Firms To Watch: Competition and antitrust

With a focus on unfair practice and regulatory compliance, Meythaler & Zambrano Abogados acts for a range of clients in relation to investigations by the competition authority; name partner and key contact José Meythaler Baquero is supported by Jhon Esteban Mora  is a young, upcoming specialist associate who joined from the former Antitrust Consultores in November 2021.

Competition and antitrust in Ecuador

Bustamante Fabara

Born of the November 2021 merger between Bustamante & Bustamante and Fabara & Compañía, Bustamante Fabara fields an integrated and experienced team that handles the full range of competition matters, including abuse of dominance, merger control, investigations, unfair competition, and antitrust litigation. Recent mandates saw the team represent Chaide & Chaide in two claims against Lamitex -one for unlawful competition and one alleging abuse of market position- before the national antitrust authority. The practice is divided between co-led by senior partners José Rafael Bustamante Crespo  and José Rafael Bustamante Crespo, both of whom have lengthy experience of the competition sector, particularly on the merger-filings aspect. At associate level, senior Daniel Castelo regularly represents clients before the competition authorities as well as handling merger filings; while director Kirina González, who also handles merger-filing matters, also has particular knowledge of vertical and horizontal concentration issues. Competition-dedicated intermediate associate Esteban Dávila is also noted. Since research concluded, Castelo has been raised to practice director, effective as of October 2022.

Practice head(s):

Maria Rosa Fabara; José Rafael Bustamante Crespo

Testimonials

‘The advice and analysis is not limited to the legal framework, Bustamante Fabara adds its knowledge of the market and its experience with other operators.’

‘Direct communication and extensive experience.’

‘The experience we had with them was really very good. Quick and clear in their answers. They achieved an authorization of the transaction in record time, thus fulfilling the objective pursued to be able to close the transaction. At all times, they kept us abreast of developments in the file.’

‘José Rafael Bustamante Crespo is always predisposed and attending to queries at any time. I would highlight the clarity in answering questions by the client, the speed in doing so and the positive results obtained in our particular case.’

‘They have a good knowledge of the subject as well as a good network built with the antitrust authorities.’

‘Precise, forward looking, pan regional approach and learning.’

‘Active team with a business orientation.’

‘José Rafael Bustamante Crespo combines a business mentality with good negotiation skills.’

Key clients

Chaide & Chaide

Grupo Werthein

AT&T

AIG Metropolitana

Equivida

CMA CGM Ecuador

Adium Pharma

Grupo Romero

Pfizer

Tiendas Industriales Asociadas

F & E Ecuatoriana

Work highlights

  • Advised Chaide & Chaide on two processes before the Antitrust Authority against mattress producer Lamitex.
  • Advised Grupo Werthein on the merger clearance filing process for the acquisition of AT&T’s Vrio business unit, the Latin American arm of DirecTV.
  • Defended AIG Metropolitana in an unfair competition investigation in the insurance sector regarding unauthorised credit card charges to customers in the financial sector.

Pérez Bustamante & Ponce

Pérez Bustamante & Ponce remains an undoubted leader for competition and antitrust matters, with an offering that extends to litigation, abuse of dominance, cartels, state aid, merger control, and unfair competition. Demonstrating ‘extensive technical knowledge’, the team acts for an impressive roster of regional and multinational clients, particularly as regards international merger clearances, with recent highlights including advice to ARCA Continental in connection with its acquisition of Carli Snacks. ‘Talented’ practice head Diego Pérez led on the matter; he has over 25 years’ experience handling cross-border and antitrust matters. Pérez is flanked by two experienced associates: Mario Navarrete Serrano (who was promoted to practice director in October 2022), focuses on complex antitrust cases and is ‘the star of the team'; and senior Andrés Rubio Puente, who -while he has a broader practice that encompasses competition, foreign trade and dispute resolution- nevertheless has considerable experience of both investigations’ work and complex merger filings.

Practice head(s):

Diego Pérez

Testimonials

‘The team has some of the best technical knowledge of competition law in Ecuador. They are always at the forefront of case law, new trends and criteria applied by the authority. The lawyers that work in this team are some of the best and due to their size, it seems to me that they are the only ones in the market with the capacity to handle complex issues with the best service. In general, I think they are the best firm on the market.’

