatory non-compliance’. In 2014, Castillo’s efforts saw her department being awarded with an internal award for “Department of the Year”.
Juan Héctor Castro is a Salvadoran legal and compliance expert with substantial experience across different branches of the law, as well as expertise in corporate governance and risk management. Currently serving as a compliance officer at Credicomer, a major Salvadoran financial institution, Castro represents his employer before El Salvador’s Financial Investigations Unit of the Attorney General of the Republic and the Superintendence of the Financial System in all reporting requirements, audit and work related to compliance and prevention of money laundering. During his relatively short tenure at Credicomer, Castro has been able to develop, implement and update manuals, policies and procedures, as well design internal controls to establish and maintain a culture of compliance. In addition, he has improved employees’ understanding of, and focus on, the prevention and control of the risks related to money laundering by undertaking extensive training sessions across the company. Since 2015, Castro has also been involved in academia serving as professor for the module of “Compliance and Prevention of Money Laundering” for the international postgraduate course in Business Law at the Higher Institute of Economics and Business Administration (ISEADE), and as facilitator of seminars in the El Salvador Business Alliance for Secure Commerce (BASC). Previously Castro held various legal and compliance positions in El Salvador at Tigo El Salvador, AFP GROW and On Time. Castro has been praised by a colleague for his ‘strategic perspective, excellent skills and great personality’.
Alejandra Castro leads a team of people that focus on trademarks, patents, copyright, computer law, biotechnology, medical records and intellectual property litigation. With over 18 years of pharmaceutical law experience, Castro has developed comprehensive international expertise in a plethora of industry specific issues. This has, she says, allowed her to ‘create a professional practice that would meet the demands of pharmaceutical sector pioneers in Central America, demonstrating the need for specialised legal training to understand this industry’. Since assuming her role at Bayer, Castro has focused on developing a specialised team that can implement business strategies and take products to market as swiftly as possible, helping her to deliver a better return on investment and a better positioning of Bayer’s brands. Castro has also been tasked with incorporating the use of technological tools for administering trade agreements, litigation, administrative, corporate administration and other matters of day-to-day roles, allowing for a greater focus on substantive issues in areas involving pharmaceuticals, consumer, animal health and crop science business units. In order to facilitate this process, she has encouraged business partners to appoint a dedicated legal manager for each unit, enabling them to focus on their specialist functional area. In 2011 Castro received recognition with a “40 under 40” accolade from El Financiero for her overall career achievements. In 2014 Central American magazine Estrategia & Negocios recognised her as one of the most talented young lawyers in the region. In addition to her accomplishments at Bayer, Castro has made significant contributions to the legal profession. The World Intellectual Property Organization recognised her for the drafting of the national strategy for intellectual property of Costa Rica, a draft which was subsequently presented to Trinidad and Tobago. In 2014 she became a member of the Board of the Chamber of Audiovisual Industry (CAIAC). This is an especially poignant part of her career as she was the first lawyer to sit on the board, and the first woman vice president of that union. Additionally in 2015 she was appointed as attorney general of the Union of Chamber (UCCAEP), the union through which groups organise all business chambers. In spite of all these accolades, Castro herself considers her greatest achievement to be her appointment at Bayer, commenting that ‘being sought by a leading company in the industry by virtue of my knowledge and advice, are evidence of the level of trust and respect [they have], and I think that [is] a huge recognition’.
Adviel Centeno is currently general counsel and secretary at AES Panama and AES Changuilnola, the most important electricity generators in Panama, operating six plants in different areas of the country. As secretary of the board of directors, Centeno is integral to the legal proceedings at Gas Natural Atlantico – a project of AES Corporation – while they are developing and constructing the first liquefied natural gas (LNG) based combined cycle energy generation facility in Panama in conjunction with a LNG Terminal and tank. As the head of the legal department and general counsel for the operations in Panama he is responsible for the ethics and compliance department and the execution and compliance of the corporate, commercial, regulatory and environmental legal and contractual commitments, responsibilities and obligations. His other work entails providing strategic legal support to the finance, commercial, operations and supply chain areas of the business where he coordinates and supervises judicial matters handled by external counsel. Prior to this role he was a senior associate at Mossack Fonseca, an international legal and trust service provider with 44 offices worldwide. He is a leading expert in a number of projects that entailed corporate and commercial law, telecommunication and regulatory law, environmental law and offshore structures.
Maria Charris is a lawyer with more than 15 years of professional experience, who has held managerial positions in both national and international companies. A results-oriented expert with strong project management skills and a relentless drive to serve her employer, Charris is known in Central America for her leadership skills and perseverance under pressure. Serving as legal manager at Grupo Rey, one of the largest Panamanian retail businesses, since 2010, Charris has received praise for her facilitation of external negotiations and her keen eye for innovation in operational change.
Christopher Cook is a highly distinguished lawyer with 25 years of experience in the private sector and government in the United States. Prior to making his move in-house in 2014, Cook worked as a partner at Jones Day in Chicago and Washington, D.C. for over 16 years. Over the last two and a half years, Cook has overseen the Central American legal function of Walmart, the largest retail business in Central America with 33,000 employees and 700 stores spread across Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras. In charge of a team of 40, Cook is praised by sources for his exceptional leadership skills and impeccable track record of overseeing strategic litigation. The company has ambitious plans to expand in Central America and Mexico, planning to invest nearly $1.5bn across several countries and adding over 400 stores. This expansion would offer a boost to the regional economy, and could potentially add 25,000 jobs.
The team that oversees the legal affairs for the expansion of the Panama Canal is headed by Agenor Correa, a legal professional with experience of over 19 years in the Panamanian public sector. Having held a number of legal roles within the Authority since 2005, Correa has participated in the drafting and review of bidding documents worth millions of dollars and has also participated in the defence of his employer in various claims, disputes and arbitrations involving construction contracts. Correa took leadership of the legal function shortly after its inception and immediately introduced regular working meetings aimed at unifying the criteria and opinions, keeping lawyers informed of issues developing within the organisation. This close interaction generated significant improvements in the department’s ability to respond to queries or problems without delay. In addition, Correa has implemented a pragmatic approach to his team’s work, focused on business needs, which has resulted in a change in perception of legal from an obstacle to an ally; the team of five lawyers and three assistants is now consulted earlier on in business processes. In the course of his role, Correa has gained invaluable knowledge of a great number of topics and areas of construction law and arbitration. ‘Through the business aspects of this project, and crises that I had to face, I have grown both personally and professionally’, Agenor shares. ‘Once the expansion was completed and I could watch the first ship by the new locks, I realised that all work, studies and legal efforts bore fruit’.
Tannia Corriols has been the senior legal director for DHL in Latin America since April 2008. She joined the company in 2004 as legal head for the Central America region. In recent years DHL has invested significantly in the Latin AmericaN market, building new distribution centres and depots in a number of countries as well as adding to its fleet of delivery planes. Corriols has played a leading role in much of this work, helping to vet and secure suitable locations, run due diligence, and help keep the business appraised of risks in the many and varied markets in which it operates. She is also responsible for contract negotiation, corporate law, employment law and customs regulations. As one nominator comments, ‘the pressure can be intense as regional counsel for a big global company and one must have just the right mind-set to succeed. The range of matters [Corriols] must cover is huge, but she handles it all with great professionalism and care’.
Unilever’s presence across Central America and the Caribbean covers Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Puerto Rico, and Trinidad & Tobago. Jorge De Los Ríos, general counsel for Unilever across the Middle Americas and Andean region, heads a 16-strong team with a presence in nine countries. Recognised in The Legal 500’s GC Powerlist Colombia for his work across the Andean region, he has again been the subject of multiple nominations for his work in Central America. Unilever has won a number of awards for its occupational health and safety initiatives in the region, and nominators praised De Los Ríos’ role in helping to sustain a strong ethical culture in a number of challenging markets. He has also helped the company to negotiate distribution agreements, helping keep well-loved Unilever brands on the shelves throughout the region. On his approach to running a legal team, De Los Ríos says: ‘I demand to have a team that assumes a more strategic and “close to the business” approach. The counsel are also accountable for the business results and therefore need to understand the business needs and goals’.
MultiEnergía, a division of the multinational agro-industrial corporation Corporación Multi Inversiones, was established with the aim of designing and building renewable energy projects in Guatemala. Salvador Del Valle currently oversees a team of three in-house lawyers and coordinates the activities of a number of law firms to support the development of energy projects in Guatemala and abroad. Having served as legal manager of the company for the last five years, Del Valle has managed to implement a highly impressive contract management program for non-lawyers throughout the company, allowing for swift verification that contracts are being executed in accordance with international goals. The contract management program requires a coordination with all areas of the company, and represents a continuous learning experience for Del Valle and his colleagues. As part of the management team, Del Valle is in close contact with the CEO of the company and has control over several key projects with a plan tailored to all existing requirements. To achieve the company’s goal of 300 MW of installed capacity by the end of 2016, Del Valle and his team have provided key support to the construction of a third hydropower plant in Guatemala.
Hector Dotel moved to Metro Group in 2007, where he currently serves as the legal director in the Dominican Republic. In addition to managing the legal department of Metro Group, the Dominican Republic’s leading real estate company, Dotel doubles up as its compliance officer in transactions with local and international financial institutions. He played a key role in securing a $20m construction loan for the company’s Costa Blanca Development from Banco De Reservas De La República Dominican in 2009. More recently Dotel secured and executed deals for the construction of its Las Quintas real estate tourism project, which is an integral part of the company’s growth plans. A highly impressive academic lawyer who has earned a doctorate in law and a master’s degree in business law, Dotel’s first corporate legal role was at Banco del Progreso, a Dominican bank, where he was able to quickly learn the basics of what it means to operate in a commercial environment. Dotel was there for one year as a senior paralegal before spending 2005 to 2006 at the University of Alcalá to study his master’s in business law. Immediately prior to joining Group Metro, Dotel had a one year spell at leading mobile and digital communications company, O2, between January 2006 and January 2007.
