GC Powerlist Colombia
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For 30 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: Colombia, 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 Colombia, 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: Colombia 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: Colombia, or wish to nominate other in-house individuals (either in Colombia 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: Colombia
(listed in alphabetical order; click on an individual to view an expanded biography)
Vice president of corporate affairs
Sonia Margarita Abuchar Aleman
Chief legal officer
Alejandro Acosta Hernández
Legal and compliance manager
Natalia Alarcón Bernal
Head of CIB legal Colombia and corporate secretary
BNP Paribas Colombia
Legal director - capital markets and corporate finance
Helena Alvarez Uribe
Alejandro Amelines Guerrero
General counsel and secretary of the board
Carbones San Fernando (San Fernando Coal Mines)
Director - legal representation
Legal and compliance manager
Legal and compliance manager
Germán Bacca Medina
General counsel Central America and Andean region
Juan Pablo Barrera
Vice president legal and chief legal officer
Vice president legal and corporate affairs
Carlos Cesar Barrero Vicuña
Head of legal and compliance - general secretary
Fernán Ignacio Bejarano Arias
Vice president legal
Eduardo Bettín Vallejo
Vice president of legal and institutional affairs
Corporate vice president legal
Legal director and general secretary
Head of legal and compliance - Andean zone
Legal vice president and compliance officer
Andrea Eugenia Camargo Niño
Legal director - financial issues
Centrales Eléctricas del Cauca (CEDELCA)
Ulises Canosa Suárez
Executive and legal affairs vice president and general secretary
Christian Castro Agudelo
Legal manager and compliance officer
Juan Camilo Castro Salcedo
Legal director - Latin America North Region
DIRECTV Latin America
Vice-president legal, ethics and compliance
Juan Felipe Cruz Ulloa
Senior legal manager and board attorney - Latin America North
Johnson & Johnson - Consumer Division
Juan Manuel Cuéllar Cabrera
Legal manager - Colombia
Victor Enrique Cuéllar Olarte
Legal and public affairs director
American Tower Corporation (ATC) Colombia
Diana C. Daza Vallejos
Senior legal counsel (director legal)
María Fernanda De Salvador
Emerald Energy Colombia
Luis Fernando Diaz
Regional general counsel (Latin America and Caribbean)
Jorge Alberto Diaz Gomez
Virgilio Diaz Mendoza
Regional general counsel
José Joaquín Díaz Perilla
Chief legal officer
Banco de Bogotá
Sharon Diazgranados Peluffo
Corporación Financiera Colombiana (Corficolombiana)
Legal director (Latin America)
Jaime Ignacio Escobar Muñoz
Legal transactions counsel – Latin America
Senior counsel Andean Cluster
Coltabaco (Philip Morris International)
Carolina Forero Isaza
Legal manager Latin America North (Colombia, Peru and Ecuador)
Hector A. Garcia Corredor
Head of legal, data privacy and compliance - Andean region
General counsel – legal director
Nestlé de Colombia
María José Gnecco
Víctor Andrés Gómez Henao
Legal process manager
Jairo González Gómez
Vice president, general counsel and legal assistance manager
Legal manager (Andean region), ethics and compliance officer (Latin America)
Legal counsel Andean Region, Mexico, Central America and Caribbean
Joaquín Idoyaga Larrañaga
Regional vice president legal and compliance
SURA Asset Management
Andres Jaramillo Caballero
Senior associate general counsel - Ingersoll Rand Latin America
Trane de Colombia
Head of legal (Compliance International Operations) and general counsel (Australia, Colombia and Peru)
General Motors Financial (GMF)
Vice president legal affairs
South America global legal affairs director
HP Inc. Colombia
Felipe Marquez Robledo
Vice president corporate affairs and country manager Colombia
Mauricio Martínez Henao
Chief legal officer
C.I. HERMECO (OFFCORSS)
Juan Camilo Medina Moreno
Legal coordinator and compliance officer
Hernán Mejía Alvarez
Legal and corporate affairs vice president
Jorge M. Meneses
Assistant general counsel - Latin America and Caribbean
Sandra Monroy Suarez
Legal and compliance director Northern and Andean Clusters, Latin America
Chief legal officer
Juan Pablo Mora Valderrama
Legal and integrity manager - Colombia and Ecuador
Fabian Moreno Barbosa
Assistant general counsel (Colombia, Peru and Venezuela) and CRB co-lead (Latin America)
Willis Towers Watson
Senior counsel Andes Region - International Legal Operations
Juan Pablo Ovalle
Country counsel Colombia and Latin Caribbean Region (LCR)
IBM de Colombia
Ingrid Pahl Maya
General manager, legal vice president and corporate secretary
Itaú BBA Colombia
Client contracts manager
Daniel Perea Villa
Vice president corporate and legal affairs
Andrés Perez Velasco
Head of legal affairs
Diana Patricia Ramírez Castro
Compliance officer and senior counsel - Latin America
Juan Pablo Restrepo
Chief counsel (Andean, Pacific and Central American countries)
Jesús Esteban Revelo Barragán
Technical link - Territorial Strategy of Hydrocarbons
Superintendence of Industry and Commerce
Jorge Adrián Rincón Plata
Chief legal counsel
Juan Carlos Rivera
Director - legal business management
Catalina Robledo Ramirez
Legal manager - general counsel
Distribuidora Nissan (Grupo Vardí)
Vice president, legal and secretary general
Carlos Andrés Rodríguez Schrader
Associate corporate counsel, Latin America
José Andrés Rojas
Corporate affairs director, general secretary and vice president legal and corporate affairs
Ximena Rojas Murcia
Maria Jose Romero Higuera
Occidental de Colombia (OXY)
Miguel E. Ronderos
Corporate legal counsel
Eduardo Rosado Fernández de Castro
Corporate affairs vice president and general counsel
Mauricio Rosillo Rojas
Corporate legal vice-president and general counsel
Luis Fernando Rueda Latiff
Attorney at law, specialist in commercial law
Manuelita Azucar Y Energía
Silvia J. Rueda-Serrano
Head of legal and compliance
Bimbo De Colombia
Nicolás Ruiz Moreno
Legal and corporate affairs director Latin America
Falck (Grupo EMI)
General counsel and company secretary
Adriana Sinisterra Plana
Vice president business and legal affairs
Fox Networks Group Latin America
Humberto Suárez Gómez
Nicolas Torres Alvarez
Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism
Alirio Uribe García
Director legal and compliance - LAO
General secretary, legal, public affairs and CSR director
Mauricio Valenzuela Gruesso
Paola Andrea Valero Carrero
Legal director (South America)
Director of legal and corporate
Oleoducto de los Llanos Orientales and Oleoducto Bicentenario de Colombia
Laura Vejarano Revollo
Vice president legal and corporate affairs and general counsel
Fernando Victoria Peña
Legal and compliance director, Andean Region
Manuela Villa Gonzalez
North Latin America legal counsel
Rafael Olivella Vives
Vice president legal and institutional affairs
Camilo Abello has been the vice president of corporate aff airs at Grupo Argos, an industry leading multinational coal mining company in Colombia since 2012. He is a lawyer from the Pontifi cia Universidad Javeriana, with a specialist degree in commercial law from the Universidad de los Andes, and a Master’s degree in international business at the Universidad del Norte. He also attended Tulane University’s ESL program and Harvard, Stanford and IESE (School of business of the University of Navarre). In 1992 he joined Cementos Argos as an intern, then went on to serve as a lawyer in the legal department, subsequently working his way up to the position of international legal director. While there, he led the team on diff erent projects, such as the acquisition of CINA in Haiti in 1997, the sale of a coal mine in La Jagua in Colombia in 2005, the acquisition of Concrete Express and Southern Star in the US in 2005, acquiring a port in Houston and GTPNET in the US in 2006 and the acquisition of Vensur in Suriname in 2008 among others. Until June 2012, he served as vice president of corporate aff airs of Cementos Argos, where he had overall responsibility over the legal, communications and audit functions among others. Abello is a credit to the Colombian legal market, showing how providing truly business-orientated legal support can lead to gaining more responsibility in a multinational company.
ISA operates across Latin America as a long-term strategic investor in linear infrastructure systems. Not only a major contributor to Colombia’s infrastructure, the company is one of the country largest. Serving as the organisation’s chief legal officer, Sonia Margarita Abuchar Aleman occupies a prominent position in Colombia’s in-house market. Furthermore, with over 20 years of experience of working in the energy sector, she is held in high esteem by both colleagues and peers alike. Having joined ISA in 2000 to advise the wholesale energy market management division, Abuchar has an almost unparalleled knowledge of the industry and ISA itself and is fully aligned and contributes heavily towards the company’s business and growth strategy. Prior to ISA, she worked at Generadora de Energia Electrica URRA.
Alejandra Acosta Hernandez has over 10 years’ experience of working in-house including at multinationals such as Schneider Electric, Millicom, Codere and, since 2016, Praxair Colombia. He is an expert in large M&A transactions, compliance, litigation and IP issues having worked for large companies in different sectors from power and energy, entertainment, telecommunications and technology to chemicals and the energy industries. Acosta has strong communication and negotiation skills which help him lead a team to support and provide guidance to executives and managers at all levels on all legal, corporate, commercial, regulatory, government affairs, compliance and strategic management matters relating to the operations in Colombia. Specifically, he provides strategic legal advice with regard to corporate, commercial, logistics and transportation, dealer operations, labour and employment, health care, litigation, contracts and general compliance matters. He is also a member of Praxair’s board of directors for the three companies in Colombia, compliance officer, executive representative in the Industrial Gases Chamber at the National Business Association (ANDI) and Praxair’s general attorney and legal representative. Asked about his most important recent success, Acosta replied that, he ‘has participated in a couple of prominent M&A transactions in Colombia. Firstly, the merger between Tigo and Une, two of the leading telecommunications companies in Colombia, and secondly the merger between Schneider Electric, Alstom Power and Areva T&D, and its implementation in Colombia as the largest power companies worldwide. Currently, I am participating in and leading the merger of Praxair and Linde in Colombia, the largest merger in the industrial gas sector both worldwide and in Colombia’. His work at Praxair demonstrates his outstanding leadership and negotiation skills making him at the forefront of general counsel in the sector.
Since returning to Colombia in 2012 after a fourteen month spell working for the Singapore International Arbitration Centre, Natalia Alarcon Bernal has excelled in the financial sector. Now at French leading multinational bank BNP Paribas, she is currently corporate secretary and head of legal for all of BNP’s CIB (Corporate and Institutional Banking) entities in Colombia. Despite only being in the role, and company for that matter, since October 2017, Alarcon has already added value by building the legal area from the ground up: ‘I have built an area with the focus on managing the legal risk while supporting the business on their day to day transactions’, she states. She also says that assuming the managerial role at BNP Paribas Colombia has also given her ‘the opportunity to break down gender and age related stereotypes, making me feel proud and empowered in one of the most important financial institutions’. Prior to BNP, Alarcon spent three and a half years in the CIB and Treasury area of BBVA Colombia where she led on the legal aspects of the company’s international bond issuance for US$400m. She highlights that the experience there, ‘exposed [her] to the inner workings of a large bank, taught that an open doors approach is the best way to lead a legal department and the importance of knowing the business to be able to provide suitable legal advice’. Alarcon had also impressed employers prior to BBVA when she spent two years in the International and Treasury Division at Banco de Bogota between 2012 and 2014.
Since moving in-house to join the prominent financial services company Grupo Bancolombia in 2010 as a senior associate in their investment banking division, Carlos Aldana has progressed quickly in Colombia’s banking industry. He gained a promotion to legal head of Valores Bancolombia in 2013 before becoming the legal head of structuring, sales and trading of securities in 2015. Today, in the capacity of legal director for capital markets and corporate finance, he excels in providing legal advice on major company transactions as evidenced in May 2018 when the legal team he led were gained an industry award in the US for “Deal of the Year” in the debt and equity category. He says his career path at the company has allowed him ‘to grow within the organisation, and acquire with each step new responsibilities for different legal issues within the corporation and its subsidiaries’. Aldana highlights a number of career highlights whilst working for Grupo Bancolombia such as working on notes issuances has allowed him to gain an understanding of the capital market structures within Colombia, the US and Central America. To this end he was heavily involved on the issuance of the Group’s first Basel III-compliant notes in 2017, which guaranteed the Bank’s position within the new Basel capital requirement and saw Aldana help solve the difficulties of interaction between two highly complex capital market regulations. In the previous year, Aldana was commended for his contribution towards the issuance of Bancolombia’s green bonds, the first sustainable finance bond released by a Colombian private company. He also stands out for his work on structured finance deals that have contributed a substantial amount of the resources needed to develop Colombia’s infrastructure such as the financing of the 4G program, the project that has guaranteed Colombia a new generation of roads and highways by way of project finance, and private investment. In addition, the aforementioned award his team won was the alliance between the Fondo Inmobiliario de Colombia and Almacenes Exito, the biggest chain of supermarkets in an alliance that consolidated one of the biggest private equity funds in Colombia, focused exclusively on property development, and real estate investments. Aldana also has strong credentials in the area of M&As. Regarding this in particular, he has the following to say: ‘These experiences have taught me the importance of looking beyond the legal conditions for closing a deal, but have made me consider the strategic and broader impacts of the decisions we take on the negotiating table. It has taught me the meaning of belonging to an international organisation and made me think bigger and beyond my role as in-house lawyer, but as a key player in my organisation’. Finally Aldana is also commended for integrating legal teams that worked on a variety of topics to make them a truly interdisciplinary unit, which is able to adequately inform and advise the wider organisation on its legal strategy as well as launch of Investbot, the robo-advisor by Bancolombia, the first of its kind. Demonstrating how this positively impacts the company and its customers, he says it is a ‘tool that has refocused the strategy of the brokerage firm, and has given new opportunities of investment to clients of all ages and incomes, and thus all risk profiles’.
DaVita is an established healthcare multinational that recently established a presence in Colombia. Its youth and incredible growth potential allows its senior leaders to innovate and create new strategies and new ways to do things inside and outside the company. Helena Alvarez Uribe is legal director, and through her rise to this position has proven herself to senior colleagues. She held her first senior legal position in the company when she was 32 years old, and epitomises the youthfulness and fresh approach DaVita is about. DaVita, being a relatively new company in Colombia, has needed to develop its legal function, something at which Alvarez excelled. She described it as an ‘amazing challenge, because it allows you to implement improved versions of the processes and procedures. Innovation, adaptability and consistency are fundamental skills you need to develop to strategically support the operation of a new company, while focusing on giving the accurate legal advice that a new company needs to ensure its development and success’. At DaVita Alvarez has been focused on creating new technological tools that allow her team to optimise time and effectiveness for internal stakeholders, such as through contract templates, interactive tools for specific legal documents request and standardised processes. This gives the team more time to think in a strategic legal way rather than in operative tasks. Alvarez thinks of her department as a globalised legal support area, giving an added value for the international legal team. She has implemented a new strategic approach to the business because as she says, ‘the corporate world obliges us to think much more as risk managers, but also, as finance allies, with strong negotiation skills, flexibility and accurate legal forecasting abilities without losing the scope of legal and compliance dispositions that may apply in each case’. Highlightsof her successes include leading arbitration processes with the company’s former joint venture partners, the upcoming conclusion of this will be a big break for the company in Colombia and the acquisition of two renal care clinics in Colombia in the last six months. Finally, she is proud of her team for giving impeccable advice despite the complexity of healthcare service regulations.These successes highlight Alvarez’s leadership and teambuilding skills which she highlights as, ‘a basic tool for all leaders. The continuous development in professional, academic and personal perspectives, [benefits] not only legal managers but managers of any area inside the companies. Specifically for legal teams, the construction of a good work team gives you the chance to work on a multidisciplinary perspective and give stronger legal advice’.
After just one year of impressing colleagues in his previous role as senior in-house lawyer at utilities company Vatia, Alejandro Amelines Guerrero was recommended for the position of general counsel and secretary of the board at Carbones San Fernando (San Fernando Coal Mines) a company that supplies both international and domestic markets with thermal coal. A key feature of his work that stands out is his attitude towards taking on challenges – he identified the following facet of his role as a career highlight: ‘Now that I’m in the mining sector, working in a company with more than 500 employees, the labour law challenges are common so dealing with labour unions representatives, public authorities, unpredictable accidents are part of the daily activities on the job’. Amelines also adds that ‘the most important achievement as a general counsel and secretary of the board of the company has been directly representing Carbones San Fernando in complex disputes and litigations, not only because of the financial risk they represent for the organisation but the fact fortunately we’ve succeeded in all of them, protecting the interests of the shareholders and all the employees’. To date, he has directly intervened in liability disputes which ascend to more than $30m. His success can also be attributed to how he has approached risk management by implementing standardised risk assessment procedures. Summing up his philosophy in this regard, Amelines says, ‘one important task for us general counsels is to correctly assess the potential risks at any level (legal financial, reputational) to the organisation in order to take proper actions if they eventually occur but more important to prevent [them occurring]’. Prior to working in the energy sector he worked in Colombia’s public sector for both the Ministry of Agriculture and the Colombian Institute of Rural Development, empowering and executing the rural and agriculture policies of the government, ‘having the fortune to work side to side with the rural communities’, he explains.
