GC Powerlist Central America 2018
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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: Central America, which identifies an array of the most influential and innovative in-house counsel working in the region...read more
We have canvassed opinions from law firm partners and in-house counsel across Central America, to identify corporate counsel that have been instrumental in changing or forming opinions within their company or industry; developing brilliant technical solutions to complex issues; creating innovative structures to ensure that the in-house function is driving the business forward; or providing a business working model that other corporate counsel should follow. Our team of experienced researchers assessed the nominations, speaking both to general counsel and nominating lawyers to finalise each list. The GC Powerlist: Central America features not just information on why that individual has made the list, but also comment from those in-house lawyers about how they have helped shape innovation in the legal industry.
If you have feedback on the GC Powerlist: Central America, or wish to nominate other in-house individuals (either in the Central America or global), please do get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We hope that this listing will stimulate debate around the role of the in-house lawyer and help corporate counsel with possible improvements and efficiencies in running their departments.
GC Powerlist: Central America 2018
(listed in alphabetical order; click on an individual to view an expanded biography)
Ana Carolina Alcalá Wilson
Legal and corporate affairs manager, North Latin American operations, Panama and Caribbean cluster
General counsel and country compliance head
Juan Francisco Alfaro Del Cid
Legal manager CARICAM
General counsel and corporate affairs
Mónica Estela Alvarez Viguri
Premium Restaurants of America
Central America and Mexico
Chief legal officer
Silvia Arce López
Legal manager Central America and Caribbean
Lucila María Argueta de Contreras
Mario Ayala Claros
Manager of legal affairs
Energía del Pacífico
David Barajas H.
Vice president, legal and regulatory (Mexico and Central America)
Suez Central America, Caribbean, Colombia & Ecuador
Petra Froxina Batista Soto
Senior legal manager corporate and commercial banking
Maria Beatriz Beltranena Wer
Amzak Capital Management
Legal country manager
Walmart (Corporación de Supermercados Unidos)
Pfizer Central America and Caribbean
Procter & Gamble
Melania Campos Lara
Michelle Alexandra Canelo Juarez
Legal director for Central America and Colombia
Regional legal director, regional compliance officer, data Protection Officer
Laureate International Universities
Ernesto Alfonso Carrasco Castro
Legal vice president
Grupo Financiero Ficohsa
Carlos M. Cartín Feoli
Country legal manager
Grupo Roble Costa Rica
Belisario Castillo Sáenz
Vice president of legal
Banco Panameño de la Vivienda (Banvivienda)
Head of legal, patents and compliance
Rodrigo Cavinato Herrera
Legal and compliance manager for Central America and Carribbean cluster
Kuehne + Nagel
Adviel Centeno Mayta
General counsel and secretary
The AES Corporation
Jorge Mario Colindres Sandoval
Globalvia Ruta 27
Legal senior director Latin America DHL global forwarding
Juan Sebastian Crespo
Senior legal counsel and group manager - global antitrust and trade relations
Procter & Gamble
Ana Carol de Benedetti
Marcela Bernal de Fontanals
General counsel and senior vice-president
Citibank El Salvador
Edgar Del Valle
Legal affairs manager
Alejandra Escobar Aguilar
Head of legal unit
Multi Inversiones Mi Banco
Ricardo A. Estrada
Legal counsel Latin America
Smith & Nephew
Jose María Etchegaray
Director of legal affairs Latin America
SBA Communications Corporation
Augusta Fernández Siu
Legal manager of Nicaragua and Honduras
Walmart Mexico and Central America
Cervecería Nacional Dominicana
Ivette Lorena Franco Koroneos
Senior director of legal advice and general counsel
Ana Carolina García
Legal affairs director
Senior counsel Central America
Philip Morris International
Luis Enrique Gómez-Portuguez
Regional director legal services and corporate secretary and sub-general manager
Claudia Gonzalez Montt
Walmart Central America
Senior vice president for legal affairs, Latin America and Caribbean
Karla Gross Veras
Regional legal director greater Caribbean region
Colgate-Palmolive Dominican Republic
Luis Manuel Gutierrez
Vice president of legal
Karin Herman Zachrisson
Director and general counsel
Corporación Multi Inversiones
Regional legal manager for Central America and the Caribbean
Dionisio Ismael Machuca Massis
Vice president legal and secretary
Banco Agrícola - Grupo Bancolombia
Marysabel Maldonado de Coindet
Corporate regional legal manager Central America
Head group legal
Elizabeth Mena Fernández
Corporación Minera Dominicana
Olger Méndez Rojas
Legal manager for Central America
Unilever Central America
Legal counsel Latin America
Valentina Moreno Aristeguieta
Legal director Central America and Panama
Yadira Isabel Moreno Cedeño
Legal counsel Central America
Mónica Muñoz Herrera
Legal manager, DHL Express-Central America and Dominican Republic
Deutsche Post DHL - Global Business Services
Regional corporate legal counsel for Central America
Walmart Central America
Javier Pacheco Mauro
Regional legal manager
Laureate International Universities
Marie Claire Palacios de Bauer
Compliance officer and legal counsel
Chief legal officer, general counsel, corporate secretary
Senior legal counsel
The Kraft Heinz Company
Mariel Picado Quevedo
Florida Ice & Farm Company (FIFCO)
Jose Antonio Polanco
Head of legal and compliance Central America
Ronald Ramírez Acuña
Regional counsel for Central America, Caribbean and Venezuela
Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (HPE)
Juan Pablo Restrepo
Chief counsel Andean, Pacific and Central American Countries
Julio C. Reyes S.
Banco de la Producción (BANPRO)
Juan Carlos Rodríguez-Cordero
Legal and regulatory counsel
Tigo Costa Rica
Juan Carlos Rojas
Legal and external affairs director and general counsel
Vice president - legal Latin America
Legal head Central America and the Caribbean
Senior legal counsel
Maria Gabriela Saadi
Regional head of legal
Hilti Latin America
Manfred Antonio Sáenz Montero
Costa Rican legal services office director
Scotiabank De Costa Rica
Stephanie Salas Simons
Head of PAC (Pacific and Caribbean)
Jenniffer Salazar Ramírez
Legal assistant manager
Claro CR Telecomunicaciones
Virginia Servent Palmieri
Antipiracy director for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean
Fox Networks Group Latin America
Manuel Roberto Sisniega
Head of legal
Corporate legal manager
Grupo Motta Servicios
Gabriel Tapia Calvino
Legal manager of the legal, ethics and business integrity department for Pacific and Caribbean multi-country organisation (Cluster) - Latin American region
Claudia Tomasino de Crespo
Chief legal counsel
Regional legal and regulatory director
Ingrid Valdes Vásquez
Senior legal manager
Fresenius Medical Care Panama
Vanessa Vargas Credidío
Senior counsel – Latin America developing markets
Procter & Gamble
Corporate and legal affairs director
Legal counsel and compliance officer
Samsung Costa Rica
Regional legal director Central America
María Cristina Vilá de Van Hoorde
Vice president legal department and general secretary
William Villalobos Herrera
Regulatory and competition law leader
Empresa de Servicios Públicos de Heredia (ESPH)
Carlos Villalobos Soto
Real Hotels & Resorts
General counsel Central America and Caribbean and Global Service Center Costa Rica
Zamira Zapata Valdés
Vice president and general counsel Central America and Caribbean, FTZ-Border and Zacapa
Tatiana Zeledon Castro
Legal manager CAM and Dominican Republic
Jose David Zuniga
Banco Industrial El Salvador
With more than twenty years of experience as a lawyer, Ana Carolina Alcalá Wilson has gained a steady reputation in several jurisdictions in Latin America for her legal talent. During her career she has provided legal support in the areas of finance, human resources, IT, and communications. Based in Panama, as the legal and corporate affairs manager for Kimberly-Clark Central America Holdings, she oversees the operations of Panama, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago and the rest of the Caribbean islands. Among her main responsibilities, she gives legal support to all operation areas of the company generating value to the company and facilitating the decision making, while ensuring compliance with the laws of the country as well as internal policies. A project that has had a lot of her attention was in 2016, when Kimberly-Clark began to evaluate whether to suspend operations in Venezuela, an action Alcalá describes as a ‘difficult’ decision given the company’s long history of operating in the country. As a result, the company’s office in Caracas along with its mill and distribution centre in Maracay were indefinitely closed and Kimberly-Clark no longer manufactures, markets or sells its line of consumer goods or professional products in Venezuela. ‘This project was crucial in the development of my career and broadened my knowledge in taking measured and calculated risks, considering the necessities of the business, including providing timely solutions’, says Alcalá. Her involvement has also been needed for Kimberly-Clark’s arbitration proceedings against the Venezuelan government at the International Center for Settlement of Investment. This is the first time that she has worked directly in an international arbitration case, and she explains that, ‘the complexity of the case has enriched me professionally and has allowed me to acquire the knowledge that is not frequent in legal positions such as those I have exercised to date’, says Alcalá. Internally, she is part of the multidisciplinary team that supports the execution of the company’s restructuring program in the region which will reduce expenses as it faces stiffer competition for consumer staples like tissues, paper towels and wet wipes. As part of the restructuring moves she has been assigned to the Panama and Caribbean clusters, increasing the countries under her supervision and further endorsing her legal and managerial talent.
A longstanding and respected in-house lawyer, Cristina Alfaro has served as the general counsel and country compliance head for Citibank in Costa Rica for the last seventeen years. She provides oversight of legal affairs and corporate governance matters for the financial group and shared service center in Costa Rica, utilising her accomplished skillset in corporate law, banking law, compliance and regulatory matters. As the compliance head Alfaro is also responsible for policy and regulatory matters which has seen her lead the implementation of the annual compliance and regulatory plan for the financial group, as well as act as the senior liaison with local regulators fostering a solid relationship between regulatory bodies and the franchise. Over the years she has established herself as an enabler of business by supporting revenue generating activities which include cross-border transactions and the implementation of product programs. Alfaro previously worked as in-house counsel at Corporación de Desarrollo Agrícola del Monte where she assisted the vice president of legal for Latin America.
For the past seven years Juan Francisco Alfaro Del Cid has served as the legal head for leading fuel distributor in Central America, Uno Guatemala, a Royal Dutch Shell licensee and subsidiary of Grupo Terra. His role covers matters of commercial law, business, labour, taxes, regulatory, compliance and administrative law for Guatemala and Belize. Alfaro makes it his priority to build a strong team that serves as an established and sought-after function of the business, and gives constant training to all personnel in charge of the business. ‘All members of the legal departments are constantly training in different topics related to the business, such as regulatory law, taxes and tariffs, real estate, environment, competition law and intellectual property’, says Alfaro. He has additionally improved the quality of legal expenses, and created an environment where all the in-house lawyers are involved in every negotiation process to avoid unnecessary litigation. Amongst the standout transactions of his career he lists being the lead legal counsel on the acquisition of Pacific Oil, a transaction that lasted almost two years. ‘The transaction consolidated my position as a trusted in-house attorney in Uno Guatemala and with my colleagues’, explains Alfaro. As well as leading the legal team on M&A, compliance is a very important topic for him: ‘Since 2015 Guatemala set an example on how white collar crimes should be handled. This particular situation gives us the opportunity to set an example on how companies should do business and provide services to the government. As in-house lawyers, we have the responsibility to assume the role of compliance officers to help prevent business that could get in conflict with the law’, he says. Prior to his current role he worked in different regulated industries, such as telecommunications at Movistar and financial services at FHA. This experience not only made him a more all-round lawyer but gave him the ability to learn and adapt in different ways to provide legal counsel to top executives, who are among the best in their fields of experience.
Jacobo Alter joined British pharmaceutical and science-led global healthcare company GSK in November 2014, overseeing the Caribbean and Central America regions. Over the last few years GSK has driven its Latin American growth strategy with a number of acquisitions, a key group of emerging markets for GSK. Alter has worked on transactions specifically in the Costa Rican area, with a focus on the business expansion in the region. Prior to this role, between June 2005 and November 2014, he served as an associate lawyer for Central America based law firm, BLP Abogados. He also served as a consultant at Inter-American Development Bank from 2004-2005.
With more than 10 years of experience in corporate law, eight of which in regional roles, Maricel Alvarez is the general counsel at Coca-Cola FEMSA. She joined the company in 2006 as a legal counsel and has worked her way up to her current position. She is highly regarded for her organisation of high performing multicultural teams, orientation to results, proactivity and emotional intelligence. Coca-Cola FEMSA is the largest franchise bottler of Coca-Cola products globally in terms of sales volume and its presence is spread across Central and Latin America and the Philippines. It bottles the entire range of Coca-Cola products including soft drinks, water, teas, dairy drinks and coffee. In Central America it has locations in Panama, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. Alvarez and her team manage all of the corporate affairs and legal matters of the company from commercial to employment and litigation, including its legal oversight of the board of trustees and its management. Nominated for her talent and leadership quality, Alvarez is an excellent general counsel recognised for her service to one of the world’s most famous organisations.
In 2013, after a career in private practice, Héctor Álvarez was presented with a new professional opportunity to serve as legal director of the Sansoucí Group, an entity that within its portfolio is in charge, among other projects, of the Port of Santo Dominigo, which is operated by the company Sans Soucí Ports. Since then he has been able to have an even broader approach to corporate life, not only from the perspective of intellectual property and corporate laws, but from all the duties that influence all the activities carried out by the group, ranging from inter-institutional relations, to daily labour law, contracts and tax. The transition has given Álvarez many learning opportunities, one being presented by the interaction with a diverse range of professionals. ‘Despite coming from a large firm where I sometimes had to deal with some issues with non-lawyers. In this new organisation I had to interact and often put myself in the shoes of other professionals who depend on the legal team support to meet its demanding commercial goals without at the same time violating any of the legal provisions applied to the activity of the Sansoucí group company’, says Álvarez, something that has resulted in a ‘professional wealth’ in terms of providing opportunities for legal creativity. Álvarez has effectively been able to maintain, a tracking of all the legal contingencies to which the organisation is exposed to, which is immersed in different commercial activities. ‘These changes, sustained on the basis of much monitoring, have allowed the group to anticipate many situations that in the past could have taken them by surprise’, explains Álvarez. His professional journey started a few months after graduating, where he had the opportunity to join Dominican law firm Pellerano & Herrera, working in their intellectual property department, having access to an ‘exceptional’ team and experiences in the matter obtained by their substantial client portfolio and specialised cases. He subsequently started to realise that one of the things he was most passionate about was the corporate aspects and corporate life of the companies, to which he was also given the opportunity to work for its business department, specifically in the area of commercial companies.
With more than 15 years of experience in the legal team, Mónica Estela Alvarez Viguri is a Mexican lawyer with extensive experience in corporate law. She possesses broad knowledge of corporate, civil and commercial law, with the strong capability to lead several kinds of projects with multifunctional teams. As the regional legal director of Premium Restaurant Brands, Alvarez oversees globally-recognised names in KFC, Pizza Hut, Wendy’s, China Wok and Starbucks, managing the corporate area of the group in Mexico and Central America, and working on the restructure of the group and integrations of both regions. She has been tasked on matters involving intellectual property, elaboration of all kind of contracts, foreign investment law, antitrust law and commercial matters. The legal team under her management is currently responsible for any legal affairs of the company and is comprised of an internal team of 12 lawyers and one assistant, who handle corporate affairs, franchises, environment, government relations, real estate contracts, publicity, foreign investment, antitrust and trademark matters. Priding herself for performing a business partner role for the rest of the senior staff of the company, her performance has led her to gain significant experience in real estate administration beyond a legal standpoint. Alvarez has proven skill to establish interpersonal relationships at all levels and to work as part of a team and under pressure. She adds: ‘My capability to transmit to my partners in the US, Mexican legal strategies, has let me perform my current position successfully’. Some of his prior roles include her role as legal corporate senior manager at Yum!, legal subdirector at Telefónica Movistar, and lawyer of legal affairs of the group for major Hispanic American broadcasting and communications media company, Televisa.