Minera San Rafael was created for the exploration, construction and commissioning of the Escobal Silver Mine in Guatemala, which started operations in early 2004. When Sofia Escriba joined the company, the department did not exist in its present form. As legal work was coordinate by different managers within the company, there was a distinct lack of order. Escriba took control of all external counsel and managed to significantly reduce cost by moving all corporate and contract work in-house. ‘The order that was achieved following the creation of the department, enabled me to streamline processes and provide responses in a short time for managers who seek my advice’, Escriba says. ‘During my time as corporate affairs manager, I have been able to adequately manage the different risks that the company faces, which has allowed us to operate smoothly’. Over the years Escriba has also distinguished herself with her ability to influence the strategy of her business, which has been of particular importance given the presence of social and legal challenges in Guatemala’s mining industry. Escriba says: ‘My job within the company is also an advisory role. I work with the director of government affairs to design strategies for stakeholders, I work with the chief of communications to align the communication of the company with other objectives and I also work with the director of sustainability in his initiatives to make sure they are aligned with the goals of the company’. Alongside the company’s director of sustainability, Escriba was behind the effort that resulted in the very first strategic planning initiative within the business. Escriba explains: ‘We were in charge of the preparation and design of the workshops needed for the final [Strategic Plan]. We worked together to select and guide the facilitator for the workshops’. In addition, Escriba is part of the team that promotes the execution of new business strategy, which includes efforts aimed at changing the behaviour of the company, alongside the priorities and focus of the managers. This strategy includes a comprehensive plan to reboot the human resources area through a ‘synergy plan, which is based on five key behaviours’.
Jose María Etchegaray manages the internal and external legal resources of SBA Communications, an owner and operator of wireless infrastructure for communications companies, for the entire Latin America region, with the exception of Brazil. Currently based in Costa Rica, Etchegaray oversees all operational, and regulatory legal matters, contract negotiations, compliance, contractual obligations and litigation of SBA’s subsidiaries in the region. Prior to assuming the role of legal affairs director in Latin America a year ago, Etchegaray served as general counsel of Central America for six years. Over the course of his career, Etchegaray has established himself as an expert in the regional telecommunications market, gaining an exceptional reputation for managing strategic M&A deals and large infrastructure projects and public finance transactions in Latin America and the United States. Prior to joining SBA Communications in November 2010, Etchegaray spent over eight years working for Mexican law firm Kuri Breña, Sánchez Ugarte y Aznar.
Favio Luciano Flores oversees the validation department at Grupo Financiero Ficohsa, Honduras’ top financial group. The department conducts legal and risk checks across the group, covering banking, credit and insurance. He oversees a team of nine lawyers and 37 other staff occupying a diverse range of roles. ‘It is a major challenge to operate such a multidisciplinary team’, says Flores, ‘particularly as when one thinks of the legal function one thinks only of lawyers. But this “challenge” can be very energising. To work with a team of people who engage different parts of your brain and push you to consider different ways of organising a department leads to new ways of acting and thinking’. Operating in a country where the banking sector is both hugely competitive and subject to political hurdles, Flores finds himself frequently involved in high-level discussions at the bank. He and his team also monitor the various bills that pass through Honduras’ National Congress on an almost daily basis. This, he says, helps him to anticipate change and keep the business appraised of any actions it may need to take. As part of his bid to create a world-class legal function, Flores has introduced a number of new performance measuring tools. ‘The aim is to promote a management model that mitigates legal risk and evaluates the possibilities for action. The cornerstone of [this model] is to have contact with our clients – internal or external – 100% of the time’, he says.
Ivette Lorena Franco has been the director of legal advice for Copa Airlines (Copa) for the last 17 years. As Panama’s flag carrier airline, Copa sets high expectations for its staff. Franco has more than met these expectations by demonstrating, in the words of one nominator, ‘the highest standards of legal, commercial and ethical guidance the business could wish for’. Her vast experience of aviation law predates her time with Copa: from 1985 to 1990 Franco was legal adviser to Air Panama International. She is a regular speaker at international aviation law conferences and is a well-regarded figure in the sector globally. Aside from her expertise in international aviation law, she is known for her contribution to social causes, particularly in the field of gender equality. She was a major contributor to the Inter-American Commission of Women and is a member of the International Aviation Women’s Association (IAWA). She has also held prominent positions within the Panamanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and was president of the organising committee of the Pro Tempore Secretariat of the Rio Group, in which capacity she was responsible for meeting foreign ministers of the Rio Group and the European Union.
Del Monte Fresh is a global producer, marketer and distributor of fresh, fresh-cut and prepared fruit and vegetables globally. The company’s legal team has been an important element and a catalyst for recent plans to expand its presence in Central and South America. As part of his role of legal director and corporate relations head at Del Monte Fresh Produce Group across Colombia, Ecuador, Central America and Brazil, Luis Enrique Gomez has to deal with complex local regulations in multiple jurisdictions with substantial differences from one country to another. As the agricultural industry has become highly regulated, especially from an environmental perspective, Gomez has had to deal with social and political forces in each country, a very delicate task, which he has been able to tackle successfully.
Nestlé, the largest food company in the world measured by revenue, has had a presence in the Dominican Republic for over a century. With a long-standing track record of contributing to the health and welfare of those who consume their products, Nestlé has recently signed an agreement with The National Health Insurance in the Dominican Republic (SENASA) to promote a healthy lifestyle through the development of actions and activities that encourage users to make beneficial choices for their health. The company has strengthened immensely in the Dominican Republic in recent years, primarily in the dairy and cooking areas and very recently in the coffee category by introducing the brand Dolce Gus to the Dominican market. Marielle Gómez is a highly-qualified legal manager, who over the course of 10 year career at Nestlé has added strategic value to the company. Gómez has facilitated the growth and product launches of the company in the Dominican Republic by offering business-oriented legal advice and support. Prior to starting her career at Nestlé in 2006, Gómez worked briefly as a counsel at the Dominican Embassy in Rome and at the law firm Marranzini y Asoc.
Following the completion of his education from the University of Barcelona, Enric Gonzalez started his legal career in Spain by setting up his own private practice, where he served as founding member and director for 26 years. Moving to Central America in 2007, Gonzalez joined Interplus Panamá, a group of companies designated to construction projects in the country. Over the last nine years, Gonzalez has provided legal support to the construction of residential premises (apartments and townhouses), offices and commercial premises. As part of his role, Gonzalez also provides advice to an associated construction company Marcum International and Intersupplies & Logistics, an associated company specialising in importing construction materials. Over the past decade working in-house, Gonzalez has showcased an ability to seamlessly negotiate complex real estate transactions.
As senior vice president for legal affairs at PriceSmart, the largest operator of membership warehouse clubs in Central America and the Caribbean, since 1998, Ernesto Grijalva has provided support to the dynamic growth of the company in the region. The team has grown from two in-house attorneys handling legal issues for two retail locations in one country (Panama), to five attorneys, working with approximately 30 outside law firms, handling legal issues for over 30 subsidiaries and 38 retail locations in 13 countries. Recognising that despite similarities in statutory law there are differences in how individual countries interpret certain laws, Grijalva has developed key relationships with outside counsel in individual countries, thus allowing for the design of tailor-made legal policies and practices necessary for success. The legal compliance function led by Grijvala has an excellent reputation in Central America, shown by the fact that several international customs departments have reached out to the team for assistance with their attempts to determine the true cost of imported goods. Prior to joining PriceSmart, Grijalva spent a year as a corporate counsel and vice president for international relations at the Greater San Diego Chamber of Commerce, and four years as an adjunct professor of international and business law at universities in the US and Mexico. Between 1987 and 1997, Grijalva operated his own private practice boutique in the US and Mexico.
Described by sources as an ‘effective communicator’ and a leader with a ‘resilient personality’, Karla Gross is currently the legal director for the greater Caribbean region at Colgate-Palmolive, a global leading manufacturer of oral care and personal care products. In her dual role, Gross also leads the compliance function of the wider Latin American team. During her relatively short tenure in the company, Gross has made a positive impression with her management style and has influenced Colgate-Palmolive’s strategy with her advice regarding legal processes, as well as with her interpretation and enforcement of regional laws and corporate policies with a profound impact on the company’s operation in the region. A lawyer known for her strong commercial focus, Gross previously worked at Marsh & McLennan and Barrick Pueblo Viejo Dominicana as legal and compliance counsel and senior counsel respectively. In these roles, Gross demonstrated the flexibility to successfully manage a wide range of responsibilities related to the implementation of regulatory, risk and compliance initiatives and has impressed with her ‘second-to-none’ negotiating skills. Between 2004 and 2011, Gross worked as a legal coordinator at Unilever in the Caribbean region, where she directly advised the board of directors and each of the company departments on legal issues across intellectual property, contracts, corporate, litigation and M&A related work. Gross’ time there is characterised by the training initiatives she created and the effort she put in to increase awareness of legal issues throughout the Caribbean, as well as anticipating and influencing new regulations and legislation in the region. Gross started her legal career as a paralegal at Dominican firm Headrick Rizik Alvarez Fernandez, where she subsequently spent two years as an associate attorney before moving in-house.
In charge of the legal department of the National Stock Exchange of Costa Rica, Ricardo Hernández Lopez has made a valuable contribution to the modernisation and efficiency improvements of financial markets in the country, improving transparency and freedom of information for investors. Over the past five years in the role of director of legal services, Hernández has made his mark on the company with his work in the field of corporate finance and business strategy. Since 2011, Hernández has combined his work at the exchange with a position as referee at the International Center for Conciliation and Arbitration in Costa Rica. More recently, in 2015 Hernández also became the director of legal services at Interclear Central de Valores, an entity supervised by the national financial market regulator and tasked with modernising infrastructure services in the Costa Rican financial services market. Prior to joining the stock exchange, Hernández worked at the law firm Lara, López, Matamoros, Rodríguez & Tinoco as a junior partner for six years. In the past, Hernández held legal positions in the Costa Rican public sector for Superintendencia General de Valores, the Costa Rican Ministry of Justice and Grace and the Ministry of the Presidency.
