Competition and antitrust in Colombia
Baker McKenzie S.A.S.’s seven-strong team ‘works diligently to understand businesses in order to propose a proper course of action’. A leading figure in the field and head of the firm’s regional competition and antitrust area, María Carolina Pardo is ‘honest, talented and knows the field in Colombia and in other countries very well’. The team acted for Brookfield - which already has a controlling stake in power generator Isagen - on obtaining approval for its acquisition of Gas Natural’s business in Colombia, and also advised Monsanto on the submission of an appeal regarding the approval of its takeover by Bayer, and the negotiation and explanation of the remedies to the authority in Colombia. Senior associates Angélica Navarro and Miguel de Quinto (an economist) and associate Luís Alberto Castell are also noted. Other clients include Andritz, Adobe, GE and Aviagen.
Brigard Urrutia is deeply experienced in advising on merger control before Colombia’s competition authority, the Superintendencia de Industria y Comercio (SIC); its 2018 mandates included, among others, advising Linde on the local merger control aspects of its $73bn global merger with Praxair, with both companies holding a substantial share of the industrial and medicinal gases market in Colombia. On the cartel investigation side, the team acted as counsel to Cemex in an SIC antitrust investigation that resulted in the fining of all the companies involved; Cemex is challenging the SIC’s decision before an administrative court. Alejandro García heads the team with key support coming from notable senior associate Nicolás Cardona. Associate Carlos Ignacio Arboleda moved to Dentons Cardenas & Cardenas in October 2018.
A top name in competition and antitrust matters, Esguerra Asesores Jurídicos’ widely recommended practice is led by academically renowned Alfonso Miranda with Andrés Jaramillo also a key member of the team; both ‘stand out due to their commitment to the client and the timely and accurate advice that they give’. The 11-strong team represented Kimberly-Clark in one of the most complex and high-profile leniency cases in the Andean region, which led to three different cartel investigations relating to diapers, soft paper and notebooks. The company was granted immunity for collaborating with competition authority SIC, a ruling also observed in Peru. However, following a complaint filed by Ecuador’s competition authority, the General Secretariat of the Andean Community of Nations (SGCAN) fined the company $18.3m, a penalty currently awaiting an appeal decision. In other highlights, the firm is acting as legal adviser to Corficolombiana and Episol in an SIC investigation into alleged anti-competitive practice infractions during the structuring and adjudication of section II of the Ruta del Sol infrastructure project. Senior associate Daniel Beltrán is also noted. DuPont, Cerrejón, Deloitte, Chevron and Amazon are active clients.
Mauricio Jaramillo, whom market sources recommend in particular for his handling of restrictive practice cases, leads the eight-strong practice at Gómez-Pinzón Abogados (GPA). With support from senior associate Victor Ayalde Lemos, Jaramillo advised Procter & Gamble on an SIC investigation against four major companies for unduly restricting invoice circulation in the factoring markets; in a rare decision, in September 2018 the competition authority accepted a consent decree to close the investigation without any penalties. In other work examples, the team assisted Aseo Urbano with the merger control assessment and filing before the antitrust authority regarding its acquisition by Veolia. Other clients include Tetra Pak, Argos, Valorem and ExxonMobil. Associate Natalia Franco is also a name to note.
Co-lead by the ‘excellent’ Diego Cardona and ‘go-to antitrust lawyer’ - and firm founding partner - Martín Carrizosa, the five-strong team at Philippi Prietocarrizosa Ferrero DU & Uría handles matters across the sector from merger control to antitrust investigations. Recent work on the merger side saw the team advise Siemens and Alstom on the procedure regarding the strategic combination of the companies’ mobility business. The team also successfully defended Radio Cadena Nacional (RCN) in an investigation concerning alleged violation of merger control regulations in a transaction in the Colombian radio broadcasting industry. Other clients include Telepizza, Ferrero, ABB, Prysmian and Biofilm.
Garrigues’ practice ‘understands international business and the interplay with the country’s legal procedures’, and is recommended both for high-profile cartel cases and merger control filings. José Miguel De La Calle, a former head of the SIC, leads a six-strong team which was further strengthened with the incorporation of associate Carolina Polanco, who joined from regulator SIC where she co-ordinated a taskforce for the promotion and protection of competition. The team is defending Editorial Santillana before the competition authority against allegations of bid-rigging in public procurement activities; the claim was made by Colombia Compra Eficiente, the country’s purchasing agency. The group was also retained by Prosegur to assist on the merger control procedure regarding the company’s acquisition of G4S’s Colombian cash management unit; the transaction was unconditionally cleared. Other clients include Enel X, Whirlpool, Locust and Bolsa Mercantil. Senior associate Alejandro Acevedo is also noted; however, his fellow senior associate, lawyer and economist Angela María Noguera, left in late 2018 before subsequently establishing her own firm, Noguera Moreno Consultores.