Jario Arias joined ISAGEN in 2015 with an extensive background of in-house counsel experience within the energy and construction sectors and brings this strategic legal acumen to the legal department in Colombia. ISAGEN is a leading sustainable energy production company in Colombia with six thermal and hydroelectric plants and a thriving commercial energy business. A nominator has described Arias as ‘in charge of the legal team which is composed by 23 people and [diligent in his investigation] into very delicate topics specially related to infrastructure having ample knowledge of the very complex and sophisticated sector’. His experience and success in labour negotiations and in commercial conflict resolutions is important to the team’s success as highlighted by a nominator who noted that, ‘he has participated in conflict resolutions processes with excellent outcomes’.
As legal and compliance manager for Corona, a Colombian multinational with 135 years of business history that manufactures and markets products for home and construction, Bernardo Avila occupies a prominent position in Colombia’s in-house market. He joined the firm four years ago and has worked on important transactions, crucial to the companies business strategy. Among these include, the acquisition of Sanitarios Lamosa in Mexico to consolidate the group’s presence in Central and North America, the acquisition of Agromil, a company that produces supplies for the agricultural industry. Avila also played a leading role in the negotiation and agreement for the joint venture between Spanish company Cementos Molins and Corona, for the construction of a cement plant in Colombia, which will ‘allow our group to enter into the cement and concrete market in Colombia consolidating its position in the construction and home improvement industries in Colombia’. Avila is also credited for overhauling the legal function at the company: ‘The legal department at Corona has been restructured with an almost completely new team since my arrival, seeking specialisation of senior and junior lawyers in the most critical and strategic matters for the group, aiming at providing the best service possible to our internal clients by providing high quality legal services to all of them’. Commenting on how the team now operates, he says, ‘we intend to work as a small law firm where the members of our team act as counsellors and trustworthy advisors to our clients, and we only outsource a small number of matters that either require a larger infrastructure like IP matters or where we don’t have a high expertise like litigation or criminal matters’. Before Corona, Avila enjoyed spells as general counsel for two of the large scale coal mining companies, CNR and Prodeco, over the course of approximately four years. He highlights the negotiation and implementation of port access regulations for the largest state-of-the-art coal exporting facilities in Colombia, which implied complex negotiations with the Colombian government, as another career highlight in his in-house career.
Riopaila Castilla is a Colombian Agroindustrial Group with 100 years of experience in the national and international sugar, honey, alcohol, energy and palm markets in both production and commercialisation. Alfredo Azuero has been at Riopaila Castilla for 20 years, and in that time the company has grown in size and reputation in the bioenergy and sugars industry. Azuero’s role as compliance manager as well as legal manager demonstrates his focus on all regulatory matters for the company, from labour to food safety, and other corporate governance matters. His vast experience in these matters is demonstrated in his involvement in the change of administrative headquarters in October 2017 requiring updates to the company’s data protection guidelines, and his involvement in the company’s project from December 2016 to February 2017 to reform the company’s code of ethics and conduct. A nominator highlighted his attention to detail and regulatory focus, ‘Alfredo has been legal counsel for over 20 years in Riopaila Castilla. He is a diligent and business-oriented attorney, focused on compliance and regulatory issues. He is a very consistent lawyer who has the ability to manage in house and external counsels’.
With extensive academic experience in financial and commercial law as a professor of competition and international procurement law at the Externado de Colombia University, Rossario University and Pontifical Javeriana University, Germán Bacca Medina joined Unilever as general counsel of Central America and the Andean region in January 2018. Previously, he has also served as an expert commissioner, delegate superintendent, and advisor for competition and data protection at the Superintendence of Industry of Commerce. Despite being in the role for not very long, as general counsel Bacca has already earned the respect of his peers. A nominator highlighted Bacca’s management skills and importance to Unilever: ‘[He] is an excellent lawyer, great leader, can manage incredibly complex matters with outstanding results. He has both local and regional responsibilities’.
Having worked in three other multinational Colombian companies in the hospitality, energy and industrials sectors, Juan Pablo Barrera joined Hoteles Decameron in 2014 to build its legal team essentially from scratch. Although Decameron is a multinational company with hospitality operations in nine countries and commercial operations in many more, with more than 12,000 direct employees, it did not have a legal department when he arrived. Barrera created the structure of the legal department, and at the same time provided the legal support required by an organisation that was undergoing a transformation and expansion process. He says that, ‘we now have a very efficient team and, with the help of each and every person that is part of the team, we are constantly innovating in ways to better perform our work and render the services the organisation demands’. He is also involved in increasing the business acumen of the team, and its use of technology to enhance its productivity. Barrera is highly competent in his multijurisdictional expertise and strategy with a focus on delivery of the legal policies, decisions and perspective of the whole company, but has identified that his team-building role is one of his most rewarding: ‘Probably one of the most gratifying aspects of the work is to be able to structure highly competent legal teams in the different companies I have worked, always with the aim to adequately address the tasks at hand and provide legal support for the company in order to complement its growth and strategic plans’. During his tenure his team have had some major successes in M&A, transactions, joint ventures and capital investments by strategic and non-strategic shareholders. Barrera has directed these projects and, in some cases, managed them entirely with his in-house team. For example, the acquisition of the Royal Decameron Costa Blanca resort in Panama and the related financing, and the lease or acquisition, construction and operation of the Decameron Hotels in Haiti and Jamaica.
Coca-cola FEMSA, the world’s largest bottler of Coca-Cola products, has been present in Colombia for over 10 years and today has seven bottling plants and 24 distribution centres in the country. Ever since joining the company’s Colombian business as a corporate lawyer in 2003, Silvia Barrero has consistently excelled in providing commercially-focused legal advice leading to her being promoted to her current position, vice president for legal and corporate affairs, within just a few years. In this role, Barrero handles all matters in Colombia regarding legal issues, regulatory affairs, institutional relations, external communications and direction and coordination of social responsibility programs. Having demonstrated her ability in these fields on numerous projects, Barrero is well-known in Colombia’s in-house market and is distinguished for her strategic thinking and execution.
Since beginning his legal career just over 10 years ago, Carlos Cesar Barrero Vicuña has excelled in a number of positions which landed him the role of head of legal and compliance and general secretary for the Colombian operations of Mazda, the Japanese carmaker, in 2015. In addition to directing the legal function whilst negotiating, analysing and drafting agreements and contracts for the company, he also holds responsibility for the corporate compliance program. This multi-faceted role necessitates the development of compliance policies, procedures and processes and conducting risk assessment analyses. Further demonstrating an ability to integrate quickly within the company, senior management have also given Barrero responsibility for public policy and government relations and also appointed him as a member of the executive committee. As one nominator put it, ‘[he] is a very experienced lawyer and has a deep understanding of the company and the Colombian market. He has a practical approach to the legal issues and is always looking for legal alternatives that can safeguard the commercial priorities of the company’.
Fernán Ignacio Bejarano Arias has served as vice president of legal affairs at Ecopetrol, Colombia’s largest company, since 2016 after a long in-house career in the energy and financial sectors in Colombia. He is a powerful leader known for being calm under pressure, and known for his emphasis on continually expanding his team’s education of current legal issues and trends, and well as business needs, in order to offer comprehensive advice. He has brought this focus with him to the role by ensuring that his team act comprehensively in all legal areas of the corporation, and is acting preventively instead of reactively to any issues that it faces. Bejarano fosters ‘a sense of belonging’, as he says, within his team and leads the team across the different offices as one large force. He has been involved in major developments in the company’s recent expansion across Latin America with the founding of the Rubiales field, with Pacific Rubiales in 2016, and off shore exploration in the Gulf of Mexico with its “Warrior 2” program.
A subsidiary of Grupo Argos, Colombian company Odinsa invests heavily in the country with a strategy focused on creating value through structuring, promoting, operating, managing, and developing highway and airport infrastructure projects. In the role of vice president of legal and institutional affairs at the organisation, Eduardo Bettín Vallejo is distinguished for overseeing all legal matters affecting Odinsa in addition to its corporate social responsibility and sustainability strategies. In 2018, he assisted the company in the sale of its energy businesses as part of reaffirming its strategic focus on roads and airports. Bettín also had a hand in facilitating the concession Odinsa received recently to be the majority partner for the design, financing, construction, operation, commercial exploitation and maintenance of the new Cartagena airport with an estimated investment of USD $600m. Bettín’s previous professional experiences include serving as legal manager of Cementos Argos and secretary general for Cementos del Caribe and Cementos Paz del Río. He graduated in law from La Sabana University.
With a strong focus on operations in Colombia, Canadian petroleum company Frontera (formerly Pacific Exploration and Production) has contributed heavily towards to the nation’s economy through its production of oil. Described by a nominator during this year’s research as ‘sharp, bright and focused’, Alejandra Bonilla was promoted in December 2017 to the position of Frontera’s corporate vice president of legal and head of legal for Colombia having previously served as chief legal officer. With over 15 years of experience in the oil and gas industry with particular expertise in cross border M&As, corporate law and corporate finance, Bonilla occupies a prominent position and is highly respected in Colombia’s in-house market. Prior to Frontera, she enjoyed spells at BP as well as several international and domestic law firms in Bogota. In her in-house career Bonilla has been involved some of her firms’ highest profile actions, such as in the re-structuring of Pacific Rubiales Energy Corporation, local arbitration matters concerning transport contracts in Colombia, divestment of non-strategic assets including six off-shore ultra-deep water blocks in Brazil and on-shore assets in Colombia and Peru, and the refinancing of Frontera´s senior debt through the issuance of bonds under Rule 144 A – Reg S in New York, among others. For Bonilla business needs are a key part of the legal department’s remit. She says, that she has ‘reorganised the legal team to ensure that we are not only responsive to the needs of Frontera Energy Corporation but also are able to actively participate in strategic initiatives. Also, I have been invited to join the team individuals who can anticipate and prevent risks from materialising. Thus, safegaurding the company from incurring unnecessary legal expenses’.
In the role of legal director and general secretary, Claudia Caballero has led the legal team at Alpina, Colombia’s number one dairy production company, since July 2015. She brings her in house legal experience and leadership to the role from a previous position as general secretary at Termasajero SAESP from 2012. Caballero is now responsible for the management of all legal matters of Alpina and its subsidiaries abroad handling corporate issues, intellectual property, regulatory, foreign investment, and tax planning with apparent ease. Operating in Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador and over ten other countries through its distributors and subsidiaries, Caballero’s proactive outlook has been crucial to facilitating the company’s ambitions and goals. Caballero’s leadership in all legal matters in this heavily regulated industry brings stability and quality to the company’s production and contributes to its success as recognised by this distinction.
Carlos Calderón started his career at Lizarazu, Sossa and Peña, a boutique consumer goods and antitrust law firm, and was subsequently seconded to AbbVie, where he began specialising in healthcare and biopharmaceutical industries within the Andean region. He then took his experience in the pharmaceutical industry to Sanofi where he enhanced his knowledge in other relevant markets within the industry like vaccines, generics and over-the-counter (OTC) products. After this start to his in-house career, Calderón moved to Siemens Healthineers in November 2016 as head of legal and compliance for the Andean zone covering the company’s operations in Colombia, Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago, and Guyana. He came in to set up two new departments and advance the market and regulatory dynamics and development of new business models within the firm that focus on finding efficient solutions. He supervised the incorporation of a new company into Siemens, and worked on changing its corporate culture towards the legal function while at the same time being seen as a business partner. He says that this has been a challenge and that the firm is still ‘under construction’ but the business is coming round to understanding the role that lawyers play in this highly regulated industry. Calderón continues to oversee the expansion of the company across the region and its increasing rise in the Andean pharmaceutical market. Calderón says that ‘being an in-house lawyer has been an incredible experience, a constant learning and multidisciplinary work that takes you every day to new challenges. It is possible to make the difference even when you are the youngest within a management team’.
After gaining over 15 years of experience in M&A, corporate finance, corporate law and private equity at top law firms in Colombia, in 2009 Natalia Camacho joined Altra Investments, a pioneering private equity firm with over US$500m assets under management who invest in midcap companies in the Andean Region, primarily Colombia and Peru. As Altra’s legal vice president and compliance officer, she structured the company’s legal department establishing and strengthening corporate policies and procedures in line with high international market standards in the process. Since then Camacho has contributed significantly to the organisation by structuring and negotiating complex transactions for achieving value-added propositions for Altra’s portfolio companies. As she explains, ‘we have been the first to do certain things in the local market (first private equity insurance, first comprehensive compliance program for a private equity portfolio base company etc.)’. to this end, Camacho participated in the fundraising process for a fund that closed in 2013 with US$350m capital commitments from European, American and Latin American investors by leading negotiations on limited partnership agreements with investors as well as working on the fund’s structuring. More recently she has earned credit from peers for the leading role she played on the 2016 sale of Digitex to Carlyle Group, the 2017 mezzanine loan to Reve Group and the 2018 sale of Proenfar to Weener Plastics Group. In addition Camacho’s implementation of a compliance program in Altra and its portfolio companies were also highlighted by nominators.
Odinsa, an infrastructure construction company and a subsidiary of Grupo Argos, is a Colombian company dedicated to the structuring, promotion, management and development of road and airport infrastructure projects focusing on regional connectivity with a presence in Colombia, Ecuador, Aruba and the Dominican Republic. Andrea Eugenia Camargo Niño is the legal director for financial issues, and in that role supervises legal matters for the company that have a financial focus, such as government project bids for tenders. Camargo also organises partnerships with external lawyers from different jurisdictions, and uses her multiple language skills to facilitate the interactions and make transactions more efficient. She is also the intermediary between the financial department and the legal department because of her knowledge in both areas, and is responsible for multiple jurisdictions in the Latin American region. She has worked on the government contract preparation for major projects across the region including; the acquisition of the Mariscal Sucre Airport in Quito, Ecuador, the construction of the first private public road in Aruba, the sale of two energy plants one in Chile, the other in Panama, the sale of a solar plant in Chile, the sale of a port in Colombia and the construction of two toll roads in the Dominican Republic.
Andrea Campo’s areas of focus are conflict resolution, litigation and consulting. Practising first as an independent lawyer in the area of public and household services and utilities, contract law and public law, then as a professor of contract and public law she moved to become an in-house attorney. She first started as an in-house attorney for PromiGas before moving to CEDELCA and being promoted to her current position as the legal director. Her talent as a negotiator is evident through her successes with CEDELCA. Campo and her legal team, created a regional strategy in response to a litigation against CEDELCA. From this strategy, exclusive exceptions were made in which any regional court has to judge CEDELCA under this particular strategy, and CEDELCA is the only company that receives these exceptions. The team has also created impactful strategies to protect CEDELCA against any claims or lawsuits. The outcome is that with these strategies, several claims and lawsuits were dropped and the suing parties ceased and desisted from trying to sue again. About these victories, Campo says, ‘these highlights of my career have shaped me as a legal professional because I have learned to work under extreme pressure while retaining my focus on daily tasks and my integrity as an individual responsible for my department. Me and my team, have also become an integral part of the overall operation of CEDELCA and how it does business in the region’. Campo identified that the legal department of CEDELCA has changed and is now the most important department in the company, and it has affected how the company structures and manages its business operations. All successful strategies implemented by the legal department under Campo’s stewardship, have given CEDELCA a positive financial impact.
An in-house lawyer in the financial sector since 1989, Ulises Canosa Suárez is well known in Colombia’s legal market as an expert in the field. And having been at BBVA Colombia, a major Argentine bank with a 60-year presence in Colombia, as executive and legal affairs vice president and general secretary since 2001 he holds a longstanding and high-profile role. Highlighted again in this year’s research, Canosa continues to promote effective transitions towards digital banking programs which has placed the company in one of the top five most technologically updated entities within the financial sector in Colombia. His credentials are also enhanced by his management skills demonstrated through his leadership of the legal department of 89 in-house lawyers divided into areas such as legal, compliance, consumer protection and insurance. Whilst encouraging flexible working hours and teleworking to improve efficiency in the team, Canosa ensures his team are fully engaged with the business: ‘I profoundly believe that mechanisms such as seminars to assist the team to be updated and to know how to face the changes are key. In addition, holding constant meetings, open door policies and a supportive environment allows everyone to openly share their ideas, solve their questions and learn from each other’. As a result of these initiatives the legal area ranked number one in an internal survey that measures employee engagement, ‘which demonstrates that our team members are highly motivated, in a good emotional state and are highly intellectually involved in their tasks’, he states. Summing up his thoughts on the role of the in-house lawyer, which have stood him in good stead throughout his almost 30 year in-house career, Canosa says, ‘It is essential to provide tailored commercial and legal solutions to clients with complex business interests through an uncompromising approach to quality and service’. In addition to his role at BBVA, Canosa is also currently a member of the Ibero-American Institute of Procedural Law and general secretary of the Colombian Institute of Procedural Law, the Colombian Academy of Jurisprudence, the Commercial Lawyers Association, the Drafting Commission and the Reviewer of the Procedural General Code. Committed to the legal profession, he completed a Master’s degree in human rights, public policies and sustainability in 2017 and is currently studying a PhD in law at Universidad Libre de Colombia. He’s also an accomplished legal commentator having had numerous articles published over the years.