As the legal director for compliance and ethics at Cervecería Nacional, Luis Antonio Herrera aims to create and develop the legal structures and sustainability initiatives for the beer and soft drink manufacturer. He is in charge of the management and administration of contingencies, general advice on legal matters to senior management, and overseeing license to trade. He provides sterling advice on completion issues within the market for consumer products, advice on issues concerning industrial property rights and enforcement of policies and corporate governance for auto regulation. Prior to joining Cervecería Nacional 14 years ago he was a junior lawyer at the Palmer International chemical company.
Since 2010, Rodrigo Hidalgo Pacheco has been legal director at Consejo Nacional de Supervisión del Sistema Financiero (CONASSIF), which is Costa Rica’s national council of financial system supervision. Under this role he is responsible for the definition of strategies and the monitoring legal affairs whilst ‘actively participating in the formulation and analysis of financial regulation in the country in the areas of banking, securities, insurance and pensions’. He also issues opinions regarding appeals filed by supervised financial institutions and other stakeholders against decisions made by the superintendence. The impact of Hidalgo’s work has been seen in recent policy changes made by CONASSIF in 2016; including new regulation repealing some of the existing corporate governance rules, and new rules on simplified bank accounts to expand financial inclusion to citizens who do not have access to financial services. Hidalgo has been building his reputation in Costa Rica’s public sector since 2000. In that year, his career started at Costa Rica’s Ministry of Labour and Social Security as a legal counsel in the administrative office. He spent 2004 to 2006 as an administrative and financial advisor at the Ministry of the Presidency, before joining CONASSIF as an associate in 2006.
Panama-based Kadine Hurtado, legal director and compliance officer for adidas Latin America, plays a central role in helping the company produce and sell its products in a region where environmental and social responsibility are becoming increasingly important to a successful business. She is known for her expertise in various regional and global regulatory and compliance regimes, including US Foreign Court Practices Act and anti-dumping legislation. Hurtado provides legal support to all areas of the business and covers contracts, labour, immigration issues, franchises, taxes, competition law and consumer affairs and corporate law. She is responsible for handling all disputes, preparing and negotiating all contracts, and overseeing compliance in the various markets in which adidas Latin America operates. Hurtado’s role also sees her managing relations with external counsel and advising the board on key strategic issues facing the company. Before joining adidas she was deputy manager of legal and compliance for American Life Insurance Company, a position she held for seven years. In this role she monitored all areas of the company to ensure their compliance with existing laws and was responsible for training all staff in conduct and compliance.
Claudia Jañez was appointed president and general manager of DuPont Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean in 2015. She continues to serve as the region’s government affairs director, a role she has held since 2011. With Dow and DuPont rumoured to be in advanced talks over a merger of their Mexico units, Jañez will have her hands full for the coming year, but nominators say she is unlikely to let the high standards she has set across the region slip. As one commented, ‘she has a very wide geographical region to cover and it stretches her team, but she is very much on top of the legal and commercial issues the company faces in the Central American market’. In addition to her wide-ranging regional responsibilities, Jañez is the secretary of the management council for DuPont in Mexico and represents the company at the American Chamber of Commerce. Last year she was named one of the most powerful women in Mexico by Forbes magazine. She has previously featured in The Legal 500’s Mexico Powerlist.
Guatemala-based Luis Pedro Jegerlehner is legal manager for PepsiCo in Central America and the Caribbean. He runs a small team of two lawyers with one additional counsel in the Dominican Republic reporting in to him. Having created the department for the region, Jegerlehner takes pride in the fact that all internal legal issues are dealt with by his team rather than other departments of the company; a change of approach to legal matters has prevented any misunderstandings, reduced external legal cost and provided certainty to the company. Recently the team has been negotiating and coordinating with outside counsel to reduce external expenses. Jegerlehner outlines how he managed the blend of legal complexity and shrinking budgets: ‘I’ve been able to manage and negotiate with unions, to prevent legal problems by providing support and service to the various departments of PepsiCo’. The nature of the food and beverage industry has meant that he has had to handle a number of changes to labour, regulatory and tax matters across the region, including 26 different islands in the Caribbean. The team has nonetheless ensured it hasn’t compromised on the quality of work or resources. For other in-house lawyers in the region who wish to move into a more senior position, Jegerlehner offers the following advice: ‘The in-house counsel must not only be a lawyer but also has to be a manager, to understand and walk hand-in-hand with the business, give solutions and thus ensure business continuity’. Jegerlehner started his in-house career at Colgate-Palmolive in 2011, previously having been part of a family business for nine years. He also had a two year stint as a legal assistant at Racsa Consortium Legal in Guatemala from 1998-2000.
For the last eight years Berioska Languasco has served as manager legal unit of the Employers’ Confederation of the Dominican Republic (Confederación Patronal de la República Dominicana, or COPARDOM), business association dedicated to defending the legitimate interests of employers in social and labour matters in the country. It is a diverse role that sees Languasco advising local companies on labour compliance matters, liaising with global labour standards bodies such as the International Labour Organisation (ILO), working with labour unions and workers, and helping to develop COPARDOM’s high-level strategy. Languasco trained as a lawyer at Troncoso & Caceres’ banking and real estate practice, before moving to leading regional firm Pellerano & Herrera.
Giselle Marie Leger joined AES in 2001 as a legal counsel and in 2014 was promoted to general counsel. In this role Marie Leger is the leader on the legal aspect of all developments within the business such as gas pipeline construction, gas terminals and other energy related legal proceedings and all matters related to financing, litigation and regulatory frameworks. She has played a leading role in negotiating, reviewing and enforcing power purchase agreements and recently helped the company to obtain more than $300m in loans. Known as a problem solver with expertise in structured loans, litigation and regulatory affairs, she is described by one nominator as ‘among the finest legal minds in the region’.
Diana Leiva is a highly-rated legal professional with over two decades of experience providing legal advice to multinational companies across Latin and Central America. Described as a ‘detail-oriented professional’ and ‘effective team player’, Leiva is known for her strong expertise in providing assessment on issues related to the structuring of contracts and project finance negotiations. Based in Mexico City, Leiva manages the legal department for the North and Central America region of the engineering and construction company Techint Group. Upon joining the business, she rapidly established herself as a highly reliable expert in corporate restructurings and negotiations taking place in Central America and developed a first-rate reputation among co-workers for achieving the best possible outcomes for her company. Leiva has been involved in a number of notable transactions over the course of her career at Techint Group, including the financing transaction for Norte II Combined Cycle Power-Plant in Mexico that was named power deal of the year by an industry publication in 2012. Leiva previously worked as a procurement fund coordinator at the Mexican Fund for the Conservation of Nature for a year and prior to that held a number of in-house legal roles in the Dominican Republic.
Since 2014 Dionisio Ismael Machuca Massis has worked for two of Bancolombia Group’s subsidiaries in El Salvador in the dual role of vice president (legal) and secretary for Banco Agricola and a judicial legal representative at Conglomerado Financiero Internacional Banagricola. In a short space of time he has already been involved in the opening of a new $55m operations centre for Banco Agricola and provided training courses covering general management skills, ethics and innovative design thinking. After starting his career with a four year stint as a legal counsel at Banco Cuscatlán, Machuca took his first major in-house role in 1997 at Banco de Comercio. After its merger with Scotiabank, in a deal worth $180m, he became legal director of the newly formed Scotiabank El Salvador Group in 2005, spending almost a decade in the role before taking up his current position. He played a key role at Scotiabank El Salvador Group, facilitating its acquisitions of Guatemalan bank Banco de Antigua in 2006 and Costa Rica’s Interfin Financial Group a year later. Other notable roles during Machuca’s career have been spells as: a law professor at José Matías Delgado University (1995-2009); a member of the Board of Directors at the Central Bank of El Salvador (2009-2010); and secretary to the president of El Salvador for legal and legislative matters (2009-2010).
Marysabela Maldonado currently serves as legal director and secretary of Grupo Terra, a Honduras-based conglomerate established in 1978 and one of the leaders in Central America’s oil and gas market. One of the most well-known in-house lawyers in Honduras, Maldonado is described by one nominator as an ‘intelligent and influential legal professional’. Another source stated that her ‘legal service is well-known in the country as one of the best in her area’. Over the years Maldonado has forged a highly effective legal team that is recognised for its swift execution of corporate transactions and flawless legal support to the company’s marquee projects, such as the 50 MW San Marcos wind farm, the Xacbal Hydroelectric Project and others. Maldonado is also recognised for her support and coordination on tax issues and financial processes with national and international financial organisations, along with management, control and monitoring of an array of processes and procedures.
Mario Martínez is legal director at Grupo Roble, the real estate division of Grupo Poma, a prominent El Salvador-based conglomerate. He has worked for the Poma Group for nearly 40 years, serving as legal director of the Latin American region (which, at Grupo Roble, covers 10 countries) for the last 17 years. Martínez has 30 people that report into him, covering all areas within Grupo Roble including administrative, financial, architecture, engineering and marketing. Martínez retains a very close relationship with other senior members of the company, and acts as a board member. Martínez has taken a guiding role in creating a model that can be replicated throughout the region, so that the same rules can be applied across each country with minor modifications. He has always been passionate about refining his legal skillset: ‘During my studies I joined a court of civil and commercial working for space and more than three years later concluded with my learning cycle in the courts, I joined Grupo Poma to assist in legal claims and all divisions of the Group’.