Silvia Amador joined Dos Pinos, a large Costa Rican dairy farming group, in 2014 after a 10 year career as an in-house lawyer with KPMG and GBM – an IBM affiliate in Costa Rica. An LLM graduate of the Georgetown University Law centre, Amador is an experienced commercial lawyer with a particular speciality in alternative dispute resolution and IP. Dos Pinos is a market leading dairy product group in Costa Rica with a long history of quality products since the 1940’s. It covers the entire process from feed to livestock, through product development and testing as well as commercialisation and export. It also provides farming services such as agro-veterinary centres and public service and education projects. Nominated for her leadership and skill in the provision of her legal guidance and support, Amador is well suited to the legal management of this celebrated Costa Rican institution.
Alfredo Apestegui is a lawyer with over 14 years of professional experience in legal and tax matters in the US and in Latin America. He joined the leading Central America private equity and advisory firm, Mesoamerica, as chief legal officer in May 2014 as head of all legal, tax and compliance matters involving the firm, its private equity investment vehicles and portfolio companies. When he joined there was no legal department. ‘The biggest task was to earn respect and trust from the organisation’, says Apestegui ‘I believe that this was primarily accomplished by portraying myself as any other member of the business team, rather than establishing a legal department that was isolated from the organisation’. As a result the organisation benefited because the legal and compliance function became an ‘inherent’ part of the business teams, where he can add most value. Although Mesoamerica is a private equity firm with more than twenty years in the market, for the past four years, the firm entered into a partnership with a world-class institutional investor, one of the two pension funds in North America, which required a deep transformation of the firm’s approach towards legal compliance and reporting. Over the past three years, Apestegui has led the formation of a private equity fund with one of the most regarded global pension funds as their lead investor. He has also been instrumental in two portfolio company acquisitions in Chile, and one exit in Central America, as well as leading the negotiation of financing arrangements for the fund and for the portfolio companies, leading several due diligence projects in Mexico, Colombia and Chile. Before joining Mesoamerica, Apestegui served as the senior tax counsel and head of tax strategy for Latin America and Caribbean at American International Group (AIG), based in New York and Miami. For three years he was in charge of providing strategic tax guidance to senior management on a global and regional level, as well as developing local tax perspectives for the Latin America region, covering 15 countries. Apestegui also worked for four years as manager in the M&A tax practice at Ernst & Young (now EY) LLP’S New York office, where he led and managed global M&A tax structuring and due diligence projects, as well as corporate reorganisations, from a US domestic and international perspective.
Silvia Arce López is an innovative and business-oriented corporate legal counsel with more than 11 years of experience providing high quality services across a broad range of corporate functions. She currently serves as the legal manager for Central America and Caribbean at Siemens Costa Rica, a role she has held since November 2010. She has been part of a number of transactions, one of which involved the October 2015 demerging of the Siemens regional entities and creation of a new healthcare company in each country, making a standalone company in one year. Most notably she participated in the biggest and most important Siemens Project Combustion Turbine and the Steam Turbine in Panamá. Internally, López has been making the legal department more efficient, reducing legal fees and generating a more effective budget. She states she has also been responsible for standardising agreements and contracts and ‘providing empowerment’ to the rest to the company’s teams. López previously worked at Grupo Roble, under the capacity of legal manager for Costa Rica, where she gave legal advice in building and managing shopping centres, residential housing, and office spaces, including premium brands such as Multiplaza Escazú Corporate Center and Plaza Roble.
Lucila María Argueta de Contreras joined Grupo Roble in 1996, where she was initially in charge of judicial matters and in 1997 gained additional responsibility, taking charge of the notarial matters that later became the real estate development area of Grupo Roble. This consequently saw her participate in several important real estate projects, among them in the development of the ALTAVISTA urban project of 22,000 homes in El Salvador, advising on the purchase and feasibility of the project and designed the legal vehicles to market the project which lasted 14 years. She was promoted to legal affairs manager of Grupo Roble at in 2005, in charge of the management of the operation in El Salvador, which involved corporate affairs advice, judicial litigation matters and real estate development of house projects and 10 shopping centers. Her journey within the company didn’t stop growing, as in 2015, as part of a transition process she was promoted to legal director of Grupo Roble at regional level, where she has since led the legal matters of the group in Central America, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic with 15 in-house lawyers under responsibility in the countries where Grupo Roble operates in its development of houses, shopping centers and hotels projects. Internally, she has structured the legal affairs department of Grupo Roble El Salvador by practice areas, and finding the appropriate human resources in a number of focused areas. In her current position, she is re-defining the organisation structure of the legal affairs of the Group at a regional level and creating efficiencies in digital processes based on the legal data of the company. Argueta is also a member of the board of directors of Grupo Roble, as well as member of the board of directors of the “Centro de Estudios Jurídicos de El Salvador” from 2009–present; the recognised association of lawyers in El Salvador.
Since 2014 Mario Ayala Claros has served as manager of legal affairs at Energía del Pacífico, a company in charge of the design, construction, operation and maintenance of a power plant, a marine terminal for receiving LNG and a transmission line in El Salvador. His work involves the legal assessment of all the company’s affairs in alignment with the applicable legal framework and market conditions, as well as participating in meetings with different government authorities over creating new laws and regulations related to the energy sector. During his time at Energía del Pacífico he has participated in several commercial transactions that the company has carried out, such as the contract for supply of LNG, EPC contracts, acquisition of rights for infrastructure, and in the organisation of social responsibility activities. Prior to this role, when he was authorised as a lawyer by the Supreme Court he was hired as a legal analyst in the Superintendence of the Financial System. Ayala’s work involved advising and assisting all areas under its supervision so that its resolutions and acts were conducted within the regulatory legal framework. ‘I believe that having worked in different areas such as the justice sector, the public administration and a private company, has allowed me to know the way each one works giving me a broader approach as a lawyer to help my clients to comply with the legal frameworks and achieve their goals’, he says.
With over 15 years in the technology industry, David Barajas is considered as a specialist lawyer in the sector, serving first as legal manager at Oracle and then at Mastercard where he currently holds the post of vice president legal and regulatory, overseeing Mexico and Central America. ‘Being part of the management team of Mastercard has been a highlight of my career. This was the first opportunity in my career where I learnt that a legal department goes beyond drafting agreements. We are here to bring value to the business’, says Barajas. Over the years he has led a senior group of great professionals, something which has proved to be a continuous personal challenge to become a better manager. Prior to Mastercard, Barajas worked in a law firm as an associate in M&A and also worked at the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Mexico.
José Barría is a Panamanian lawyer in charge of the legal department of the business unit of the French group, Suez, overseeing the jurisdictions of Central America, the Caribbean, Colombia and Ecuador. During his career, Barría has assumed different roles, first dedicated to the attention of private clients, then as part of legal teams of important public entities. ‘This multiplicity of roles has shaped me as lawyer, and has helped me to have a multimodal perspective of the lawyer profession that allows me to understand with greater clarity the complexities of the operation of an entity such as Suez whose clients within the region are in their vast majority public entities’, explains Barría. He first started working as part of the legal team for the Trade Defense Office of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry of Panama. Later he was appointed as legal advisor of the Mission of Panama to the United Nations in New York, and after that served as an associate lawyer of a major law firm in Panama, advising national and foreign clients on commercial matters. In recent years, he has been developing his career within a number of projects, first as a member of the contract team of the Panama Canal Authority and more recently in charge of the legal department for Suez regional offices located in Panama. As legal manager of Suez, Barría focuses his activities on the development of large-scale projects related to water and waste treatment systems, and on accompanying projects to provide technical, administrative and financial systems to public operators of water and waste-related services. In 2017 he facilitated a contract signed with the Panamanian Ministry of Health for the design, construction and operation of Juan Diaz plant, the largest sewerage water plant in Panama for an amount of US$220m. ‘One of the most important changes that I have been able to introduce within the legal department is to convey that the legal department has a very important place within the operating scheme of the company’, says Barría. Over the duration of his tenure, the role of the legal department has been key in strengthening the presence of Suez in the region with the incorporation of new projects in Panama, El Salvador, Colombia and Ecuador to Suez’s portfolio. With this substantial business volume growth in the last two years, he has learned to understand the legal environment of different jurisdictions within his legal scope, to identify potential risks, and to find ways to mitigate them by negotiating balanced contractual structures and then ‘working hand in hand to keep track of contractual compliance’. This has led him to consolidate their collaboration structure and understand the cultural and legal complexities of different business areas within Latin America.
Petra Froxina Batista Soto can point to fourteen years of experience practicing law, focusing her practice on providing advice in the areas of real estate, contracts, corporate and commercial law, civil law, banking and foreign investment. Batista advises clients in M&A transactions, joint ventures, project finance and in the entry of global companies to the Dominican market, as well as international funding for large value transactions. During her career she has participated in most tourism projects of the largest real estate economic groups in the Dominican Republic, advising and providing legal services and extensive experience in matters regarding land’s registry law. In 2013 she received her Master’s degree in real estate law from Universidad Iberoamericana (UNIBE) and has participated in numerous courses and seminars in many different areas of practice. These include international criminal court, tax law, constitutional reforms, matrimonial regimes, telecommunications, criminal and commercial law, maritime transportation of goods in the Dominican Republic and real estate registry law and regulations.
Maria Beatriz Beltranena Wer has served as general counsel for Amzak Capital Management for 12 years, where she manages the legal departments, transactions and legal affairs of Amzak’s active projects and investments. Beltranena has vast experience in managing corporate international legal transactions such as mergers and acquisitions, partnerships, loan syndications, bidding processes, acquisition, real estate and bankruptcy transactions. At the beginning of her position as general counsel and legal director for Amzak, she managed acquisitions of local cable and telephone operators in Central America to consolidate them into Amnet Telecommunication, Amnet was the main asset of Amzak but was sold, first as a minority piece to Mesoamerica, and then in 2008 Amnet was completely sold to Tigo-Millicom. Such transactions required her involvement in the structuring, due diligence, regulatory approvals, preparation and negotiation of legal documents and the process of transitioning the company into new ownership. After the sale of Amnet, Amzak acquired Tricom, a transaction that required Beltranena’s coordination of New York legal counsels and Dominican Republic attorneys to apply bankruptcy regulations in combination with the Dominican corporate aspects to complete the undertaking. After the acquisition, in her capacity as general counsel, she managed the regulatory affairs, litigation and corporate legal needs of Tricom, including leading a group of more than eight attorneys, until they sold the company to Altice in 2014, a transaction that required full dedication of due diligence process, structuring and negotiation. She takes pride in having worked to establish a very experienced team that can easily manage the legal aspects of a newly acquired company. ‘Managing a business is very different than acquiring and selling a company, so the complete cycle has made me a complete generalist in various industries of my private equity career, from de regulated industries to very regulated ones’, says Beltranena. Before Amzak she was general counsel at Citibank; spent six years as country compliance officer of Citibank’s branch in El Salvador, and was a lawyer of the legal department of Citibank’s Guatemalan branch. Her experience as country compliance officer saw her apply US regulations such as Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and Anti-bribery and Money laundering in combination with El Salvador’s local regulations. She also served as legal coordinator and director for Citibank Honduras for more than two years. Beltranena was also a senior associate at Consortium Legal where she directed the corporate law department of the firm.
Alejandra Bogantes joined the Costa Rican arm of American multinational retail corporation Walmart in September 2009, as a regional lawyer of agro-industrial development, and assumed her current position as legal manager for Costa Rica in 2014. Bogantes was appointed in this position at just 33 years old, at a time when the legal department was mostly made up of women, showing Walmart’s commitment to promoting women in executive positions. Despite this, Bogantes explains: ‘It was a challenge to prove that I have what it takes to assume the title even at my age and my gender’, adding, ‘thankfully, even if it was a challenge, all turned out good. I learned how to be a business partner, have strategic thinking, [and take] quick decisions to avoid risk’. Most importantly, Bogantes learned how to summarise or simplify problems in order to take actions and solve ranges of problems effectively and swiftly. ‘This helped me with the changes in the legal department that we have been through, I learnt how to accept the changes and make them into opportunities,’ Bogantes says. She explains that being a legal manager for Walmart in Costa Rica has proved to be a great opportunity, leading a small team comprised of herself, a lawyer and a paralegal has created an environment where they are always learning from each other. The clients she deals with on a daily basis comprise of a variety of units including HR, logistics, operations, finances, tax, compliance, the expats and their families and many others, giving her a varied breadth of legal issues to deal with. ‘We live in a country where the authorities are very active [in] visiting the stores and [checking] the workers are educated in their rights. We have no chances for mistakes, because one of them can cause greater losses to the company’, says Bogantes, who has successfully stayed abreast by using utmost attention to detail combined with speed and efficiency. Before joining Walmart she served as an associate attorney at KPMG where she focused on corporate law, dissolutions, management of corporations, with an emphasis on the incorporation of businesses in Costa Rica.
Gabriela Bogantes joined Pfizer as legal counsel to support Pfizer Diversified Businesses of animal health, consumer and nutritional businesses, as well as the enabling functions of the company across all business units. As part of this role she was additionally requested to support commercial initiatives and regional projects such as the integration of Wyeth Pharmaceuticals in the region. ‘During this period of time I was able to work with cross functional teams in the organisation, which allowed me to obtain more knowledge not only about the company and business per se, but the intricacies of each of the areas I had the chance to work with’, says Bogantes. By November 2011 she was promoted to legal manager, expanding her role, as the primary legal contact for all Central America and Caribbean Pfizer’s businesses and started to report to the regional Latin America legal lead. During her time as a manager she was assigned to lead certain regional Latin America based initiatives such as multichannel marketing, giving her the opportunity to participate in different in different forums and providing her with the broader knowledge of the region. This led her onto becoming part of the local executive leadership team, being the youngest member of all time. ‘The support from the local leaders, as well as from my manager propelled my career and allowed me to become a solid contributor in this type of forum; with this process I was able to position legal as a key stakeholder for all business units and departments in the company’, says Bogantes, enabling her to become a go-to partner when initiating projects and initiatives. In December 2015 she was promoted to legal director for the Central America and Caribbean and was also assigned with multiple regional support roles for Latin America, including being the primary legal contact for the Oncology Business between 2015-2016, Rare Diseases and Vaccines during 2017-2018. She continues to support all business units in all of the Central America region, as well as the global supply business in Panama and the new global financial service centre established in Costa Rica in late 2015. Bogantes also supported the integration of Hospira Business to Pfizer in Central America and Caribbean, and then the sale of the infusion business unit to ICU, including the sale of the two major plants located in Costa Rica and Dominican Republic.
Michael Bruce currently serves as the legal manager for American multi-national consumer goods corporation Procter & Gamble in Costa Rica. Prior to joining in 2013, he was a partner at the Central American law firm ACZALAW, working on corporate and IP matters. When discussing his most notable career highlights, he mentions ‘flipping the switch’ from an attorney to an executive as one of his standout career tasks. He elaborates: ‘My role is very much that of an attorney, however how I go about it is very different than when I was at the firm. The key for in-house counsel is to truly know and understand the business and the industry. To know the challenges the industry faces and be able to anticipate them so that we don’t have to be reactionary to them’.
Founded in 1921 in Costa Rica, Grupo Garnier was the first advertising agency in Latin America and first customer relations management company in Central America. It has grown into a large conglomerate of 55 Latin and Central American advertising companies. Melania Campos Lara has managed the legal operations of the conglomerate for five years since July 2013 having extensive experience in IP, commercial and corporate legal experience and previous roles in intellectual property law for in-house, private practice and public sector positions. Grupo Garnier specialises in building its investments in communication and marketing agencies in Central and Latin America as well as creating brands using expert human and technological resources. It offers its agencies support in financing, capitalisation, purchase of media and legal aspects, and strategic corporate planning of deals and partnerships are of crucial importance. Campos’ extensive legal knowledge and advertising savvy merits her nomination as well as her continued expert guidance of Grupo Garnier’s legal affairs.