HOCOL is a hydrocarbon exploration and production company with six decades of oil and gas experience in Colombia. Since 1956 the company has had a presence extending to the lower and upper valleys of Magdalena, the Llanos, the foothills and the Guajira, where it carries out exploratory and productive projects of conventional crude, heavy crude and condensed gas. Christian Castro Agudelo has been legal manager and compliance officer for HOCOL since 2014, and has 13 years of experience, 11 of them in the oil and gas industry, from a mixture of in-house positions and private practice in Colombia. He uses this talent and experience to manage the legal affairs of the company ensuring compliance with regulations in this heavily regulated industry, in addition to supporting senior management on company developments from a legal perspective.
DIRECTV Latin America provides best-in-class digital entertainment experiences by delivering high in demand content across the continent. Juan Camilo Castro Salcedo serves the organisation as legal director for the Latin America North Region, a role he has excelled in since taking on the challenge in 2015. ‘I’m leading the legal matters of the company in the different countries of the North Region (Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela and the Caribbean), providing legal assessment in corporate, IP, finance, regulatory, commercial, criminal and labour matters’, he says when describing his role. He highlights having responsibility for the regional team as a particular career highlight: ‘This gives me perspective on the important knowledge and necessities in different jurisdictions, like Venezuela, that [opens my creative] side to help the operation’. Castro is credited for restructuring the legal departments in the four countries he oversees, in order to build a regional department that share practices, knowledge and, where necessary, centralising decisions. ‘I focus the department on the anticipation of different regulatory matters in the countries, just to get market opportunities in cost reductions, savings, and new business opportunities’, he says. Another key feature of Castro’s tenure at DIRECTV is his impressive work on a number of transactions and disputes. To this end he worked on the negotiation of the local soccer rights in Ecuador, litigations with PROs (performance rights organisations) in order to reduce the current fees whilst also challenging the rights on the pay TV activity across the region as well as a litigation for the “must carry” obligation on the local private channels in Colombia. ‘We got a positive precedent in 2017 that confirms the impossibility to collect money for any right related with this for the local private broadcasters’, he says regarding the aforementioned dispute. Castro is also praised for working on the new corporate structure for DIRECTV Latin America. He has worked in-house in a number of sectors; prior to working for the organisation, he spent three years at 3M Colombia where he was commissioned to run the government business unit, in order to control different situations and also maintain growth following a compliance issue. ‘This experience taught me that compliance is integrity, not only a summary of laws and regulation, [it is living] integrity and everybody needs to understand it’. Before 3M, Castro was country counsel for IBM in Colombia between 2007 and 2011. He has also worked as legal analyst for a local credit bureau and as legal analyst in a financial institution over the course of his career. Among his various career highlights, he identifies possibility to negotiate government contracts as a proud moment: ‘In my career, I had the chance to negotiate important contracts with government entities (the production of passports, medical supplies for public hospitals, signal for roads, telecommunication concessions, etc.), this provided me with an integral vision of a business and practicality [when taking] decisions’.
Operating passenger and cargo airline services across Latin America, Avianca Holdings has a reputation of first rate customer service as one of the region’s premium flag carriers. Complimenting their position in the market, the company employs the highly respected and experienced Renato Covelo as vice-president for legal, ethics and compliance. He joined Avianca in November 2016 as legal vice president before being promoted and taking on the additional responsibilities in his current role just 11 months later. Having spent over eight-and-a-half years before Avianca at Brazilian airline Azul Linhas Aéreas Brasileiras, Covelo is recognised for having an almost unrivalled knowledge of the market in the region. Prior to moving in-house in 2008, he enjoyed a successful seven year spell as an associate at Machado, Meyer, Sendacz e Opice Advogados.
Juan Felipe Cruz Ulloa began his career in the cement and construction business at Cemex Colombia, but in 2013 he moved to the fast moving consumer goods industry (FMCG). He worked for just over three years in Reckitt Benckiser and since October 2016 has been senior legal manager in the consumer division of Johnson & Johnson for Colombia and Venezuela. When he joined Johnson & Johnson he was the first in-house counsel for the consumer division of the company in Colombia establishing the team later. He focuses on, as he says, ‘becoming a key business partner with the other areas of the company’. Cruz monitors the consumer division’s legal expenses, drafts and implements all legal policies related with agreements, hiring of external counsel, budget planning, and competition law strategy. His approach and leadership was recognised by his appointment to the board of directors as board attorney in April 2008. This year he is in charge of leading the project compliance training for the company’s Northern Latin America operations, drawing upon his experience of leading the regional team of Reckitt in its acquisition of BMS Tempra brands, and Johnson & Johnson’s K-Y brands.
With extensive experience as a legal manager and representative in the energy industry of Colombia and Peru for over 20 years, Juan Manuel Cuéllar Cabrera expertly manages the legal team at Repsol Colombia. In the role he provides legal advice on oil and gas, civil, commercial and labour matters, leads contract negotiations and develops all of the legal processes for the business unit in Colombia. He also advises on environmental and community matters, negotiates with partners and government, manages corporate affairs and advises on transportation agreements. Since joining in 2017, he has been involved in the negotiations of important oil and gas contracts, structured fundamental corporate proceedings and practices, and advised Repsol in its dealings with the government, local communities and partners. Cuéllar focuses on development and motivation of his team, and it shows. His team is involved in a “business-adding” capacity within the company and is known for providing expert advice with an eye towards always improving the business’ plans. He believes, ‘that the role of corporate lawyers today is far beyond the identification and mitigation of risks. The role of the lawyer today in companies is to add value through many mechanisms that go beyond the strictly legal and that consists basically in identifying and taking advantage of the opportunities offered by the environment’.
Part of the American Tower Corporation, ATC Colombia provides wireless and broadcast towers among other telecommunication infrastructure that speed network deployment for the wireless and broadcast communications industry. Shortly after the company was set-up in Colombia in 2010, it hired Victor Enrique Cuéllar Olarte as legal and public affairs director, a role he has excelled in over the past eight years and which he describes as ‘a great experience’. After recently crating the legal function for ATC Colombia, Cuéllar was tasked with delivering innovative working methods aimed at creating a department that ‘accompanies every other area, and would be more proactive than reactive’. Today the legal function is involved in all aspects of the domestic business and ‘sees commercial opportunities (from a regulatory perspective) and shares it with the rest of the company so we can evaluate if it could be a new service or product’, according to Cuéllar. He adds that, ‘just changing the way of work and the way of thinking had broadened our service and the company has thanked us [on] this initiative to change’. Recent deals Cuéllar has impressed on include the purchase of around 1,800 towers from Tigo (Colombia Móvil) in 2011, with the creation of a new towerco and the participation from Millicom in this new towerco for approximately US$125m, drafting and assessing in a local financing syndicated loan for US$90m and being involved in the negotiation and purchase (by winning the public bid) of over 1,200 new towers from Tigo (Colombia Móvil) for around US$92m. Prior to working for ATC, Cuéllar was country counsel for IBM in Venezuela, his native country, for almost four years. Despite only moving to Colombia in 2010, he has demonstrated to nominators excellent legal and commercial skills worth highlighting in this year’s research.
Diana C. Daza Vallejos started working at SGS Colombia, a world leading inspection, certification, verification and testing company in 2013 as a contractual coordinator. Since then she was first promoted to senior counsel in 2014 and then, in 2017, to a regional position as senior legal counsel for Central America and the Caribbean. Since then she has led its young legal team focusing on providing accurate, business-minded, and comprehensive legal coverage for SGS and its clients. Also during her tenure, the team has been involved in the full acquisition of the most well-known construction materials lab in Colombia and Panama, the settlement of an arbitral lawsuit with an important company from the crude oil sector, preventing any reputational and or economical risk for SGS and the recovery of the escrow fund agreed during the acquisition by the SGS Group of Colombia’s most important consultancy firm. Her background in law and finance, combined, with her ability to take prudent, informed and timely decisions in difficult moments have allowed her to create a successful legal team at SGS. About her team Daza says that she, ‘constructed a solid work team that [despite] their youth and different career paths provide strong legal advice and real solutions. The legal department is highly [praised] among the company as one of the most efficient function areas’.
As the legal manager of the oil exploration company, Emerald Energy Colombia, Maria Fernanda De Salvador, along with her team, handles all the exploration and production contracts to ensure that the short, medium and long term goals of Emerald are met. Before assuming her current position, De Salvador held a number of roles and responsibilities within Emerald’s legal department, including time spent as a senior lawyer and deputy legal manager. When she joined the company, the legal department, she says, was a reactionary function that supported other teams across the business and was contacted on a matter-by-matter basis. As a result of De Salvador’s direct involvement, Emerald’s legal department has become a key asset to help materialise the company’s goals and challenges, participating in all stages of the operations and decision-making process; a method that incorporates project execution and management according to applicable laws and regulations. In addition, under De Salvador’s direction the legal department has been able to establish and improve a “Law Risk Guard Mechanism” that prevents and minimises legal risk, strengthening the department’s capacity to protect the rights of Emerald Energy. Along with colleagues from other divisions, De Salvador has helped establish a work culture that is driven by the mantra of ‘preventing risk today, means minimising remedies in the future’. Among a variety of achievements in her career, De Salvador is frequently praised for her participation in the negotiation of three different exploration and production blocks with the National Hydrocarbons Agency and four agreements with private partners, directly contributing to a rise in the company’s assets and financial results. De Salvador is also credited for her involvement in solving complex litigation and potential disputes that have minimised losses for the company in a period of oil price crisis, environmental and social issues. A major source of pride for De Salvador is the formation of a highly coherent team of professionals, being ‘very proud of leading an exceptional team of professionals that are efficient, effective, goal-oriented and who understand the key role that an in-house counsel has in the strategy and daily operation of Emerald. They are always looking for alternative solutions to help make profitable, safe and responsible projects’.
Luis Fernando Diaz, has served as regional counsel at SAP since 2013 having started as a general counsel for Spanish speaking Latin America in 2006 bringing a great wealth of experience to the IT sector in Latin America. He is responsible for leading the legal contracts organisation in northern Latin America and the Caribbean with a focus on negotiation, deal closing and overall legal support throughout litigation processes. A nominator has highlighted Fernando’s ‘over 15 years of experience in the IT sector’ and says that, ‘he is significantly results-oriented as he contributes to the successful closure of business deals, from a legal standpoint’. Adding that Fernando, ‘is a business-oriented counsel with a profound risk assessment capability that enables management to make the appropriate business decisions, while ensuring the full implementation of SAP’s code of conduct internally and across suppliers and other business partners. He is a very consistent lawyer who has the ability to manage in-house and external counsels in all jurisdictions over the Latin America and Caribbean region’.
Since its founding in 1948, Caracol Radio has become one of Colombia’s largest and most popular radio networks with a portfolio of leading stations. Jorge Alberto Diaz Gomez joined the organisation, which is owned by Grupo Pisa, in February 2017 as legal director and secretary general. Arriving with around 15 years of experience working in in-house positions within Colombia’s telecommunications sector, he is in charge of all the legal and regulatory issues of the company and the corporate matters of the Grupo Pisa companies operating in Colombia. Since joining, Diaz has made the legal function at Caracol more efficient by focusing, as he says, ‘on the organisation of the [legal] area and the review of internal processes seeking to optimise activities and response times to internal and external customers’. As a specialist in telecommunications and commercial law, he has significant experience in regulation and competition law in the telecommunications market and in the structuring and development of state and private contracting processes. In addition, he has participated in several public processes of spectrum auctions. Before joining Caracol Radio, he worked at Azteca Comunicaciones Colombia for approximately five years as a legal manager and regulatory lawyer, where he worked on ‘the successful development of the strategy of legal accompaniment during the execution of the installation and operation stages of the National Fiber Optic Project executed by Azteca Comunicaciones Colombia, for the government of Colombia, and through which the inhabitants of more than 780 municipalities benefitted’. Before that he was a lawyer in the legal telecommunications corporate management of Telefónica Móviles (Movistar) for five years. Additionally, between 2003 and 2008 Diaz worked as legal advisor and director of structuring and contracting of the “Compartel Program” of the Ministry of Communications of Colombia, in the development of social telecommunications projects. With such a wide range of past experiences within the sector, he is considered is well placed to provide legal support to one of the best-known domestic media companies in Colombia.
Virgilio Diaz Mendoza is the regional general counsel of Siemens Mobility in Colombia since August 2018. As such, he is the head of legal for the Mobility organization in Colombia, Peru and Argentina. Until July 2018, he was senior legal counsel for Siemens in Colombia, general counsel for Venezuela and the regional lead lawyer for the Process Industries and Drives (PD), Digital Factory (DF) and Mobility (MO) divisions in South America, excluding Brazil. To this role he brings his experiences in the public sector working in Bogota’s court system and for the Bogota City District Department of Government, and teaching contract law as a guest professor at the National University of Colombia, which he continues to date. He identifies that this initial experience in the public sector is important to his development as an in-house corporate lawyer as it ‘allowed me to know the other side of the business and better understand the point of view of public entities, as well as their true interests or concerns when negotiating with the private sector. Also, this insight has been very important when structuring legal strategies and working on important infrastructure projects for Siemens’. His role as general counsel for Venezuela had an important impact on his work in Colombia by serving as a source of innovation and location of ‘recursive ways of doing legal work in Colombia’. Diaz plays a key role in Siemens’ investments in high profile infrastructure products and projects in Colombia of which he is incredibly proud. He has also been involved in some of the largest transactions and strategic planning of Siemens across the region in the Mobility infrastructure business. Indeed, he has achieved important cultural change within the business units of Siemens that he comes into contact with by increasing his commercial role and elevating the role of the company lawyer to that of a business partner able to tailor each legal transaction to the business needs of the company.
José Joaquín Diaz Perilla is legal manager at Banco de Bogotá, having been in the position since 1974. He has held several positions at Banco de Bogotá since 1967 and is also a member of the board of directors of Banco de Bogotá (Nassau) Ltd, Fidubogotá and Almaviva. Additionally, he has been a lecturer in banking and commercial law at Universidad del Rosario, Universidad de los Andes, Universidad Externado and holds his degree in law from the Universidad del Rosario. Banco de Bogotá is the oldest bank in Colombia, operating since 1870. Diaz Perilla, with his 50 years of experience, oversees the implementation of new policies and products from a legal perspective for all service lines of the bank including its new digital banking products, data protection policies and partnerships. Having occupied such a prominent position in Colombia’s in-house market for so long, he is considered one of the country’s finest in-house lawyers.
Since joining Corficolombiana in 2011 as a staff attorney, Sharon Diazgranados Peluffo’s quality and efforts as an in-house lawyer have been recognised by senior management at the financial company with promotions to legal coordinator of financial affairs in 2013 and then to legal director, her current position, in 2015 quickly following. Over the course of her tenure there, she has been responsible for the legal structuring of all local and international transactions related to the participation of Corficolombiana as one of the most important participants in the fixed rate securities market and exchange market, in Colombia. She explains that, ‘I have been actively involved in the legal structuring of the financing of 4G projects where Corficolombiana has equity participation. I have also led the legal structuring of an international private equity fund with South Korean partners, SK Group’. Diazgranados says that hard work, international business orientation and financial understanding of such deals have been key features of her in-house career: ‘These three features have made me a versatile legal support for Corficolombiana given the new vision of the company in the past 10 years when it passed from being a traditional Colombian credit institution to be one of the most important Colombian merchant banks which invests directly in many sectors of the economy in addition to its activities as a financial institution’. Diazgranados is also credited for understanding and participating on most aspects of the wide range of Corficolombiana’s activities, making her a reliable and consistent counsel for all areas of the company.
Yara is a Norwegian headquartered fertiliser, seed and crop nutrition company which produces, sells and manages the supply chain for the industrial farming sector across the world. Mónica Durán is the legal director for Latin America, in the role since June 2015, and is responsible for the oversight of legal matters for Yara’s operations across the region. In Colombia, the company operates from four sales offices and a production plant and Durán plays a key role in facilitating deals whist monitoring regulatory developments that contribute to its expanding presence in the country and wider region. Having expertise in multi-jurisdictional advising and strategy on commercial contracts, corporate governance, as well as labour and property matters, she is highly regarded by peers and well-placed to facilitate the continued success of Yara in Latin America.