With a total of 14 years’ experience, split across private practice and in-house roles, Dorys Mejia’s knowledge allows her to overcome many of the challenges typically faced by corporate counsel. As legal and compliance manager for IKEA Santo Domingo, IKEA’s business in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, Mejia was able to overcome the biggest challenge of her professional career to date, overseeing IKEA’s 2012 expansion into Puerto Rico. During the multinational furniture retailer’s expansion, Mejia established a compliance department that was able to comply with the country’s immigration procedures, participate in health inspections and implement a solid code of ethics. Subsequently, Mejia has transformed her legal and compliance department into an invaluable tool for the company, which has even generated revenue in the past. According to Mejia, ‘the department changes as needs arise’. To Mejia’s displeasure, external challenges have played a greater role in effecting her legal service delivery than she would have liked. In her experience, her work in both the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico has routinely highlighted the issue of excessive bureaucracy, business-limiting compliance requirements and frequent regulatory changes. However, she does not regret the high amount of energy she expends mitigating these challenges because in her words, ‘I love the brand and the company because it allows me to get involved with many people in many areas. In addition to working with a team of external lawyers in both markets that make the experience different and challenging every day’.
Elizabeth Mena is legal counsel at Corporación Minera Dominicana (Cormidom), a subsidiary of Australian mining concern Perilya that operates medium scale open-pit mines across the Dominican Republic. The majority of its operations have focused on the extraction of copper for the Chinese market, meaning the last few months have been tough. Mena, described as an individual with a ‘rare blend of analytical and interpersonal skills’, has been central in helping the mine to prosper in adverse market conditions. She has an extensive background in promoting and supporting infrastructure projects and has deep expertise in financing, regulatory approvals, environmental compliance and labour relations. She has played a big part in Cormidom’s social investment programme, which has seen literacy programmes, clean water facilities and municipal services provided to local communities such as La Raíz, El Copey and Los Martínez. Prior to joining Cormidom in 2013 she was senior counsel at leading Dominican firm Pellerano & Herrera and general counsel at tourism and real estate development holding, Grupo Rocoki. Her time in private practice has seen her involved in some of the largest deals in the Dominican Republic. She advised on the country’s first leveraged buyout (LBO) and on one of its largest ever financings, the US$1.2bn Pueblo Viejo gold mine project.
Julieta Rodriguez Molina is a lawyer with extensive experience in corporate, commercial, labour and antitrust law, as well as professional recognition in corporate governance. Described by a source as an ‘excellent professional, who is well organised and has great people skills’, Rodriguez is currently responsible for the management and development of the legal function of the leading Panamanian banking institution, FPB Bank. In close contact with the board and senior management, Rodriguez coordinates the board of directors, the board committees and the senior management committee and has gained recognition for advancing the position of legal within the bank, bringing it closer to the business. A highly analytical lawyer, Rodriguez is known for her ability to spot and alleviate reputational, operational and compliance risks and is tasked with conversing with supervisory agencies. Prior to joining FPB, Rodriguez spent a year as advisory manager for internal audit, risk and compliance services at KPMG, and before that was at Panama based firm Galindo, Arias & López for six years.
Having been involved in a plethora of activities from managing the legal department’s annual budget to guiding the career development of its members, Angel Molina was given the role of general counsel for Baxter-Gambro in Latin America in 2013. Baxter, a multinational company that provides a broad portfolio of essential renal and hospital products, had bought Gambro earlier that year and it was Molina that was entrusted with ensuring a seamless transition in the region, after he worked on the acquisition project with the global legal team in Chicago. He led legal strategies for all Baxter-Gambro Renal business initiatives in Latin America including regional business projects, litigation cases and supported the Latin American compliance function by performing compliance training. As a mark of the trust the company has in him, Molina was given the additional responsibility of legal director for Mexico, Central America, Caribbean and Venezuela in 2014. Molina initially moved in-house in 2001, after two years at law firm Winstead & Rivera, to take a brief role at American Tower. This was followed by a spell as legal manager at Telcel, a subsidiary of America Movil and a leading cellular company in Mexico. In that role, he was in charge of all corporate matters and the performance of due diligence for M&A transactions in Mexico and Latin America. Molina has been at Baxter International since 2006, where he joined as a senior corporate counsel, responsible for developing, implementing and managing strategic plans for legal support to the business objectives for all of Baxter’s entities in Mexico, before taking up his current role. Now with over 15 years of professional experience in law firms and multinational companies, Molina has extensive knowledge in legal strategy, compliance, licensing and corporate law.
Oscar Alejandro Montes Mayorga is a Nicaragua-based vice president of legal at the Guatemala-headquartered consortium Integra Group Centroamerica, which specialises in energy investments, as well as agro-industrial, manufacturing and insurance related work. Over the past seven years in the consortium, Montes has utilised his vast experience, both in-house and in private practice, to provide operational legal support to the diverse range of businesses of Integra Group in Nicaragua. These include a geothermal generation company with an installed capacity of 70 MW, an electricity generation company with an installed capacity of 68 MW, a Nicaraguan rice producer with a market share of 20% of the domestic production, an exporter of mangoes and a textile business. To advise a business with such wide span of activities, Montes has showcased unprecedented levels of commercial understanding and strategic planning. Montes’ previous role was with Walmart Mexico and Central America, where he initially held responsibility for the Nicaraguan legal unit and subsequently expanded his scope to the entire Central America region. In recognition of his achievements in his three-and-a-half tenure at the company, Montes was selected as an advisor to the advisory council of Walmart’s regional president. Montoya also has five years of experience in private practice at Salvadoran law firm Arias & Muñoz.
Over the course of the last 26 years, Olga Morel De Reyes has held various positions within the structure of the Central Bank of the Dominican Republic and has served as general counsel since 2006. In charge of a team of 23 lawyers and nine administrative employees, Morel had a profound impact on the bank’s strategic direction. In particular, Morel recently made a proposition to the general deputy manager to change the system that was used to process the assignment of the investment bonds issued by the Central Bank, which, by law, and as the obligor, requires notification for its validity. ‘The existing practice required an internal process that could take up to two weeks for effective notification, depending on the agenda of the general counsel and the workload of the legal department. This caused tension and created an unfavourable environment within the financial system. The new structure implemented after 2008 – which has improved over time – reduced the notification time to about 20 minutes at the most’, says Morel. In his time with the Central Bank, Morel has often been credited for introducing key alterations to the legal department that have contributed to significant improvements to efficiency; changes that have largely been aimed at providing quality and expeditious service. To achieve these goals, Morel initially focused on the departments that were experiencing the greatest difficulties and subsequently pressed ahead with other divisions, establishing working principles and internal mechanisms to reduce paperwork and processing time. Morel successfully organised and streamlined the entire administrative area, allowing employees to efficiently locate, record and process incoming and outgoing documentation, as well as to achieve the proper and accurate filing of the same. Whilst Morel expresses pride in her achievement to improve the position of the legal department within the central bank: ‘I have incorporated the intangible but valuable contribution of giving credibility to the work done in the department for anything from simple transactions to complex negotiations with public and private institutions. Persons from all levels can be confident that the legal department I manage will render credible work, and that all jobs will be performed with loyalty, with the bank’s principles as our foundation’.
Since assuming a role in the legal department at Cargill in 2004, Valentina Moreno has continuously assumed additional responsibilities. Last year she was given the responsibility of managing key suppliers and contracts in Central America, Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala. Moreno has been involved in a number of key transactions, including the successful completion in 2012 of the company’s integration process, which saw her become responsible for the management of the legal department of Cargill’s operations in Costa Rica. This process has seen Moreno transform the legal department from one which focused almost exclusively on handling litigious matters to one with a preventive and a strategic approach. When looking at how she has impacted the strategic direction of the company she points to recent work exploring alternatives and managing risk by the impact on the market and industry caused by the involvement of a major competitor. The various actions and alternative proposals generated a significant increase in sales volumes of the company as well as capture a competitive advantage, always within the framework of compliance with laws, regulations and an internal code of ethics.
Daniel Muñoz Jiménez boasts substantial expertise in providing assistance on key development projects across Latin America, and has become recognised in the Central American market for his expertise in corporate governance and due diligence in the energy sector. Muñoz has served as regional general counsel at Enel Green Power, the renewable energy subsidiary of the international electricity and gas distributor, for the last 11 years. In this role Muñoz manages all legal affairs of the company and its various subsidiaries in Mexico and Central America, while reporting directly to the regional president. Having assembled a skilful team of in-house attorneys, Muñoz is responsible for providing legal support to the development and construction of renewable energy projects, as well as managing the ongoing operation of existing facilities, including the company’s two hydroelectric plants in Costa Rica. Recently, Muñoz has received acclaim for supporting Enel Green Power’s construction of a 50 MW plant on the Tarcoles River, alongside outside counsel. He has impressed with his work on a wide spectrum of activities including due diligence, the preparation of joint development agreements, construction contracts, project financing, licensing and land rights. In addition, Muñoz is well known for his past participation in International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) arbitration claims. Prior to joining Enel Green Power in 2005, he spent three and a half years at the prestigious Costa Rican law firm Facio & Cañas.
Mónica Muñoz, DHL Express’ regional legal counsel for Central America & Dominican Republic, supports the business operations with the support of one paralegal and closely chosen external firms. With her 11 years of experience as an in-house lawyer, Muñoz has been able to take the challenges of her current role in her stride. Her first role as a legal professional was as an in-house legal counsel for airport management services company Aeris Holding Costa Rica, where she worked from 2005-2013. From her entry-level position as paralegal, originally for Alterra Partners Costa Rica, the eight year experience saw her assume much responsibility, especially following the merger of Alterra Partners Costa Rica and Aeris Holding Costa Rica. Muñoz assumed responsibility for all of the company’s legal issues at the time, including contracts, legal processes, and legal advice to key departments. Though appreciative of all the work she accomplished for Alterra Partners and, subsequently, Aeris Holdings, Muñoz believes her greatest achievement was accomplished at DHL Express Costa Rica. She is proud of her coordination of multiple law firms on an especially complex transaction, which eventually led to a successfully negotiated outcome, and no costs to DHL Express Costa Rica.