Longstanding and distinguished in-house lawyer Michelle Alexandra Canelo Juarez, has worked at Cargill since starting her career in 1998, assuming different roles and responsibilities along the way. She has been a specialist lawyer on labour and employment, the environment and food law matters and also served a two year period where she was responsible for litigation matters. After this she was appointed as the lawyer responsible in Nicaragua during a nine month assignment to lead the integration soon after Cargill had acquired poultry business Tip Top Industrial, which Canelo says gave her a broader perspective on legal risks in different countries. Canelo went on to assume the role of legal manager for Central America in 2008 which gave her the opportunity to work closely with an extraordinary group of people, helping them achieve their full potential and strengthening her business acumen. Her trajectory at Cargill has continued upwards as this year she was appointed legal manager for Colombia, a country in which Cargill has different businesses who are looking to expand and continue growing. Along the way, Canelo has enjoyed being not only a lawyer but a key asset to the company and ultimately a business leader: ‘This implies a challenging and critical role not only to think of what is legally possible to do, but also, what does it make sense for the business under specific circumstances, and how to best deliver practical and valued based solutions’, she says. She operates with a positive outlook, ‘As an individual contributor at the beginning of my career, I understand that I was influencing others with my example. Now as a leader, manager, I act intentionally to influence positively others, my director’s reports, my peers, my business partners’. Most recently Canelo was the commercial lead on an important acquisition of a Colombian poultry business, Pollos El Bucanero, which allowed Cargill to strengthen its footprint in this critical country. Another more personal project which she says she is ‘truly happy, humbled and honoured’ to be a part of is the creation in February of 2018 of the first and only In-House Counsel Association in Central America which she was appointed as president for a two year term. ‘This has been a vision turned into a reality with hard work, working alongside inspiring people who dare to dream big’, says Canelo.
Formerly with KPMG as an international legal manager for the Latin American region, legal manager at Grupo Rouble and regional legal manager for the agribusiness division of Walmart in the Central American region, Rodrigo Cárdenas serves as the regional legal director, regional compliance officer and data protection officer at Laureate International Universities. Cárdenas is a senior corporate attorney, an expert in business legal matters, ethics and compliance and government affairs with experience in management of international legal teams and commercial acumen. At Laureate International Universities, Cárdenas developed the international legal, compliance and government affairs department from scratch. It is made up of experienced lawyers who provide executive management with legal advice on a wide array of topics including cross border transactions, ethics and compliance programs, employee trainings and lobbying and public affairs work. Cárdenas is also responsible for the management of external counsel when necessary. Laureate International Universities operates a network of independently run campus and online universities in 20 countries offering undergraduate and post-graduate degree programs and serving over one million students.
Ernesto Alfonso Carrasco Castro started his career at Honduran financial group, Grupo Financiero Ficohsa in 2000, beginning as an officer in the insurance company and since then climbing up the executive ladder to assume his current position as vice president for legal affairs in 2013. He has taken on the role of organising and structuring a legal team that can serve Grupo Financiero Ficohsa under standards that mitigates legal risk and contributes to continuous and sustainable growth. He holds a number of qualities that make him a standout lawyer, including his commitment to the company goals, which keep him focused on his role as general counsel. He also strongly encourages team work, explaining that ‘Since the beginning the search for individuals that share the same values of Grupo Financiero Ficohsa has permitted our legal team to consolidate a multidisciplinary team allowing us to do business as usual and attend important projects for [the company]’. He is also a strong decision maker, particularly in the industry he operates, and it is to this end he says, ‘I have learned to take informed decisions always considering the best outcome for our clients and Grupo Financiero Ficohsa’.
Carlos M. Cartín Feoli is a Costa Rican lawyer and notary public, currently acting as the country legal manager for the regional real estate developer Grupo Roble. In this role, Cartín is responsible for coordinating all legal decisions of the Group in Costa Rica, safekeeping the interests of the main branches of the corporation, as well as first-class real estate projects, and maintaining constant communication with the headquarters. Over the year he has developed his work experience in both private and public sectors, incusing multinational companies and the government of Costa Rica. In 2011 he was internally recognised for working on the best legal project executed in the region for Grupo Roble, an achievement which highlighted the legal role he played in the remodelling of the biggest shopping mall in Costa Rica. ‘The project involved the activation of a long due diligence process, negotiations and elaborations of complex commercial, construction and real estate contracts, as well as litigation’, says Cartín. He previously served as legal advisory for the Ministry of Foreign Trade of Costa Rica, focusing on overseeing the application and development of foreign investments, free zones, litigation and international arbitration as well as providing counsel in corporate, transactional and commercial matters. There he participated in the first ever arbitration panel under the Dominican Republic – Central America – US Free Trade Agreement. Cartín also served as the legal advisor for the Foreign Trade Promotion Agency of Costa Rica, focusing his work in the free zone regime and the application of Costa Rican and American civil and commercial law. Cartín has published several articles in La Nación and El Financiero newspapers, in the judicial magazine of Costa Rica and in Master Lex’s blog punto Jurídico. He has also served an arbitrator in the first, second, fourth and fifth editions of the international investment arbitration competition, organised by the American University Washington College of Law and the international centre for the settlement of investment disputes of the World Bank Group.
Esteemed in-house counsel Belisario Castillo Sáenz has gained much attention for the changes he has implemented at Banco Panameño de la Vivienda (Banvivienda), a well-established Panamanian bank offering personal, private, commercial and agricultural banking services. Castillo impressively started his career as senior corporate counsel at Panama’s national bank at the age of 31 and is now leading a team of three lawyers and two assistants. As secretary of the board for the bank’s three subsidiaries, he also leads a brokerage house, a global fiduciary services group and a leasing group. One of the projects he has been tasked with is the automation of the bank’s most important processes, including the protection of intellectual property and how it manages legal documentation. Prior to joining Banvivienda in 2013, Castillo served as the executive manager of legal advice and the secretary of the board of directors at Banco Nacional de Panama, the country’s central bank. There he worked on the Financial Stimulus Program, a plan to reinvigorate Panamanian banks with over a billion dollars in cash during the 2008 world financial crisis. His notable work earned him a standout reputation in the financial sector and in 2010 he was invited to join UniBank, a Panamanian Private Bank. He went on to serve as the vice president of legal and compliance for three years where he was responsible for creating the legal function, which gave him experience of developing a team for a new bank. Castillo is also the second vice president for the Latin American Committee of Financial Law (COLADE), a committee dedicated to bringing together legal professionals at Latin American banks and part of the Latin American Federation of Banks (FELABAN).
Alejandra Castro is the head of legal, patents and compliance at Bayer Central America and the Caribbean. During her time at Bayer she has encouraged a business partner model for the legal patents and compliance (LPC) department: ‘We’re planning for the future in LPC and becoming robust, commercially-minded business partners is something we think will be valuable for us in LPC and great for the Bayer business as a whole’, says Castro. She has encouraged the team to be wholly involved in the business in order to provide the best possible advice, resulting in the feat of being more than a regional department taking care of legal matters, but a team that develops business strategy from a legal point of view to enhance the business priorities. Before joining Bayer, she was partner at Arias & Muñoz in Costa Rica, where she was head of the intellectual property and biotechnology law department. Prior to joining the law firm, Alejandra was Pfizer´s legal and corporate affairs director for Central America and the Caribbean. She is the co-founder of the Costa Rican Information Technology Association and the founder of the UNED (Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia) Master’s degree in intellectual property program, where she served as faculty director for four years. Castro also acted as head of the Plan Integrado de Competitividad and as ALFA project manager for the Costa Rican National Insurance Institute, where she supervised country-wide preparations to open the Costa Rican insurance market to competition after 80 years of monopoly. She was also vice-president of the Costa Rican Bar Association, and vice president of the National Chamber of Technology (CAMTIC). In 2011, the World Intellectual Property Rights Organization (WIPO) named Castro as its advisor responsible for designing the Costa Rican National strategy on intellectual property rights. In 2012, she was also designated by WIPO to draft the National Strategy on Intellectual Property for Trinidad and Tobago. In 2013, she was awarded the 40 Minors of 40 Award, by the newspaper El Financiero, as a recognition of her career in Law. In 2015 she was named by the Central American magazine Strategy+Business as one of the most outstanding young women attorneys in the region.
Rodrigo Cavinato Herrera manages the legal department of Swiss-German world leader in the provision of logistics services, Kuehne + Nagel, overseeing the legal and compliance operations for Central America and the Caribbean. He predominantly oversees the preparation and analysis of contracts, corporate documents, management of judicial and administrative procedures and general legal advice to the company’s internal areas, always focusing on control and reduction to risk exposures. A real team player, Cavinato thrives within his position as legal and compliance manager ‘I really like to work in a team, being the person who will put everyone together, building relationships and developing others. I am always trying to be innovative and an entrepreneur in my daily routine, bringing solutions which can be very useful’, he says. What makes him a standout lawyer is his business acumen combined with his management skills, meaning that he not only brings the law to the company, but also the best legal solution for the company’s needs. He is able to include legal in negotiations with all stakeholders, showing a real value, and has been involved in leading two M&A transactions in Brazil and Panama, as well as restructuring the legal entities in Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados. Prior to Joining Kuehne + Nagel, he served as legal coordinator for largest logistics services company in Latin America, Luft Logistics.
Adviel Centeno Mayta has been general counsel and secretary at The AES Corporation since 2010 having previously served in executive in-house legal positions and private practice at Bufete MF&Co, SAB Miller, Dimar, and Bell South part of AT&T. A senior lawyer with international experience in corporate, commercial, and energy issues in transnational companies, Centeno expertly leads the legal function of the electricity generation company responsible for all legal operations in Panama, the ethics and compliance department and serves as secretary to subsidiary companies AES Panama, AES Changuinola and Gas Natural Atlantico. AES Panama and AES Changuinola are the largest electricity generators in Panama, operating six plants across country. Gas Natural Atlantico is developing and constructing the first liquefied natural gas (LNG) combined energy generation facility in Panama in conjunction with a LNG terminal and tank. This deal has been a work in progress for several years with the help of Centeno and his team. A joint venture between AES and ENGIE to market and sell LNG to third parties in Central America was agreed in 2017. AES in Panama operates 777MW and has been investing US$1.4bn since 1998, and adding US$1.2m in the last two years to reduce its carbon footprint by 16m tons of carbon dioxide.
Maria Charris is a lawyer with over 15 years of professional experience who has served as the legal manager for Grupo Rey, one of the main Panamanian groups in the consumer products industry selling fresh produce, food and dry goods in Panama, serving the needs of thousands of Panamanians, since August 2010. Charris is known in the in-house legal Central America community for her leadership skills and perseverance under pressure; under her management the legal team has carried out various large-scale transactions, while continuously obtaining value-driving results. Charris has held managerial positions in both national and international companies, experience that has helped her support the company’s transition in the midst of an economic slowdown in the country. These significant movements generated within Grupo Rey have required Charris to ensure compliance to company policy, legal and regulatory requirements and overall legal assistance to the business as it continues to enhance its reputation as a high quality provider of fresh produce in the agroindustry.
In 2004 Jorge Mario Colindres Sandoval started working at Energuate, Guatemala’s largest power distribution company, serving over 1.6 million regulated consumers, initially as the internal legal advisor. From 2004-2008, his main role was to help maintain the legal indemnity of the group companies and their distributors, a transport company, one energy marketing company and today Energuate, in legal compliance and documentation of their assets. As of 2008, he has worked as legal manager to Energuate in the direction of all the corresponding legal procedures and has participated in the compilation of legal information at different times of the merger process by absorption of GasNatural with Union Fenosa. He has also participated in due diligence of three processes of sale involving participation of the majority shareholder. ‘All the previous activities have given me the opportunity to improve the skills to work under pressure, with different steering committees, levels of demand and quality of information’, says Colindres. Some of the department’s changes he has been responsible for include internal control procedures for judicial cases, contracts and legal documentation have been created, improved and established, derived from the integration of new members into the internal legal unit, whereby contracts of the FCPA, codes of ethics and human rights have been included in the contracts. These actions have contributed to generating confidence both internally of the company and externally with shareholders and authorities. Colindres previously worked in Ministerio Publico overseeing criminal cases, such as bank and administrative offenses and general crimes.
Walter Contreras, legal director for Globalvia´s Costa Rican Infrastructure project, Ruta 27, has had a focus on advising multinational companies throughout his career, with expertise in tax matters, implementation of government contracts as well as regulatory compliance in highly regulated industries. Contreras has extended experience as an in-house lawyer advising companies engaged in concession contracts with the government of Costa Rica. His first role as a legal professional was as a tax and legal advisor at PwC, where he worked from 2007-2011. He was in charge of the advising and issuance of legal opinions for multinational companies, focused on tax and regulatory compliance issues. In 2011 with the end of the telecommunications monopoly in Costa Rica he had the opportunity to work in the telecom sector as an in-house lawyer for Claro CR Telecomunicaciones. In his six years there he gained experience dealing with government agencies as well as administering a concession contract which allowed Contreras to take on the bigger challenge of legal director for the first highway concession in the country. Here he is responsible for the design and implementation of the legal and regulatory strategy and compliance, as well as monitoring and implementing the concession contract.
Tannia Corriols has worked at German logistics company DHL for the last 14 years, joining the Costa Rican branch in January 2004 as legal manager for Central America, and in 2008 assuming the regional role for Latin America as legal director of global forwarding. Her role first started as a standard legal role entailing reviewing of contracts, managing external counsel and providing legal advice to management, however it has evolved to a more strategic role, enabling her to fully understand the business needs and be part of the management team. Corriols now has involvement in the negotiation of agreements with customers at a global level, as well as her involvement in many initiatives in contract management, and legal spend.
Juan Sebastian Crespo started working for Procter & Gamble in 2009 in Bogota, Colombia, first as a scholar and then as legal supervisor. In 2012 he was transferred to Panama to work as legal supervisor of the business unit which is responsible for Central America, the Caribbean and distributor markets in South America (Ecuador, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay) with the main role of supporting the sales function. ‘In general terms, working outside of my home country for regional and global roles has given me the opportunity to understand and learn different legislations, manage relationships with outside counsels from different backgrounds, cultures, and apply best practices across countries’, says Crespo. This process has enabled him to increase his knowledge beyond his local expertise to better serve his clients. In 2014 he was promoted to legal counsel and took over as the single point of contact for antitrust matters in the region. In 2017 he was promoted to senior counsel and group manager and transferred to Geneva, as part of the global antitrust and trade relations, the role he currently serves now. He supports the global and regional sales teams, including the global Carrefour team, the Global AS Watsons team, the global pharmacy channel team and the European retail alliances team, giving expert advice on antitrust matters to legal colleagues in Europe, Middle East and Africa.
Ana Carol de Benedetti has had an extensive career in the airline industry, having overseen legal entities and operations in Central America, South America and the US, having started working with TACA Airlines in 1997 as a contracts administrator. In 2000 she was promoted to aircraft contracts manager, where she was in charge of all contracts related to aircrafts and engines, including their purchase, finance, maintenance, and operation. After this she was promoted to contracts director, where she was additionally in charge of all contracts to be signed by TACA Airlines. de Benedetti describes TACA as an ‘amazing place to work’ due to the international breadth of the operations, which provided a strong spring-board to start her in-house career: ‘I had the opportunity to work in many international and cross border transactions which involved multiple jurisdictions, such as loans, private placements guaranteed with credit card receivables, aircraft sale and lease backs and co-branded credit cards issuance. Working for an international company introduced me to New York and to all matter related to such sophisticated law’, says de Benedetti. In 2009 Avianca Airlines Colombia, and TACA entered into agreements whereby a majority stake in TACA’s shares was bought by Avianca. TACA and Avianca united their own frequent flyer programs in one single loyalty program: LifeMiles. In 2011 she started working exclusively for LifeMiles as its legal manager, in charge of all legal aspects in all countries where it operates. In 2016 she was promoted to general counsel and has since been responsible for the large scale changes and projects that the company has embarked on, including its 2017 corporate reorganisation which aimed to optimize its fiscal model and strengthen its commercial and legal position. Amongst these projects is the 2012-2015 carve out process from Avianca airlines, with the aim of converting itself into an entity with its own goals, with a team completely focused on the loyalty business. ‘I had worked with airlines for approximately fifteen years when this process started. I learned that as a professional it is important to new ideas and new ways of doing business. It is essential to accept change and to promote and look for new and different ways of doing business’, reveals de Benedetti. It is to this end that she is constantly looking for ways to improve the relationship with internal clients, regularly holding meetings with the commercial team to better understand their needs. Some of her significant transactions include in the process that involved 30% of LifeMiles being bought by Advent International, for more than US$300m.