‘This team stands out in terms of technical knowledge, working closely with in-house teams and always being able to think outside the box without being too risk averse. Diego Pérez stands out for his customer service. In my opinion, Mario Navarrete is the star of the team, he sets the pace and I think he is the best competition lawyer that I have met in almost 20 years of work in various markets in the region as an in-house lawyer.’

‘Excellent quality of service. Multidisciplinary team that is very committed to the causes.’

‘They are very concerned about detail and are always ready to help in whatever is necessary.’

‘The team has a lot of experience and got us excellent results on research topics.’

‘Diego Pérez leads his team with a lot of experience and gives very good legal advice. Mario Navarrete is extremely responsive and capable.’

‘The organization is impeccable. They are quick and precise in their responses.’

‘Diego Pérez is an exceptional outside attorney. He is very talented when it comes to understanding the needs of the client and the market in which he operates. A true strategist.’

Key clients

Veolia Environment

Synlab International

Repsol

Anheuser-Busch InBev

Arca Continental

LG Corp

Gómez Group

Work highlights

  • Advised Anheuser-Busch InBev on compliance with conditions set forth after the acquisition of SABMiller’s local business.
  • Advised Arca Continental on its acquisition of Carli Snacks and on the associated notification filing with the competition agency.  
  • Defended Maersk in connection with a complaint that all shipping companies working in Ecuador act parallelly when charging ancillary fees to clients.

CorralRosales

The competition practice at CorralRosales offers a service that extends to both contentious and non-contentious work, advising clients on merger control, unfair competition, abuse of market power claims and administrative and judicial proceedings. The practice is co-led by experienced senior partner Xavier Rosales, who has a ‘holistic view’ of competition and antitrust issues; and senior associate Ana Samudio, who has a strong background in administrative and regulatory matters. Francisco Rosales is another integral member of the practice, particularly for preventative competition strategies related to international.

Practice head(s):

Xavier Rosales; Ana Samudio

Testimonials

‘Xavier and his team were very supportive and knowledgeable.’

‘Very good recommendations and review of cases. High collaboration and attention to urgent customer issues.’

‘Prepared, diligent, studious and knowledgeable about the subject.’

‘Very good firm with great legal knowledge and good service.’

‘They are an extremely efficient service, have quality, do thorough background work, and quickly build a loyalty to the service and the firm. They have always provided concrete solutions and viable alternatives for the proper functioning of the company.’

‘They are excellent lawyers; concrete but provide information aimed at generating action plans within the company.’

‘CorralRosales adds a lot of value to our company. Its members are subject matter experts and strategic in the solutions they provide. The firm’s team is always at the forefront of national and international issues and provides a holistic context for decision-making.’

‘Xavier Rosales is a strategic ally in the analysis and advice on competition matters for our operation. His holistic and strategic vision allows for a broad and assertive panorama. Ana Samudio maintains a close relationship with her clients, always being available to deal with any matter of interest in competition matters.’

Key clients

Nestlé

The Walt Disney Company

Unilever

Grupo Familia

COPEC

Clorox

United Airlines

Grünenthal

BMI

Immunotec

Claro

General Electric

Mondelez

SAP

AkzoNobel

Work highlights

  • Advised Grupo Familia before the General Secretariat of the Andean Community, which initiated an investigation regarding alleged cartelization (price fixing) between Kimberly Clark and Grupo Familia in the tissue paper market in Ecuador.
  • Represented The Walt Disney Company regarding the authorisation of its acquisition of 21st Century Fox before the Ecuadorian competition authority.
  • Represented Nestlé subsidiary Terrafertil in an investigation into alleged unfair practices related to it’s product Nature’s Heart honey; the investigation was concluded without the imposition of sanctions.

Flor Bustamante Pizarro Hurtado Abogados

Flor Bustamante Pizarro Hurtado Abogados continues its growth and enters the competition rankings on the back of its incorporation of Gilberto Gutiérrez  and Alfonso Becerra , formerly at leading competition boutique Antitrust Consultores, in May 2022. Gutiérrez assumes leadership of the firm’s new antitrust department, particularly as regards the regulated sectors in which the firm is active – notably agribusiness, telecommunications, pharmaceuticals & health, retail, forestry and the automotive industry.  Becerra’s broader practice includes labour, company law and litigation. The new practice is underpinned by three associates: Lenys Orellana  (whose experience includes time spent at the Superintendencia de Control del Poder de Mercado); Coralia Izurieta  and María José Luzuriaga . IP partner Manuel Fernandez de Córdoba is also active in the practice.