Jamie Ignacio Escobar Muñoz started his career at prestigious law firms in Colombia, such as Zuleta and Partners Legal Group and Cuberos, Cortes, Gutierrez Lawyers, specialising in a wide area of topics from corporate, commercial, energy, IP, to technology, litigation, tax and international arbitration. He first moved in-house at Banco Daviviendia, the second largest financial institution in Colombia, and developed his talent at negotiation and drafting of commercial contracts in the financial sector. He greatly enjoyed the rush of execution of deals, and solving complex legal issues in innovative ways. Afterwards, he went to Triana, Uribe and Michelsen, another prestigious law firm in Bogotá, working in commercial litigation and M&A. Escobar then collaborated to open the law firm Diaz, Escobar & Associates in August, 2014 before going back in-house at Fox Channels Colombia. After ten months he left for Uber to take up his current position, legal transactions counsel for Latin America. At Fox, Escobar first took on a regional role and developed his expertise in Ecuadorean regulations. Escobar was involved in the aftermath of the Chapecoense’s airplane crash, he and the team ‘were responsible for handling the relationship with the Brazilian Embassy in Bogota and the legal team of Fox Sports in Brazil, in order to obtain the death certificates of the deceased journalists and also to help gather their belongings and send them back to their loved ones’, he explains adding, ‘This was a very dramatic situation that taught me a lot about crisis management’. He took this experience into his role at Uber for whom he is responsible for Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Colombia for Uber’s Rides and Eats businesses. During his time at Uber its business has greatly expanded in Colombia with the negotiation of contracts for Uber Eats with some of Colombia’s top restaurant chains. He has also led the launch of Uber Rides in Ecuador and Uber Eats in Peru. These expansions have accompanied Escobar’s innovation in the internal systems within the legal department. He implemented a new efficiency measures, such as customisable promotional agreement templates with the legal drafting already completed. This has increased business by shortening the time between contact with the legal department and the promotion’s approval by the counterparty. Escobar says that ‘this initiative also helped to change the perception of the legal department, going from a blocker, to a business partner who is truly interested in achieving the internal clients’ goals’. With such achievements, it is easy to understand why nominators highlighted Escobar’s credentials during this year’s research.
Martin Espinosa was ‘born and raised,’ as he says, at Philip Morris International (PMI) having been with the company for 12 years, occupying different positions, starting as an intern in the law department and progressing up to his current position of leading the department for the Andean cluster since May 2017. Previously he occupied a regional position at the headquarters in New York City, spent almost two years working in Canada for Rothmans Benson and Hedges, an affiliate of PMI, and six years in charge of the law department for Ecuador and Peru. Espinosa is now in charge of Coltabaco a PMI affiliate in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela and has eight lawyers working in his team with two based in Ecuador, two in Venezuela and four in Colombia. The team manages several types of transactions and litigations covering a wide range of topics that include labour matters, tax matters and consumer protection always with the aim of preventing litigation. He and his team were involved in the launch of “IQOS” and “HEETS,” which are novel products in the tobacco industry. IQOS is an electronic device designed to heat tobacco instead of burning it. Whilst HEETS, also known as “Heatsticks,” are specially designed tobacco rods to be used with IQOS. Espinosa identified that current Colombian tobacco legislation was designed with cigarettes in mind, and as such, regulations, consumer protection, tax law and other legal matters have been a challenge to navigate in order to commercialise this new category of products. Espinosa with his multi-jurisdictional, and civil and common law backgrounds, has been crucial in this process, and in changing the image of the legal department internally making it more commercially focused. On this subject, he says that ‘a common mistake for lawyers is to spend most of the day working on contracts that make no difference on the business. Three or four years ago 70% of [his team’s] time was spent on contracts, while today this number won`t reach 20%. Today, clients have online templates for agreements, which has helped speed up the process. In addition, taking advantage of the technology today, most of the training is conducted online allowing employees to manage their time better and releasing time for the law department to devote to other tasks’. This is all part of Espinosa’s strategic objective to implement a ‘lean start-up methodology’ in the legal department and continue to dynamically transform and technologically innovate PMI’s operations in Latin America.
Carolina Forero is a practicing attorney from the Universidad de los Andes with a LLM from the London School of Economics and Political Science, a specialist degree in environmental law from the Universidad Externado de Colombia, and with a diploma in business studies from the Javeriana University. She is also an official translator and interpreter for the English and Spanish languages, registered with the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. With more than eight years of experience as associate attorney in law firms, more than three years of working experience as in-house counsel in multinational companies in the healthcare sector, and more than a year of working experience as regional ethics and compliance manager in a multinational company she joined Janssen Cilaq, an affiliate of Johnson & Johnson in Colombia in 2013 with great success. Forero created the in-house legal department for the Latin America North cluster, which covers Colombia, Peru and Ecuador, from scratch. At the beginning she personally attended every legal request from the business, and she says that gave her ‘a very good understanding of the business and the legal requirements for the strategy and tactical side of the business’. During her second year in the position, the firm decided to terminate the distribution agreement that had been in place for products in Ecuador for decades. This implied the beginning of direct operations in the country which she described as ‘a wonderful opportunity to work closely with all areas of the company and share the excitement of the launch of Janssen Ecuador’. Since the beginning of 2018, Forero has been part of the team responsible for the repatriation of a new line of business in orphan diseases after the purchase of a new company by Johnson & Johnson, an area it had not had previous experience in. A nominator said, ‘Forero is an exceptional legal professional with broad knowledge of the pharmaceutical industry. She joined the Johnson & Johnson family back in 2013 and currently works as legal manager for the north cluster Latin America of Janssen Cilag. She has successfully supported the organisation [during] important periods of change achieving relevant results with notable efficiency. She is recognised for her wide experience in handling complex in-house work. Forero is closely involved in the diversity and inclusion initiatives of Janssen in Latin America’. She implemented changes in the way the company operates in relation to its legal matters at every level: The department has implemented a technological platform for the request, approval, drafting and repository of contracts, and the department now has a seat in the management board and provides them advice on legal and even business matters. Forero says that, ‘the [new] law department has been very well received by the business. It has implied important savings on time and money. I feel very happy because it has also implied a greater awareness from different areas of the company of legal risks involved in their activities and therefore has resulted in a much more preventive approach, for the benefit of the company and all employees’.
German healthcare multinational Bayer is able to rely on the expertise of Hector A. Garcia Corredor, its head of legal, data privacy and compliance for the Andean region (Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela), to navigate through complex regulatory regimes in the area. Demonstrating his ability to live up to this, last year Garcia led the process to successfully obtain recognition for Bayer in Colombia as an “Anticorruption Active Company - Business with Principles” granted by the Secretary of Transparency of the Presidency of Colombia. Since being appointed to his current position in June 2015, Garcia has seamlessly achieved the goals he was initially tasked with. To this end, the regional legal department has attracted and developed talent whilst also transforming into a real business partners, as Garcia explains: ‘We are very well perceived by the business across the Andean Region because we have built relationships with the businesses based on trust and with the clear idea that we are there to support the company to do business in an ethical and compliant way with innovative solutions. Actually, the Andean Region Team is ranked number one among all the legal departments in Bayer according to the employee´s survey performed every two years’. Another achievement of his at Bayer is developing innovative local solutions such as a digital contract management tool, unique and engaging ways to train people on compliance issues and a digital, highly-interactive and user-friendly repository of information and solutions to prevent certain legal risks for the company. Over the past two years, Garcia has been leading the Monsanto acquisition by Bayer, one of the largest transactions involving a German company, in order to assure its success from a legal point of view in the Andean Region. Commenting on his role, Garcia says, ‘I have around 10 direct and four indirect reports which has helped me to develop and shape my leadership skills. Additionally, having the opportunity to be responsible for different jurisdictions is giving me a broader understanding of the business necessities, different country realities and also how we provide a more complete and accurate legal advice in each case’. Prior to moving to Colombia to take up his current role, Garcia was head of legal and compliance from 2011 onwards for Bayer in Venezuela, his home nation. Before that he spent two years at a family-owned Venezuelan pharmaceutical company to open its legal department in his first in-house role.
With more than 20 years of experience, and a well-rounded vision, Phyllis Gleiser leads the legal team at Nestlé in Colombia. She has had legal roles within different perspectives at law firms, in the government and in-house at a multilateral organisation. Additionally, she was professor of Roman law during several periods at Universidad de los Andes. In the last 15 years, she has been working for multinational companies, and since 2004 in the fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) sector. She joined Nestlé Colombia in 2010 and says that her ‘career has moulded her to believe that in order for an in-house legal department to be effective and valued by its clients, it is fundamental to be very close to the business and sit at the table where the strategic decisions are made. As in-house lawyers we need insight and good judgement’. Her role, as well as the scope of the legal department, has changed a lot during her time in the role. She was the only in-house lawyer in the legal department when she started, and now there are four in-house lawyers, and each business and functional unit has their own legal business partner. Nestlé Colombia has the following business units: infant nutrition, dairy products, culinary, products for professional use, coffee, confectionary and pet food; each one has a lawyer assigned to look over all of their needs. Additionally, each lawyer has additional areas of expertise such as: antitrust, consumer law, data protection, intellectual property, environmental law, and planning law. The legal expert on the specific area co-leads matters related with the area of her expertise. Gleiser has implemented this new way of working and it has allowed the team to be closer to the business, providing the necessary legal support at all times. The strategy is proactive taking the group from only providing legal support when our internal clients request it to having processes in place that insert legal review within the operations of the company. Additionally, Gleiser has initiated the legal team’s expansion into advocacy matters such as advocating for the shaping of regulation, within the industry associations. This role has significant relevance to the strategy of the company and has allowed the legal department to participate in what determines the future of the business, and is all part of GleIser’s impactful leadership.
J.P. Morgan in Colombia has a local presence through J.P. Morgan Corporación Financiera, a credit institution established in the country since 2006, supervised by the Financial Superintendence of Colombia and through JPMorgan Chase Bank, National Association Representative Office established in Colombia since 1964. The company’s legal department is led by María José Gnecco, who has successfully steered local operations in Colombia for J.P. Morgan for over 10 years and has been instrumental in advising the company though its recent changes, and on commercial and compliance matters. A nominator highlighted Gnecco’s prominence in this area and her talent at the firm. ‘María José Gnecco is a senior lawyer who has led the legal team in Colombia and other countries in Latin America for over 10 years. She is very inquisitive and has a very strategic mind set. She will look for alternatives and dig deep in legal issues until she finds the best solutions for the company. Gnecco has extensive experience in legal corporate and compliance matters, but she is also knowledgeable in labour and tax matters. She offers support to all functions and is the go-to person for other areas to ensure that the different J.P. Morgan entities are meeting compliance standards’.
Victor Andrés Gómez Henao is an expert lawyer in insurance law, contract law and civil liability, with extensive knowledge in private law, and has experience in litigation and arbitration. He has more than 10 years of experience in the insurance sector as an in-house lawyer for insurance companies in charge of the administration of legal proceedings, advice on the elaboration of insurance products, advice on the handling of civil liability claims and breach of contract. Gómez was the legal director of the judicial area of Seguros Colpatria when, in 2013, the French insurance company AXA acquired 51% of the shares of the company belonging to the Colombian group Mercantil Colpatria. He joined La Previsora, the state insurance company, in 2016, as legal process manager, responsible for the strategy of redefining the department’s operating model and optimising judicial savings. As a lawyer, he has led transformation processes in legal management information systems, as well as accompanying international disputes on reinsurance issues, and mitigating legal risk in the definition of defence strategies for judicial savings. Gómez and his team specialise in the resolution of conflicts through friendly composition, and an appreciation for the economic analysis of law, effective negotiation and creation of value towards society. In 2017, he supervised the creation of a new operating model for his area, with measurements according to the business and the creation of key performance indicators associated with the macro processes of judicial processes management. Similarly, his participation in the “Optimal Management Model” led by the National Judicial Defence Agency of Colombia allowed him to apply more thoroughly the concept of management tools applied to the law, the reduction of the litigious activity and strategic guidelines. He says, that ‘since joining Previsora, the number of litigations completed by conciliation agreements has been increased, thus increasing the judicial savings value’ to over COL$19bn, an example of the success of his streamlining and time saving measures. He and his team have also been involved in several negotiations with reinsurers, as well as different disputes with large companies and control entities, with amounts exceeding COL$10bn.
Grupo Nutresa is the leading company in processed foods industry in Colombia and one of the most important companies in the sector in Latin America with more than one million customers served through a network of more than 13,000 vendors. The company’s vice president, general counsel and legal assistance manager, Jario González Gómez has played a key role in the company’s recent success. Having had a significant legal career previously he is able to draw on his past experiences of founding and directing González Gómez Abogados, being external legal counsel to Grupo Nutresa and legal signature member at Ignacio Sanín Bernal & Cia to facilitate senior management at Nutresa in developing its operations and executing its strategy. González is responsible for leading the legal department and ensuring the company’s compliance with all regulations in this highly regulated sector, as well as the company’s legal strategy on all matters from contracts and labour policy to product licensing.
The agriculture division of DowDuPont, Corteva, is the only major agriscience company completely dedicated to agriculture. In Latin America, the company relies on the counsel provided by Camilo Gutierrez, a legal professional who has advanced quickly in Colombia’s legal market since graduating in law from the University of Rosario in 2006. He joined the organisation in 2013 as legal counsel for the Andean region at DuPont supporting sales business units and corporate functions in Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela whilst working with legal teams in Argentina, Brazil and Mexico. Demonstrating the trust and confidence his employers have in him, shortly after the global multibillion dollar merger of Dow Chemical and DuPont in September 2017 Gutierrez was appointed as Corteva’s legal manager for the Andean region as well as ethics and compliance officer for the whole of Latin America. In this multi-disciplinary role, he is recognised for continuing to deliver timely advice across the continent.
Since 2010, Ximena Herrera has been legal counsel at Vertiv, a global leader in designing, building and servicing critical infrastructure from air-cooling stacks to systems operational support. Her role has a wide remit as she covers the entire Andean Region, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. Herrera is credited for excelling in the role by supporting the US company’s growth in the regions she covers with clear and innovative advice. Overseeing all legal matters across these regions she is recognised by a nominator for her achievements, who said, ‘[She] is an excellent lawyer and leader in the technological industry. [Herrera] has given legal support to the organisation on important decisions. [And] has a close relationship with some lawyers from [our firm]’. Herrera graduated from the Externado University of Colombia, with a specialist degree in commercial law from the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, with considerable knowledge and experience in commercial law, tax law and industrial property.
In a career that started over 25 years ago, Carlos Herrera has held high profile government and corporate positions and today is the general counsel of ETB, a large Colombia telecommunications company, which he has held since December 2015. In the role, Herrera is recognised for his contribution in 2018 towards ETB’s signing of a collective agreement with a union as well as helping overturn a payment order against the company through the constitutional courts. Much more than a legal professional, Herrera is distinguished by having expertise going beyond the usual legal skillset of in-house lawyers. He spent the four years prior to joining ETB as an IT specialist consultant advising on the legal and regulatory requirements relating to data hosting, cloud computing among many other contemporary technology issues in the business sphere. Other high profile roles he has held include serving as general counsel of Telmex’s Colombian subsidiary between 2008 and 2011 and a presidential appointment to the Regulatory Telecommunications Commission of Colombia as commissioner in 2002 before being appointed director in 2006.
Joaquín Idoyaga Larrañaga joined SURA Asset Management in 2013 as chief legal, compliance and risk officer in Uruguay after working in independent law firms for seven years. In 2016, he was promoted to his current position of regional vice president of legal and compliance and relocated to Colombia. Idoyaga is responsible for six countries and more than 70 lawyers focusing on the supervision of pension funds, capital markets regulation, corporate governance and M&A across the entire Latin American region. He has managed five M&A’s, the new issuance of an international bond and has transformed the application of international regulation standards including VM, Dodd-Frank, EMIR, SOX standards and others. Another innovation he has implemented is a mandatory online course in compliance and corporate governance to all SURA’s employees, over 8,600 people, and is currently introducing software, named “Gobertia”, to manage all corporate secretaries of all six boards of directors. Idoyaga was crucial in the supervision of the issuance of US$350m in international bonds, the sale of an insurance company in Peru worth US$275m to Intercorp, the sale of an insurance company to Suramericana (part of Grupo SURA) in Mexico worth US$20m and the sale of an annuities business in Chile to BICE Corp worth US$232m. He has a wealth of experience to add to SURA’s leading position in Latin American’s financial market, and has given back to the legal community by previously teaching at the Universidad de la República and Universidad Católica del Uruguay, ISEDE in Montevideo, Uruguay.