Marcela Bernal de Fontanals joined Citi El Salvador in 2000 as a legal assistant for the corporate bank, when Citi’s presence was limited to a single branch office and two ancillary local legal vehicles in the country. Her role at the time was supporting the former general counsel, in the management and coordination of the legal affairs and corporate bank business of Citi in El Salvador. Bernal was appointed general counsel in 2005 and became counsellor of the Citi country officer and his direct reports, as well as being responsible for all Citi legal matters in El Salvador. ‘Being appointed general counsel in Citi in 2005 at a “young age” compared to the age media in the country for general counsels in financial institutions, this appointment gave me exposure and access to complex transactions and experience in franchise risk advisory’, explains Bernal. During her time at Citi, she has focused on being the best for the client, and having a proactive 360 degree assessment role instead of only focusing on the “legality” of subjects. In 2007, Citi acquired two Central American regional bank operations, totalling 16 legal vehicles, during the acquisition she played an important role, including the filing of all regulatory authorisations necessary for purchasing the consumer business and merging the legal departments in the country. Bernal played a key role in permeating Citi’s culture in the consumer business, and implementing the franchise’s policies, optimising the legal department’s processes and resources. ‘The acquisition of the consumer business in El Salvador, allowed me to acquire vast experience in consumer law subjects, also professionally it proved to be a great experience since I had to participate in regulatory filing processes implementation of the Citi culture in the acquired organisations’, says Bernal. In October 2014, Citi announced the divesture of the consumer bank operation in 11 countries, along with the senior management steering committee, as well as the re-opening of the local Citi NA branch. The process concluded on July 1 2016 and Citi successfully reopened its corporate branch. Bernal is part of the Citi El Salvador Women’s Network and is co-chair of Citi’s 20/20 strategy committee and board member of Junior Achievement El Salvador.
Edgar Del Valle is the legal manager of Claro’s operations in Costa Rica, having first joined the company in 2012 after a career in private practice, in-house in the financial sector and in the Costa Rican Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Worship. At Claro he is responsible for the administration of the legal function relating to legal and regulatory risk, representation of the company with public authorities, litigation, contracts, as well as legal negotiations with clients and suppliers. He is an expert in corporate law with significant international trade and investment experience and ethics and compliance acumen. In addition to his work at Claro he serves as general coordinator of the Costa Rica Business Attorneys virtual network. Claro is a large Brazilian telecoms company providing mobile, television and internet coverage across Latin and Central America, with a strong presence in Costa Rica. In the last year, Claro has been investing in-household connected devices, “internet of things,” and other innovations bringing it further in front as a leader of the Central American telecoms industry.
Multi Inversiones Mi Banco was founded in April 1992 as an entity that is a part of the financial system of El Salvador, consisting of 129 members and 2,347 shares. In April 2017, the bank celebrated 25 years of successful experience in the financial market. As part of the activities, a brand refresher was launched with a new logo, along with its current slogan: “The fighter’s bank”. Part of this success is attributed to the legal function and the management of Alejandra Escobar Aguilar, who has served as head of legal for the last three years. With her hands-on legal assistance in corporate banking matters, she has fully embraced the ‘fighter’s bank’ mind-set and has worked on supporting the bank’s aims of providing financial solutions that satisfy and contribute to improving the quality of life of Salvadorans. Aguilar previously worked in private practice capacities, working first as an intellectual property lawyer at Romero Pineda & Asociados from May 2013 to January 2015, and previously at law firm Aczalaw as an intellectual property lawyer.
Ricardo A. Estrada has had a lengthy career in the pharmaceutical sector, starting in-house at Swiss pharmaceuticals giant, Roche, in the capacity of legal affairs manager and compliance officer for Central America and the Caribbean until February 2018. He very recently took on the role of legal counsel at medical manufacturing Smith & Nephew. ‘Working in-house for two of the best healthcare industry companies in the world at a region such as Latin America with a wide diversity and number of countries has allowed me to build a strong knowledge of the legal field and a great understanding of the business in our markets, its needs and challenges’, says Estrada. He considers himself a business partner that contributes to the business in several ways, always using a legal mind-set. During his four year tenure at Roche he was the first person to implement the legal business partner role to the commercial teams and under his guidance, the legal department has changed from simple legal advisory to strategic partnership of the organisation. In his current role at Smith & Nephew he is in charge of Peru and Puerto Rico. His contribution to the establishment of a shared service centre for the Americas at Roche and global business services for Smith & Nephew has been key to their success in the region.
Jose María Etchegaray has been at SBA Communications Corporation (SBA) since 2010 and its director of legal affairs in Latin America since 2016. Etchegaray manages all operations and regulatory legal matters affecting the organisation, as well as the negotiation of contracts, agreements, licences and permits, compliance, contractual obligations and litigation matters for Latin America excluding Brazil. Etchegaray is responsible for the internal and external legal resources for the Latin American communications company. SBA, headquartered in Florida, in the US, is a wireless communications provider offering infrastructure services and operations across North, Latin and Central America as well as the Caribbean. The company installs and operates tower sites and builds rooftop signallers as well as solutions services for wireless systems and maintenance. Recently the firm has expanded in the region and has completed a merger with a subsidiary firm to consolidate its business, in which Etchegaray has served a crucial part of its success.
Augusta Fernández Siu is a Nicaraguan lawyer and public notary with 16 years of experience, including almost eight years in the retail market. Fernández joined Walmart in 2009, responsible for leading the legal department for Walmart Nicaragua with its emerging market that has grown in the last years to be the leader in Central America’s sales. In 2017, she was promoted to legal manager for Nicaragua and Honduras’s markets at Walmart y Central America, where she has established the legal team as a strategic partner to the business with clear goals to reach the highest operative standards and business performance indicators, supporting with comprehensive legal advice to the operations of Nicaragua and Honduras. Fernández adds that ‘this way of involving the team into the business has created a high performance team proposing new ideas allowing the business to continue growing and working at a low cost every day’. During the last few years she has stood out with her negotiation skills and strategic planning, supporting the real estate department as well as the business. One of the most significant transactions she has been involved in was the expansion of distribution centres in Nicaragua, the largest distribution centre of Walmart in Central America. Before joining Walmart, Fernández worked as a legal manager for the consumer credit department at the Banco de America Central, one of the region’s financial institutions, and as legal manager for Latin America, at Genomma Lab.
Cervecería Nacional Dominicana (CND) is the Dominican Republic’s primary brewing company which has been operating since 1929 and is currently owned by AmBev and Grupo León Jimenes. The company has a portfolio of beers and soft drinks through AmBev’s franchise and licences to produce brands such as Pepsi, 7UP and Presidente beer among others. Ramon Franco is the company’s general counsel, with over 25 years of legal experience in private practice as well as at premier consumer products companies across the Central American region. In September 2018, the company announced that it had completed a deal to create a strategic alliance across the Caribbean, a new bond listing and other expansions. This, combined with parent company investment has made CND one of the largest industry players in the Central American region and a major employer in the Dominican Republic and elsewhere in the region. The expansion and continued operation of the legal department provides Franco the opportunity to demonstrate his expertise and multi-jurisdictional ability as previously recognised in the GC Powerlist: Central America Teams list in 2017.
Ivette Lorena Franco Koroneos has served as a senior director of legal and general counsel at Copa Airlines since 1999, and is one of the most influential people in Central American aviation law. An industry leader within Central American aviation, Franco is nominated for the third time to our Powerlist series featuring Central America. She began her career in public service at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and was president of the Pro Tempore Secretariat of the Rio Group. Her wealth of aviation experience began in 1985 when she was legal advisor to Air Panama International and continues with her involvement in the Inter-American Commission of Women and the International Aviation Women’s Association (IAWA). As Panama’s flag carrier airline, Copa Airlines is one of the largest airlines in the region with passenger services and cargo services to Panama, Venezuela, Ecuador, Mexico, Cuba, Guatemala and Costa Rica. The airline’s hub in Panama makes it perfectly located to serve the entire region as a central pivot and it carries a fleet of 98 aircraft. It is constantly expanding to meets its growth targets and has announced the order of 61 additional Boeing 737-MAX 8 and 9 aircrafts to be delivered in 2018-2024, a project that Franco will be involved in to ensure it is achieved successfully and compliantly.
Ana Carolina García joined L’Oréal Venezuela in 2010 as legal manager, where she claims she immediately fell in love with the cosmetics company: ‘I could mix the legal knowledge, commercial matters and my love for these type of products. To take the opportunity to become a supporter of each department and been involved in all matters related to the business make me feel more of a business partner than a lawyer, it gave me the opportunity to solve problems and make things happen’, says García. In 2014 she assumed position as the legal director for Central America, where she is now located in Panama, but has the responsibility to work for 13 countries in Central America and some countries in South America, opening up the opportunity to develop her legal functions in different countries with different people in a diverse business. García has also been tasked with creating a legal culture in the organisation. ‘For me, being a corporate lawyer is being at the heart of the company, and the person who can help and support entire departments. For me the lawyer must be a collaborator of companies and the vehicle to make things happen’, acknowledges García. García started her professional career 17 years ago, when she joined a law firm in Caracas, Venezuela, working as a paralegal trainee on claims and issues at the judicial courts and intellectual property registers. After gaining her license as a lawyer she started to work for Cadena Capriles, one of the most important press companies in Venezuela, which she describes as ‘a great experience’ and a role she remembers fondly as she worked directly with the owners who taught her how to run a business. García then spent four years working for the first private employer in Venezeula, Cervecería Polar, where she was responsible for commercial issues. It gave her the opportunity to navigate under different types of protection law from the government. ‘I could face up to sanitary matters, security employee, payment collection issues from customers, and suppler reviews and operations issues in the warehouse and transport lines’, says García.
As the senior counsel for Philip Morris International in Central America, Natalia Gaspar manages all legal aspects of the international business, to implement departmental practices and objectives across Central America. In this position, she plays a key role within the management team working to reach business objectives in a manner which is aligned with all relevant laws, regulations and internal policies, reporting to the assistant general counsel based in New York. Gaspar’s career at the American multinational cigarette and tobacco manufacturing company started in the capacity of counsel for Central America between April 2005 and July 2010. In July 2010 she assumed her current position as senior counsel for Central America, where she provides general and specific legal support to all Central America affiliates, advising on areas such as corporate governance, distribution, labour and commercial litigation, and in a wide variety of management initiatives in accordance with the aims of the business and company policies. Gaspar participates in the management process of the company by ensuring that decisions reflect legal and policy factors and achieve objectives that protect the legal interests of the company.
In December 2017, Luis Enrique Gómez-Portuguez left Del Monte after almost ten years as their legal director and corporate relations for the CECAB region. He went on to assume the position of regional legal director and corporate secretary for Scotiabank, where he oversees the legal teams for Panama and El Salvador. Since he joined Scotiabank in Costa Rica, the most significant task was the conclusion of the integration process with Citi: ‘Almost three years ago both banks entered into an agreement for the acquisition of certain portfolio and this process was legally finalised on July 1st’ says Gómez-Portuguez. As well as being tasked with the stabilisation process of the aforementioned transaction, he has also been behind concluding a similar integration process in Panama. Recently, he was also appointed as the bank sub-general manager in order to take control of all the regulatory requirements involved.
As the general counsel of Walmart Central America, Claudia Gonzalez Montt joined the retail giant’s legal team as general counsel in August 2016 and currently leads a legal team of approximately 40 attorneys and professional staff and a security team of approximately 50 associates in five markets of Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. Due to the varied breadth of her role, Gonzalez highlights she had to quickly understand that she needed to invest a lot of time and effort in hiring and developing the talent of her team, adding ‘the team members are everything’. She continues: ‘I have had a great experience during my career, not only on the legal aspects but the closeness with the business has allowed me to understand how I can add value and to empower my team to act accordingly, having an open mind and finding new ways to help the business develop and succeed’. Gonzalez has successfully changed the mind-set of the legal team by creating a team that serve as partners of the business, ensuring less risk and efficient and faster solutions. She has strengthened this by encouraging the team to visit stores, plants and logistics centres to learn and to understand the business, procedures and the needs of the internal clients. She has also moved the team to contribute with the business in other aspects. Last year she led the legal department to train more than 300 small and medium size companies regarding legal aspects which are integral for the development of the business. Other projects that she has been involved in include her participation in several other projects such as the Private Brand project consisting in being the sensory panel through corporate affairs, additionally giving advice to a group of women, which were in social risk on how to initiate their business. One of her career highlights includes when she was in charge of the legal matter for the financial services division of Walmart Chile, she explains it was a time where few women were in executive positions, and the business thought that lawyers were “stones in shoes”. ‘I understood that if I wanted to change this perception and contribute to the business I needed to be closer to the business, closer to my internal clients. I needed to be in the room where things happen’, says Gonzalez. It is to this end that Gonzalez is at the forefront of diversity initiatives and is currently the president of the Diversity and Inclusion Council for Walmart Central America and was selected to participate on the “Board of Women Program” from Universidad Diego Portales and Mujeres Empresarias Foundation.
In his role as senior vice president legal affairs – Latin America and Caribbean, Ernesto Grijalva brings over 25 years’ experience in international business law to his responsibilities of overseeing PriceSmart’s international legal matters. Grijalva states: ‘We built the legal department from handling legal matters in just one foreign jurisdiction to seventeen foreign jurisdictions today’. The PriceSmart legal department makes it possible for the operations department to focus on their primary responsibilities of running the business, leaving legal to deal with, and remove, constantly developing legal obstacles in their way. He takes particular pride in the relationship established with the outside counsel in each country in which PriceSmart operates. ‘With the invaluable help of outside counsel, PriceSmart has successfully exposed the [erroneous] myths about doing business in developing countries, including that, developing countries were too poor for the membership shopping concept to work and that businesses cannot succeed in these countries playing strictly by the rules’, explains Grijalva. Among other achievements, he has managed the filing of a claim against a government demanding enforcement of that government’s written laws and regulations. He is now in the process of completing the legal integration of PriceSmart’s recent acquisition of Aeropost, one of the leading package delivery services in Latin America and the Caribbean. Having joined PriceSmart in 1998, Grijalva has worked with many of PriceSmart’s Latin American and Caribbean outside counsel for 15 years or longer. ‘Those outstanding relationships have created a trusted partnership in the representation and protection of PriceSmart everywhere we operate. It is an association of excellent attorneys of which I am extremely proud’, he explains.
Karla Gross Veras is an experienced in-house counsel and compliance officer within multinational corporations at a local and regional level. As the regional legal director for Colgate-Palmolive Dominican Republic, she runs a fully dedicated legal resource for the Caribbean region, working as a key strategic member of the business team and sitting within the Greater Caribbean leadership team. Under her lead the legal department provides advice regarding legal processes and the interpretation enforcement of regional laws and corporate policies and guidelines. Gross has developed and increased the legal department’s business acumen, fully knowing the business is a key part of succeeding in an in-house position. As well as taking a more proactive approach to legal spend management, Gross has also been responsible for introducing self-service documents and standardised templates. This has had a business-boosting effect of saving both time and money. Her remit has entailed a variety of interdisciplinary work, ‘Colgate is a globally successful company that has caring, team working and continues improvement values and it also enjoys an excellent reputation as an employer. In summary, my career has been a result of turning challenging developments and opportunities that are consistent with my passions and interests’, shares Gross. Prior to her current role she served as legal and compliance officer for Dominican Republic and compliance officer for Panama, giving legal advice and support to the Dominican business. Gross also served as the legal coordinator for Unilever’s greater Caribbean department from 2004 to 2011.
Establishment Labs is a global, privately held, high-tech medical device and aesthetics company that designs, manufactures and markets a product portfolio consisting of advanced silicone-filled breast and body shaping implants. Luis Manuel Gutierrez has served as vice president of legal since 2010. Prior to this role, from 2006 to 2010, Gutierrez served as the attorney and general counsel for Central America Corporación M&S Internacional. From 1989 to 2005, he served various counselling and management positions in international companies located in Costa Rica and Jamaica. Gutierrez received his bachelor’s and law degrees from the University of Costa Rica.