Practice head(s):

Gilberto Gutiérrez

Procompetencia

Boutique firm Procompetencia has evolved rapidly in the last few years, merging with computer law and tech specialists Barzallo & Barzallo in 2019, opening an office in Asunción (Paraguay) and subsequently opening a criminal law practice in 2020. It nevertheless retains its primary focus on competition matters and January 2022 saw it invited to review Ecuador’s new Unfair Competition law by the Ecuadorian Superintendency of Market Power Regulation. The team is led by founding partner Marcelo Marín, a true specialist in the sector whose past experience includes as counsel for Competition Law at the Ministry of Industries and Productivity and as a consultant on the project to draft Ecuador’s competition legislation, the Ley Orgánica de Regulación y Control de Poder de Mercado; he focuses on the economic and legal strategies of various of the most prominent economic groups in the country. Key support comes from younger partner, Miguel Maldonado, who corrdinates the firm’s market regulation and competition, corporate law, and arbitration & mediation practices; and associate Laura Ramírez, who specializes in technical standards associated with market regulation, along with the development of competition policies for clients. Asunción-based international consultant Diva Ávila, a former advisor on Economic Competition Law at the Undersecretary for Competition of the Ministry of Industries and Productivity (Ecuador), is also noted.

Practice head(s):

Marcelo Marín

Testimonials

‘They are a very professional team in their relations with customers, they are characterized by their punctuality, their openness to listen to the customer and propose solutions.’

‘They are very diligent and they have a vocation to service, especially in their technical proposals to solve customer legal problems. They demonstrate knowledge of the subject.’

‘A differentiating note is the team work with the clients, they make virtual sessions, focus groups, brainstorming, concept maps to find legally valid and relevant exits to solve market problems, free competition, commercial advertising and protection of the consumer.’

‘The plus is their professional technical level, and the difference from their competitors is that they are capable of innovating and proposing new lines of legal thinking in front of the problems of the market that if consulted by the clients, within their special qualities, is their critical thinking and propositive in the legal solutions.’

‘In general terms they demonstrate a professional level, being very diligent and competent.’

Key clients

Sumesa

Provemovil

Banco del Pacífico

GEA Ecuador

Tasiste

Oxialfarm

Centros Comerciales del Ecuador

Linde de Ecuador

Work highlights

  • Advised Linde de Ecuador in competition and contractual processes.
  • Advised Banco del Pacífico on requesting access to a Cessation Committment – the equivalent of a leniency programme – in relation to the Intendance of Unfair Competition initiation of a formal punitive procedure against the bank on the basis of the findings of its preliminary investigations.

Robalino

Since its departure from the Ferrere network in January 2021, Robalino Law has consolidates its position as an independent firm at the forefront of the Ecuadorian market. In the competition segment it fields a team that has ‘deep technical knowledge’ in a range of litigation, pre-merger control and unfair competition matters. Leading the team is ‘strategic’ litigator Daniel Robalino, hwo has experience acting before the Ecuadorian Competition Authority and expertise in merger control and regulatory issues. He frequently works in conjunction with special counsel Fausto Alvarado (the first Competition Undersecretary of the Ministry of Industry and Commerce), who is noted for his work on an array of competition policy matters across Latin America. Counsel Sebastián Saa moved to Spingarn in June 2021.

Practice head(s):

Daniel Robalino

Testimonials

‘Technical depth, frankness in their opinions, strategic vision, and risk analysis.’

‘An outstanding job.’

‘Daniel Robalino, excellent technician, strategic.’

‘The lawyers are specialists in different branches, which makes the answers concise and fast. Robalino’s work is extensive, including from the beginning of the consultation, negotiation, and billing process.’

‘The service is personalized and efficient.’

‘Daniel Robalino is an excellent professional.’

‘They are good at what they do, they know your needs and your business, answering any questions and helping you achieve what you need. They also take great consideration regarding the risk you can take.’

‘They know the area in which they work, they have a lot of experience and it is evident that they are constantly training.’