With a deep knowledge of all relevant legal and commercial factors affecting multinational corporations business in the region, Andres Jaramillo Caballero is known for his skill across several practice areas in different jurisdictions, and particularly in commercial negotiations, licensing, information privacy and security, and compliance. With nine years of experience leading multi-country legal, privacy and compliance support at technology giants such as Sun Microsystems and Oracle, Jaramillo has achieved great success in diverse and complex legal environments while helping the business comply with equally complex internal policy structures. Over the course of his career, Jaramillo has played a key role in complex negotiations for contracts with the main regional players in the banking, telecommunications, and retail industries. Jaramillo’s current role is associate general counsel for global diversified industrial manufacturing company Ingersoll Rand, and specifically its real estate development business Trane de Colombia, providing broad legal support to the company’s operations throughout South America and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean countries. The role is one that allows him to capitalise on previous experiences by becoming a key component in the selling process of a wide portfolio of products and services. Jaramillo says that, ‘this professional stage has allowed me to bring into practice all previous learning experiences, since I act as legal leader for all of Ingersoll Rand’s lines of business (Thermo king, Trane, Compression Technologies, Club Car), in several Latin American countries. This experience has showed me the importance of a solid legal and professional background comes first for an in-house lawyer when providing support to multinational companies, regardless of the industry, which particularities you can learn and perfect on the way’. With limited personnel resources to support the region, data recollection and analysis are becoming crucial in identifying where and how the legal support must be focused. He worked on the design and implementation of legal support data tools and “80/20 analysis” and has been responsible for the legal implementation and development of the Ingersoll Rand commercial and logistics hub for Latin America, based in Panama. This structure is expected to channel most of the firm’s Latin America business within the next few years. This has demanded Jaramillo involvement on multimillion investments with careful planning from logistics, financial, legal and tax perspectives.
Carlos Laguado’s, reputation as a global leader in financial legal management started at Grupo Bolívar, a Latin American financial conglomerate active in banking, insurance, stock brokerage and real estate. As legal manager for corporate affairs he structured Bolivar’s M&A’s boosting the Group’s strategy, and profitability from the internal corporate conglomerate structure. Then, in 2010 he became general counsel and compliance officer for GMF Colombia, dealing with wholesale and retail auto finance and capital markets in Colombia. Afterwards, he became responsible for additional markets in Latin America like Chile and Peru. In 2017, his responsibilities were broadened again to supervise the global legal aspects of compliance for the international operations of GMF for Europe, Latin America and China. In late 2017, upon the sale of GMF’s operations in Europe to Peugeot, he was no longer responsible for Europe and instead became accountable for all the legal issues connected to the entry of GMF to Australia, where GMF is incorporating a new entity subject to credit regulations. At present, he maintains oversight of compliance related matters to the international operations in Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Chile, China and Australia. His responsibilities include providing legal advice for global contracts and data privacy issues, application of the laws and regulations on anti-money laundering, anti-corruption and anti-trust amongst others. Using his professional experience Laguado gives lectures at universities in Latin America, teaching about corporate finance, corporate law and the art of being an in-house counsel. Speaking about his challenges, Laguado says that, ‘synchronising a global team of lawyers and swimming across innumerable compliance regulations, regulators, and cultures is still teaching me how to become a true global legal leader… Changes in staff and strategy vary according to the operation, jurisdiction, momentum and business needs’. He goes on to say that the financial business of GMF allowed him to navigate across insolvency proceedings in various Latin American countries, such as Chile, Peru and Colombia, testing the efficiency of the country bankruptcy courts, execution proceedings and the effectiveness of the security interest regimes across Latin America. With aggregate exposures above US$200m these cases allowed him to broaden his capacities and knowledge to successfully build secured transactions and negotiate with various creditors such as employees, financiers and stockholders, in the search of collecting loans or fairly reducing losses. Among other notable successes across his geographical remit, in 2018 Laguado led the structured issuance of medium term bonds in the Colombian Capital Market, with a non-traditional parent guarantee subject to New York law. Although the issuance is to be placed in Colombia and was approved by the Colombian securities regulator, the state-of-the-art back-to-back parent guarantee granted by GMF Company Inc. posed important legal complexities to the successful and innovative deal.
Christina Llordeda has led the legal team at Grupo Sanford since 2013 joining with strong in-house experience from Citibank Colombia, experience in private practice as an associate at Brigard and Urrutia, and with an LLM from Harvard Law School. Llordeda is a dedicated leader of the team and has been an asset to the company with her experience, leadership, and business acumen as highlighted by a nominator who identified her as, ‘commercially savvy, very prepared and focused’ and went on to say that, ‘she is an excellent lawyer and has added immense value to the Sanford Group’. As such, she has continued to impress peers since being featured in the inaugural GC Powerlist: Colombia in 2016.
Highly respected amongst peers and colleagues, Arusiak Mardirousian has been working in high-profile in-house legal roles for Hewlett Packard since she joined the ranks of the US multinational technology company in 2000. As the company split its PC and printers business from its enterprise products and services business in 2015, Mardirousian worked on the transfer, in Colombia, of the printing division’s assets from the previous corporate set-up to the new vehicle incorporated in Colombia. Her services were of course retained after the global split of operations as she took on the role of regional manager counsel for the HP Inc.’s South Latin American region. Mardirousian continued to impress colleagues and was rewarded again by being promoted to her current position, South America global legal affairs director. In this new expanded role she oversees the entire South America legal team whilst continuing to be the country counsel for HP in Colombia.
Having been at the company since 2012, Felipe Marquez Robledo has an advanced understanding of the operations of AngloGold Ashanti, a South African headquartered international gold mining and exploration company which began actively exploring in Colombia in 2002. Having demonstrated his technical legal skills combined with a business-minded approach to senior management, he gained promotions to take on roles not limited to legal matters. Since April 2017, he has been the vice president corporate affairs and country manager for Colombia of the organisation, which has commissioned significant investment in various greenfield exploration projects in Colombia and has had two major discoveries, at “La Colosa” in the Tolima province and “Gramalote” in the Antioquia province. Marquez is still heavily involved in the legal processes of opening these mines and creating the partnerships the firm uses to facilitate these operations. For example, Gramalote, is pitched as a joint venture between AngloGold Ashanti (51%) and Vancouver-based B2Gold. The project, managed by AngloGold Ashanti, is expected to be the group’s first operating gold mine in Colombia. Over the course of his 20 year legal career Marquez has earned the respect of his peers and is considered one of the country’s premier in-house legal professionals.
After a short rise to senior positions in the multinational firm PREBEL, and at law firms including Preyra and Bordon covering all elements of commercial, corporate, and legal matters for manufacturing in Colombia, Argentina, Peru and Mexico, Mauricio Martínez Henao studied for an LLM in Business law at the University of Buenos Aires, and returned to Colombia to begin working for C.I. HERMECO (OFFCORSS). OFFCORSS, is an industry leader in the sale of clothing for children, with a presence in Colombia, Ecuador and Mexico and sales in the US, Central and South America. Serving as its chief legal officer, Henao is responsible for all commercial legal matters for the company and is a specialist in mitigation of risk and furtherance of business strategy from within a legal perspective. From implementing an industry-leading digital tracking software management system using cloud technology, to the latest compliance and regulatory requirements Henao leads his team with this business-centric but prudent approach. His digital tracking system is one of the few implemented in the fashion sector in the region, and it is important to the company’s track record of having zero consumer rights related claims and litigations since 2017. Corporate practises are key to Henao’s strategy of equity between the company and its customers and he has been crucial in the facilitation of this strategy by creating new policies on corporate governance, ethics, anti-money laundering, fraud, and policy of non-conflict of interest with public figures. This effort has paid off with the reduction by 70% of internal fraud within the company since 2016 and led to the company being certified as an Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) by the Customs and Tax Authority in Colombia, an eight month process led by Henao. Another innovation led by Henao is the introduction of automated low value contracts and compliance with local and international data protection law including the EU’s GDPR regulation to increase efficiency. About this Henao says, ‘the most relevant thing to keep in mind, is that this project does not need an investment of external advisors or cost overruns, because this project was made by internal personnel of the company, so all the efficiencies achieved were converted into savings for the company in time and money’. Since 2016, Henao has been part of the Regulation Commission of the Colombian Chamber of Electronic Commerce and he worked to make sure that the US was included on a list of countries permitted to store Colombian citizens’ data, the failure of which would have meant a significant reduction in the export market to the US with profound implications for OFFCORSS, further demonstrating his negotiating acumen.
Juan Camilo Medina Moreno joined Vision Software in April 2015 after working at J. Echeverri and Asociados covering IP, commercial law and other civil law topics. Medina worked at Vision Software as a legal counsel developing his talent and experience as an in-house lawyer in the technology sector through the guidance of his mentors within the firm, developing the breadth of his legal experience and problem solving techniques. He has applied this experience to his current role and combined his passion for technology with his legal experience and interest in the development of the sector in Latin America. For example, Medina is working on research towards the applicability of blockchain, smart contracts, and cloud computing to the Colombian technology market. His strengths are his ability to speak and write using non-legal language to communicate legal aspects of the company’s commercial work to his non-legal colleagues, and include technical knowledge in his legal advice. Medina identifies that ‘character development, empathy and humility are necessary lessons every in-house lawyer must face [in light of] the toughest legal challenges that arise daily’. Since his promotion, Medina has implemented a technological innovation into the firm’s risk management systems, created an entirely new compliance culture by implementing anti-corruption and money laundering regulations, which had never been applied previously such as the FCPA UK Bribery Act. He was also key in the creation of the information security policy, operational risk and continuity in the provision of the business. During his time as legal coordinator and compliance officer Medina has led on two major contract successes for the firm. One was in 2017 after 8 months of negotiations with Grupo Aval, Colombia’s most influential bank. Medina completed a licencing deal for the bank’s Microsoft Office software and a contract for Vision Software’s IT services for the next five years. The deal generated US$64mn and was the largest deal involving Microsoft in Colombia. The second deal was concerning a cloud computing IT management system to Philippi Prietocarrizosa Ferrero DU and Uria (PPU) to enable better customer service and internal operations, and involved Moreno negotiating the contract with the top law firm in Colombia. Medina identifies that these deals, along with the cultural changes he has implemented at the firm, particularly concerning the appreciation of the law as a facilitator, not a hindrance, of business as his among his greatest achievements.
Much more than an in-house counsel, Hernán Darío Mejía Álvarez is a lawyer, professor of competition law at the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana Cali, and referee of the Chamber of Commerce of Cali who studied for his law degree with socioeconomic sciences from the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in 1979. Since acquiring significant experience in commercial in-house law and government in roles at places such as Corporación Financiera del Valle, Ingenio Riopaila Castilla, Chamber of the Food Industry of Andi, Mejía has acted as the legal and corporate vice president of the Colombina Business Group and its regional subsidiaries for over 25 years. Colombina is a large multinational food and beverage producer from Colombia with products ranging from hot sauces, candy, ice-cream, biscuits, and chocolate among others through its international catalogue of brands and subsidiaries. In 2015, Colombina strengthened its presence in the Spanish confectionary market by acquiring FIESTA, one of Spain’s largest candy producers in a deal worth €16.8m. With Mejía Álvarez’s leadership of the legal team Colombina is well placed to expand further internationally.
Jorge M. Meneses is a corporate lawyer with more than 14 years of experience in leading international companies in the Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) region with multidisciplinary knowledge focused on risk prevention and creation of competitive advantages. He started his career at Liberty Seguros and Liberty Seguros de Vida, where he developed in different roles in the legal department. He served as corporate governance director and compliance officer from 2003 to 2010 before assuming the role of legal head of Delima Marsh Colombia heading its legal and risk department, including the other subsidiaries of the group. Versed in corporate, commercial, insurance and reinsurance law and a leader of legal and compliance matters in the LAC region, Meneses is able to work with diverse functional areas by leading innovative processes, acquisitions, divestments and restructures on a local and international level. As part of his role, he leads the legal teams in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Miami at Guy Carpenter. Meneses is also responsible for the direction of business critical legal and compliance priorities, and strategies related to data privacy, anti-corruption, anti-money laundering, trade sanctions, trademarks and licenses among other matters, including the implementation of new laws and regulations. He has also directed the implementation and standardisation of the corporate governance model across the region. Meneses also provides and identifies liability exposure assessments and functional solutions to manage and reduce risk, and is responsible for the direction and implementation of the corporate governance structure across the LAC region as well as the legal representative for jurisdictional matters of the company across the region. Meneses has deep knowledge of the insurance industry, due to his experience working at insurance companies and insurance and reinsurance Brokers. He has also participated as a speaker in seminaries organised by the Association Colombiana de Derecho de Seguros (ACOLDESE) and the Association Colombiana de Aseguradoras (FASECOLDA). From the corporate compliance perspective, he has more than 10 years of experience working as a compliance officer, leading the development and implementation of anti-money laundering compliance programs. Furthermore, as part of his role as corporate lawyer, he has provided direction to high-level executives with respect to the participation at critical shareholder and board of directors meetings. He says that he ‘defines himself as a proactive professional, focused on the optimisation of processes across the company. As a manager, I encourage my team to pursue the excellence in terms on engagement, operational excellence, quality and ethics’.
In July 2014, Sandra Monroy Suarez began her role as legal and compliance director for the Northern Latin America and Andean clusters at CenturyLink Colombia after developing her career in the telecoms and energy industries. Since joining, she has identified regulatory risks and pending issues and established actions plans to solve them, prioritising the prevention of future damages or sanctions. Her team drafted a matrix of licenses and regulatory obligations by country, implemented an automated email system with reminders to internal departments to help keep track of report and contract deadlines, has reduced external legal fees, and implemented stricter anti-money laundering and financial terrorism regulation systems. The structure of the legal department has changed and become specialist on compliance matters and local regulations. In Monroy’s career there have been some major litigation victories, and successful projects that demonstrate her leadership, talent and her inclusion in this publication. An example is the litigation around the payment of capital and interest from investments in a major Colombian bank ordered by a prominent brokerage between 2006 and 2007. The transactions were fulfilled and the money issued to individuals which constituted an illegal placement and collection of resources. The bank was flagged up for internal corruption and fuelled lots of litigation. Her team worked with the board of directors and the president of the bank in crisis management to recover the trust of customers. These actions were taken to protect the company’s assets and mitigate the damages, highlighting that the brokerage had a series of unreported legal investigations into prohibited conduct. Monroy acted on behalf of the bank’s board of directors and pursued action against the brokerage, and then oversaw its liquidation. This crisis was an important career development for her. She said, ‘It prepares me to handle successfully the big challenges, crisis and complex negotiations that I have managed in my career as a legal director or manager in the different companies. And how to make a 360 grade evaluation of complex situations and provide ways to solve them’. Another leading project supervised by Monroy was the fulfilment of the national 4G fibre optic project. From this she learnt how to manage the legal and regulatory issues of the project and keeping the company unharmed. There were no fines or claims involved, whilst the renegotiation of key aspects such as terms of the contract with the government was successful. Following this Monroy and her team negotiated with the Colombian government, and local indigenous communities to establish the first submarine fibre optic cable connecting Colombia with the Pacific Ocean. From this project she developed community engagement skills and experience working with government contractors, and her team completed the project without any fines, or sanctions further demonstrating her skill.
Chief legal officer since 2009, Tatiana Montealegre is the head of the legal function for Parque Arauco in Colombia. The company is a large shopping centre, retail and entertainment company from Chile with locations in Peru and four shopping centres in Colombia. The company is expanding rapidly since entering the Colombian market in 2008 and earned COL$23bn in revenue in Colombia alone over the last year. Tatiana Montealegre, as a specialist in financial law leads the contract negotiations for these expansions as well as all legal concerns with the purchase, licensing agreements, regulations involved in its expansion, as well as developing the company’s “land bank” of potential plots. Parque Arauco is evolving a major presence in the region and Montealegre is credited for playing her role in handling legal matters expertly for this.
Responsible for ensuring that ABB’s cluster in Colombia and Ecuador adhere to legal standards and enforcing regulations in all aspects and levels of business as well as providing guidance on integrity matters, Juan Pablo Mora Valderrama has been working for the Swiss-headquartered power technology conglomerate since November 2013. After impressing peers within the organisation for three years as legal and integrity adviser to ABB Colombia and ABB Ecuador, he was promoted to his current position of legal and integrity manager for both domestic subsidiaries. Over the course of five years at the company Mora, who can speak four languages, has worked on a number of multimillion dollar transactions including the recent successful negotiation in 2017 with Yellow Fidic over a contract for the PSA Port Electrification in Panama. Mora says the negotiation required ‘a deep compliance and financial analysis which supported a cross business strategy’, and moulded his characteristics as negotiator and business partner ‘allowing me to be a true part of our [sales] structure, with a legal and compliance perspective’; he adds. More recently in 2018, he played a key role on the agreements relating to the development of the EMCALI (Empresa Municipal de Cali) substation and Puerto Antioquia Port. Mora is also credited with training his personnel in finance, business and negotiations, in order for them to be able to positively collaborate in business decisions, from a legal and integrity side. ‘This has shown to be a powerful tool to take hard business decisions, and the people support our participation from this perspective, assuming in a better way the low risk policy’, he explains.