Karin Herman Zachrisson joined Citi in 1997 as legal counsel for Guatemala and since then she has held various senior positions in Guatemala and in the regional office for Citi Latin America in Miami, Florida in both the compliance and legal functions. After working abroad with Citi, she returned to Guatemala to the law firm Consortium- Rodríguez, Archila, Castellanos, Solares & Aguilar responsible for their banking and finance practice. She re-joined Citi in 2007 as director of compliance and anti-money laundering for the Caribbean and Central America region where she led the implementation and integration of the compliance and anti-money laundering functions in the newly acquired Grupo Uno and Grupo Cuscatlan bank in Central America. Thanks to her excellent track record, in 2010 she assumed responsibilities for the entire legal function where she remains to date. On her career journey at the multinational investment bank, she explains: ‘my career at Citi has been that of continuous learning, development and change. Citi is a company that allows you to grow and develop in different fields and it gave me the opportunity early in my career to work at the Latin America regional office. I was able to work with great mentors and role models from several areas and countries, allowing me to learn from the best’. As general counsel, she has also had the opportunity to lead many ground-breaking transactions in the Guatemalan markets, including in 2004, when she oversaw international private placement of a Guatemalan company, then two privatisation processes, which included the monopoly of the telephone company and power distribution companies, and two Eurobond issues for the Republic of Guatemala, among others. She was also involved in the integration process of the business into the Citi structure, which implied taking 16 banking licenses in seven jurisdictions and more than 70 companies and turning them into a streamlined banking organisation. ‘All of these experiences at Citi have given me the tools to become a trusted advisor to my peers, not merely a legal expert and I think that is what my peers have come to expect of their counsel’, says Herman. Over the past three years Citi has gone through a transformation of its business model in Latin America, in alignment with global guidelines, during 2016 Citi sold its consumer business in Central America and in Guatemala. According to Herman, this divesture proved to be one of the most ‘complex and interesting’, transactions to lead as it implied the separation of the consumer and the corporate businesses into two banks with separate banking licenses, as well as the redesign of the financial group and the requisite regulatory approvals that the new sale and new business model required. ‘This process closed the cycle that started in 2007 when we acquired two banks in Central America and merged the operations with those that Citi had in the region at that time, which has been a unique experience’, she adds.
Since 2009 Monica Leal has served as legal manager of Corporación Multi Inversiones (CMI) after nearly eight years in private practice at Consortium Legal in commercial and administrative civil litigation. Based in Guatemala, she is responsible for leading the corporate legal areas regarding M&A, share structures, IP and social issues. She is ultimately responsible for the company’s relationship with the treasury, tax authorities and shareholders in regards to risk and legal matters. CMI is a business conglomerate covering 14 countries in Central America, specialising in creating small and medium sized businesses that can grow to become major industry players. Founded in Guatemala 90 years ago, CMI operates in the wheat flour milling, pasta, biscuits, poultry, pork, processed and sausage manufacturing industries, as well as restaurants, real estate, financial services and telecoms. One of its largest acquisitions is the Pollo Capero brand, a renewable energy company, and Telefonica Movistar in Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Panama.
Fernando López is a business-focused legal counsel with more than ten years of experience working in multinational companies across different industries, with a broad knowledge and expertise in handling local and international legal matters within the Central America and the Caribbean region. He is currently the regional legal manager for Central America and the Caribbean for human resources group PAE Centroamérica, providing strategic advice on new opportunities and the development of large projects around the region. He was in charge of creating the legal department from scratch and over time has had to implement manuals, policies and procedures regarding regulatory compliance, data privacy, anti-corruption, anti-bribery and prevention of money laundering. He has also implemented essential computer support systems for the legal department, specifically on contract management which has created a culture of minimising risks, while adding value to the services provided to customers. He previously served as the administrative financial manager for BORN group, where he designed and implemented strategies that allowed annual savings of 5% in the budget compared to previous years.
Dionisio Ismael Machuca Massis has served as the vice president legal and secretary for Banco Agrícola for four years where he has worked with multi-disciplinary teams to achieve a better understanding of the business in order to be a better legal adviser. As an integral part of the bank, he has worked on product design, forming the M&A teams, project finance, corporate governance, structured finance, trusts and investment funds among others. His prime goal has been to better align the business with legal operations, as well as change the mind-set of the team on the need of getting a deep knowledge of the business in order to become strategic partners of all business areas and understand how to aggregate value while providing legal security to the operation. A way he maximises this is by working on a metrics design for legal operations, linking the legal work to business results, helping the team to understand how the legal department works, and giving confidence to the organisation on how to create value. ‘This approach encouraged the legal point of view to be part of every decision making process as an integral process and not as a filter after decisions have been discussed’, says Machuca. In addition to this he has a good relationship with regulators and supervisors in order to join efforts to develop a digital transformation of the financial system. Machuca is a member of the Committee for the Digital Transformation of the bank, participating on the design and approval of new products, electronic signature and electronic documents development, authorisation and implementation of the first Investment Funds Administrator of a Financial Conglomerate in El Salvador and its first investment fund, trusts design and development among others.
At the beginning of 2009, Marysabel Maldonado de Coindet was selected as the only lawyer, alongside two engineers and two financial managers, to assist with due diligence for a divestment process Shell Group had initiated in Central America. ‘I was the focal point for leading the post-closing team. It was one of the best assignments I had. I had the opportunity of dealing and managing a post-closing relation, involving the managing [and] administration of more than 50 litigation cases, of which to this date I have been able to successfully close more than 90%’, says Maldonado. Since then he has been behind a number of moves and transactions taken on by the company. In 2011, she was involved in the significant acquisition of Chevron in Belize, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, leading the due diligence process, anti-trust authorisation, negotiation of SPA and closing documents, resulting in, according to Maldonado, a ‘very smooth’ transaction and negotiation. By 2012, after she was promoted to her current position of corporate regional manager, Maldonado was tasked with a new investment opportunity that came about in Colombia, when Terra Petroleos acquired Biomax, the second largest petroleum distributor company in Colombia and registered in the Colombian stock market. Grupo Terra bought the majority and every years from then until 2018 she has guided the company to acquire more share participation through OPA’S, public offering stock and including the authorisation process in the regulatory government institution which she has been directly involved. Moving forward to 2015, she was supported the acquisitions of operations of Citibank in El Salvador, once again involved in the due diligence phase and in the anti-trust filing, as one of the companies under her legal supervision was included as main shareholder in the transaction. Throughout the past 20 years of professional experience she has shaped her career in a very ‘positive and challenging way’, becoming a lawyer with strong negotiation skills with regional knowledge of the legal system and the combined ability to construct a strong and knowledgeable in-house legal department in Central America with the help and support of reputable law firms who she has constructed a strong professional relationship based on trust and expertise. Maldonado has displayed tremendous responsibility and work spirit, to ensure that her legal team is seen as an asset within the company, who anticipate the risks and solve complex problems. Adding to this, she says: ‘my aim is to take my profession to the next level, to be a true business lawyer which facilitates business under strong ethics and legal compliance. And finally to create a strong network of professionals and law firms which abide by our same spirit of high level service, creativity and ethics’. Maldonado’s other major responsibilities include being director of the boards of all holding companies of Terra Petroleos and other Grupo Terra companies, member of the Ethics Committee and member of the Committee of Government and Regulatory Affairs of Grupo Terra.
Jacqueline Marshalleck serves as the chief legal officer for Belize Bank, the oldest and largest bank in Belize, with a network of 13 branches that covers the entire country. Marshalleck currently serves as the senior legal counsel of BCB Holdings Limited and chief legal officer of the Belize Bank limited. She is an active member of The Bar Association of Belize and served in a number of roles including as its vice-president, executive member and president. In November 2013, she was appointed as a commissioner to serve a three-year term on the regional judicial and legal services commission. From 1995 to 1998, Marshalleck practiced law in The Commonwealth of The Bahamas at the law firm of McKinney, Turner & Co. primarily in the areas of litigation, civil law, commercial and labour law. In 1999 she moved to Belize and joined the law offices of Young’s Law Firm, where she practiced until 2002.
Elizabeth Mena Fernández has over 20 years of experience advising multinationals in both greenfield and brownfield projects in highly regulated sectors. Mena joined Corporación Minera Dominicana (Cormidom) in 2013, to work as a legal advisor and government relations manager. It remains the only mining company in the Dominican Republic that does not have a special arrangement with the state. Her duties as legal manager involve anticipating the legal issues that may have a material impact in the project or the proposed timetable for its operation. In October 2017, she was promoted to vice-president of the company, continuing with the responsibilities of the legal department and also assuming a more active role in institutional relationships. When she joined Cormidom, she was tasked with creating a legal department, and Mena used her prior experience and the guidelines of the parent company to put in place a structure that facilitated the efficient management of the budget of this new department. In order to foster the company’s relations with the government, the province and the private sector, she undertook an active role in several institutions that have a positive impact in the community surrounding sustainable mining. She is currently in charge of institutional relations with the executive branch, the legislative branch, the municipal government as well as industrial associations such as AIRD, Ecored and Asiex. She is also an active member of the Cormidom Foundation that works on a regular basis for the sustainable development of communities near the Cerro de Maimón mine. ‘As part of my duties with such institutions, I have had the opportunity to revise and participate in roundtable discussions on a proposed bill to comprehensively amend the existing mining law, which was drafted by the ministry of energy and mines and submitted to the executive branch’, says Mena. She is additionally a member of the board of directors of the Dominican Chamber of Mining and Fuel (CAMIPE), the Dominican association of exporters Adoexpo, and of the Comision Nacional EITI-RD to promote transparency in the extraction industry, proving her integration with, and contribution to, the wider mining sector in the country.
Olger Méndez Rojas is the longstanding lawyer at RECOPE, one of Central America’s biggest companies in terms of annual sales revenues. To match its reputation as a leading company in the region, Méndez was hired to handle all its environmental and safety issues. Currently he is working directly on the legal matters related to the project which involves overseeing the length and width of the pipeline that runs approximately 450 kilometres from the Atlantic zone to the Pacific. He also collaborates with other services that involve the legal departments processing of claims before any public or private institution, and lately in the process of hydrocarbon thefts that are taking place in the pipeline that transports gasoline and diesel.
Stephanie Montoya serves as the legal manager for Central America on behalf of British-Dutch consumer goods company Unilever. She is responsible for the six countries of Central America, including Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. ‘Being responsible for six jurisdictions with several and different challenges, such as legal uncertainty, political instability, insecurity due to crime organisations, market disruptors has led me to develop creative legal solutions for the business while being committed to always maintain the company’s business integrity values’, explains Montoya. As part of the board of directors and leadership team of Central America, Montoya has become an active player in the definition of the company’s business goals, providing high visibility and relevance to the legal function. It is to this end, that under her management, the legal function in Central America has put a special focus on business partnering, becoming a function that has a deep understanding of the business and the core activities of the company. Montoya oversees the legal team in its management of the anti-counterfeit agenda not only for Central America but for Middle Americas, something which Montoya says requires the development of strong technical capabilities and synergy with other key functions to ‘lessen the disruptive effects that this phenomenon produces to the business’. In terms of large scale transactions of the company, she has played a substantive role in the recent acquisition of the home care and personal business of the multinational company, Quala, ensuring a smooth and successful transition. Furthermore, she has worked closely on the divestiture of Unilever’s global spreads business. As a member of the board of directors, Montoya takes pride in championing the diversity agenda of the company: ‘My goal is to create awareness and sponsor gender equality culture in both the workplace and home front, creating opportunities for women to lean in and thrive in any professional field, reaching their full potential. My greatest aspiration is having more women in leadership positions increasing their number of seats in decision making arenas’, she says.
Andrés Morales is a tenacious leader and trusted advisor, with a track record of obtaining corporate goals and developing and managing legal teams in multinational companies and top law firms. A strategic lawyer with an impressive track record in handling diverse areas of law and compliance in Latin America and the Caribbean, Morales currently serves as the legal counsel for National Instruments, a producer of automated test equipment and virtual instrumentation software. The company operates in markets such as Mexico, Brazil, Chile and Colombia. Morales is also responsible for the shared service centre based in Costa Rica with over 350 employees providing services to the Americas and global regions. He has had a large focus on people development during his time as an in-house lawyer: ‘I have seen the lawyers working directly with me developing their skills as professionals and human beings, plus achieving academic and personal goals. Mentoring people is a definitely a highlight in my career’, says Morales. He is accountable for the legal department budget, and has had to develop his business acumen, making him a well-rounded corporate lawyer with a 360-degree view of the corporate world, ‘As an in-house attorney you get the opportunity of working with many professionals outside of the legal profession. Every day at the office is a “mini- MBA” for me; you get to know about sales strategies, marketing plans, financial planning, product development, and people management among many other topics’, he says. As the leading lawyer for Latin America in a high-tech company, he transformed the legal department to become a trusted advisor, providing legal risk analysis to stakeholders, and allowing the legal department to be a key member in the strategic decision making of the company. Most importantly he has been creating a high trust environment as leader of the Latin America legal practice, providing advice in key legal matters and adding business value. ‘The creation of this environment of trust place the legal department in an environment of credibility, constancy and connection with all areas of the company. The legal department know the objectives of the stakeholders and pay attention to their priorities’, says Morales. National Instruments has had significant impact in Latin America, investing in most of the engineering schools of the region by providing trainings and laboratories to students. It is also a founder of the program “Women in Robotics” which is an initiative aimed at engaging young women with robotics and engineering from an early age. Moreover, National Instruments’ products are being used by the main industries in Central America such as energy, aerospace, manufacturing and academia, providing top technologies advantages to students, engineers and scientists to improve the quality of life of people in the region. Prior to this role, Morales served as legal manager for Grupo Roble from March 2011 to May 2014.
Valentina Moreno Aristeguieta joined Uber as the legal director for Central America and Panama when the role was first created in the region. ‘It implied a big change for the company to go from having mainly external counsel support to having an in-house lawyer’, Moreno highlights. After identifying the main legal needs and allocating legal resources more efficiently, she led a process of transformation from operating reactively to mitigate legal risks, to operating more preventatively. She achieved this by documenting procedures, identifying trends, implanting self-service tools and most importantly giving training to the business on key issues. Although she assumed her position in 2016, working for a fast paced technology company has meant she has hit the ground running, immediately working on a number of exciting and highly-anticipated projects rolled out in the last two years. Amongst these are the launch of the Uber ridesharing function in El Salvador in July 2017, as well as the launch of UberEats in Costa Rica in December 2017, in Guatemala in June 2018 and in Panama in July 2018. She has acknowledged the importance of knowing and learning about the industry in which the business operates in, making this a priority, she has consequently added value to the legal opinions given to the internal clients. She has also managed risk efficiently, making the necessary and correct analysis of legal risk, by ‘looking for innovative alternatives, using a correct risk communication and assuming the personal risk of raising a recommendation’. Moreno came from a successful 12 year career at the largest privately held corporation in the US in terms of revenue, Cargill, where she assumed different roles in the legal department as a generalist lawyer with responsibilities in Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador and Central America.
Yadira Isabel Moreno Cedeño is a senior corporate lawyer with extensive management experience in multinational companies within in-house legal departments as well as in private practice. Based in Panama, Moreno is adept in M&A work, negotiations, the drafting of legal documents and administration of internal and external legal resources, as well as multi-lingual in language and legal practice. Since October 2016, she has been with JCDecaux working in its Panama location. JCDecaux is a French headquartered advertising company specialising in transport advertisement, street furniture and billboard advertising. It operates in 80 countries around the world providing a large portfolio of advertisement services including products, research and analysis. With more than 25 years of multi-jurisdictional legal expertise Moreno is well placed to lead the Panama legal function of this global advertising agency. In June 2017, JCDecaux Top Media, a subsidiary of the JCDecaux global company, won the exclusive advertising concession for Tocumen International Airport in Panama, a major victory for the team and further evidence of Moreno’s ability.
Based in Costa Rica, Mónica Muñoz Herrera has been legal manager for Central America and the Dominican Republic at DHL Express Global Business Services since 2015. She has over 10 years of experience in legal executive roles with prior in-house roles at Banco Improsa and Aeris Holding Costa Rica. Trained at Costa Rica University, Muñoz provides excellent leadership at DHL, one of the world’s premier shipping and logistics corporations and one of the first to establish locations and brand recognition in most Central American countries. It operates as a local hub for Central American shipping with regular flights across the region to Miami and other North American locations. In Costa Rica, DHL is split into three divisions: DHL Express, DHL eCommerce, and DHL Global Forwarding for international air and shipping delivery logistics. Muñoz and the legal department provide valuable legal oversight and create value across the global corporation. She identifies that, ‘part of the job is to have the ability to detect improvement opportunities within the department, and to act towards them so you can procure a continuous improvement in all the processes that you have to handle as a legal department’. She is fully committed to her role and executes it with ‘passion’ and ‘persistence’ having brought improvements to the company’s entire legal operation through her management and expertise.