Key clients

Toyota

Iberia

Femsa Comercio

Cargill

Delivery Hero

3M

Carlson Wagonlit Travel

Alicorp

La Fabril

Grupo Orbis

Work highlights

  • Advised and represented Iberia Airlines in the merger control process for the acquisition of Air Europa Airlines (Ecuadorian branch) including the negotiation of structural and behavioral remedies with the regulator; value  €500m.
  • Advised Omni Invest in the pre-merger control process filled before the Superintendence of Market Power Control, related to the $27.4m acquisition of Tababela Cargo Center Tabacarcen.

Sperber & Álvarez

Following the dissolution of Antitrust Consultores (AC) in early 2022, leading competition practitioner David Sperber co-founded Sperber & Álvarez with disputes practitioner José Álvarez. The 10-strong firm has a broader remit than his previous boutique, also undertaking compliance, company law, M&A, tax and litigation (among other areas), but retains its strong competition leaning, advisng on state aid issues, abuse of dominant position, unfair competition and merger control cases. Sperber (the first Chairman of the Competition Committee of the International Chamber of Commerce Ecuador), is flanked by fellow partners Pablo Lara (also formerly at AC), who handles competition work as part of a broader practice taking in regulatory and administrative law along with dispute resolution; and Paraguay-qualified Cynthia Andino who has a combined international trade and competition practice. Handling both antitrust matters (including abuse of dominant position and cartels), and merger-related competition filings, Andino has previous public practice experience as a director at the Ministerio de Industria y Comercio in Asunción. 

Practice head(s):

David Sperber

Lexvalor Abogados

With a focus on the food, beverage and retail sectors, Lexvalor Abogados acts on a range of abuse of dominance, cartel, unfair competition claims and market investigations; concurrently, it frequently acts as co-counsel with major international law firms such as Freshfields and Skadden Arps on the Ecuadorian aspects of merger control procedures. The practice is co-led by Luis Marin and Ricardo Peñaherrera whose practices encompass corporate/M&A, IP and competition; Marin handles a broad range of competition matters including abuse of market power, restrictive practices, cartels and merger notifications; while competition-practice coordinator Peñaherrera has niche expertise in the retail -and specifically supermarket- segment, where he frequently intervenes in both merger control notifications and sanctioning procedures. Key associate support comes from intermediate Ana María Terán.

Practice head(s):

Luis Marín; Ricardo Peñaherrera

Testimonials

‘There are several reasons why Lexvalor Abogados is a unique firm in the field, with its technical and business knowledge, its specialization in various areas of law and its unconditional predisposition and approach to the corporation make us always comfortable and sure of being in the best hands.’

‘Ricardo Peñaherrera, together with a group of young specialists who are well studied and knowledgeable in the matter, make the advice optimal and dynamic, they keep us company directors up to date with all the regulatory reforms that could eventually affect the development of the business.’

‘They are constantly training staff on permitted and prohibited practices so that the development of the market always conforms to the mandates of the regulations and as part of the continuous advice they are guaranteeing that contractual relationships with suppliers and customers are always within the framework of the law.’

‘Ricardo Peñaherrera’s advice has allowed the corporation to not have had a single sanction by the competition authority.’

‘Ricardo Peñaherrera stands out for his deep knowledge of the law and the matter, his dynamism, empathy with the needs of the client and his unconditional commitment.’

‘Excellent attention, knowledge, kindness and care of the clients.’

‘It is a hands-on firm that understands the business and engages responsibly and with practical choices.’

Key clients

Quala Ecuador

Ecopacific

Cafecom

Corporacion Favorita

Industrias Ales

Pasteurizadora el Ranchito

Yara International

Hydrahead

Surfco

Work highlights

  • Represented Hydrahead in a claim brought by a rival oil service solutions company claiming the company had used misleading advertising.
  • Represented Industrias Ales in a claim brought against it by rival competitor Upfield, claiming it imitated elements of their design.  
  • Advised Quala Ecuador in connection with an investigation for alleged deceptive, comparative and denigratory advertising filed by Sumesa.

