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Editorial

Ecuador experienced significant and numerous changes in 2016-17, not least in the political sphere with the two rounds of Ecuador’s general election process, the first of which was held in February alongside a referendum that successfully banned politicians and civil servants from having bank accounts or companies based in tax havens. In what was always a tight race between former President Rafael Correa’s chosen successor Lenín Moreno and centre-right candidate Guillermo Lasso, April’s second round saw Moreno win by 2.3% percent. However, while this was expected to ensure politico – economic continuity, Moreno’s first few months have shown a more independent, heterodox line.

While Ecuador’s economy continues to struggle due to low oil prices, the Correa government had, perhaps optimistically, introduced new regulations in 2016 designed to improve the efficiency of the administration of the mining sector, although law firm’s note that there has been little progress in that area aside from minimal steps in the copper exploration subsector.

In terms of other new legislation, the government also introduced a new intellectual property law in 2016, superseding previous legislation that dated from 1998 and aimed at increasing local production rather than importation. However, firms observe that the new law makes it difficult and more expensive for multi-nationals with established operations in Ecuador to act against local infringers.

Given Ecuador’s current economic crisis, the government has also been driven to auction off a number of assets to private corporations. Interestingly, law firms have seen an increase in inbound investments and M&A buy-ins by multinational corporations, although it remains to be seen whether this trend will continue following the general election result.

Newcomer Ferrere Ecuador continues to ask questions of the well-established full-service firms Pérez Bustamante & Ponce, Fabara & Compañía, Bustamante & Bustamante, Coronel & Pérez, CorralRosales and Romero Arteta Ponce, that have long dominated the market. Said market also has a healthy boutique offering; it remains to be seen if the jurisdiction will draw attention from other international law firms that have been increasing their presence elsewhere in Latin America.

Key market developments saw the mid-2017 dissolution of Corral Rosales Carmigniani Pérez. Originally established in 2013, the de-merger sees the re-establishment of constituent firms, Carmigniani Pérez Abogados, in Guayaquil, and CorralRosales, in both Guayaquil and Quito. In more general terms, newcomer Ferrere Ecuador continues to ask questions of the well-established full-service firms Pérez Bustamante & Ponce, Fabara & Compañía, and Bustamante & Bustamante, as well as the more mid-sized Coronel & Pérez and Romero Arteta Ponce, each of which also have a relatively broad service offering. The market also has a healthy boutique offering; it remains to be seen if the jurisdiction will draw attention from other international law firms that have been increasing their presence elsewhere in Latin America. Individual market movements saw Daniel Pino Arroba and Marco Elizalde Jalil leave Coronel & Pérez and Noboa, Peña & Torres, Abogados, respectively, to form Pino Elizalde Abogados; while Carolina Ortiz and Nicolas Lasso left Paz Horowitz Abogados to establish CNLE Abogados; both firms opened their doors in February 2017. In a further development since research concluded, full service market heavy weight Bustamante & Bustamante has suffered a spin off with the departing lawyers establishing the (currently) 10-strong Flor & Hurtado in Quito, which opened its doors in early September 2017.

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