An intelligent in-house lawyer with a talent for innovation, Alejandro Nájera started his career as an advisor to a financial corporation in Guatemala and was initially appointed to formalise financial structures. Nájera was then transferred to the litigation department and took charge of judicial proceedings regarding the group’s insurance and bonding company, as well as portfolio loans recovery proceedings. He continued his career as a corporate and contract expert in the Spanish global telecommunications company Telefónica, before moving to the Mexican beverage company Coca-Cola FEMSA to work for its Central America operation as legal executive. Nájera currently works as one of Bayer’s legal affairs managers for Central America and the Caribbean and has local and regional responsibilities within the legal department. Having been in the role for just over a year, Nájera has distinguished himself with his impressive contribution to the digitisation within the legal function. As a result of his efforts, digital and automated tools have been implemented in order to mitigate legal risks and gain legal certainty, ultimately allowing for improved workload within the legal team. Some of the most impressive tools implemented have been online Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) legal requirement matrixes for production sites and an automatic notification system to changes in legislation regarding HSE requirements. In addition, Nájera has impressed with his contribution to the company overall by introducing legal economics, elaborating and implementing brand protection and anticompetitive practices and providing legal strategy and operational support to the restructuring of the product distribution model in the region. Nájera says: ‘I am particularly proud of the public acknowledgment within the organisations in which I worked that a legal economics problem-solving method is the most efficient way to resolve legal issues, since efficiency has a direct impact in the business results. Only then can an in-house legal department constitute a strategic partner’.
Marie Claire Palacios leads all legal matters related to Latin American territories at Guatemala-based Americas Media Services, overseeing all operations, subsidiaries and affiliates of the company and reporting directly to the executive director. Palacios has drawn particular notice for leading the in-house legal work while ensuring the best legal support is provided to the business by expertly coordinating external law firms. Her team covers a wide range of sectors which entail corporate law, contracts, intellectual property, sanitary registrations, regulatory matters, compliance and labour law. Prior to assuming her current role, Palacios was general counsel and head of human resources for the Latin American region of Interacel Holdings, a subsidiary of InternetQ for markets in the United States, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Perú, Ecuador, Paraguay, Argentina and Chile. This role saw her take a guiding role in local laws, regulations and permits, contracts and legal and strategic advisory.
Jorge Pérez became the legal director for Major League Baseball (MLB) in March 2016, managing legal affairs for the company across the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Venezuela, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Haiti and several countries in Latin America. Reporting directly to MLB’s chief legal officer in the US, Pérez provides advice across MLB’s baseball operations and international departments; Pérez also serves as liaison to the legal teams of the 30 US Major League Baseball franchises. A highly skilled professional with vast experience across issues unique to baseball and its global nature, Pérez currently contributes to the development of the sport in Latin America, a region that has great potential for rapid development. Pérez previously worked as MLB’s interim head of Latin American Oversight undertaking important changes aimed at improving operations in the region. Prior to joining MLB, Pérez worked as a partner at the Puerto Rican law firm Pietrantoni Mendez & Alvarez, which he joined in 1993 following eight years in several government positions in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Between 1991 and 1992, Pérez served as the Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
Grupo Agrisal is a Salvadoran conglomerate with a primary focus to develop and operate hotels and commercial real estate projects in Central and South America. In El Salvador, Grupo Agrisal represents premium brands in the automotive sector. Currently operating out of El Salvador, the conglomerate’s legal team, led by Nidia Pérez, manages all legal matters pertaining all Salvadorian, Honduran, Nicaraguan, Costa Rican, and Panamanian companies. Most of Pérez’s role consists of giving legal advice, managing outside counsel where needed, and supervising and following up all current cases until their conclusion. Of the biggest changes implemented in the legal function over the past three years, Pérez points out the transformation in the way the business areas of the group perceive the legal department. ‘The department is now viewed as a teammate that can understand the needs of the business areas and help them actively in achieving their goals. I also think that we have changed the outlook the members of the legal department have of themselves. Now they understand more the importance of their role in the company and how our proactive and timely work can help protect the company and promote the achievement of business and strategic goals’, Pérez states. As a result, Pérez and her legal colleagues are often asked to give their input on important strategic issues. Pérez’s team works closely with the business from the very inception of transactions and is expected to share different points of view, and find better, safer, less costly ways to attend matters and prevent possible contingencies. With the regional and business-specific expansion that Grupo Agrisal is currently undertaking, Pérez is under pressure to provide high quality legal advice under restricted resources. She explains: ‘With a limited number of people in the department, the current work load, the restraints in budgets and the increasing regulatory demands, it has been a challenge to improve and design better ways to attend more responsibilities, with improved quality, in the same amount of time and with the same resources’. Prior to joining her current employer in 2013, Pérez held a number of positions both in-house and in the public sector.
Daniel Pérez currently oversees a team of 90 employees in his role as general counsel at BAC Credomatic, the leading Central American financial institution, and coordinates internal and external legal teams across Central America, Mexico, USA and the Caribbean. The team managed by Pérez currently ensures full compliance with laws and regulations across 11 jurisdictions. Since joining his current employer in June 2011, Pérez has introduced integrated management of legal risks by means of establishing guidelines, processes and tools. In addition, he has improved the efficiency of legal services that are outsourced to external law firms and has made an immense contribution to the standardisation and harmonisation of internal legal documentation throughout various jurisdictions. Perhaps one of the most important impacts that Pérez has had is the strengthening of relationships with more than 50 regulators; something that is incredibly important in the financial sector today. Joining the company shortly after its acquisition by Grupo Aval, Pérez managed to integrate the separate legal functions and individual lawyers across the various group companies into one internal regional legal department, which has a uniform culture and a standard approach to management of legal risk. ‘From the very beginning our goal has been to make legal areas act in an uniform fashion and follow global best practices in order to achieve maximum efficiency, and be perceived as a strategic partner by the rest of the business’, Pérez asserts. Over the course of his career, Pérez has grown to be recognised across Central America for his successful participation in various M&A processes, the successful launch of new products and the implementation of innovative structures for long-term funding. Pérez considers winning the confidence of his CEO and senior management, as well as regional integration of the legal team, as the greatest achievements of his professional career. He says: ‘It was not easy to take on the challenge of creating and leading a regional legal function as big, as complex and as significant’. Pérez’s previous experience includes working as a partner at Costa Rican law firm LatamLex Abogados, coordinating litigation and structured finance related work for clients, and teaching banking and private equity law at the University of Costa Rica.
Based in Panama, María Pía Logiovane currently heads the legal and compliance function for the Latin American division of Philips, a leading multinational technology company headquartered in the Netherlands. As head of legal and compliance for Philips’ entire Latin America region she has developed the legal department into a close business partner. By creating a strong network within the region, leading a major corporate separation process of Philips’ businesses and starting a privacy program, Pía Logiovane has cemented the legal team’s position as a key business function. Pía Logiovane joined Philips in August 2003, initially as cluster general legal counsel for Philips Argentina, where she gained a reputation for having strong skills in corporate governance, intellectual property and due diligence. After a six year period, she was appointed general legal counsel, compliance officer and sustainability manager for Philips covering the North Latin American region that comprises Central America, Puerto Rico, Caribbean Islands, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru and Ecuador. After being in that role for a period of almost five years, Pía Logiovane was promoted to her current position in October 2014. Demonstrating her position as an acclaimed legal and operational expert in the region, Pía Logiovane has been involved in industry discussions for the World Services Group on client service, billing preferences and best practices. Her career began in 1999, where she gained experience at telecoms company Movistar for one year followed by one year at Argentine law firm, Martelli Abogados. Immediately prior to joining Philips, Pía Logiovane had a two year spell at management consultancy P&A Consultores between 2001 and 2003; a role that arguably encouraged the commercial approach to law that she still possess today.
Having successfully worked in the public sector, Mariel Picado transitioned into a role at Florida Ice and Farm Company (FIFCO), adapting to the commercial needs of the private sector with relative ease. In 2005, Picado, as manager of legal services, was tasked with the creation of an independent legal department for FIFCO. She quickly showed that the legal skills acquired in the public sector were not only directly transferable, but also allowed her to thrive amidst the commercial challenges she now faced. Under her management, the legal function at FIFCO moved from a model that was excessively reliant on external law firms for all legal service provision, with minor oversight by senior managers, to an in-house model predicated on providing strategic legal advice to senior executives of the company. Similarly, Picado is also responsible for the simplification and efficiency of FIFCO’s legal processes in addition to incorporating “SERVILEX”, a highly innovative system which ensures all legal service transactions are executed with minimum error. Picado’s impressive provision of legal advice has allowed her to step outside of a purely legal role and even be impactful upon FIFCO strategically. In 2015, she became an integral member of FIFCO’s executive committee, and her reporting line changed to see her report directly to the company’s director. Armed with this new dimension, Picado has played an invaluable role in FIFCO’s expansion processes, including the efficacious execution of eight acquisition transactions, which have opened FIFCO up to new markets and product creation. Lastly, Picado is able to temper her demanding work life with a creative side that influences her approach to work: ‘On a personal level, I am a painter and I have had the opportunity to participate in several solo and group exhibitions, both nationally and internationally. I try to incorporate the creativity and sensitivity required in art in the profession, achieving comprehensive development as a person and as a professional’.
Founded by Don Roberto Palomo in 1953, Empresas Adoc is a leading Central American shoe manufacturing group headquartered in El Salvador. It has undergone significant expansion in the region recently. This year alone, the group plans to open seven new outlets to add to a portfolio of 259 stores in the region. This expansion is made by Adoc’s investment program, which allocates funds to projects in manufacturing, technology, logistics, warehouses, and the retail chain. Jose Antonio Polanco has been at the helm of the legal department of the company since 2013 and has contributed immensely to this expansion. Reporting directly to the CEO, president and board, Polanco is responsible for addressing legal matters faced by the 30 companies that make up the group. In addition, Polanco is in charge of corporate governance of the group and holds responsibility for controlling regulatory compliance programs across Central America. Polanco combines his in-house legal role with his lecturing duties at José Matías Delgado University, where he is currently a professor for the Masters in International Business course and teaches International Economic Law. Previously Polanco held positions at the law firm Lexincorp and the Deposit Guarantee Institute.