Pino Elizalde Abogados

Pino Elizalde Abogados fields an increasingly relevant competition practice that handles both abuse of market power issues and merger-control matters. It has particular niche expertise as regards the brewing industry, where it recently acted for AB InBev on the filings associated with its merger with SABMiller, and is also growing its practice in the downstream segment of the hydrocarbons sector, where it works with a significant LNG player. Practice co-head Marco ‘Valentín’ Elizalde -who led on the AB InBev matter- has extensive experience interacting with the Superintendence of Market Power Regulation, where fellow co-head, competition-specialised associate Jessica Medina formerly worked in-house.

Practice head(s):

Marco Elizalde; Jessica Medina

Testimonials

‘The team has a good mix of expert competition, administrative law and litigation lawyers. This allows them to think outside the box. Being a boutique firm, they deliver a personalized service with excellent response times.’

‘Marco Elizalde is excellent as a lawyer. He has a highly developed instinct that allows him to identify problems and get ahead of the problem to do preventive work.’

‘Marco Elizalde has extensive litigation knowledge which is a very interesting asset.’

‘The team is made up of young, prepared, proactive professionals.’

‘Their preparation and the diversity of alternatives to find solutions.’

Key clients

Cervecería Nacional

Profrutas

Work highlights

  • Post-merger legal advice to AB InBev on the implementation of the 11 remedies imposed by the Superintendence of Control of Market Power after the acquisition of SABMiller in Ecuador.
  • Advised Profrutas on anti-competitive practices case brought by Ecopacific in relation to the alleged imitation of its brand of natural juices; the case was dismissed in its preliminary stages.

Coronel & Pérez

The antitrust team at Coronel & Pérez handles a variety of work for primarily foreign clients, with an emphasis on investigations concerning unfair and abusive practices. César Coronel Jones leads the team and also has experience assisting clients with compliance issues and merger-control processes and filing. Also noted as a key contact is César Coronel Ortega, who focuses on multijurisdictional investigations, leniency applications and administrative proceedings.

Practice head(s):

César Coronel Jones

Key clients

Kimberly Clark

Inmourbanist

Dentons Paz Horowitz

Able to draw on the firm’s extended global network since it March 2021 merger, what is now Dentons Paz Horowitz fields a competition practice that advises clients on a broad array of unfair competition and market control cases. The team is co-led by intellectual property partner Byron Robayo in conjunction with associate practice director Eduardo Esparza. Robayo has extensive experience in constitutional, administrative, judicial and criminal proceedings related to unfair competition and antitrust law; while Esparza – a former Intendant for investigation of the abuse of market power, agreements and restrictive practices at the Superintendence for Market Power Control – focused his practice on administrative law, with an emphasis on competition, international trade and public procurement.

Practice head(s):

Byron Robayo; Eduardo Esparza

Testimonials

‘Profound knowledge of each of the areas of law in which we have required their support.’

‘The personalised treatment and the predisposition to collaborate at all times.’

Key clients

Oriental Industria Alimenticia

Inprolac

Sociedad Industrial Reli

KLM

Air France

Heel

New Stratus Energy

Fabrilacteos

Aditmaq

Nationaltire Experts

Work highlights

  • Advised Talma Ecuador on various cases regarding market competition.
  • Advised Heel on an alleged unfair competition case.
  • Advised Cosimo Holdings on a control of market power case.

ECIJA GPA

The antitrust team at ECIJA GPA focuses on cross-border competition matters, with further emphasis on multi-jurisdictional M&A activity. Led by Michael Veintemilla and Bayardo Poveda, with joint experience handling abuse of dominance claims and managing relations with the national competition authority, the practice is also regarded for its advisory role in connection with regulatory issues.

Practice head(s):

Michael Veintimilla; Bayardo Poveda

Testimonials

‘In relation to competition regulations and the analyzes that are carried out, the ECIJA team takes its time in the investigation to later issue criteria that resolves the cases of clients.’

‘ECIJA is involved not only in the event or case consulted, but also in the entire environment and management of the client.’

‘Michael Veintimilla oversees a multidisciplinary team of lawyers who contribute to the resolution of the case effectively and efficiently.’

Key clients

Comdecsa

WTZ

Alstom Transport

Ludwig Pfeiffer Hoch und Tiefbau

Work highlights

  • Advised Coheco on whether its sales and discount policies were consistent with domestic competition law.
  • Advised Comdecsa in the issuance of a recommendation from the national competition authority in favour of the client.
  • Advised Ludwig Pfeiffer Hoch und Tiefbau on compliance with competition law principles.