Victor Murillo is a high performing lawyer with more than 15 years of academic formation and professional experience in law, international relations and business, making a strong combination to work as a lawyer in a regional multinational company. His multidisciplinary approach has served him well in his current role as the regional corporate legal counsel for Walmart Central America where he provides support in five countries for the areas of trade, financial services, corporate treasury, tax, insurance and logistics. He also supports the good corporate governance of the company in seven countries. Since he started eight years ago as regional lawyer for Central America in charge of treasury and financial services direction, Murillo’s role has developed to encompass the whole legal corporate structure of the company in Central America and the Caribbean. Over the duration of his career, working in a Forbes Fortune company in Central America has been a highlight and privilege. He has learnt a vast amount simply by developing his team and working alongside what he describes as ‘excellent and ethical’ colleagues: ‘As an in-house lawyer, you have the privilege to work with the best in each area of the law. In-house counsel learn a lot from this kind of fluid interaction and deep expertise’, says Murillo. This has led him to continuously add value to the company, by assisting on complex corporate legal restructuring and business transactions in finance, logistics and commercial issues.
Javier Pacheco Mauro started his career back in 1998, working at well-known local law firms that helped him develop as a commercial lawyer and notary public. During this period he was able to manage important clients, and gave support to in-house lawyers in their day-to-day activities and relevant transactions. In 2013, he joined Laureate International Universities, the largest global network of degree-granting higher education institutions, as in-house regional lawyer and in February 2016 he became a regional legal manager and also serves as an ethics and compliance officer. Upon joining, he found a solid legal department with a low profile: ‘I have helped it grow and get recognition by the organisation and local clients as one of the most effective and reliable legal departments in the region’, he says. Pacheco has had a key role in the construction of new campuses in Panama and Costa Rica including the Health Science building in Costa Rica and the new state-of-the-art campus for Universidad Latina in Costa Rica. Pacheco has been chosen by Laureate to complete the Harvard ManageMentor Leading People course, this experience has helped him become, ‘a lawyer that focuses [on] becoming a business partner for the organisation management rather than a lawyer that is only there when problems arise’, he explains."
Marie Claire Palacios de Bauer started working in the legal industry early, commencing her first legal position during her first year of law school. Her first position was legal assistant in the IP department of a law firm in Guatemala, A.D Sosa & Soto, and then went on to serve as a paralegal of a major Central American law firm, Arias. After graduating, she started working in the private sector as the in-house counsel in the Chamber of Industry and then worked her way up to becoming general counsel for American investment company, Americas Media Services, a company that owns different subsidiaries and affiliates in Latin America in different industries related to media services. Working in private practice and in-house in private companies, has given her a different perspective of the law, as she explains: ‘Being consulted on different legal questions, and deciding on the best way to handle legal issues is the type of challenge that makes me permanently study and grow in my knowledge, while opening my mind to think from different perspectives than the ones I was taught in law school’. In 2016 she was contacted by Centro Distribuidor, a Guatemalan company whose main business for 50 years has been the distribution of pharmaceutical and consumer products. Palacios was appointed as in-house legal counsel and compliance officer to ensure the compliance of laws, regulations, international standards and contractual compromises in the complexity of the pharmaceutical industry. Her main roles of responsibility are leading and coordinating the compliance team and external lawyers to provide the best legal support and ensure the compliance of the company and its affiliates of all the legal, regulatory and contractual obligations. Since there was no legal department prior to getting hired, the main challenge for Palacios was the incorporation of the new area in the company and its structure, then the incorporation of a team and to ensure that all the different areas of the company know the purpose of the legal function. ‘This has affected the company in a positive way, by creating a culture of legal compliance and ethics, where the role of the legal and compliance team has become very important within the daily operations. In addition, the implementation of an anti-bribery and anti-corruption policy has elevated the standards of the company which has been acknowledged by its clients and providers’, she says.
Daniel Pérez-Umaña is the chief legal officer of BAC Credomatic (BAC), a financial group operating in 11 jurisdictions throughout Central America, Mexico, the US, the Caribbean and is currently Central America’s largest regional bank in terms of assets, deposits and net income, and the most relevant credit card issuer acquirer in terms of market share and sophistication. Pérez-Umaña joined BAC Credomatic shortly after the company had been purchased by Grupo Aval and before that the company had been jointly owned by Grupo Pellas from Nicaragua and by General Electric, and therefore legal issues were jointly overseen by general counsel of such shareholders. Due to this, when he was hired, the CEO assigned him the challenge of designing and developing a robust regional legal unit that was part of the company’s c-suite. When reflecting on this progress within the financial group, he says: ‘I remained by myself during the first couple of months and gradually started an organic growth and integration process that has led us this far. There are still many challenges ahead but we have accomplished a great deal. Being part of this process has undoubtedly helped me grow both as a legal professional and a business leader’. He is now in charge of leading BAC’s regional legal team and coordinating internal and external counsel for all BAC entities and directly represents BAC in all matters related to regional and global strategy. This includes capital market transactions, securitisations, M&A, syndicated loans, structured finance and many other contractual and corporate matters. He also acts as secretary to the board of directors of BAC’s main holding company and as legal advisor to the board of directors of several of its companies, including a number of banks. Furthermore, he is in charge of implementing internal policies and procedures for properly managing legal risk including regulatory compliance, corporate governance, development and implementation of new products and management of crises and litigation procedures. He is directly and indirectly in charge of around 90 in-house attorneys in seven jurisdictions. Prior to joining BAC in 2011, he was acknowledged as one of Costa Rica’s leading practitioners in financial law by Chambers Latin America and worked as a partner of Gómez-&-Galindo, representing financial institutions and other corporations in litigation, arbitration and diverse corporate transactions and regulatory issues. Pérez-Umaña was also previously a professor of private law and financial law at the University of Costa Rica and has been invited to speak in several universities and conferences, and at several international symposia organised by entities such as the Latin American Banking Federation, the American Bar Association, the Association of Corporate Counsel and the Peruvian Banking and Insurance Regulator (SBS).
Gloriana Picado started working at The Kraft Heinz Company in February 2016, when there were no employees physically located in Central America. It was Picado’s job to get to know the company and the business model present in every country. ‘During this time we have created processes and formats and have simplified the legal area and have also made the business feel closer to the legal department’, says Picado. Since then she has been tasked with initiating operations in countries such as Argentina and Chile which have demanded a big time investment, as well as understanding the risks of doing business in Central America and the Caribbean. The Kraft Heinz Company is an American food company formed by the notable merger of Kraft Foods and Heinz in 2015. When Picado first joined the company, the merger had just taken effect in what Picado describes as ‘a time of change’ where she had to quickly understand the way of doing business for two companies from a legal perspective and the new ways to proceed, while simultaneously protecting the company. By creating and developing the legal department in Central America, she has made the business understand the importance of the business being able to ‘reach out to legal and act more in a preventative way than a responsive way’. Picado has been responsible for rolling out templates and tools for the business to think more on the risks and have them involve legal beforehand. Some of the most important transactions and litigations have involved initiating operations in Chile and Argentina, negotiating distribution agreements in Central America and managing the ethics and compliance for various regions.
Mariel Picado Quevedo is the general counsel at Florida Ice and Farm Company (FIFCO), a publicly traded Costa Rican entity created in 1908. It serves as a holding company for a number of entities that make up FIFCO’s core business, mainly divided into food and beverages, real estate and hospitality and retail with operations in Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua, Guatemala and the US. She has been at the company for over 13 years – holding two very different roles throughout her tenure. The initial years for Picado were focused on M&A opportunities and counsel to higher management for particular projects, while the company gradually transitioned from an outside-counsel-centric model, in which the legal department reported directly to the chief financial officer, to developing an in-house department, with a key strategic role within the company. Then latterly, as of 2015, the legal department became part of the company’s executive committee, along with eight other directors, something which Picado explains helped in ‘cementing its status as major influence over the decision making process of board of directors, senior management and overall direction of the company’. Prior to joining FIFCO, Picado worked for several years within the government of Costa Rica at the Ministry of Foreign Trade, and held several positions under which she had relevant participation in Costa Rica’s process of globalisation, through the negotiation and execution of several free trade agreements. She also notably participated as Costa Rican chief negotiator at the dispute resolution and institutional provisions negotiating group of the DR-CAFTA, which promotes stronger trade and investment ties and stability throughout the region.
Jose Antonio Polanco is a highly experienced head of legal and compliance with a strong demonstrated history of working in the retail industry. He has significantly assisted the expansion of Empresas Adoc, a leading Central American shoe manufacturing group headquartered in El Salvador that has exponentially grown in the region in the last year. With plans to open seven new outlets to add to a portfolio of 259 stores in the region, this expansion has been put in place by Adoc’s investment program, which allocates funds to projects in manufacturing, technology, logistics, warehouses and retail chain. Polanco is responsible for addressing legal matters faced by the 30 companies that make up the group in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. Polanco is additionally in charge of corporate governance of the group and holds responsibility for controlling regulatory compliance programs across Central America. Polanco concurrently takes part in lecturing duties at José Matías Delgado University as professor for the Masters in International Business course and teaches international Economic Law.
Ronald Ramirez Acuña first joined HPE in 2008 as country counsel for Costa Rica, working his way up to become regional counsel in 2013. Ramirez has changed the perception of the in-house role in the company, becoming a trusted advisor who is not only approachable but the first point of legal contact for the company. He has been responsible for considerable cost savings, something which pushed him to be creative ‘in the sense that I had to do the most with limited resources. That meant thinking outside of the box and realising that there is always a way in which we could make what we have, work better’, says Ramirez. Involved in a number of large scale transactions, he has been behind the closing of a complex high TCV deal with the government in the Caribbean, as well as solving a high value dispute without going to court. On the TCV deal, Ramirez says: ‘It was an important moment because I learned that despite the pressure to close it, when it’s more urgent it’s important to take the time over details in order to have a real win’. Ramirez was a private practice lawyer for over six years before he joined HP’s legal department, at JDCano Estudio Legal, where he was responsible for the corporate, real estate, aeronautic, intellectual property, litigation and international practices of the firm. He also took on senior positions with the likes of 3M Company Central America, Delta Airlines Central America, Millennium Corporation, Somersen Group and several important Beach Hotel Development projects in Costa Rica.
Juan Pablo Restrepo currently serves as the chief counsel for multinational confectionery, food and beverage company, Mondelēz International, covering legal and compliance, and security responsibilities for Colombia, Venezuela, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Central America, Caribbean and US export sales to Latin America. Working for the second largest food company in the world has required him to implement a number of changes to facilitate its social initiatives and industry goals, one of which is the strategic route to market transformation, which involved his participation in changing the entire business model in Central American by shutting down direct operations in all countries except Costa Rica. He also had to work on the shutting down of the manufacturing plants in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, negotiating with the Nicaraguan Union, defining the severance negotiation strategy, negotiating with local governments and selling the real estate and plant assets. Most recently he has been tasked with selling the El Gallito business in Costa Rica, carrying out a comprehensive bidding process in order to sell its chocolate and candy business, and then the negotiation, signing and successful transfer of the business to the buyer. Amongst his internal restructuring plans, Restrepo has simplified the external service model by consolidating the external legal counsel provided by over 60 law firms down to just two law firms, bringing significant cost savings. Before joining he had an extensive career at British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, which he joined in 2006 as legal affairs manager for Colombia, eventually increasing his responsibility, with the added remit of Central America, Caribbean and Colombia.
In 2000 Julio Reyes began his in-house career when he worked at PRIBANCO (Primer Banco Inmobiliario) as a loans officer for a few months. That year he was hired by the Interbank (Banco Intercontinental) liquidation board, where he assisted the senior lawyers to recover collateral loans. Part of Interbank assets were sold to BANPRO, which is when they offered him the legal adviser position. Initially he was part of the loans department because most of the legal services were provided by external law firms. By 2005 he was named legal coordinator for a team with just four lawyers. In 2009, the board of directors appointed him as a legal manager and created the legal department with 15 collaborators – and today the team is made up of 20 lawyers and six administrative assistants. Since joining Reyes has had the opportunity to participate in all of BANPRO’s transactions involving the acquiring of assets from other financial institutions such as Interbank, Banic, Caley Dagnall and some credit portfolio from BCN Nicaragua’s Central Bank. In March 2016, he was appointed as BANPRO’s board of director’s secretary. Since mid-2017 he has been helping BANPRO’s holding company with some legal issues, working towards 90% of BANPRO’s legal services provided in-house and only 10% by external lawyers. To complement this, in December 2017 he was certified by FIBA and FIU in Anti Money Laundering Certified Associate (AMCLA). In 2016 he worked with lawyers from different countries in Central America and the US in a due diligence process. Grupo Promerica made an offer to buy a bank operation in Central America: ‘This encouraged me to understand how to analyse and evaluate a company and what the important factors are to take into consideration’, says Reyes.
Juan Carlos Rodríguez-Cordero has served as the legal and regulatory counsel for international telecommunications and media company, Millicom International Cellular (Tigo) for the last seven years, where he has most recently worked through the new challenges now present in open competition. He is also concerned with supporting and overseeing the legal team of the new operation in Nicaragua. Prior to this role and for a number of years, he partook in a role as professor of the Masters program in intellectual property at Distance State University of Costa Rica where he assisted in training and experience as a lawyer and political scientist, something he claims has served ‘as the key to provide a compressive legal advice and contribute to the corporate strategy’. Prior to this he also served as the director of the school of law at Castro Carazo University for two years. Prior to this, he worked at Dos Pinos for six years, initially joining as assistant legal and then later as legal advisor. Rodríguez-Cordero says that what served him during his career is ‘the understanding of the environment of the region is imperative to support the business and the strategic path of the corporation’.
Juan Carlos Rojas has been with Dole since 1994 as legal and external affairs director and general counsel of its subsidiary Standard Fruit Co. He is a vastly experienced corporate lawyer with expertise in complex transactions including M&A, commercial contracts, real estate, international and multijurisdictional litigation and all other legal and compliance matters. He also manages the government and external relations for Dole and its compliance polices such as FCPA, the UK Bribery Act, GDPR and anti-trust regulation. Rojas also represents the company in multiple trade associations and chambers. In Costa Rica, Dole primarily produces pineapples and other fruits, often sourced from independent farms, but also has a vegetable production business. Its products are shipped all over North America and Europe, its primary markets, but the company has a global footprint, requiring Rojas’ multitalented, astute counsel.
A legal executive with more than 20 years of experience overseeing legal processes and functions in diverse and multicultural environments, Tony Roldan has established himself as one of the most highly dynamic lawyers in the region. Roldan has served in legal capacities for two large multinational technology companies over the last 15 years of his career. Between 2001 and 2006, he served as director and vice president of public affairs at imaging technology company Eastman Kodak. Since 2006, Roldan has been the executive director of Dell’s legal department in Latin America. In his current role, he is based in Panama and is responsible for a large team spread across several countries that is responsible for developing legal and contract solutions according to Dell’s specific business requirements. Being in charge of a legal function with such a large international presence has required Roldan to demonstrate a high level of cultural agility and an ability to communicate through cultures and all levels of the organisation.
Jorge Romo has served as legal head of Novartis since 2013, after an in-house career that has seen him at the top of the pharmaceutical industry at both Fedefarma and Eli Lilly and Co. He has also experienced private practice within Nader, Hayaux y Goebel, S.C. Based in Panama, Romo supervises the legal function at Novartis’ operations across the Central American and Caribbean regions. Responsible for all of the legal matters pertaining to the production of over 50 pharmaceutical products, therapies, and the operation of research and analysis of healthcare products for cardio-metabolic disorders, ophthalmology, respiratory, neuroscience, immunology and dermatology, oncology, and cell therapy and genetics, Novartis is one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies and is headquartered in Basel, Switzerland. The overall company is split into three separate companies including pharmaceutical products, vision products (Alcon) and genetics products (Sandoz). Romo brings his expertise in corporate law, litigation and the pharmaceutical sector to his role and provides exemplary leadership across the region.