With operations across Central America, Nicaragua-based Banco de América Central (BAC) is one of the region’s major financial institutions. Legal manager Claudia Prado is recognised for her ‘wide-ranging knowledge of the financial sector and skill at handling regulatory affairs’. In her five years with the bank she has ‘made a number of significant moves to improve the way legal interacts with the business’, and has ‘made an effective legal team that excels in all areas’. She is responsible for appointing and managing external counsel and has moved to create a panel of trusted firms, lowering the bank’s legal expenditure significantly. Prior to this five year tenure at BAC, she stood as corporate counsel for insurance company Grupo Pellas.
As manager of legal and reputational risk at Multibank, Arelí Mojica Quintero is responsible for creating and implementing the regulations in line with legal risk management procedures and policies. Multibank opened its doors to the public in 1990 and is still considered a new bank in Panana, though it has built a reputation for innovative service. Since starting her tenure at Multibank in 2011 Mojica Quintero has been central to its growth and its achievements, and has played a leading role in developing the group’s local and foreign subsidiaries. Prior to joining Multibank, she was head of legal for the Western area of the National Bank of Panama and deputy chief of legal department at BNP Paribas, where she started her career. She also worked at leading Panamanian firm Icaza, González-Ruiz & Alemán.
Ronald Ramírez joined Hewlett-Packard Costa Rica as general counsel in 2008, and from 2012 served as general counsel for Central America and the Caribbean. After the company split into HP and Hewlett Packard Enterprise in 2015 he was appointed as general counsel of Central America and Caribbean at Hewlett Packard Enterprise. Ramírez played a significant part in the division of the company in the region. He comments: ‘I directed the separation of all operations covering thousands of employees and 1,500 manufacturing services in Central America and the Caribbean. This meant the complete restructuring of the company and creation of HP Inc. in the region, negotiating separation of all contracts with customers and suppliers channels’. He has since transformed the legal function at Hewlett Packard Enterprise by deploying a number of advanced tools that can measure the time and efficiency of the legal department while automating low complexity tasks. Additionally, he has also been praised for several cost reduction projects. Ramírez was also instrumental in closing a key business deal that exceeded $30m, which impacted the earnings reports in the region. His role in this matter led his recognition as one of the top six legal talents within the company by group general counsel John Schultz.
Jorge Luis Real has spent the last 16 years working for three top multinational banking institutions across both Panama and the United States, accumulating unrivalled expertise in investment and corporate banking. Following a short spell at Panamanian law firm Mauad & Mauad, Real moved in-house in 2000 and was immediately presented with the challenge of creating the legal department of BBVA in Panama, simultaneously implementing new banking regulations at the same time. Over the next several years, Real developed an efficient legal function and rose to the position of secretary to the board of directors of the bank. Between 2005 and 2014, Real served at BNP Paribas, initially as head of the legal department for the corporate and investment banking division in Panama and Central America and subsequently as vice president for the corporate banking legal department for the entire Latin America region, based out of New York. Impressing peers with his client handling skills and adaptability, Real was hired by the Banco Latinoamericano de Comercio Exterior, S.A. (Bladex), a multinational organisation that finances exports in Latin America, where he currently serves as Senior Vice President for Legal Risk and Secretary to the Board of Directors. Real currently supervises all matters related to legal affairs that concern the bank’s business in the US and Latin America
Mondelēz, the world’s second largest food company, has set an ambitious target to develop a completely sustainable global cocoa supply chain by 2020. A big focus of this Cocoa Life programme has been improving working conditions in Central America, particularly in the Dominican Republic. Juan Pablo Restrepo, chief legal counsel for Mondelēz throughout the region, has played a big part in overseeing these and other corporate and social responsibility initiatives. He has also acted on a number of M&As in the region recently and was credited with helping Mondelez exit Costa Rica earlier this year during its disposal of manufacturing facilities that produced the Gallito confectionary range. More broadly, he has optimised the external counsel service model for Central America, the Caribbean and the Andean countries. He reduced the number of firms that the company uses across these regions from 61 to just a single supplier. ‘This aggressive consolidation is allowing us to create scale, obtain better tariffs, simplify invoicing system and harmonise legal strategy in the entire region’, Restrepo says. He was also recognised in The Legal 500’s Colombia Powerlist earlier this year.
Julio Reyes first encountered Banco de la Produccion (BANPRO) in 2000 when he was hired by the board in charge of liquidating the assets from Banco Intercontinental and assisted its lawyers in recovering collateral. Parts of the assets and liabilities were sold to BANPRO, which did not have a legal department at the time, and Reyes moved with them to join as legal adviser. By 2005 he was named legal coordinator and hired two more lawyers with the aim of providing legal services to other banks in a region where almost 80% of legal requirements were being covered by external law firms. He now has 20 lawyers and six administrative assistants that report into him. Recognised for his dedication to the department and for his grand vision of helping expand the team into a profit centre, in 2009 the board of directors appointed him as legal manager. ‘I had the responsibility to build up a competitive legal department in order to improve response time with clients, decrease high expenses in legal fees and become a source of income for the bank by providing services for internal and external clients’, says Reyes. He has also played a lead role in coordinating a number of complex transactions, including negotiating the acquisitions of local banks such as BANIC, Calley Dagnall and HSBC Nicaragua. In order to reinforce the team, Reyes has launched initiatives to promote and instil cohesion within the workforce. ‘We use balance score-cards to evaluate our staff. We try to maintain fluid communication channels with our co-workers and focus on team work to give the best legal advice possible’. In March 2016, Reyes was appointed as secretary to the board of directors, offering further evidence of the confidence shareholders and senior management have in his performance at the company.
Patricio Reyes is the legal manager at Banco de Reservas, a leading bank in the Dominican financial system and a driving force for social welfare in the country. For the past two years Reyes has taken a guiding role in calculating and advising on the bank’s reserve requirements and acting as senior adviser to the board. He also plays a significant role in overseeing and monitoring its social welfare programmes and other humanitarian initiatives. Known as one of the leading banking counsel in Central America, Reyes has a long and distinguished history of making a telling contribution to the sector. Prior to this role Reyes was an in-house counsel for six years at Banco Leon where he oversaw legal, operations and treasury investments. He began his in-house career at Bancredito as department supervisor, overlooking investment management, commercial paper, certificates of deposits and financial operations.
Gloria Rodriguez was hired by Walmart in 2008 to support its emerging legal department in Guatemala. In her current role at the global retail company, Rodriguez performs legal affairs management for all the subsidiaries that Walmart operates in Guatemala. Under Rodriguez’s wing, the legal team at Walmart moved from being simply a group of attorneys that execute requests for some legal support to the business units, to being a strategic partner of the whole business with clear goals, key performance indicators, operative standards, procedures and guidelines. In addition, Rodriguez has created and implemented tools to automatise some documents that can be easily used by business units without support and has created and implemented a strategy to deal with requirements that may slow down the implementation of certain projects. Rodriguez has created and implemented a bid system to access notary services of the best quality and lowest cost in the country, saving the company money and making sure that they are receiving the best service at the same time. Rodriguez has recently contributed to bridging the gap between the legal team and the commercial side of Walmart in Guatemala, by organising a series of round tables with strategic business partners to train them in a comprehensive way about legal issues on the activities that they perform in their day-to-day operations. Currently, Rodriguez is in the process of introducing a change in the way the company is represented by senior executives to allow for a reduction and minimisation of both company and personal liability risk due to Guatemala’s legal environment. Prior to joining Walmart, Rodriguez was at the leading Guatemalan law firm Carrillo & Asociados, where she provided advice predominantly to the retail sector.
Juan Carlos Rojas is one of the most experienced corporate counsel in Costa Rica and has vast experience in complex transactions such as mergers, acquisitions, commercial contracts, real estate and management of transnational litigation and legal matters. Rojas is recognised for his substantial contribution to all legal, managerial and governance issues at Dole Fresh but is nominated in particular for his work in the field of compliance and his skill at handling the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), UK Bribery Act and antitrust regulations. As the legal and external affairs director and general counsel his roles entails the supervision and oversight of all legal matters for Dole Tropical Products Latin America, Standard Fruit Company Costa Rica and Dole Shared Services. He was previously manager of legal and external relations at Dole Fresh Fruit International where for 16 years he was responsible for delivering the day-to-day legal support to all operations including, banana and pineapple plantations and packing facilities, port facilities, and carton factories.
A telecoms and media lawyer by training, Ivan Rojas joined multinational engineering group 3M in 2010. He was appointed general counsel (GC) for Venezuela in 2012 and became GC of Central America and the Caribbean in 2014. Throughout his time at 3M, Rojas has been praised for empowering different areas of the legal function. As a result, he says, they ‘do not need the GC for every small thing, which leaves [me to focus on] more strategic matters’. Rojas occupies a broad role in which he provides legal support across the region, dealing with everything from compliance to supply chain and manufacturing. During his time at 3M, he has implemented a number of internal processes and takes pride in having built the team from scratch: ‘Mostly my role has been the creation of the legal department in Central America and the Caribbean, and the conformation of a legal organisation supporting the operations in the region, understanding the different operations and its challenges and promoting alignment towards 3M Vision and Strategies. So change is of the essence of my role by bringing into the region the legal and compliance footprint and compromise’. He considers one of his biggest achievements to be the introduction of a legal support system that covers different operations in the Central American region and brings them into full alignment with 3M’s business vision. At the same time, he has also had to find ways to support the on-the-ground realities of operations in the region, where adverse political, economic, and legal circumstances can frequently serve as a barrier to business. He comments: ‘The situation in Venezuela brought into the company many challenges for survival and success. The understanding of the reality on the one hand and the full understanding of the company’s strategies, needs and goals on the other, was key to evolve and to be of help bringing innovative legal solutions, being flexible enough to understand operational ideas passing them through the legal perspectives, and gathering the right and trusted external legal advice was also essential’.