Ibarra Abogados’ clients, which include Colombia Móvil, Grupo Aval, Cementos Argos and Unilever Andina, among others, regard the international trade and competition boutique as providing ‘excellent service and assistance’, and appreciate ‘the lawyers’ capacity and knowledge and the strategies they design’. Gabriel Ibarra heads the five-strong practice group in conjunction with Ana Lucía Parra, who was promoted to partner in 2018, as was Alejandro Ibarra; they make an ‘effective team’. In ongoing work, the department is representing French multinational Vinci and Vía 40 Express in an SIC investigation regarding antitrust matters in the framework of the award of the $614m highway infrastructure project. Other matters include advising Ingenio Risaralda, Ciamsa and Central Tumaco, among others, on administrative challenges to SIC-imposed sanctions. Associate Daniel Rangel left to pursue his masters’ studies.
Market sources recommend boutique JAECKEL/MONTOYA ABOGADOS, which is led by ‘sharp-minded’ former SIC head Jorge Jaeckel, who led the recent representation of Maria Victoria Guarín, an officer in the International Finance Corporation, in an antitrust investigation before the SIC related to the construction of the Ruta del Sol highway project. The firm also obtained a successful outcome for EY in an antitrust investigation for allegedly blocking the market through practices that prevented the free circulation of invoices (factoring). Along with fellow name partner Claudia Montoya, Jaeckel is currently advising Papeles Nacionales in a lawsuit against the SIC for violation of due process, as well as seeking to reverse the sanctions imposed after the regulatory body conducted a cartel investigation into the soft paper and diapers market. Other active clients include Alpina, Ecopetrol, Caracol and Avianca.
Posse Herrera Ruiz saw its competition and antitrust department significantly reinforced in March 2019 with the reincorporation of Jorge De Los Ríos, a former director of the firm’s practice group who returns after a little over four years in house at Unilever (where he became global competition counsel). Jaime Herrera heads the six-strong department with key support coming from associates Juan Pablo Bonilla and Hernán Panesso. Litigator Daniel Posse is also active in the area. The team advised Energizer Holdings on the merger clearance of the company’s acquisition of Spectrum Brands’ batteries and portable lighting business. Other recent mandates included representing Lafrancol in two administrative investigations into an alleged violation of the pharmaceutical sector’s price control regulations. As a result, both investigations were closed. Clients include Boeing, Falabella, General Cable and Total Produce.
Led by Ximena Zuleta, who also leads the office’s dispute resolution department, Dentons Cardenas & Cardenas’ practice group handles the full spectrum of competition and antitrust law. The practice welcomed experienced associate Carlos Ignacio Arboleda from Brigard Urrutia in October 2018, but lost senior associate Ana María Ortegón, who departed in April 2019. A healthy caseload saw the team advise Mexichem on the merger control procedure triggered by its $1.5bn acquisition of an 80 percent stake in Israeli irrigation firm Netafim; the firm is also currently acting in a highly significant SIC bid-rigging investigation. Senior partners Eduardo Cárdenas and Bernardo Cárdenas are also active in the field.
Lloreda Camacho & Co. enjoys ‘recognition in the market’ for the team’s ‘specialisation in pharmaceuticals’. Enrique Álvarez and Andrés Hidalgo co-lead the six-strong team, which also handles international trade matters; recent mandates include advising Greif on an antidumping lawsuit against Rheem, and undertaking a local merger control filing for Ipsos after the company acquired certain parts of GfK SE’s research division, a matter referred by K&L Gates. Senior associates Darío Cadena and Maria Alejandra De Los Ríos are also key practice members. Clients include Allianz, Constructora Bolívar and Merck.
MBCR/Márquez Barrera Castañeda Ramírez
A former competition authority superintendent, the highly regarded Pablo Márquez co-heads MBCR/Márquez Barrera Castañeda Ramírez’s competition practice along with Julio Castañeda. The practice has been particularly active in antitrust matters and also represented a foreign regulator in an arbitration case brought by a telecoms company. In other 2018 mandates the team acted as legal counsel to Veolia in the SIC merger control process regarding its acquisition of Acon Investments’ shares in Grupo Sala. Clients include Avianca, Argos, Facebook and Mapfre.
