Legal market overview
Although there is a noticeable shift towards more value-added products, all-inclusive tourism remains the driving force in the Dominican Republic. Environmental considerations are also impacting on the thriving energy market – the country doubled its investments in renewable energy in 2013, reaching $645m. Although there is still a way to go in terms of ‘going green’, there are new laws and regulations in place promoting renewable energy, especially with respect to fuel and gas, and these fiscal incentives are attracting international investors. The completion of new road infrastructure is also speeding up the industry’s development.
On the corporate front, the high-profile $4.7bn merger of El Centro Financiero BHD and Grupo Financiero León in January 2014 created the Dominican Republic’s second-largest bank: Banco BHD León. Since the introduction of a new regulatory framework for the financial markets, banks have increasingly been utilising a novel trust law to set up real estate trusts. The establishment of Free Trade Zones is also ongoing. It was an active year for the telecoms sector, with Luxembourg-based investment fund Altice Group acquiring Orange Dominicana and Tricom. The IP market has been stable while the anticipated future implementation of the Madrid Protocol remains a hot topic: it would enable firms to file trade marks internationally, making local filing relatively redundant. Other changes include the new data protection law and the introduction of fiscal incentives to foreign investors in the local cinematography business.
The Constitutional Court was set up two years ago: this prompted an increase in constitutional cases with some decisions proving very controversial, for example its ruling in September 2013 to revoke the citizenship of the children of unauthorised migrants born in the Dominican Republic since 1929.
Lately there has also been an increase in local and ICC arbitration (many find court cases take too long and local courts tend to be less technical). Firms also noted an uptick in administrative matters due to new regulations regarding both consumer protection and telecommunications. March 2014 saw two new entries into the Santo Domingo market: Costa Rica-based BDS Asesores as well as US labour firm Littler Mendelson, P.C.; the latter, represented by Angelina Salegna Bacó, set up shop in the capital. Sadly, Luis Heredia Bonetti, one of the founders of Russin, Vecchi & Heredia Bonetti SA, passed away in March 2014.
As this publication went to press, Squire Sanders (whose local Dominican office was formerly known as Squire Sanders, Peña Prieto & Gamundi), has announced it merger with US firm Patton Boggs to form Squire Patton Boggs. The merger took effect from 1 June 2014.