A highly dynamic legal counsel, capable of operating in diverse, multicultural environments, Tony Roldan boasts more than 20 years of experience overseeing legal processes and functions. Known for his abilities to forge cross-border relations, develop complex projects and conduct negotiations, Roldan has worked for two large multinational technology companies over the last 15 years of his career. Between 2001 and 2006, he served as director and vice president for legal and public affairs at imaging technology company Eastman Kodak. Since 2006, Roldan has been the executive director of Dell’s legal department in Latin America. Based in Panama, Roldan oversees a large legal team spread across several countries that is responsible for developing legal and contract solutions according to Dell’s specific business requirements. Overseeing a legal function that has such international dimensions requires Roland to demonstrate an ability to communicate through cultures and all levels of an organisation and society.
Over the course of his legal career of more than 13 years, Alejandro Royo has demonstrated a formidable knowledge and expertise in handling local and international legal matters across Latin America. Described by his colleagues as a ‘versatile professional’ and a leader focused on finding effective solutions to problems, Royo has been a vital asset to the Mexican information technology company KIO Networks over the past two years. Based in Panama, Royo is responsible for overseeing and developing the legal department of KIO’s international division, which incorporates Panama, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, US and Spain. Reporting to the company general counsel based in Mexico City, Royo is a key figure in supporting KIO’s efforts to expand into new markets. A lawyer with exceptional communication skills, Royo is praised for his ability to negotiate with government authorities, customers and suppliers across numerous jurisdictions, as well as for his ambition to transform KIO’s legal function into a true partner to the business. In addition, Royo has gained recognition for his organisational skills that could be seen in his work to harmonise legal documents and risk processes across multiple jurisdictions. Prior to joining KIO in October 2014, Royo spent three years at the international packaging company Tetra Pak, where he held responsibility within the legal function for the Central American and Caribbean regions and led the implementation of strategic projects within the whole Latin American region. Prior to that, Royo spent eight years at Cable & Wireless Panama in various positions; initially he started out as legal counsel for regulatory affairs, but was quickly promoted to manager of regulation and competition affairs and subsequently to vice president for interconnection and international projects.
Manuel Salas joined Cuestamoras in 2014 as corporate legal manager. Just two years later he was promoted to corporate legal director and general counsel. In his new position, Salas leads legal affairs across Cuestamoras’ four industries – health, urban development, hospitality and energy – and has built a specialised legal function capable of responding to the needs of each of the group’s businesses. The general counsel of each business unit reports to Manuel directly on the day-to-day legal risks and relevant matters facing them, while Salas himself defines and leads group-level strategy. One of Salas’ main contributions during his time with Cuestamoras has been to re-define the legal area as a key strategic partner of each business. He comments: ‘It was necessary to define the strategy and necessary resource for the development of legal service throughout the [different sectors we operate in]. The team had to learn and master the technical aspects of each business, its implications and long-term strategy’. He has also lead a series of divestitures and investments in the last 12 months, helping to address legal challenges in multiple jurisdictions. In one particularly complex transaction managed the acquisition and integration of a group containing seven companies located in two different jurisdictions. Salas worked with the private investment international bank and the private investment local advisor as well as the legal counsel of each shareholder group while helping to successfully execute the transaction.
Jocelyne Sanchez, head of legal at Banco Popularo Dominicano, has acquired expertise in civil law, labour, commercial, banking and foreign investment and moulded herself into a distinguished in-house lawyer. At Banco Popular Sanchez addresses the legal and compliance matters and oversees the bank’s ethical conduct strategy. She is known as an ‘extremely skilled lawyer who excels at building relationships and handling negotiations’. She was previously vice president of legal at Banco Leon, where she served for 13 years and led legal matters in Santo Domingo and Santiago. Before moving in-house, Sanchez had a three year spell at law firm Messina & Messina where she gave legal advice to domestic and foreign companies in a number of fields.
Banco Davivienda is a Colombian bank, founded in 1972, that provides a range of services to individuals and companies across Panama, Miami, Honduras, Costa Rica and El Salvador. The bank has a significant presence in El Salvador, which expanded with the acquisition of HSBC El Salvador in 2012. The legal director and corporate governance head of the bank in El Salvador, José Ricardo Sánchez is among the brightest lawyers in the country. Having worked for the bank for 29 years, Sánchez has impressed with his aptitude to manage personnel, work under pressure and provide direction to the function across all branches of banking law. Sánchez boasts vast expertise in everything related to banking and M&A work and has participated in five significant acquisition processes with local and foreign banks. In addition, Sánchez has substantial experience of revolutionising work in the transfer of securities, financial correspondence and financial compensation.
At the heart of legal operations of the world famous Panama Canal, Eduardo Alberto Segura is a distinguished expert in maritime law. Given his 18 year experience of maritime law, the Panama Maritime Authority has benefitted from an unrivalled depth of expertise in dealing with cargo and shipments worth millions of dollars on a daily basis. In addition to assisting the body’s important market strategies to expand its operations, he is set to play a leading role in the almost certain litigation that will arise from the Hanjin Shipping incident, where one ship is already under arrest. Segura’s first legal role (1998-2004)was at Carreira Pitti P.C. Attorneys where he managed claims before the Panama Maritime Courts. Earning respect and recognition for his work there, he was hired by Segura & Asociados as a partner to work on maritime claims. Having enjoyed seven and a half years at the law firm, his desire to learn and teach saw him join the Universidad Católica Santa María La Antigua as a professor between 2012 and 2014. During this period at the university, where he had a particular focus on the carriage of goods by sea and maritime procedure before Panamanian Maritime Courts, Segura was also a partner at De La Rosa & Segura. The law firm benefitted from his extensive experience of handling arrest of vessels claims before the Panama Canal Authority until 2014, when Segura took his current position of general counsel to the Panama Maritime Authority. In 2016 he made a special presentation focusing on legal issues surrounding Panama at the International Association of Ports and Harbours.
Virginia Servent has established her name as a leading anti-piracy lawyer in the field and boasts a wealth of experience of intellectual property and related work across the Latin America region. She joined Fox in 2014 as part of the media company’s fight against piracy and illegal cable connections in the region. The antipiracy department was set up in Latin America in 2013 with Fox’s chief officer of anti-piracy Daniel Steinmetz as the sole counsel. Servent was brought in a year later to head the antipiracy department for Mexico, Central America and Dominican Republic from the Guatemala offices. Speaking on her most recent work, Servent says: ‘We were the very first antipiracy department in the pay TV industry for the Latin American region, thus the biggest change was the creation of the function itself. Even though I am still working on it, we have achieved an approach to one of the biggest illegal cable operators in the region, we are working on a final settlement to finally have them as our affiliate’. Initially responsible for implementing action plans defined by the regional anti-piracy group, she has since evolved into a more strategically engaged role which sees her identifying preventive strategies in a number of core markets. Her wider duties include devising and running training programmes, working with and managing pay TV operators, monitoring infringement risk and auditing affiliates. She has been a member of the Inter-American Association of Intellectual Property (ASIPI) since 2002 and a member of the International Trademark Association (INTA) since 2001.
Praised by for his expertise in corporate law and arbitration, as well as his skills in generating business strategies, leading teams and managing conflicts, Manuel Roberto Sisniega García has been an important asset for the international telecommunications and media brand Tigo in Guatemala. Tigo is the primary brand name of Millicom, offering a range of digital services to over 60 million people in 14 markets. Having served as head of the legal department in Guatemala since 2012, Sisniega has contributed to standardisation of processes within the legal function and has received praise for his knowledge of market and business practices. Prior to joining Tigo, Sisniega accumulated substantial experience in private practice, spending 11 years at Guatemalan firm Cuestas PPQ and two years at Arenales & Skinner-Klee-Guatemala.
Erick Spears leads the legal function at Honduran free-trade promotion body Cámara de Comercio e Industrias de Cortés (CCIC). He has extensive knowledge of administrative law, labour law, civil and family law, commercial law and tax and is an expert in handling state contracts and monitoring and evaluating civil infrastructure projects. Between the years of 2006-2009 he was the legal adviser and secretary of state in the Ministry of Public Works and since last year has been director of the centre of Conciliation and Arbitration Chamber of Commerce and Industries in the region of San Pedro Sula, Cortés. Spears has also had substantial contribution to the education sector in the region by mentoring aspiring lawyers. He has been a lecturer at the Central American Technological University for seven years, teaching master’s subjects such as civil procedural law, civil procedure, practice civil procedure, judicial simulations, consumer law and investment promotion and negotiation. His reputation as a leading lawyer led to his appointment as Ministerial Advisor for National Assets to the Secretary of State in the Honduran Ministry of Finance. This role saw him working on national heritage, direct processes of national assets sales, payment in kind, lease-to-own by public auction process and other legal mechanisms.
Victor Trujillo is described by one source as producing ‘excellent work, having a deep knowledge of intellectual property and being a joy to work with’. After 11 years in his first role with Emerson Electric, Trujillo was promoted to his current position of associate general counsel for Mexico and Central America in 2014, serving as the primary legal advisor to all Emerson businesses in the region. In the role he has already demonstrated expert negotiation skills involving a wide variety of commercial contracts, including distribution and agency agreements, supply contracts, and general commercial terms and conditions. Throughout his career, Trujillo has built a reputation for providing ‘extremely skilled assistance on highly sensitive matters’. He began his career in 1990, spending four years as an associate at law firm Goodrich Riquelme & Asociados and then five years as a partner at Bryan Gonzalez Vargas & Gonzalez Baz. Trujillo then moved in-house in 1999, taking up a Latin America counsel position at J.D. Edwards (now Oracle). He left shortly after J.D. Edwards was bought out by PeopleSoft in 2003, joining his current employers Emerson Electric, a Fortune 500 company that manufactures products and provides engineering services in a range of markets.
Digicel is a mobile phone network provider that does business in over 33 markets and serves 14 million customers across the Caribbean, Central America and Asia Pacific. An expert with solid analytical, communication and public speaking skills, Annelise Valdes has led the legal and regulatory functions at the company since January 2013. In that time she has been at the heart of many M&A transactions across Panama and the Caribbean, helping the company to continue its expansion in the region. Over the past few years, Valdes has also implemented and overseen significant telecommunication governance programs for her employer. Described as a detail-oriented and result-driven lawyer, Valdes has accumulated over 15 years of experience in the telecommunications sector. Before joining Digicel, she served as vice president for Cable & Wireless in Panama for nearly six years. Between 2002 and 2007, she served as a director for legal and regulation at Telecarrier.
