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2017 was, in some ways, a difficult year for the Dominican Republic. In February the country made headlines worldwide when two local journalists were murdered at their San Pedro radio station; seven months later, as Hurricane Irma rocked the Caribbean, 4,000 people were evacuated from the northeast to the national capital of Santo Domingo.

Nonetheless, the Republic remains one of the most stable and increasingly prosperous states in the region. Its growing friendship with China has contributed to a rise in investment, and although economic growth has slowed, M&A and finance work remain plentiful. Renewable energy, infrastructure and telecoms are especially active sectors. Punta Cana and Puerto Plata continue to be hotspots for real estate and tourism work, although the south and southwest are increasingly attractive investment destinations.

Recent legislative changes regarding money laundering have led to a rise in corporate governance and compliance work, while updated capital markets regulations have made it easier and more effective to issue securities via fideicomisos, a type of trust structure; small and medium-sized enterprises have been issuing stock in greater numbers. Last year’s bankruptcy law, which introduced a specialised court to handle restructuring, has been making itself felt, for which banks are grateful – although greater transparency requirements in the banking sector mean that the tax authority can now ask banks directly to hand over their records.

In the dispute resolution sector, arbitration clauses are more and more common in commercial contracts, administrative and constitutional litigation are on the rise, and the country’s competition authority has been increasingly active. When it comes to IP, data privacy is a hot topic, and regulatory work – often involving sanitary registrations and labelling – has been keeping most practices very busy.

Large full-service firms – in particular Headrick Rizik Alvarez & Fernández, Guzmán Ariza and Pellerano & Herrera, but also OMG, Castillo y Castillo, Jiménez Cruz Peña and Russin, Vecchi & Heredia Bonetti – are all key local players in the legal market. Squire Patton Boggs, the only large US firm with an office in the Dominican Republic, is especially strong in corporate and finance matters, and increasingly strong in dispute resolution. Various boutiques round out the legal landscape: for instance, Angeles Pons, Bufete Messina-Lugo IP and Troncoso Leroux are dedicated to IP.

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