Alejandro Royo is a strategic legal counsel with more than 15 years of experience working in global and multinational companies across different industries, with broad knowledge and expertise in handling local and international legal matters within the Latin America region. Earlier this year, in August 2018 Alejandro Royo re-joined Tetra Pak as senior legal counsel after having intermittently served as the legal director for KIO Networks for three years. His journey with Tetra Pak started in October 2011 as senior legal counsel for Central America and the Caribbean market, where he was responsible for the legal affairs function and strategic projects within the cluster, also covering the Latin America region. Royo went on to join Mexican information technology services company, KIO Networks in October 2014, assuming responsibility for the legal function in Panama, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, US and Spain, the data center services business unit in Mexico and supporting the expansion of the company to new markets. Re-joining Tetra Pak earlier this year has seen him once again take on the responsibility of the legal affairs function for the Central America and Caribbean market, reporting directly to Tetra Pak’s cluster general counsel of Latin America.
Hilti Latin America provides leading technology to the global construction, energy and industry sectors. Globally, the company employs around 28,000 people in more than 120 countries with aims to reinforce their market leadership. With this in mind, Maria Gabriela Saadi makes up part of the executive department as head of legal and compliance for Latin America. Considered a high-performing lawyer, Saadi has displayed the excellence, perseverance and drive to take Hilti forward. Her participation in large scale acquisitions and business enabling work has contributed to Hilti’s success in the construction market. The Hilti Group has reported promising sales growth for 2018, continuing to show double-digit growth, which is a considerable feat in the global construction market. This is in part due to the high level of investment into sales resources and innovation, particularly in digital solutions – something that Saadi has enabled with her legal competency and innovative legal agility.
Manfred Antonio Sáenz Montero has worked within the Costa Rican financial system for the last twenty years, either as in-house counsel and director, or being responsible for legal services units. When he joined Scotiabank in March 2007, he had the opportunity to work in the private sector with an international financial group, occupying the position of legal representative and legal advisor of the boards of brokerage company Scotia Valores, mutual fund company Scotia Fondos, and local bank Scotiabank de Costa Rica. Hired with the purpose of creating the in-house office, Sáenz has had to quickly learn the importance of maintaining the right business legal mind-set: ‘In general terms, as in-house counsel, it is very important to keep the balance between respecting the law and making business. The easy way from my point of view is don’t say no to the business, instead be creative and figure out how to say yes’, says Sáenz. With this in mind he has facilitated a number of deals over the last eleven years at Scotiabank, having the opportunity to share his philosophy of client service with his colleagues and the bank. Prior to joining, from January 1998 until March 2007 he worked as director in the legal services office of the National Bank of Costa Rica but also concurrently served as legal representative and legal advisor of the boards of brokerage company, BN Valores Puesto de Bolsa, pension fund company, BN Vital OPC and BN SAFI, a mutual fund company.
Stephanie Salas Simons started her legal career as a litigator, after finishing her Master’s degree in corporate law at the University of Texas. She states that right from the beginning, ‘it was clear to me that I wanted to be an in-house lawyer in a multinational company. Panama hosts many multinational companies so I felt it was a real possibility’. After a year of litigation experience, an opportunity presented itself to join the legal department in Nestle Central America, a time she describes as a ‘great learning platform’. When she joined the legal department had four lawyers and a paralegal, she was in charge of product registration in Central America. Her role encompassed corporate legal responsibilities, responsible of contracts, risk management, commercial promotions and advertising in all Central American countries. Four years later she had the opportunity to move to multinational pharmaceutical company, Sanofi, and head the legal function for Central America and the Caribbean. Being a new and more regulated industry where she was the sole counsel, her role at Sanofi has enabled her to learn and grow professionally: ‘During my three and a half years in the position I have learned so much about my legal practice and have really developed as a lawyer under the guidance of the Latin America region legal department’, says Salas. A highlight in her career has been building the teamwork mentality of the company, and although she was the sole counsel overseeing the Pacific and Caribbean, she explains she has always felt the support from the legal community: ‘Legal became a true business partner with the business being involved in projects and decisions from the beginning’. Thanks to Salas, today the department is growing and looking to include a second member to the legal department. ‘Being an in-house lawyer has turned out to be exactly what I wanted and prepared for. To be part of a multi-disciplinary team, understand the business and help it thrive has been an amazing experience and I don’t think I would have it any other way’, says Salas.
In 2013 Jenniffer Salazar Ramírez joined Claro as a lawyer when she was 24 years old, and in January 2016 she was promoted to assistant manager – the lawyer in charge of corporate and commercial matters including litigation, contracts, and procedures. As her role is focused on the legal aspects of communications, she has analysed the recent changes to Costa Rican data protection law and adjusted Claro’s policies accordingly. Salazar manages a team of two lawyers and a non-lawyer working in contract support for the commercial division of the legal department, which also contains a procedural-regulatory division. Her team has been working on expanding the reach of the company’s telecommunications network across Costa Rica despite logistical challenges and infrastructural challenges. Claro is a major telecoms company and part of América Móvil, a Mexican telecom group, with a large Latin American market headquartered in Brazil. It is one of largest providers in Costa Rica. In addition to her in-house work Salazar is pursuing a PhD in public law and a specialisation in telecommunications at Universidad Autónoma de Centroamérica. About her experience and motivation to succeed at such a young age, Salazar highlights that, ‘being part of the millennial generation, which I believe has plenty to offer, characterised by a fondness of technology, entrepreneurial spirit, high level of self-organisation and a consensual decision system, I have used these qualities to enhance my work on an every day basis’.
Virginia Servent Palmieri started her career as a litigating lawyer, and in 2001 she started an IP department at a full practice law firm named Asensio, Andrade & Asociados. She then went to serve as director of the intellectual property department of Guatemala at a regional Central American law firm named Arias & Muñoz from 2010 to 2013. As part of the law firm she was appointed to be a member of Amcham’s intellectual property committee where she continues as a member now on behalf Fox Networks Group, and was elected as the president of the committee for the period of 2016-2017. It was at this committee where she had the chance to meet a representative of Fox Networks Group in Guatemala, who was working closely with Arias & Muñoz Guatemala at the time. After that meeting they started working on a particular case together and a few months later, in 2014, she was invited to be a part Fox Networks Group Guatemala as an antipiracy director. Since her appointment, Servent has turn pirate cable operators into legal affiliates, significantly reduced under-reporting in Central America and Dominican Republic, and her biggest achievement was to approach and convert the main cable operator in Central America from pirate into an affiliate, who also committed to pay for the whole time they were retransmitting Fox signals illegally. She has been behind a number of pivotal initiatives and campaigns. In 2017, for instance, she was central to stopping the launch of Sportflix, helping the authorities in Mexico to stop a worldwide app that offers illegal content all over the world, by conducting a full investigation and helping find who was responsible for the infringement. Most notably, in 2018, the Group launched an awareness campaign in Guatemala addressed at children to raise awareness about the problem of piracy and how they can prevent it from growing. Servent had the following to say about this: ‘This awareness campaign was born as one of our strategies to work in order to stop piracy to be seen as a politically correct action as it has been in the past years. It started as an idea and we made a full program and presented [it] to our PR department who took this project as one of the main projects for the company, as part of our corporate social responsibility, giving birth to the Antipiracy League’. The project has proved to be a successful initiative, allowing children around Latin America to use a fully interactive website and Servent is commended for her role in achieving this. In fact, Servent visits schools and works with children by using audio-visuals, interactive games and drawings, allowing the children to act as creators. ‘The key of success for the antipiracy team where I have the privilege to be a part of, is that we all work with passion, and full commitment, this for us is not a job but a way of life, we enjoy every minute of a work day since we believe in the company and in what we are committed to do for the company’, she says.
Tigo is the primary brand name of Millicom, offering a range of digital services to over 60 million people in 14 markets. Manuel Roberto Sisniega has been an integral asset for its international telecommunications and media brand in Guatemala. Having served as head of the legal department in Guatemala since 2012, Sisniega has contributed to the standardisation of processes within the legal function and has received praise for his knowledge of market and business practices. He has been praised for his expertise in corporate law and arbitration, as well as his skills in generating business strategies, leading teams and managing conflicts. He previously accumulated substantial experience in private practice spending 11 years at Guatemalan firm Cuestas PPQ and two years at Arenales & Skinner-Klee-Guatemala.
Clarissa Surgeon’s legal career has spanned close to 20 years, with positions in law firms and corporations in Panama City, New York and Brussels, working across various legal fields, primarily tax, corporate and maritime law. Her in-house career started in 2012 at Juegos de Video de Latinoamerica (JVLat) the video game distribution company of the Motta Group. Motta is a highly entrepreneurial regional group based in Panama, with activities across a variety of commercial and industry sectors, including distribution, retail, services, logistics, among others in some notable companies such as Colón Free Zone, Copa Airlines, TVN Media, Banco General and Assa insurance. Surgeon was initially hired by JVLat to complete a tax corporate restructuring and went on to organise the company’s legal and control framework. In 2014, she was selected to join the formation of a shared services unit, as head of legal with the purpose of uniting 65 of Motta’s companies, spanning across 18 jurisdictions, within the distribution, services, retail and logistics groups in Motta. During this task she had the responsibility of forming a legal department from scratch. As all legal work across the organisation was managed primarily independently across all the group’s companies and without standardised processes, her role involved organising all corporate and commercial documentation and establishing various internal processes and controls. ‘Today, even though we still are fine tuning our existing processes, after four years of working with the management teams across the various companies throughout the region, we have created a more profound team culture, where Motto’s executives know that they can count on the share services unit to provide advice and collaboration in a seamless manner to fulfil their legal and business needs’, says Surgeon. She has proven her ability to work through the challenges of dealing with different types of industries and activities throughout 18 jurisdictions in Latin America and Europe, across all legal areas – commercial, corporate, intellectual property, tax, criminal law, labour and immigration. Amongst her highlights, Surgeon was part of the core team in charge of obtaining the first audited consolidated financial statements for the unit’s holding company. ‘This was a complex project which required many hours of gathering and producing documentation to comply with the auditor’s requirements, as well as coordinating the finance and accounting divisions across the various companies throughout the region’, says Surgeon. Some of her most noteworthy transactions include the joint venture between GameStop, the largest retail videogame company and JVLat, she participated in the due diligence process, as JVLat’s in-house counsel, as well as part of the negotiating teams for the share purchase agreement and partner’s agreement. Outside of her role she has been involved within the Panamanian chapter of the Women’s Corporate Directors Association (WCD). ‘My participation within this organisation has been an important part of my development as it has allowed me to hone my leadership skills through formal training programs, as well as through informal mentoring with renowned leaders of the Panamanian business community’, adds Surgeon.
Gabriel Tapia Calvino has extensive experience of managing corporate compliance in a number of different businesses. In 2014 he joined multinational pharmaceutical company, Sanofi, initially as the Latin America regional support head, and in 2018 he took care of the legal operations of the PAC multi-country organisation which is headquartered in Panama – a Latin America cluster containing the 21 countries of Central America, The Caribbean, Ecuador and Bolivia. He states that joining the company has been the most enriching experience he has had since becoming a lawyer, in part due to the team he works with, which he describes as ‘the most professional, committed and cooperative team I have ever worked with, moreover because all of us are aware of our purpose, which is “empowering the life” of our colleagues, stakeholders and especially our company’s patients’. He has broad experience as an outside counsel, providing legal advice to corporations, private interest foundations, investments, securities, mergers and acquisitions and offshore entities in relation to Panamanian law and international commerce. During his time at Sanofi he has developed an efficient communication frame within the legal function and with stakeholders, allowing the processes to be more agile. He also developed the standardisation of specific contracts for regional activities such as license in and out agreements and the contractual diagnostic testing scheme for rare diseases. ‘By having these activities duly mapped and framed with appropriate contract templates I helped make regional transaction closing time lower than before’, says Tapia. Earlier in his career he joined the Panama branch of Citibank, where he was head of the legal documentation, collateral and securities custody department. In 2009 he joined LG Electronics to be the Latin America regional assistant general counsel and compliance officer. Tapia started his career as a legal intern in Benedetti & Benedetti, overseeing the intellectual property procedures of the National Ministry of Commerce and industries of Panama, and reflects, ‘It was my first experience in the legal world, it was very enriching because it changed my way of thinking about how to be a lawyer’.
Since 2010, Claudia Tomasino de Crespo has worked for DELSUR, a private electricity provider that has contributed to the economic and social development of El Salvador by serving around 390,000 customers through a network of approximately 10,000 kilometres. Tomasino initially served as head of the legal department but since April 2015 has been the company’s chief legal counsel. With her previous experience in public and private practice at Constitutional Court and Arias Law Firm, DELSUR has given her the opportunity to specialise on both sides of the professional practice. ‘My professional work at DELSUR has enriched me academically and professionally in matters of regulatory nature in the electricity sector, both locally and regionally, which has allowed me to specialise in energy regulations matters’, reflects Tomasino. On a personal level, Tomasino particularly prides her career and the challenges experienced ‘since the energy industry is historically a world dominated by men in our country’, she says. Due to the diversity of law practices she has been able to contribute in collective bargaining agreements with one of the strongest unions in the country, and to prepare and obtain positive results for the company in M&A, tariffs setting processes, litigations, and arbitrations. Beyond her legal work, she has contributed to DELSUR’s business reputation by leading the first corporate social responsibility project, an initiative that is part of the company’s commitment and constant innovation, and the promotion of community development through projects that improve their quality of life, strengthening their autonomy, sustainability and their capacity for self-management, generating jobs that impact their family economy. This first project was behind an alliance between DELSUR and LULA MENA, in line with the company’s social objectives in creating designs of high decorative quality as well as artistic objects using environment-friendly products and recyclable materials using DELSUR discarded material, parts and components of measuring equipment.
Mobile phone network provider, Digicel, operates in 31 markets across the Caribbean, Central America and Oceania regions and serves 14 million customers. Leading the Panamanian legal and regulatory team since 2013, Valdes is recognised as a results driven and highly motivated professional with more than 15 years’ experience specialising in telecommunication government programs. As a core facilitator of these programs she has worked on many M&A transactions across Panama and the Caribbean, helping the company to continue its expansion in Panama. She was able to gain and develop her solid analytical, communication and public speaking skills through her past roles, serving as vice president for Cable & Wireless in Panama for five years and as a director for legal and regulation at Telecarrier.
In her current position as senior legal manager, Ingrid Valdes Vasquez is in charge of all legal operations of Central America, Panama and the Caribbean for Fresenius Medical Care, a company that provides health care services and medical devices for renal diseases. Although she has only held this position since June 2018, she has given a number of trainings in contract management for the commercial department, so that the legal department can align using good practices that she has previously implemented before, encouraging proper follow up of the operations. ‘At the end of the day, the company will have not an in-house senior legal manager, the company has a business partner’, adds Valdes. She has taken part in the purchase of the assets owned by Gas de France in Costa Rica and in Panama by Celsia-Argos Group. She has also provided support in a new business model through distribution and agency representation scheme pursuant to Dominican Republic and Costa Rica regulations. Prior to this role she served as legal manager, in charge of the legal office in Panama for Tetra Pak, managing international legislation in more than 20 countries in Central America and the Caribbean. Before this role she served as a legal chief for regulatory matters for Panama and Central America in GDF Suez as well as the corporate secretary of the board of directors of one of the companies of this group in Panama. She also served as senior legal counsel at AES Panama, where she provided legal support for power plants regarding labour law, commercial law and mainly energy regulations.
Vanessa Vargas Credidío’s in-house career started early, working for Chanel as legal counsel for Latin America in 2003, where she had worked as an intern from 2000 to 2002. In 2013, she moved to a different industry accepting a role for Latin America trademark enforcement and brand protection counsel for Procter & Gamble, based in Panama. In 2015 another opportunity within the company came up and she moved to her current role as senior counsel for Latin America developing markets. She now handles legal affairs for Central America, Caribbean, Ecuador, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay, in addition to the US imported products business to all Latin American countries. During her career she has built up her knowledge on the commercial side in order to offer legal advice that is not only compliant with diverse local law, but also practical from a business standpoint. She adds that it has been important for her to ‘create an important network of outside counsels in different areas in the Latin America territories and working with them to draw the best strategy possible to solve all kinds of legal matters’. Above everything else she takes pride in creating a team work mentality, citing that empowering people has been key to building the highly efficient team of four that she heads in Panama and remotely. Amongst other achievements, she has been involved in the re-design of the go-to market strategy in the territories she handles, executing changes due to global transactions, whilst assuring compliance and minimising legal risks.