Fabian Moreno Barbosa, has been the assistant general counsel for Colombia, Peru, and Venezuela at Willis Towers Watson since 2014. Before this he was an attorney at the Colombian Insurance regulator Superintendencia Financiera de Colombia specifically for the office that supervises insurance companies and brokers, and was a litigation associate at Jose Lloreda Camacho & Co, one of Colombia’s largest law firms. At Willis Towers Watson, Moreno is in charge of a two person team in Bogota and reports to the regional counsel for Latin America based in London. He is the company secretary general in Colombia and is also responsible for giving advice on matters in Peru and Venezuela. During his tenure, he developed all of the legal processes and controls for the company in Colombia, Peru and Venezuela as there was no prior in-house legal position at the company. One example is the advanced AML/KYC regulation process he implemented, which is a major innovation for the region’s local insurance sector. Moreno also implemented the necessary legal actions for completing the integration of Willis Towers Watson in Colombia and Peru, and handled a complex negotiation with INS, the largest Costa Rican insurance company, to reach a settlement regarding a difference in its strategic alliance. Moreno says that these experiences, ‘are very important for my professional development because they were so challenging at the time making me go outside my comfort zone and looking for innovative solutions in order to provide a good service for the company’.
Carolina Neira has been at Abbott, the US based pharmaceutical giant, since 2013 and is currently senior counsel for the Andes region for international legal operations. She has previously been in private practice something which a nominator identified as key to her experience and talent, ‘At the onset of her career [Neira] worked at the law firms Cardenas & Cardenas and Prieto Carrizosa. She was then hired by Abbott as director of legal affairs and now she holds regional responsibilities as senior counsel for the Andes Region and international legal operations’. Abbott as a world leading pharmaceutical company specialising in medicines and technology for all stages of treatment has a number of local partnerships in Neira’s remit in Latin America. Management of this operation is something that Neira is comfortable in and a specific quality highlighted by a nominator. ‘Neira has been a part of Abbott for over four years. She is highly knowledgeable in corporate law, international M&A and commercial law. At the same time she offers support to all functions and business units. As a young and bright lawyer, she has quickly moved up in the career ladder’.
Since July 2011, and after spending more than five years at Huawei Technologies’ legal department, Juan Pablo Ovalle has been the country counsel for Colombia and the LCR at IBM de Colombia. He has led the team on all the innovations that IBM has implemented in recent history and says that IBM is unique in that it forces you to reinvent yourself constantly. For example, when he joined IBM it had ATMs within its portfolio and today it works on artificial intelligence. He says, ‘that has made me as a lawyer think out of the box, change the way I work, change the focus to form a business perspective and catch up with the needs of the company. That has made a huge impact on the company’s perspective about the legal department’. Ovalle’s curiosity, of seeing the law from a wider perspective, allows him to anticipate new legal trends, regulations and products which is key to keeping up with developments in a fast changing environment and avoid becoming obsolete. He has also adapted to the company culture of IBM, a US based company, from Huawei a Chinese company, and he says that adapting to this cultural change was key to his success at IBM. Also, he has adapted to working on the wide variety of legal issues facing general counsels from labour issues to compliance, regulatory matters, and real estate to be an industry leader.
Since doing her training at Citibank in Miami, Ingrid Pahl Maya went on to representing the multinational in Central America, before making the move to Itaú Brazil being chosen as an emerging talent, one of only 2% of the Itaú workforce selected to be part of this prestigious program. She continued her development in Brazil and then took over as legal vice president and corporate secretary Itaú BBA in Colombia. In December 2017, Pahl was promoted to general manager given her excellent results, reliability, and management as head of the legal area during the negotiation of the purchase by Itaú Unibanco Holding of Corpbanca Chile and Colombia. She presided over the first year of financial growth for Itaú in the region after five years of consecutive loss and repeated it in their second year as management. One of the major achievements of her and her team was the creation and assembly of the legal area for Itaú BBA Colombia and for creation of Itaú BBA Colombia Finance Corporation and in her team’s representation of Itaú BBA offices; Itaú Unibanco and Itaú UK in Colombia. Ingrid says, ‘after this great challenge, we can say with great peace of mind and pride that through the different structures and development of “tailor-made” documentation for each client we have managed to keep Itaú BBA Colombia without a single loss in its balance sheet by default or any non payments from customers’.
Joining Schlumberger in October 2015, Carolina Parra brings her previous in-house experience, sales and marketing technique to the client contracts manager role having a hand in a number of deals for the different service lines of the company and provides a broader picture in the area of goods and services for the oil and gas market. She deftly uses her knowledge of commercial contracts in the service sector for the oil industry, performs analysis of bidding documents for private tenders in the hydrocarbons sector, co-ordinates the projection of offers for drilling services, and is involved in dispute resolution. With a critical and proactive attitude, responsible and agile at decision-making a nominator has described her as ‘business-oriented, always looking after the core of her business, experienced lawyer, very pragmatic and result oriented. She is a very important asset for her organisation’. Among her achievements and tasks in the position, the following stand out: she managed the closing of improvement agreements in the commercial conditions of current contracts, the closing of challenging cases, risk analysis of new businesses, brand positioning, establishment of processes for the projection of offers, generation of teamwork for this type of process, monitoring the execution of contracts, leadership of processes for successful commercial samples and managing their costs. Being so prolific, she is rightly recognised as on of Colombia’s top in-house legal professionals.
Lafrancol, a pharmaceutical company with 100 years of history in Colombia, has been a subsidiary to Abbot Laboratories, a global pharmaceutical production giant, since Abbott purchased Recalcine Pharmaceutical Corporation of Chile in 2012. Lafrancol produces biosimilar and OTC products as well as prescription medicines for a wide variety of conditions. Tito Parra has been a legal counsel at Abbott since 1994 and was involved in the afroemetnioned takeover process. He is a specialist in public, administrative, health, IP and competition law and previously worked as an advisor in the Ministry of Finance. On his appointment to cover Lafrancol for Abbott a nominator said, ‘Tito has worked for Lafrancol for several years now and has always been collaborative and strategic with all legal matters, especially with handling the company’s trade union. [His] legal input has been critical for resolving several legal matters within the company’.
For twelve years, Daniel Perea Villa has worked as corporate and legal affairs head at Terpel. It is a consultant position through which the company’s biggest challenges are projected from a legal-corporate standpoint, considering its implications, risks and authorities. He has carried out changes to corporate governance in the legal department, such as integrating public affairs management, strategic communications and the involvement of interest groups into legal matters. Perea has led Terpel’s agreement for lubricants blending and distribution contracts in Colombia, Peru and Ecuador, enhancing the company’s position in the lubricant market in the Andean region. Furthermore he has transformed the legal team’s approach to legal affairs broadening its legal perspective to become facilitators of competitive strategy, while always protecting the company from a regulatory point of view. Perea has managed a corporate plan to participate in the construction and enactment of applicable regulations and to approach different market players such as suppliers, clients, guilds and regulatory authorities, among others. He says about this commercial focus, that the ‘team has actively participated in the evolution of applicable regulations which provides its members with a strategic vision. It is fundamental that team members know their legal areas but, it is equally or more important, that they understand our business dynamics, the numbers associated, financial indicators, the implementation of technological tools, and the relevant market, among others’.
With extensive experience in the telecommunications industry, and previous regulatory experience in the Chamber of Commerce of Bogota, Andrés Perez Velasco joined Publicar in 2011 as head of legal affairs. Publicar is a multinational digital media and PR firm operating across Latin America supporting a wide variety of businesses grow through increasing their publicity with online products, apps and printed advertising services among others. As head of legal affairs, Perez has a wide remit having responsibility for the legal matters of the company in Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Chile, Peru and Argentina. The company has a wide portfolio of products across digital platforms each requiring a detailed regulatory model across the different jurisdictions. Perez expertly leads the company’s efforts to handle all of these different regulatory situations as well as the company’s IP and contracts amongst a number of other legal issues.
Since January 2017 Diana Patricia Ramírez Castro has been serving the multinational medical devices company ConvaTec in the capacity of compliance officer and senior counsel for Latin America. In the role she is responsible for coordinating legal activities across ConvaTec’s operations in the region whilst also harmonising regulatory and compliance approaches in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Mexico. On assuming the role of compliance officer along with the legal function, Ramírez, says, ‘it was a challenge to assume these two functions without generating distrust in the internal clients, but it has allowed me to position the compliance role as an inherent part of any negotiation within the companies’. Explaining how she overcame internal challenges when taking over the dual role, she had the following say: ‘When the legal and compliance officer function is headed by the same person, fear can be generated inside organisations. In my current role, I have built bridges of trust with my internal clients, which have allowed me to quickly position myself as a crucial person when its time to make decisions, somebody who can be consulted without fear of reprisals. Offering alternatives to solve problems, giving adequate answers quickly and contacting key external lawyers has been fundamental to the success of my role’. Prior to her current role at ConvaTec, Ramírez spent a year as compliance officer at Boehringer Ingelheim in Colombia, before which she was in charge of the legal affairs of Bayer’s HealthCare business in Colombia. She highlights some of the important transactions she’s worked on recently: ‘In the last three years I have participated in the acquisition of product lines at Bayer [such as the] purchase of MSD’s mass consumption line and Boehringer [such as the] purchase of Sanofi’s Animal Health line). Also, I was in charge of the closing and sale of assets of the mass consumption production plant of Bayer in Cali and the sale of its distribution centre in Bogota’. She also explains how her background in private practice gave her a solid structure to excel in in-house roles: ‘Reaching the private sector as an in-house lawyer having previously been part of law firms allowed me to have another vision of the negotiation, the fees and the customer service that they provide. Analysing the litigation from the perspective of the client and not the attorney has allowed me to save legal costs and optimise the use of external lawyers’.
As one of the world’s largest food and beverage companies with recognisable prodcuct brands across the globe, US multinational Mondelēz International employs the most skilled and respected in-house lawyers to its ranks around the world. In this regard, Juan Pablo Restrepo is well suited to his position in the organisation. Since 2013, the Colombian-based legal professional has occupied the senior and multijurisdictional role of chief counsel for the Andean, Pacific and Central American countries . More specifically this entails holding ultimate responsibility for legal, compliance and security matters in Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Chile, Ecuador, Bolivia, Central America, the Caribbean as well as US export sales to Latin America. Prior to this role, Restrepo worked for global healthcare company GSK for six-and-a-half years out of their Bogota offices. Initially joining as legal affairs manager he was promoted in 2010 to legal director for Central America, Caribbean and Colombia – his first multijurisdictional role which provided him with the tools to excel even further while at Mondelēz International.
Since March 2018, Jesús Esteban Revelo Barragán acts as a technical link at the Superintendence of Industry and Commerce for the Hydrocarbons Territorial Strategy, strengthening the management of this initiative led by the National Government through the National Hydrocarbons Agency, in the field of commercial law, competition law, strategies for the supply of goods and services for the oil and gas industry, business development projects and supply chains in the territories where hydrocarbon projects are developed. Despite working as an in-house counsel for only short period time, he has already impressed peers in private practice with one glowingly saying the following: ‘[Revelo] has demonstrated excellent knowledge in the field of competition law. He is a young lawyer who has been part of different legal teams within public sector entities and his performance within the Superintendence of Industry and Commerce has been highlighted by his ability to interpret particular cases and propose impeccable solutions’. During his professional practice Revelo has integrated different working groups within prominent entities of the three branches of public power, which he says has allowed him to strengthen his knowledge and experience in matters of public and private law, particularly in the areas of procedural law, commercial law and administrative law. He joined the Superintendence of Industry and Commerce in 2017 and initially worked as a lawyer in the Restrictive Commercial Practices Group of the Delegation for the Protection of Competition before being selected for his current role. Describing himself as ‘disciplined, committed and a responsible professional’ Revelo says he also understands ‘the importance of performing in the public sector’ and for that reason strives daily to be more efficient and always achieve an optimal performance.
Jorge Adrián Rincón Plata started his career after completing a LLM in international business law from Queen Mary University of London, as a lawyer at the Banco de Bogotá, and was promoted to international and treasury vice president as legal advisor in 2007. At Banco de Bogotá he was in charge of providing legal advice on cross border transactions such as syndicated loan facilities, negotiation of documentary credits for cross border transactions, negotiation of the ISDA Master Agreements and derivatives contracts with international counterparties. Also, he supported the legal requirements of the trading floor’s proprietary trading transactions, fixed income securities, and the offering of structured products to the costumers of the bank. He also worked across jurisdictions and advised on the company’s foreign operations. Rincón led the legal team at the bank during the challenges resulting from the 2008 banking meltdown, and in particular managed its response to the crisis including the increased regulations, and contractual risk matters. His management of the situation led the bank to promote him to chief legal counsel in 2012. Highlights of Rincón’s career at Grupo Aval, Colombia’s third largest company and second largest bank, include his handling of international disputes in France and Greece involving Colombia and letters of credit, conducting the due diligence and contractual negotiation for the acquisition of BAC Credomatic, and the preparation for Grupo Aval’s IPO on the New York Stock Exchange in 2014. Rincón considers these transactions to be a determining factor for the regional positioning of Grupo Aval a as regional multinational with presence in over 10 countries. Recently, regulatory initiatives have received renewed attention in the agenda of the legal department. In particular, for the financial industry, Colombia’s OECD accession process required among others, the strengthening of the standards of corporate governance applicable to securities issuers in Colombia and the enactment of regulation for financial conglomerates. This required a comprehensive update to the corporate governance architecture of Grupo Aval in line with the new law with respect to, capital adequacy, corporate governance standards, financial risk management and internal control framework and criteria for identifying, administering, monitoring and revealing conflicts of interest. On this challenge, Rincón says, ‘this law is indeed the most significant reform of the financial system in the last 30 years and as such, my efforts have been particularly dedicated to educate members of our organisation regarding the changes and potential impact of the proposed regulation in order to allow the debate of this proposal within industry members and with regulators and supervisors, not only from the legal, but also from a general business approach’.
Juan Carlos Rivera has served at ISAGEN, a leading sustainable energy production company in Colombia, since 2011, and is responsible for the legal function with a focus on infrastructure and conflict resolution. ISAGEN has a wide network of hydroelectric and thermal energy plants across the country and is an environmentally conscious organisation fully committed to the 2030 UN sustainable development program targets, and is passionate in its environmentalism as well as labour practices in Colombia. As a lawyer with a specialisation in financial and business law and a diploma in tax law and economic regulation of public services, Rivera is finely placed to assist ISAGEN on a number of matters. And with over 20 years of experience in the electric, trade, labour, and social security sectors, in particular with trade unions, he is considered to be one Colombia’s most experienced in-house legal professionals. A nominator noted his talent, saying that ‘he looks into very delicate topics specially related to infrastructure, and has ample knowledge of the very complex and sophisticated sector. He has participated in conflict resolutions processes with excellent outcomes’.
Catalina Robledo Ramirez has been a corporate lawyer for over 15 years, acquiring wide experience as general counsel in board of directors and shareholder meetings and all matters related with corporate governance, as well as the negotiation of domestic and international agreements. She was hired by Distribuidora Nissan (DINISSAN) in 2013 after being recognised for handling matters related with business associations, IP, antitrust, consumer protection, corporate and commercial law as well as for her past experiences as a compliance officer dealing with data protection and antifraud matters. As legal manager - general counsel for DINISSAN, she in charge of all the legal matters, not just for Distribuidora Nissan, but for all the companies which make up its business group. In addition to working on important deals and disputes, a key feature of Robledo’s tenure at DINISSAN includes creating its legal function: ‘When I was hired, the legal department had been created just one year [prior], with a few junior lawyers. Nowadays the legal department has me as the head, in the role of legal manager, and there are four more lawyers, two of them senior the other two intermediate, with excellent academic and professional backgrounds’, she states. The changes Robledo implemented has allowed the function to cover all the legal tasks for the six companies comprising the DINISSAN’s group of companies, ensuring that all the activities and business developed by the companies are in line with the local regulations. However she highlights that ‘[creating] the conscience in the whole company about the significance and advantages of having an in house legal department’, as her biggest challenge and achievement. ‘My biggest accomplishment is that I have succeeded in this task, now the legal department is recognised like a strategic ally for the other departments of the company and certainly also by the general manager, the board of directors and even the shareholders’ meeting’. Some facets of her previous in-house career highlights include implementing corporate governance rules at both family and private companies, acting as compliance officer which allow her to know deeply the regulations in different sectors of the economy and participating in the negotiation of domestic and international agreements which enhanced her negotiation skills especially when faced with different cultures. Prior to DINISSAN, Robledo held senior positions at companies across Colombia including the Association of R&D pharmaceuticals (AFIDRO), Mazda and Colombia’s National Commission of Civil Service.