Based in Escazú, Costa Rica, Susana Vásquez is currently responsible for all legal advice, corporate affairs, compliance and both external and internal communications for the Central American region of Stein Corp, a pharmaceutical company with a presence in Central and South America. During her tenure at the company, Vásquez has overseen the development of Stein Corp’s corporate compliance policy, which includes development and implementation of policies, standards, procedures for regulating ethical business conduct and training to all staff in the region. Vásquez has gained recognition in the in-house legal community of Costa Rica, with her work to define and implement key standards and policies on corporate compliance, as well as the unification and optimisation of operational structures of the business in different countries across the region. In addition, Vásquez has contributed to the strategic direction of her company by participating in the negotiation of alliances with multinational companies. In order to deal with challenges relating to changing regulation on drug prices and structural alterations in the relevant health authorities, Vásquez has developed key strategies for advocacy on policy initiatives and created a method of focussing on the success of the company’s niche but high-value units. During this period of change Vásquez believes that building and maintaining strong communication channels with the health authorities and key regulatory bodies has been essential.
A worldwide consumer products company that specialises in the production, distribution and provision of a wide range of household, health care and personal products, Colgate-Palmolive serves people in over 200 countries around the world. As Latin America represents a strategically important region for the company, making up approximately a quarter of its revenue, the legal team in the Central American region is at the focal point of Colgate-Palmolive’s commercial strategy. The legal function responsible for support of Central America and the Dominican Republic is headed by Alfonso Videche, a professional known for his expertise in competition law, international taxation and trade law. Having spent over eight years in the role, Videche has received praise for his strong track record of supporting M&A transactions with wide reaching dimensions for the company in the region. Between 2003 and 2008, Videche served as in-house legal counsel for the Caribbean and Central America portion of British and American Tobacco. Prior to that, he worked at the law firm Zürcher, Odio & Raven, between 2000 and 2003.
As vice president of the legal department and corporate secretary of Banistmo, the largest bank in Panama and Central America, Maria Christina Vila de Van Hoorde oversees a highly-rated team of lawyers that provides full legal support to the bank’s operation in Panama, reviewing and negotiating all contracts of suppliers within the bank. Over the past three years in the role, Vila has impressed with her leadership skills and her ability to drive business strategy for her employer, bridging the gap between the legal department and commercial functions. Before joining Banistmo in 2013, Villa spent nearly 10 years working at Citibank Panama, where she most recently served as a legal head of all Citi operations in the country. During this period, Vila gained recognition for overseeing legal aspects of key transactions, as well as providing legal and compliance support to the integration process of two banking entities in Panama, namely Citibank N.A. Panama branch and Banco Citibank (Panama). This included the mergers of two banking entities, of two brokerage houses and of four banking subsidiaries, as well as the dissolution of over 54 special purpose vehicles. Previous roles in Vila’s career include a managerial position within the trust department of Banco General (then known as Banco Continental de Panama), a legal role with the Superintendence of Banks of Panama and a private practice role at law firm Sucre, Arias & Reyes in Panama.
Carlos Villalobos is leading figure at the Latin American real estate company Grupo Roble, and is in charge of a variety of matters across several categories such as real estate, M&A, commercial and litigation. Since joining the company, Villalobos has made a vital influence on the business by reducing the amount of outsourced legal work, directly impacting the legal budget and expenditure of the company. In addition, Villalobos has established a new mechanism to follow up on all court cases attended by in-house counsel or external lawyers, and has also modified key standard agreements that are of importance to the business. In particular, Villalobos has impressed peers with his negotiating skills, with one source praising his ability to gain an approval with the owners of one of Grupo Roble’s shopping centres in order to conduct important remodelling of certain areas of the centre. Villalobos has also been praised for changing the customary approach of the local executive committee on how to handle and communicate important operational aspects of the company shopping centres and office developments.
CEFA is a Costa Rican distributor of pharmaceutical and healthcare products, including drugs and nutritional products, as well as food and photocopy machines. Jose David Zuniga has been in charge of legal, compliance, regulatory affairs and asset protection at the company for just over a year, and instantly established himself as a sound decision-maker that is capable of motivating others. Zuniga has been praised for the generation of open and clear communication lines between legal and the ‘front office functions’. Zuniga previously served as head of legal, patents and compliance at Bayer in Costa Rica, and was tasked with protecting the assets and reputation of Bayer in the region. Over his two-year tenure at Bayer, Zuniga was able to develop and implement a strategic plan focusing on value added services and build up the legal team to address the needs of the business across divisions located in various countries. In addition, he was praised for challenging the status quo on the compliance approach used within Bayer, introducing new innovations and regular and effective communication. Prior to Bayer, Zuniga was employed at Walmart for seven years, initially as a legal manager in Costa Rica, then as associate general counsel in Central America and subsequently as vice president and general counsel for both Central America and Mexico providing legal support to 655 retail units and leading a team of 21 in-house lawyers across the region. At the onset of his career, Zuniga spent over 10 years at Costa Rican law firm Despacho Juridico Oreamuno & Asociados.
As head of legal at El Salvador based Banco Industrial since 2013, Orlando Zuniga provides legal counsel on issues related to commercial, civil and banking law, whilst also monitoring regulatory and supervisory issues affecting the institution. A lawyer with extensive knowledge of regulations in the banking sector, and a deep understanding of a diverse range of financial products, Zuniga is a first point of contact for the board of directors and assistance committees regarding legal issues related to local and regional banking, structuring of traditional and complex products and securities. Previously, Zuniga served as a legal manager at Banco De Desarrollo De El Salvador for three-and-a-half years, where he made an invaluable contribution to the department’s work to structure management trusts and guarantees, whilst developing the administrative law function of the bank. Prior to that, Zuniga served as senior legislation coordinator of business credits at Citibank for over a decade. Zuniga started his legal career as a registration coordinator at Banco Hipotecario in San Salvador.
Hernán Pacheco O. LL.M, Senior Partner
It is indeed a great honour for all of us at Pacheco Coto to contribute with The Legal 500 and sponsor the GC Powerlist series, particularly considering that this is the first time the event focuses on Central America.
Since its foundation in 1939 in San José, Costa Rica, Pacheco Coto has witnessed the evolution of the Central American countries to more stable and open economies, better integrated markets, improved conditions for business, investment and trade and a better legal landscape. However, the region still has challenges to overcome. Harmonisation of rules, modernisation of legal systems, simplification of red tape, reinforcement of institutionality and of the rule of law, are amongst those mentioned more frequently by practitioners and investors.
From a GDP of around US$2bn and a population of around 12 million inhabitants in 1960, to a GDP of US$173.6bn and a population of 41.4 million inhabitants in 20151, from an agriculture based economy to a diversified business community, driven by added value services and more sophisticated manufacturing; from close and over-protective economies, to open and friendly economies, aggressively integrated in the global markets, the Central American region has become an attractive pole for foreign investment and expansion of intra-regional trade and investment. According to the Central American Monetary Council, foreign direct investment in Central America, between 2011 and 2014 amounted to US$22.9bn.
The legal market has not been the exception; it has become more competitive, more sophisticated and yet, more demanding. The emergence of regional law firms responds to both market and client needs. It is pretty common for companies to visualise the region as a single market and not asfive individual economies. While Pacheco Coto’s first international expansion was out of Central America, to Zurich back in 1972, since 2013 our firm has had a solid presence in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, with a team of outstanding and committed attorneys, up to par with the high standards set by multinational business. Pacheco Coto has an organisational structure that ensures the preservation of fundamental pillars of the firm’s philosophy throughout the region, such as quality, integrity, expertise,innovation, responsiveness, compromise and professional ethics.
To the expansion of economic activity and the emergence of new businesses Pacheco Coto has responded with innovation and creativity, opening practices in less traditional areas for full-service firms, but of tremendous value for our clients, such as environmental law, international trade and customs, aviation and shipping, antitrust and, in addition, we have also expanded our international asset planning and foreign investments practice groups further by setting up operations in Madrid, New Zealand and Hong Kong. These practice groups reinforce the traditionally recognised expertise of the firm in corporate and M&A, real estate and hospitality, banking and finance, administrative law and government procurement, energy and telecommunications, litigation and arbitration, intellectual property and tax.
Until a couple of decades ago, it was not common to have in-house counsel in companies conducting business in Central America. Those who held such positions were usually affiliates of US companies with a presence in the region. However, this has changed over time and in today’s reality, the role and duties of in-house counsel has become a very important part of the legal strategy, given the dynamics of the legal landscape and the demands of the global economy.
In fact, the scope of duties of in-house counsel have evolved beyond strict legal matters and often involves the assessment of business risks, corporate relations, governmental relations and requires familiarity with various areas of the law. They often play strategic roles vis-a-vis their boards, their CEOs and other senior executives. It has also become more common for companies to decide that core business legal work be handled internally, which sometimes results in companies having essentially a law firm within.
This evolution poses challenges to the role of outside counsel. It forces those of us on this side of the aisle to understand better the overall business of our corporate clients and, therefore, establish closer and stronger ties with in-house counsel. We shall become an ally and a valuable addition to our in-house colleagues and to the company, recognise our boundaries and be sensible to matters such as cost of services, different billing arrangements, availability, responsiveness, confidentiality policies, involvement in our client’s affairs, knowledge, constant interaction, good communication and team work.
At Pacheco Coto we strive to keep close and respectful relationships with our in-house counsel colleagues, and value the trust that they and their companies put on us to handle their legal matters.
I want to close by congratulating all of the marvellous professionals recognised by The Legal 500 GC Powerlist on this occasion, and commend The Legal 500 for this initiative.
GC Powerlist is a trading name of The Legal 500 Series and Legalease Ltd, and operates in multiple legal jurisdictions worldwide.