Specialist boutique Archila Abogados is a recognised name in the competition field, with its reputation deriving principally from name partner Emilio Archila, a former head of the SIC. However, in July 2018 Archila was named a presidential adviser on post-conflict matters, overseeing the enforcement of the peace agreement. Senior associate Ruben Silva Gómez also left to become Superintendent of Public Notaries and Registries. Nevertheless, an experienced, six-strong team remains, led by the knowledgeable Marcella Saetta, who made partner in 2018; her former experience includes senior roles at both the SIC and at the Office for Banking Superintendence. Senior associate Dionisio De La Cruz is also noted. The practice has been acting for Comcel on several matters, including obtaining a preliminary injunction in relation to an unfair competition proceeding concerning misleading advertising; it also defended the client regarding a procedure for violation of standards.
Start-up ‘markets law’ boutique Avante Abogados was founded in January 2019 by Juan David Gutiérrez and Carlos Esguerra, both formerly senior associates in significant competition practice groups – those of Esguerra Barrera Arriaga (today Esguerra Asesores Jurídicos) and Posse Herrera Ruiz, respectively. Significantly, each has experience beyond private practice: Gutíerrez, who has a deep academic specialisation in public policy, both in-house (at Coca-Cola Femsa and AngloGold Ashanti) and in the public sector (at the Ministry of Justice), and Esguerra as a consultant to the Federal Trade Commission in Washington DC and as head of a specialised working group at the SIC’s National Competition Authority. Three consultants bring additional specialisation in public law and economics to the firm’s offering. The team covers the full array of competition and antitrust matters, with particular niche expertise in those with a public aspect, as well as an in-depth offering in the ancillary market regulatory, consumer and data privacy areas. Recent matters include advising Cervecería Nacional Dominicana on competition issues in the Dominican Republic, Barbados and Panama; other clients include Coca-Cola Femsa, state aviation regulator Aerocivil, Abbott-Lafrancol and Air Liquide.
DLA Piper Martinez Beltrán has a multi-disciplinary team led by the ‘well-prepared' and 'experienced’ María Claudia Martínez Beltrán; an economist and a lawyer who has been director of the practice since 2016, she was recently -September 2019- made up to partner. Office managing partner Camilo Martínez is also recommended. The six-strong team successfully represented Edemsa in an unfair competition lawsuit against Edemco. Other notable recent mandates include assisting BASF with obtaining first-phase clearance for its the acquisition of certain Solvay assets. Clients include EPK Kids Smart, Tecnoquímicas, AC Nielsen and Michelin.
Godoy & Hoyos Abogados SAS advises on matters related to restrictive and unfair competition practices, acting both in court litigation and before the industry regulators and other authorities. In one such case, it is representing a company being investigated for allegedly being the beneficiary of state support. Practice head Jaime Moya and co-head of the litigation team Juan Sebastián Lombana are also acting in an appeal before the SIC seeking the overturning of a fine and associated compensation for damages caused.
Holland & Knight’s practice group handles competition and antitrust law, as well as consumer and IP matters. Recent work saw practice head Danilo Romero, an IP expert, defend a multinational in an unfair competition process regarding allegedly misleading advertising initiated by one of the company’s main competitors. The group is also representing an individual under investigation by the SIC for alleged collusion in relation to an infrastructure construction concession. Dispute resolution practice head Alberto Zuleta also handles antitrust investigations and litigation proceedings before the SIC. Clients include Terpel and Pegatex-Artecola.
OlarteMoure’s practice receives praise for ‘providing holistic and applicable solutions in a changing regulatory environment’. Founding partner Juan Guillermo Moure heads the practice along with associate director of litigation Juan Felipe Acosta and competition co-ordinator Isabella Herrera. The IP-specialised boutique has been growing its competition practice, particularly on the litigation side by working on unfair competition cases involving large claims. The team is currently defending MVH Inversiones in a suit brought by a former supplier turned competitor, as well as advising the company on two counterclaims, on cancellation actions before the Trademark Office and on annulment actions of the supplier’s marks before the administrative courts. In terms of merger control, the team assisted Nutresa with various merger control procedures, culminating in that which saw the company’s sale to Comeca Group affiliate Prodenvases.
Recommended firm Palacios Lleras advises both on proceedings before the competition authorities and competition claims. Andrés Palacios heads the practice, with Carolina Deik handling associated contentious matters. The practice is acting as lead counsel in an action that seeks the annulment of Decree 2509 of 2015, which established a compensation system among insurance companies dedicated to insuring labour-related risks. The team is also representing an international company in an unfair competition suit brought by several regional Colombian entities against a number of major importers.
Boutique firm Serranomartinez focuses on corporate and shareholder litigation, merger proceedings and unfair competition litigation, as well as general competition law infringements. Practice head Felipe Serrano has been particularly active with recent matters including the representation of Chevron Petroleum Company before the Superintendencia in relation to a share acquisition matter; and the defence of Uber against unfair competition allegations brought by a major Colombian taxi company. Other key clients in the sector include Unilever and Avianca.