Grupo Suramericana (Grupo SURA) is a Latin American diversified financial services company listed on the Colombian Stock Exchange and registered with the ADR- Level 1 program in the US. It operates two main fields of investment, one being its core strategic interests in the financial service, insurance, pension, savings and investment sectors; and the other being its portfolio interests in the processed food, cement and energy sectors. Fernando Rodas is the firm’s vice president of legal and secretary general and oversees the legal affairs of the company and its corporate governance facility. Recent expansion of subsidiary companies and company acquisitions demonstrate his skills and achievements with regard to overseeing large deals from a legal perspective. Suramericana recently acquired a 99.6% stake in RSA Insurance Group in Latin America for US$614m expanding the reach of the insurance division further into Chile, Mexico, Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina and Colombia. Similarly, the Group acquired Segurous Banistmo in Panama boosting the insurance division’s stake in the industry in Latin America to become the fourth largest insurance company in the region. These expansions demonstrate the powers of Rodas’ legal team to combine expansion with good governance and facilitate the business of the company. Additionally, in terms of governance Rodas and his team are involved in the implementing of new international financial reporting standards (IFRS) to further increase the transparency of the group and its international reputation.
After a short time in private practice Carlos Andrés Rodríguez Schrader is making a name for himself as an up and coming in-house lawyer. Since 2015, Rodríguez has worked his way up through the legal team at gategroup working initially on the company’s labour matters as a legal counsel, to his current role as associate corporate counsel for Latin America from February 2018. Rodríguez established the legal department for the company in Colombia from scratch as the company did not have a Spanish speaking representative based in Latin America, and has transformed the legal culture by putting legal matters in the forefront of the minds of management. He has made a name for himself across the company by developing ideas on business strategy with a legal focus, and has created centralised systems for regulation, processes and compliance. A nominator gives high praise to Rodríguez’s work. ‘Rodríguez has worked for Gate Gourmet since 2015. He started as labour relations coordinator and, due to his great performance and outstanding legal advice, he has been promoted to legal counsel, with regional responsibilities. His evolution is extraordinary’.
Since April 2013, José Andrés Rojas has headed the legal and corporate affairs departments at Auteco, bringing his 18 years of experience in corporate law from in-house positions and private practice. Auteco was the first motorcycle assembler in Colombia and the Andean region opening in 1941, and is the only multi-brand assembler that searches the world for the best of each segment of motorcycles to offer to its customers. Rojas orchestrates the corporate and legal strategy which ensures that the company follows all of the regulations and procedures in this highly regulated industry, implementing the highest quality industry standards and beyond. Recently Rojas has been commended for assisting the company in opening a new distribution centre located in Antioquia as part of the company’s modernisation of its spare parts operation in addition to supporting Auteco’s commitment to air quality in Medellín and the Aburrá Valley.
A major Colombian television production company, Fox Telecolombia has expanded and developed its content in recent years to establish itself as one of the most important producers in Latin America. Complementing its recent success, the firm hired legal director Ximena Rojas Murcia, a specialist in media and entertainment law, in January 2018. She has a formidable record in Colombia’s media sector having worked as an intellectual property and entertainment law consultant for almost a decade advising prominent institutions and companies over the course of her professional journey. Amongst these, she has advised on ONErpm’s Latin American operations, copyright law to the Colombia’s National Television Authority (ANTV) as well as the Colombian Trademark Office - Superintendence of Industry and Commerce. Between 2016 and 2017, Rojas was a professor of intellectual property and art business at Universidad de Los Andes. She gained her undergraduate degree in law from Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in 2000, gaining an LLM specialisation in entertainment, media and intellectual property law from the University of California in 2014.
US multinational petroleum and gas company OXY has significant presence in Colombia, having been an active investor in the country for over 40 years. In charge of legal matters for the company’s operations in Colombia is Maria Jose Romero Higuera, a highly professional in-house lawyer with a thorough knowledge of the market. Having joined OXY in 2011, she is considered to be not only an expert in the field but also strongly aligned with OXY’s ambitions in the region. One nominator, during this year’s research, said of Romero that, ‘she has a very deep understanding of the community issues and aspects in Colombia and their importance for developing business’. Before joining OXY, Romero excelled as a private practice lawyer at various Colombian law firms.
Miguel E. Ronderos joined Apple in April 2017 after a glittering career in the technology sector with in-house positions at Spring Mobile Solutions as legal counsel for Spanish speaking Latin America and other roles including in private practice. He has developed great experience in cross-border transactions, commercial contracts with particular emphasis on multinational corporate governance, formulation and implementation of contractual and commercial policies, trade, M&A, joint ventures and cloud systems (SaaS and IaaS) as well as other commercial legal tasks. At Apple, Ronderos has been involved in contract negotiations, corporate matters, compliance and consumer and tax law considerations for its Latin American operations. He brings his considerable experience and commercial acumen to this challenging new role and is recognised for his strong expertise in the ever-developing technology industry.
Eduardo Rosado Fernández de Castro has been vice president of corporate affairs and general counsel at Promigas since 2012 after originally joining the company in 1999 as legal manager. He brought a wealth of experience acquired from private practice, and other in-house positions at large companies in Colombia, including Auditamos, and Cementos Argos. He has expertise in M&A and international corporate negotiations and government negotiations since his time at Cementos Argos from 1995 until 1999. Rosado has been key in technical negotiations with the Colombian government about the energy regulator’s approach to an acquired right as a vested interest, previously unrecognised by regulators, and controversial in Colombia at the time. Rosado says that, ‘this initiative, where the regulator had to make a pronouncement, resulted in the recognition of the right which favoured new investments in certain strategic assets and gave Promigas the opportunity to continue with its established investment plan without major setbacks’. His role as vice president brings with it more than the legal duties and negotiations highlighted above, he is also involved in the company’s sustainability, environmental, corporate management, internal and external communications, and regional community development. Rosado connects this multi-focused approach to his success, saying ‘this has allowed me to take a more comprehensive view in which the decision-making processes takes into account different variables according to the impacts generated on the different stakeholders’. One of his most influential projects was the construction of the floating regasification unit in the LNG natural gas terminal, one of the most important infrastructure projects in Colombia in 2016. Rosado says that ‘his legal team was very involved in the negotiation of major contracts (shareholder agreements, terminal use agreements, EPC contracts, FSRU operation and service agreements, and loan agreements) as well as in the process of obtaining licenses and permits (environmental, port concession, and free trade zone declarations).’
As corporate legal vice-president and general counsel of the billion dollar Colombian bank, Grupo Bancolombia, Mauricio Rosillo Rojas occupies a prominent position in Colombia’s financial sector and in-house legal market. He joined the firm in 2008 and has contributed heavily on Bancolombia’s major bank acquisitions in Latin America over the course of his ten years there such as Banistmo, Banco Agrícola and BAM among others as well as most recently, Bancolombia’s hybrid bond issuance. In his first year as Bancolombia’s legal vice-president, he was able to settle a number of substantial lawsuits to the financial industry and of considerable amounts for Bancolombia at the time and had the following to say regarding this: ‘I learned from these multiple negotiations and amicable settlements that a main skill an attorney must have is the right combination of specific technical knowledge, with the humbleness to determine when is better to settle a case than to enter into a lawsuit that can take years to be resolved, which can save all parties involved important amount of time, effort and money’. With such experinces he also acquired the crucial skills required to actively participate in the Group’s reorganisation and expansion through M&A activities. Prior to joining Bancolombia, Rosillo worked for Colombia’s Stock Exchange Market (SRO) for two years as Colombia’s first ever executive president the SRO. Whilst in that role he gained credit for importing and implementing the Stock Market’s regulated self-regulatory model based on the US and Canadian model. Before that role Rosillo was the financial regulation director at the Ministry of Finance where he says he ‘acted as a key regulatory agent for the financial and capital markets systems, issuing diverse regulatory mandates that highly promoted such markets elevating them to international standards’. He adds that, ‘One of many milestones reached in this role was being a key player to get to issue laws as important as Law 964 of 2005 (Securities Market Framework Law) that allowed further regulatory development involving every key aspect related to the stock market’. In his current role at Bancolombia he has been commended for his efforts in gender equality by appointing and empowering highly capable women as directors within his 400-strong legal department, handling critical areas such as litigations, compliance, trust, corporate and private banking, regulatory and public affairs and corporate governance among others. In parallel with his professional role, Rosillo has also been involved in academia as the Banking and Financial Law Specialization’s director at Javeriana University and as a law professor at Andes and Javeriana Universities for over 15 years.
A specialist in commercial law, Luis Fernando has grown into his position as chief legal officer and compliance officer at Manuelita Azucar & Energía, a large sugar, bioethanol and seafood conglomerate, since 2012. He is in charge of legal advisory, strategy and compliance and has significant business and legal knowledge. Rueda has been crucial to earning clients’ trust and generating “legal culture” in corporate activities. He says that his approach to management is to ‘empower the attorneys in his team to earn trust in the business environment, work well as a team, and think about sustainability in decisions that affect the corporate business in a positive way’. His team has handled all of the commercial matters efficiently and have strongly argued a defence to an antitrust investigation conducted by the administrative authority against the company.
Grupo Bimbo, a Mexican US$14.5bn FMCG company and global leader in the baking industry, reported US$200m sales in Colombia for 2017 through its branch, Bimbo de Colombia. Among its 3,850 employees in Colombia, the talented Silvia J. Rueda-Serrano stands out as the head of the legal department, after joining the organisation in 2012. With her noteworthy contribution to the day-to-day operations and complex transactions of the company, she quickly earned the trust of the senior management and increased her remit and responsibility: ‘In the beginning I was in charge of basic corporate-related matters, but after six years I am consulted for high-level and strategic decisions of the company, and my opinion is required on a regular basis not only for local issues but also for international assignments’. Rueda-Serrano’s most recent promotion came in July 2017 when she was appointed as head of legal and compliance. As a career highlight, Rueda-Serrano has implemented corporate affairs matters and compliance regulation - including habeas data, anti-corruption and the prevention of money laundering. Other key projects she has worked on for Grupo Bimbo includes the acquisition of a frozen bread company called Frescongelados Panettiere in December 2016, and the opening of a new production facility in 2017 with an investment of US$85m.
Since joining Grupo EMI (now wholly owned by Falck) in 2013, Nicolás Ruiz Moreno has made a significant and positive impact on the global leader in ambulance services’ operations in Colombia. As such, in 2018, he was entrusted with leading the corporate affairs of Falck entities in the region in addition to his original role of legal director. Ruiz is credited for consolidating of the legal area in the region as a key ally of the business. ‘Now, the legal area is fundamental for any decision in the company’, he explains. ‘The good thing is that once the area was consolidated I can be a part of the development of new business ideas, which allows me to help mould the project within the legal parameters and look for solutions, instead of receiving the finished project just for the legal ok. This has moulded me to have a more open mind-set as well as a business prone approach from the legal perspective’, he adds. With the legal function placed firmly in compay’s operations, Ruiz was able to contribute on some of the organisation’s key developments: ‘In the past three years we acquired two different companies in the healthcare sector, which helps the group provide a more integral and diverse service to its clientele and the market. We managed to negotiate two significant agreements becoming the providers of the airport firefighting services at two major international airports in Brazil’. Ruiz impressed peers in seamlessly overcoming the challenge of bringing the acquired companies on board with the legal structure and operation of the Falck and EMI. He is also recognised for helping the management team navigate the company during the creation of a new union in the company. ‘This entailed the negotiation of a collective bargaining agreement, bearing in mind that a very high percentage of the cost of our companies is labour based. Therefore, the impact of the collective bargaining agreement in the financial results of the companies is very significant. Nevertheless, we managed to reach an agreement with the union, for a three year term, which was acceptable to both parties’, he explains. Before his current role, Ruiz enjoyed a spell in-house at Pacific Rubiales Energy (today Frontera Energy). Before that he had seven successful years at the Colombian offices of Baker Mckenzie.
Gustavo Sáchica joined MetLife Colombia Seguros de Vida (MetLife) in November 2015 and has since led the legal team with his composure, experience and emphasis on legal education. He has made innovative changes and optimised the functioning of the department, as well as supervised the provision of expert advice. When he joined he optimised the structure of the department, putting together a team of six with the budget that originally was set for a team of four with external counsels working in-house maximising efficiency. He has also implemented a very popular legal monthly newsletter for the whole company. The publication aims to provide relevant legal information, as he says, ‘with a human voice or in simple terminology’ that could be easily understood by non-lawyers. Also in terms of education, he implemented a monthly legal session for non-lawyers called the ‘legal school for non- lawyers’, in order to provide training on any legal matter that could be needed by any area of the company in simple language. The scheme has received great feedback from the stakeholders as innovative for legal department and business division relations. Similarly, Sáchica are putting together a repository of concepts to allow any associate of the company to consult all the legal concepts that the legal department has provided to any area in the past. He explains, ‘the concepts are chosen based on similar questions that we have received by our internal clients. So as we have received the same questions we can be more efficient in our answers to our internal customers by letting our customers consult our repository before sending us a formal request’. Sáchica has also led on some of MetLife’s biggest transactions such as one deal worth US$7m with an expected return over 10 years of US$100m. He is also involved in the firm’s litigation, particularly with complex cases of fraud related to insurance, in which bogus claims are presented seeking to defraud the firm. Last year, he was appointed to participate in a global career development project, chosen by senior leadership to provide ideas on some of the company’s biggest internal strategy dilemmas, it was a global opportunity where Sáchica made a major impact. His nominators are full of praise for Sáchica’s contribution to MetLife: ‘Sáchica has been head of legal in MetLife since its early stages of growth in Colombia. He has managed to navigate complicated regulatory issues related to the introduction of new insurance products to the country in a successful manner, whilst keeping a fraud prone environment under control’. And another said, ‘Sáchica leads a legal department that has developed a reputation for excellence and efficiency within the insurance industry. He acts as a strategic partner to the business having an input to all key decisions made by the company. Additionally, he has introduced several initiatives designed to develop a culture of compliance within the company’.
Adriana Sinisterra Plana leads the legal team at Fox Networks Group Latin America (Fox) with extensive industry experience and commercial acumen that makes her a leader in the industry who has featured on previous editions of the GC Powerlist: Colombia. She started her career in Miami at a boutique law firm dedicated to South Floridian investors in Latin America, and then moved into the telecoms industry. She joined Fox in 2008 in the Coral Gables office and then in 2009 was moved to Bogota to establish the region’s legal department. Today she oversees the entire Latin American region, excluding Brazil and Mexico, and covers all regulatory matters, commercial contracts, entertainment and intellectual property concerns, and much more. She is deal-focused and business-minded in her approach to leadership with great importance placed on staying up to date with all legislative developments across the region. Her role is to supervise the entire region and make sure that all regional differences, such as advertisement regulations, are addressed. Sinisterra’s diligence and leadership is noted by a nominator who identifies her as ‘well prepared, knowledgeable about her business, and is always looking for solutions to difficult situations’.
Active in a whole range of sectors, management consulting firm everis is a fast-growing organisation offering business and strategic solutions to companies. In Colombia, the company’s legal function is headed by legal director Humberto Suárez Gómez. Despite only joining everis Colombia in February 2016, Suárez has already made an impression on peers in accompanying production tasks and handling legal aspects regarding the management of IT projects. One nominator spoke glowingly of Suárez’s credentials during this year’s research: ‘[He] has the capacity to transform the status quo of the legal service, making it much more suitable for the particular bussines [in the] IT sector. Another great quality that makes him eligible for the GC Powerlist refers to the ability to manage his team; as a head of a legal team he knows how to lead towards the achievement of the company’s goals’. Before joining everis, Suárez served a number of Colombian public sector organsiations including the National Planning Department (DNP) between 2014 and 2016, the General Secretariat for the Mayor of Bogota from 2013 to 2014, the National Spectrum Agency (ANE) as well as the Ministry of Information and Communications Technologies (MinTIC) between 2006 and 2009. Giving back to Colombia’s legal community at a grassroots level, Suárez was a professor at Grancolombiano Polytechnic (POLI) between 2010 and 2016, teaching IT, IP and communication law as well as management and merchandising in telecommunications.