Susana Vásquez has 15 years of experience in international trade negotiations, inter-institutional coordination for the development and enforcement of public policies, and legislation related to international trade and the pharmaceutical market. Since March 2012 she has been serving as the corporate legal affairs director for Stein Corp, a pharmaceutical company with presence in Central America and the Andean region. Vásquez has been responsible for setting up the company’s legal structure for subsidiaries in Central America, Dominican Republic and Colombia, allowing her to have closer interactions with employees and a better understanding of the functioning of each local office. ‘These legal structures were established as a result of the business growth in these countries and required an in-depth knowledge of the market behaviour and legal framework including tax and labour regimes in each country’, says Vásquez. Throughout the process she was in charge of designing and developing ABAC and corporate compliance policies, something that allowed her to have a better understanding of the pharmaceutical industry. ‘Also, it has also allowed me to develop more critical thinking, considering not only legal aspects but also commercial aspects, allowing me to provide more pragmatic, effective and enabling legal counsel for the company’. Over the years Vásquez has been central to the restructuring of the legal department, creating new positions, distributing more effective internal responsibilities, and outsourcing legal services for specific areas in each country where the business operates. In terms of standout deals, Vásquez led the due diligence process and negotiation of distribution and promotion contracts for a strategic alliance with one of the top five multinational pharmaceutical companies in the world, for Central America, Dominican Republic and Ecuador. Prior to this, she gained her specialisation in intellectual property and government procedure while she worked for The Ministry of Foreign Trade, joining as the coordinator for the intellectual property and government procurement unit in 2000 and working her way up the executive ladder in a range of roles, eventually taking up the position as the North America coordinator in 2011.
Vivianne Vera joined Samsung in September 2016 after serving as a senior in-house lawyer in other consumer products companies such as Asedif, the Edificadora Centroamericana Rapiparedes construction company, and as a lawyer in private practice at top law firms in Costa Rica. A graduate of the University of Costa Rica and an MBA candidate at the Universidad Latina de Costa Rica, Vera is an expert in commercial legal matters with particular emphasis on technology including IP and related legal areas. She is also well versed in compliance matters across the Central American region as part of the Samsung compliance function, a global technology colossus. Vera is nominated for her expertise in the field as well as her participation and recognition in the company’s recent achievements from a legal perspective. For example, in 2017, Samsung launched its virtual store in Costa Rica and has expanded to Panama and the Dominican Republic. Most recently in September 2018 the Samsung Galaxy S9 phone launched in Costa Rica, for which Vera used her legal and business acumen to ensure things went smoothly.
Alfonso Videche joined Colgate-Palmolive in 2008 as their regional legal director for Central America and the Dominican Republic. During his ten year post he has been a specialist of the Latin American division in various areas. Commended for his ability to create exceptional legal teams, Videche has changed the perception of the department, not only impacting the company’s results, but transforming it into an innovative and creative company function: ‘We made the legal department relevant to all other functions, we earned a seat at the table in the leadership team, we became proactive, creative, innovative and a force on its own. We simplified many areas of the company that related directly with legal like human resources, finance, supply chain, marketing and sales. All while providing a saving of 10% every year in the budget’, says Videche. Trusted for his first-rate leadership qualities, in 2016 he did a short term assignment as regional legal director for Colgate-Palmolive Iberia for eight months, to create a legal department by himself with a limited budget and no personnel, putting in place new policies and practices. Between 2017 and 2018 the legal team won a number of internal Colgate-Palmolive awards, including four “You Can Make a Difference Awards” awarded by the chairman, a corporate yearly award and two global legal awards. Videche previously served as legal manager for Central America and the Caribbean for British American Tobacco Caribbean and Central America. Upon graduating, Videche started working in his own law firm in 1996, then went to work for Facio & Cañas, and Odio & Raven for five years with a focus on foreign investment.
Highly experienced financial in-house lawyer María Cristina Vilá de Van Hoorde has earned her title through working for multinational banks for the majority of her career, successfully supporting the franchises she has worked at in the development and execution of their corporate strategy. Prior to taking up her role at Banistmo, the second largest bank in Panama, she served as senior vice president of the legal and compliance departments for Citibank Panama branch for nine years where she was integral to multiple M&As. For instance she was behind Citibank Panamá acquiring Banco Uno and Banco Cuscatlan de Panamá. ‘Why I am proud of these transactions is not only the technical aspect of the transaction, but the capacity of coordinating several teams and interacting with multiple parties, regulators, internal teams and clients to close them successfully’, says Vilá. A large part of her success in closing several commercial transactions is attributed to her passion and talent in developing and managing extremely effective and functional legal teams that have served the company strategically. She considers the development of human talent and mentoring lawyers and senior executives, some of which today hold the highest legal, compliance or executive positions in relevant local financial entities, as one of her ‘greatest achievements’. She has been responsible for transforming the role of the legal team from an operational team to a strategic team that anticipates changes in their environment and generates value with their expertise by providing simple and innovative solutions to clients and stakeholders. Another of Vilá’s career highlights is the launching of the first private pension fund in the Republic of Panama, and recently closing the biggest financial private real estate transaction in Panama with the participation of over 13 banks and more than 400 commercial creditors related or impacted by the transaction. She has also worked on the implementation of Nequi – the first fintech digital platform launched by a banking entity in Panama, a platform that has received multiple international awards.
In June 2014, William Villalobos Herrera assumed his current position at public company ESPH, operating in highly sensitive sectors, each with very different regulations in the sectors of energy, drinking water, wastewater, environment, environmental health, telecommunications and info-communications. Four years prior to joining ESPH, he obtained his license as a telecommunications operator in the country. ‘My arrival coincides with a redefinition of the business strategy that was taking place in the company in the telecommunications and info-communications sector. This posed an important challenge: to assess the way in which judicial assistance was being provided and how regulatory improvement should face the incursion in liberalised markets’ says Villalobos. His experience at ESPH provided to be an opportunity for significant professional growth, which complemented ‘wonderfully’ with his previous experience. Spending a little over eight years in the private sector as an associate attorney at Artivia & Barrantes allowed him to have a very clear vision of what the end user demands, how the administration is conceived from outside and what the expected dynamics are. Prior to his time in private practice he was in charge of the legal department of a major financial structuring company in the country, VSI, having under his responsibility the legal structuring company in the country. This involved the legal structuring of various kinds of multiple trusts and a series of complex transactions in investment and development projects. He has utilised this skillset to actively participate in everything related to compliance, monitoring, reform and implementation of the regulatory and competition requirements established by the regulatory entities driving the progress of ESPH businesses that incur in regulated service in energy, water, telecommunications and non-regulated service media and technology provision.
Carlos Villalobos Soto started his career in private practice as an associate for Pacheco Coto, then in June 2014 made the move in-house when he was appointed as legal manager for Grupo Roble Costa Rica. His competence in this role was evident from the start and in February 2018 he was promoted to legal director at Real Hotels & Resorts, a highly recognised hotel chain in Central America that currently has 20 hotels located throughout Central and South America, the US, Dominican Republic and Colombia. Grupo Roble and Real Hotels & Resorts currently operate under the same umbrella of one of the most recognised family groups in the region. Villalobos has been at the forefront of promptly and accurately supporting and answering the everyday arising questions and concerns on the operations of the 21 properties the company oversees. Amongst his most notable transactions, Villalobos co-led the lease concession with the sales manager at Grupo Roble for the world’s largest cloud delivery platform company. The lease contemplated an office space of 57,524 square feet in a built-to-suit building. Aside of the lease negotiation, the task included structuring the vehicle to take the most advantage of the real estate, something that according to Villalobos, was already ‘affected by an ongoing business centre and hotel, both positioned as leaders in the market’. He has also worked on implementing a trademark master file for a proper and more accurate follow-up on each country for the record and ongoing process of registration for all trademarks.
Sebastian Wong joined American multinational conglomerate corporation 3M, in February 2011 as general counsel for Central America and the Caribbean, and over the years has assumed additional roles within the company. He has also served as a member of the compliance committee since December 2011 and acted as a key driver for advancing the compliance program in the region. In 2013 he assumed the position of general counsel for 3M Mexico alongside acting as compliance and business conduct counsel in Latin America and the Caribbean. In this role he was able to strengthen the local compliance program and legal services in partnership with the different business groups for portfolio management and business growth. In 2012, his role changed again and he went on to serve as compliance counsel for Latin America and Caribbean. Spending five years in this role, he was responsible for further expanding and fortifying the corporate compliance program in the area. He eventually assumed his current role as general counsel for Central America and the Caribbean for 3M’s Global Service Center in Costa Rica in April 2017.
Zamira Zapata Valdés joined the world’s leading premium drinks company, Diageo, in November 2011 as legal counsel and through her ambitious nature and willingness to self-improve was promoted to vice president general counsel in 2014. Upon joining the company, she was initially based in Mexico overseeing operations in the country but is now vice president and general counsel for the Central America and Caribbean, Free-Trade Zone (FTZ) and Border business and, in addition, oversees corporate security, brand protection and the Compliance, Controls and Ethics team. In addition to her scope, she plays a significant role on the executive committee and board of directors in Diageo’s Zapaca business, a key brand for some of the companies’ markets. Throughout her professional journey, Zapata explains that her mentality has been to ‘make a significant difference by creating opportunities for myself and others to learn, grow and become a better people’. With this mantra, it is obvious that she was set to become an exceptional legal head, stating that she is now ‘more conscious of my own growth, my role as a leader and how it impacts others, which has led to a more fulfilling professional and personal experience’. A testament of Zapata’s competence as a leader is her way of making sure the members of her legal department are truly integrated in the business and give highly creative, cost-effective legal and business advice to the commercial and marketing teams where they operate. Zapata participated in the acquisition and integration of the Don Julio business and return of the Smirnoff brand and also played a key role in the corporate restructuring of the business, including assisting with the preparation and execution of all the legal and corporate documentation, allowing the Mexico business – for the first time – to declare a dividend of £19.4m. Before joining Diageo, she was the legal corporate director for Genomma Lab, a leading public Mexican pharmaceutical and personal care products company. Zapata led the acquisitions of several brands such as Teatrical, Micotez, Nasalub, Ossart, Sante, Vanart, Pomada de la Campana, Nordiko, Alert Wildroot, and X-L3 which became relevant assets of the company. Before returning to the corporate world, Zapata had a key participation in government affairs during the administration of Mexican President Felipe Calderon, where she led a big transformational project within the Ministry of Economy and the OCDE and also interacted with many stakeholders across the public and private sector during her two year tenure at the President’s Office. Zapata also has experience of working in New York as an associate at White & Case for two years and three years at the Mexico office where she gave advice to diverse multinational businesses and major commercial investment banks.
In 2014 Tatiana Zeledón Castro joined Herbalife, after receiving what she describes as the ‘best offer of my life’, giving her the possibility to work as legal counsel for a multinational company located in Costa Rica with responsibility for Central America and the Dominican Republic. Since then Zeledón has supported the company on all processes, internal and external with the objective to be a business partner and help the company minimise its legal risks with proactive advice. This has included partnering with logistics marketing finance events, regulatory affairs and any other departments in a way that they can consider legal as a team member during any projection creation or implementation. She has since reorganised the information and interdepartmental communication lines, she has also created a system to handle exception so user can more efficiently receive the service and make urgent requests. Zeledón has also encouraged proactive teamwork and alignment by encouraging constant communication, thanks to her ‘the legal department always has an open door to hear to guide or to ask with you to other departments’. In order to maintain a high performing team Zeledón emphasises the importance of her work as a successful leader ‘a true leader always inspires other to keep doing the things right, motivates you to be better and helps you on your path’. It is to this end that she is constantly looking to lead by example in the best way possible committed to the company and the organisation.
Jose David Zuniga joined Cuestamoras Salud, a leading provider in comprehensive solutions for personal care, in November 2015. Zuniga started his career as a paralegal in a small boutique firm in 1991. When he transitioned from private practice to in-house, over 16 years ago, he was presented with a series of ongoing challenges. ‘How I overcame those challenges and how I delivered results defined my career. Doing the right thing and focusing on being surrounded by extremely talented people, provided me with a sense of purpose which was key for my success’, explains Zuniga. He has gained a large amount of experience in building highly effective teams from the ground up and had to deal with challenges in the agribusiness, retail, pharmaceutical and distribution industries. To do so as a leader, Zuniga explains he had to: ‘focus on what really matters – people – and develop relationships of trust with my peers. Everything evolves and functions around people’. He has adopted a three step mandate which entails the message of: every leader has to deliver results, develop people, and do the foregoing with integrity. He has used this to develop the building blocks of the function and teach the business what it means to have a legal advisor within the organisation who participates in the executive committee. Most importantly he has developed his team to ensure they have a set of skills and competencies to climb the career ladder, enabling them to assume a new role within the company and communicate effectively with their business partners. He was recently involved in the acquisition by Cuestamoras Salud of a new chain of pharmacy outlets called “La Bomba”. Once approved he had the responsibility of duplicating the size of the operation by leading the project to open 21 new stores around the country in three months. ‘Doing good by providing people with accessible medicine, health services or otherwise enhance their quality of life, are drivers to do my job better every day. If my team delivers, Cuestamoras Salud enables its business partners to perform and positively impact the most people we can’, says Zuniga. Prior to this role he served as the lead of legal patents and compliance at Bayer Central America and the Caribbean.
With vast experience in leading banks in the country and the region, Orlando Zuniga started his work as a legal professional in the area of recruitment and registration, to later become part of the business contracting area of a banking institution with booming and dynamic development in the region. Some of the prestigious positions he’s held include senior legal coordinator legalisation of business credits at Citi for ten years, and legal manager at Development Bank of El Salvador for three years. In these roles Zuniga learnt about the structure of local banking operations, as well as credit baking operations and regional and complex guarantees, as well as having contact with various entities of commercial banks, development banks and multilateral banks. Since joining Banco Industrial El Salvador in 2013, he highlights he had a unique perspective to: ‘create and configure the legal area’. Initially, the development and operational requirements of the bank required a team of internal attorneys consisting of two people, who under his coordination, worked in all the areas generally known: formalisation of operations, registration and registration of guarantees, recovery of credit assets, as well as attention to supervisors and regulators. Highlighting the importance of getting to know the business entirely, Zuniga explains: ‘we are sure that by giving support in all the demands of our clients, we do not only strive to be a better bank, not only a better client, not only a better society but also a better country’.
Celebrate! We want to take this opportunity to congratulate you and your teams – the most influential in-house lawyers in business. We celebrate your outstanding work and fierce commitment to advancing the legal profession and we also want to honour your achievements. It is a pleasure for Arias to be able to sponsor this initiative that recognizes an outstanding group of people.
Greater good. We want to recognize you and your teams because with your hard work you create welfare for your stakeholders, contribute to achieving better countries and support the development of the region. We know that this is not an easy task and that the growth we all seek will only be achieved with innovation, experience, passion and cooperation. The people on this list reflect the greatness that comes from people working together for a greater good, we admire you all and hope we can continue working with you for years to come.
The GC Powerlist and Arias, Across Borders. Arias and The Legal 500 GC Powerlist members have had a long relationship. As the first Central American law firm with presence in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama, Arias has been adding value to clients with a regional operation since 1998. Arias has grown and excelled just like your companies in the region, our success goes hand in hand; we thank you for your trust.
We are your strategic partners. We relate and feel close to the vision and aspirations of your companies and your teams. We also relate with your teams because we know how hard you work every day, as we are usually your companions in the journey, for seeking better and more efficient and innovative solutions for your legal matters, but also giving you advice every step of the road.
Congratulations! We have said this many times but cannot miss this opportunity to convey it again: we feel privileged to work with you, and we hope that you continue to exceed in your work and life, and that we continue this path of growth as partners.
GC Powerlist is a trading name of The Legal 500 Series and Legalease Ltd, and operates in multiple legal jurisdictions worldwide.