Serving as Colombia’s chief negotiator for the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Tourism from 2017 onwards, and as a lawyer within the ministry department since 2004, Nicolas Torres Alvarez is a lawyer and negotiator at the very top of his industry. He has been an important public servant of Colombia for the last 30 years having previously worked for Colombia’s central bank and Ministry of Finance. With his experience, he is well placed to see the big picture and important details of Colombia’s economic policy and able to participate in the implementation of such policy through the drafting of legal instruments. He participated in the drafting of the constitution of Colombia in 1991, particularly the legal framework for economic policy embodied in the act, which allows him to analyse economic law and regulation from its foundations. Alvarez became involved with trade negotiations in the 1990’s and developed his career which led to his appointment as chief trade negotiator. He says that, ‘in this part of my career I participated in the negotiation and legal scrub of almost all of Colombia’s free trade agreements, and also in the establishment of the Pacific Alliance, which is currently the most successful economic integration scheme in which Colombia is participating. He also represented Colombia before the World Trade Organisation (WTO), both as a Geneva delegate and as counsel for Colombia in WTO dispute settlement cases such as “Textiles DS461” and “Spirits DS502”. He has also represented Colombia as counsel in more than 10 cases brought before the Andean Community dispute settlement mechanism, and drafted the legal instruments for the implementation of Colombia’s free trade agreements with the US, the EU and the Republic of Korea. He provided legal advice and drafted legal instruments leading to Colombia’s accession to the OECD. His leadership and experience is demonstrated not just in his negotiations and his formal role as chief legal counsel, but also in the way that he has developed his team. About this, he says ‘the most important change I made to the legal department was to direct it in a way that would address the needs of our customers, which were the different divisions of Colombia’s Ministry of Trade. Prior to me directing the Ministry’s international legal division, there was no awareness of how the division’s opinions would be used to enhance Colombia’s participation in international markets. As an in house legal advisor for the government, my division used to focus on internal administrative law, with little or no awareness of the economic effect of legal work. I changed the view in which legal opinions and instruments are drafted’. The other important change he made was to improve and promote legal talent. There are more and more young, talented lawyers in Colombia developing skills that allow the country to have better legal advice for its participation in global markets and it is important to Alvarez to promote this talent.
Alirio Uribe García joined MASA, part of the flour company Stork, in 2008 to lead its labour law area where, at that time, MASA had around 2,500 direct employees in Colombia. Additionally, he worked on corporate law and contracts. During that time, he had the opportunity to actively negotiate the first collective agreement of MASA, represent the company in labour litigations and to build and implement several procedures relating to labour law. In 2012, he was promoted as the leader of the legal team of the company, supporting Colombia, Peru, the US, Trinidad and Tobago and Aruba, and in 2014, he became compliance officer for the region. He has spoken as an expert speaker at international conferences and has built strong relationships with trade unions since then. Asked about his recent innovations, Uribe has said that ‘his main focus has been to address the legal team as a real partner for the core business units of the organisation. Currently the team aggregates value to the organisation with its legal opinions, understanding the needs of our internal client and thinking “out of the box” while mitigating the risks. The key is to really know the operations by continuously visiting the different locations in where we operate’. Of his many roles, his favourite is in compliance, ‘as it is an opportunity to help to “Strengthen the Culture” of Colombia, starting with our employees, by training them in ethics’, he states.
Pablo Urrego, started his career in private practice before joining Renault Sofasa in 2004 first as a member of the legal team, then progressing to legal manager and to his current role in 2010. He also represents the company on different boards including the Renault Foundation in Colombia. Since becoming general secretary, Urrego has implemented a new business model from scratch involving the transformation of the legal department’s image from a hindrance to its perception as an earnings generator. He has overseen the merger with RTMX, an automobiles parts assembler, and negotiated a legal stability agreement with the Colombian government, negotiating new fiscal reforms in the Envigado municipality. Urrego also successfully arbitrated a case against a former dealer arguing for commercial agency at the Bogota Chamber of Commerce. Urrego and his team have applied new litigation, contract and trademark templates and a scheduling system that keeps track of deadlines. He has also specialised his team in different subject areas and expertise to maximise efficiency and legal coverage. A nominator says that he ‘is one of the most important and recognised in-house lawyers in Colombia, working for the Renault Group almost all of his career. With his near 15 years of experience in the business, plus his strong [legal] knowledge on commercial and business law, he has turned the legal function [into] a strategic area for the company obtaining outstanding results with strong impacts all over the business… Urrego is also an MBA Graduate from Inalde Business School and has postgraduate degree in International Business Law from Los Andes University. He has to deal with some of the most important legal issues of Renault Colombia in their history and has helped the company to succeed in its operation to become the biggest automotive company of the country. Urrego, is without any doubt, one of the top best in-house lawyers in Colombia’.
Colombia’s fourth biggest company, Banco Davivienda, is a powerful commercial banking institution in Colombia and is part of Grupo Empresarial Bolívar, which for more than 70 years has operated across Latin America and Central America. Mauricio Valenzuela Gruesso is the vice president of legal affairs, and responsible for all of its legal matters including its corporate governance, data protection, contracts and projects throughout the region. The bank is recognised as one of the most valuable brands in Colombia and Valenzuela’s involvement has been crucial to the Bank’s success both domestically and abroad. In particular he is credited for previously assisting the company on its US$801m takeover of HSBC’s assets in Costa Rica, El Salvador and Honduras. Today, Gruesso and his team are involved across the region and play a vital role in the bank’s continued growth.
Paola Andrea Valero Carrero continues to impress peers in the capacity of legal director for Latin America at Schnieder Electric. She brings her solid experience in corporate law, contractual law, dispute resolution, risk management, compliance, implementation of legal proceedings, and her expertise in labour law and M&A transactions to the role. After graduating from Externado de Colombia University, with a specialist degree in commercial law, she started at Schnieder Electric in 2007 after some experience in private practice, and progressed to legal manager of Latin America in 2011 and then to her current position of legal director for the whole of Latin America in 2014. As a global company and with her regional role, Valero Carrero has a multi-jurisdictional remit and uses her considerable skill to navigate the complexities of each set of laws and regulations across the area.
With extensive commercial and corporate law experience in private practice in Venezuela and Colombia, an LLM in Banking and Financial Law from Boston University, and two years at the Inter- American Investment Corporation (IIC), Anabella Vegas learned the legal systems of various countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. This experience would be invaluable for her move in-house in 2015 when she was appointed to general counsel of Oleoducto de los Llanos Orientales, which also manages Oleoducto Bicentenario de Colombia. In 2017, her role was expanded to lead not only the legal team of the company, but also the corporate social responsibility and real estate teams. One of the most important projects under her leadership has been the legal supervision of the new transportation service rendered by the company since 2017, which involved shareholders agreements, new transportation agreements, and the structuring and negotiation of term sheets and memorandums of understanding, to make this new service viable for the company. This transaction required strong negotiation among shareholders, whose interests were not aligned. It was a complex arbitration with one of the shareholders and a client initiating an arbitration against the company regarding the effects and consequences of the occurrence of acts of God, or force majeure, which prevented the company from complying with its obligations under the transportation agreement. This was the first time in Colombia that oil pipeline transportation agreements were discussed in court, and could define important case law that could impact other oil pipeline transportation agreements entered by other oil pipeline companies. Although this arbitration has been jointly worked on with external legal counsel, it has required a lot of time and effort from Vegas and her legal team. Vegas identified that when she started the legal team was viewed as those that executed whatever the finance or operational teams would demand. This made the legal team just a simple executer that would deliver whatever the other teams would require. Vegas has encouraged her team to change this way of rendering services to the other areas of the company, and somehow give greater value to the other teams. She says, ‘it is not enough to just give a legal opinion, companies must engage in its business, and in-house lawyers are required to give real and innovating solutions at all time’. On Vegas’ leadership a nominator said that she, ‘has proven to be innovative and always goes the extra mile to review other alternatives that may be more efficient even though they have never been implemented in the past. Likewise, Anabella is always open to listen to options that are presented by her external advisors, which is really valuable considering that she works in a field where public entities are involved. Finally, Anabella has proved to be a great leader motivating her internal team of lawyers which is comprised of highly qualified individuals who come from some of the most important law firms in Colombia’.
Laura Vejarano Revollo is the vice president legal and corporate affairs and general counsel at Terranum, a prominent Colombian real estate developer founded in 2009. She specialises in M&A, commercial law, contracts, corporate law, corporate reorganisations and shareholding. In her role, Vejarano provides legal advice to the CEO, board members, senior management and other executives on a wide range of issues. In addition she also handles legal matters in relation to suppliers, corporate governance policies, contracts, litigation, tax, property and regulation matters for the company. Vejarano has built and leads the in-house practice on specialised tasks such as procurement and contracts, corporate, commercial, real estate, zoning laws and intellectual property. Additionally she acts as the company’s corporate secretary and is a stalwart of the company’s development having joined in 2011, shortly after TERRANUM’s founding. Vejarano is a graduate of Javeriana University and also has a LLM in corporate law and international business from Columbia Law School.
Brazilian energy giant Petrobras has been present in Colombia for over 30 years and today conducts offshore exploration activities as well as owning plants for the production of lubricants and fuel distribution in the country. Since 2014, legal affairs for Petrobras’ companies in Colombia has been overseen by general counsel Oscar Vela. He has excelled in advising different areas of the business, including the president, on legal matters whilst also dealing with the management and supervision of corporate and regulatory compliance. One nominator said regarding Vela that he is a ‘strong and very knowledgeable lawyer [with a] deep knowledge of his business and awareness of regulatory issues’. Prior to Petrobras, Vela spent over four years as legal manager for Parex Verano Energy. Before that he worked as an associate for various law firms including Cavelier Abogados and Rodriguez Azuero Abogados. With over 15 years of experience in multinational companies, law firms and the public sector, Vela is rightly regarded amongst the top in-house lawyers in the country.
Fernando Victoria Peña is a Colombian lawyer from the Rosario University with specialisations in corporate and commercial law, and a Master’s degree in business and corporate law from the University of Barcelona, Spain. Victoria Peña is currently legal and compliance director of Teleperformance for the Andean Region, covering Teleperformance Colombia, Teledatos Zona Franca, and Teleperformance Peru, and has more than 10 years of experience in the business sector as general counsel, in private practise, and as a general legal counsel in the Consortium of Private National Channels (RCN TV and Caracol TV). Today, he is a member of the board of directors of Teleperformance Colombia and Peru, legal representative, and member of the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP). Victoria Peña was selected for the 2016 Colombia GC Powerlist and has participated as a speaker in many national and international events related to privacy, compliance and business. He has been a key component in Teleperformance’s expansion of new subsidiaries across Latin America, and in the negotiation of regional and global contracts with global suppliers to the value of more than US$100m, and with global clients worth more than US$600m. Additionally, he has implemented new strategies with clients to consolidate strategic partnerships and created legal committees on privacy and contract matters to boost transparency within the firms. On his leadership and strategic vision for the legal team, Victoria Peña says that he ‘re-structured the legal and compliance department implementing new vanguard processes that ensure the legal security of the company’. Adding, ‘These processes have served as a model for other areas of the company, for the traceability of their own processes. Additionally, I have concentrated on converting myself into a leader for my team and the company, [ensuring] as a priority that the members of my team are happy employees, and having fun in their work’.
Since September 2017, Manuela Villa Gonzalez has been the legal manager and compliance officer of Philips Lighting for the Northern Latin American region encompassing Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Central America and the Caribbean. She is responsible for the management of all commercial, contractual, labour, consumer and other legal matters. As compliance officer, she manages training on anti-corruption, anti-bribery, anti-trust, control and prevention of money laundering and terrorism financing and implementing new regulations and conducting ethical investigations on compliance related issues. She began her career in private practice, at law firms such as Gómez Pinzón Abogados, but always wished to move in-house. She said that, ‘Since I can remember, I always wanted to use my experience as external counsel in an in-house position, considering the private sector to represent very interesting and diverse challenges, and also wanting to learn more about the core business of the different industries that I had advised’. She developed her talent in multi-regional regulation and negotiation skills while in her first in-house position as manager of aviation affairs at Avianca. While there she negotiated the contracts for lighting the operational spaces for Avianca in Terminal 1 of El Dorado International Airport in Bogota, a major victory for the firm. Villa then moved to Dell-EMC as Northern Latin American legal counsel and compliance officer, developing her first multi-jurisdictional focus. She was responsible for implementing and expanding Dell’s compliance policy and supervising the merger between Dell and EMC in the region, excelling at the challenge of adapting corporate cultures and implementing a business-minded legal strategy. She has carried this business focus to her role at Philips Lighting negotiating projects with, as she says, ‘adverse conditions’ towards Phillips successfully altering clauses such as the imposition of sanctions, penalty clauses, extension of agreements and others, greatly increasing the financial and reputational impact of the company. She has also implemented “contract approval tool” technology, which reduces the exposure of the company and saves time. Her talent and experience has been crucial to Philips Lighting’s transition to the “Signify era”, managing the implementation of this company name change projected for 2019.
Multinational cement and concrete mix maker Cementos Argos is the market leader in Colombia with operations extending to the US, Central America and the Caribbean. In 2017, the company promoted its experienced legal professional Rafael Olivella Vives to the rank of vice president legal and institutional affairs. Olivella joined the Argos Group in 2008 as corporate legal manager and general secretary for its energy business, Compañía Colombiana de Inversiones (today known as Celsia). But having impressed peers he was promoted to legal vice president of Celsia, and then in 2012 took on the role of vice president of corporate affairs, encompassing legal matters as well as communications, corporate social responsibility and the company’s sustainability strategy in a high profile and multi-faceted role. A number of peers highlight Olivella’s wide range of skills in these matters which have contributed to his progression at the firm. Before Argos, Olivella worked as an associate for Ignacio Sanin Bernal & Cía from 2003 until 2006. He graduated in law from the Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana, later specialising in commercial law from the Universidad de los Andes.
Undoubtedly, Colombia is facing one of its most interesting times in years. The country has endeavoured in a tremendous way to achieve outstanding outcomes in terms of economical and political stability. More than ever, recent governments have followed a consistent growth path based on a credible, dynamic and resilient economic system, which has increased the international community’s attention. Broadly speaking, Colombia has been effective in combining better security indicators with facts that have contributed to improving economic dynamism. Amongst them we can refer to the large scale infrastructure program.
According to our mergers and acquisitions forecast 2019, foreign investment in Colombia is expected to be around $4.2bn by the end of 2018. Though it is true that several corruption scandals at a regional level disrupt investors’ confidence, Colombia’s institutional framework, the existence of an orthodox monetary policy, a working judicial system and clear actions supporting free trade – key factors for the recent accession of Colombia to the OECD – show Colombia as a reliable destination for doing business. In fact, when compared against the region, Colombia ranks third as the largest and fastest-growing Latin American economy. The exchange rate of the Colombian peso vis-á-vis the US dollar remains stable and maintains the country’s competitiveness. An ambitious $12bn 4G toll road plan, which is now turning to its fourth phase, in addition to further infrastructure concessions in railways, ports and airports, allow Colombia to keep a constant growth path (by reaching aggregate levels of almost 3%). Summing up, opportunities for investment and growth in key sectors such as agribusiness and infrastructure, have prompted better dynamism in business opportunities.
We cannot ignore that Colombia still faces significant challenges and the legal community, in particular, will play a key role in dealing with them. Perhaps the most salient obstacle is the uncompetitive country’s tax regime. President elect Ivan Duque has declared the strategic importance of submitting a tax reform bill to congress aimed at reducing tax burden on Colombian companies (especially SMEs and startups). Since 2015, attempts to restore Colombia’s competitiveness without sacrificing revenue, have been halted by international drops in oil prices (upon which Colombian exports and investments depend in excess), and an adverse political landscape (caused by a lack of voters’ confidence on some public institutions and the rejection by referendum of the first version of the peace agreement with FARC) both led the current government unable to obtain the structural changes that the tax regime requires.
We need to stay focused on our country’s major strengths, most of which are already mentioned in this document. Colombia’s defining moment must lead us to realise that many and great challenges are still in the path to a bright future. It is known that matters related to compliance in all areas, data privacy, innovation and human rights grow in importance by the day. In this context, it will be necessary to work alongside a reliant partner that helps you overcome the challenges of competing and being successful both in a very complex, dynamic local environment and in a globalised world. What makes us different is the way in which we think, work and behave, combining a global perspective with a multicultural approach allowing us to establish cooperation relationships providing a useful and innovative advisory.
With over 6,000 attorneys in 47 countries we have an in-depth understanding of the specific business culture of the different industries around the world, making Baker McKenzie the premier global law firm. We are capable of contributing with the necessary talent and experience to easily approach the most complex, multidisciplinary and multijurisdictional matters. Specifically in Colombia, for more than 80 years we have been helping our clients succeed by simplifying and navigating a complex country and world. This means that as well as understanding the economy at a global scale, our local roots allow us to understand the risks and opportunities of doing business in Colombia.
Last but not least, it is worth mentioning that we are highly committed to strengthening our society by the means of three basic pillars: Diversity and Inclusion, Sustainability and Gender Equality. Our pro bono mission is to deliver first-class legal services to the underserved and disadvantaged by fostering an environment that encourages and promotes service as to the well-being of the communities in which we practice and live. In addition, our belief is that diversity and inclusion creates a positive workforce environment, but building a diverse workforce is also the smart business thing to do. Finally, our day-to-day work reflects our commitment to align our policies and operations with the United Nations Global Compact’s principles in the areas of human rights, fair labour, the environment and anti-corruption, and to support the UN’s Sustainable development goals.
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