City focus: Miami in Latin America: International firms
The Miami “city-focus” section is the first in a number of reviews of legal market offerings from hubs of relevance to the Latin America region.Miami is emblematic in this sense. Dubbed 'the 21st century capital of Latin America' as far back as the early 1990s, while it is not the (administrative) state capital, the city has nevertheless come to some extent come to represent 'the Sunshine State', deploying a Latin-tinged multicultural trope however divergent this is from Florida's wider, demographic reality. It is also unique among the U.S.’s southern-most states in that it is not a US/Mexico border state: Florida's coastal location naturally gives it a relation with the Caribbean, Central America and points south.Nevertheless, given that in every Presidential election since 1992, the winner of Florida has subsequently moved into the White House, and that in a state of 21 million, Trump's 2016 majority was some 113,000 votes, the sizeable Latino voter-community in and around Miami is critical. Only a fraction of the Latino community as a whole, some seven hundred thousand Cubans, a hundred and sixty thousand Colombians, eighty thousand Nicaraguans and around fifty thousand Venezuelans are eligible to vote; 'foreign policy is intensely local in South Florida', says Frank Mora, a professor of politics at Florida International University.The singularity of the demographic make-up of Miami is similarly reflected in the breadth and specificity of its legal offering, which ranges from classic corporate legal offerings (Hunton Andrews Kurth, for example, or Nelson Mullins) to outlier practices such as OFAC enforcement matters (a specializations of Diaz Reus LLP). Indeed, much of the talent emerging from the region's successive, diasporic comings-and-goings has settled in Miami, leading to concentrations of highly-specialised know-how (such as that demonstrated in the combination of international arbitration experience at GST LLP, for example).As a result of the variety of practice offerings and foci, the firm's listed here are not ranked. All are, however, regarded as being at the forefront of in terms of their divergent Latin America-focused practice offerings.
Akerman LLP is widely recognised for its expertise in regulatory and OFAC matters connected to Cuba. The Latin America practice is considerably broader though with the firm building up its regional expertise in Miami and New York especially. It has a number of dual-licensed attorneys, especially Brazil admitted lawyers; this includes partner Felipe Berer who chairs the Brazil practice and has a fine record in cross-border investments between the US and Brazil; he has considerable experience in trade and anti-corruption compliance. The firm is noted for mid-market corporate and private equity transactions in Latin America, along with international arbitration and litigation engagements. While much of the practice centres on inbound investment into Latin America, the firm also advises a range of Latin American entities on their outbound investments and acquisitions. M&A in the banking and financial services sector has also been a feature of the Latin America practice, along with airport and healthcare projects, REITs, and private client and tax planning work for high net-worth individuals from the region. Venezuela, Chile, Ecuador and Peru are also jurisdictions where the firm has a fine record. Cuba born Pedro Freyre is chair of the international practice and is noted for his expertise in Cuba regulatory and trade issues; he and the team advise a number of multinationals on their Cuba interests, including clients in the hospitality and travel industries. He and the team are at the forefront of issues connected to diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba, including advising on Title III of the Helms-Burton Act and its implications for multinational businesses.
Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP
Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP hired experienced Latin America corporate transactions specialist Mario Fontes from Greenberg Traurig LLP in 2018. Fontes has worked on a range of deals in the telecoms, energy and resources sectors over the years. Fellow Miami partner Pedro Martinez-Fraga is a leader in investor-state international arbitrations, having represented the likes of the Republic of Argentina, the Republic of Guatemala, the Republic of El Salvador, the Federated Republic of Brazil, the Republic of Chile and the Republic of Ecuador.
Clyde & Co LLP has a sizeable Miami office that is increasingly connected to Latin America business. Dual qualified English and Brazilian partner Ricardo Lewandowski splits his time between London, Miami and Sao Paulo and focuses primarily on international arbitration and cross-border litigation involving Latin America and Africa; these include construction, engineering, energy, mining, and insurance and reinsurance disputes. Caracas partner Aurelio Fernandez-Concheso spends a considerable amount of time in Miami working on transactions for US businesses, Latin America corporates and wealthy individuals. Real estate and sanctions work also forms part of the firm's practice in Miami.
Diaz Reus International Law Firm & Alliance's Miami headquarters has a distinct focus on Latin America, with some 90% of the firm’s business being connected to the region. It has an especially strong record in white-collar crime, financial fraud, international asset recovery, anti-money laundering, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) matters, and sanctions and internal investigations; it has represented a number of sovereign and quasi-sovereign clients over the years, including governments, central banks, state oil companies and public officials. The firm is also especially close to the local finance and shipping communities in Latin America. Beyond its core strengths, it is active in the broader dispute resolution sphere, including commercial litigation and arbitration. It has a fine record in banking, real estate, international tax, immigration and a growing presence in offshore insurance and reinsurance. The firm is closely connected to Venezuela in particular, and has represented successive administrations and government-linked companies on a regular basis. Argentina, Peru, Honduras and Colombia have also been key jurisdictions for the practice. Global managing partner Michael Diaz has an outstanding reputation in FCPA, OFAC, white-collar crime and investigations, while Gary Davidson is making an impression in the arbitration field, representing a wide range of quasi-sovereign and private companies in Latin America; the pair were recently among the first lawyers to be Board Certified in international litigation and arbitration by the Florida Bar. Robert Targ is another prominent figure in white-collar crime and investigations and George Diaz leads on cross-border real estate issues and the relocation of private wealth from Latin America to the US. Administrative managing partner Marta Colomar-Garcia is another key figure.
DLA Piper LLP (US)'s Miami office is playing an anchor role in the firm's recently developed and geographically expansive Latin America practice. The Miami team has experienced a significant uptick in engagements from Chinese and European multinationals, multilatinas and other Latin American entities, including family offices, and has developed an especially strong record in financial services and insurance, energy, natural resources, agribusiness, and hospitality and hotels. Much of the practice centres on M&A and project development. The firm's growing credentials in private equity have led to growth in financial sponsor investment engagments in Latin America; global co-chair of the corporate and private equity practice Joseph Alexander splits his time between the Dallas, Miami and New York offices. The Miami team has worked alongside colleagues in other offices to support clients on Argentine and Peru PPP projects, and has developed a healthy market share of Colombian 4G toll road project mandates. A team led by Miami partner Francisco Cerezo, the US head of Latin America corporate, advised QBE Insurance Group on the sale of its Latin America business to Zurich, making Zurich the leading insurer in Argentina and a top three player in Ecuador. He also advised Costa Rican cable operator, Cabletica, on its $250m sale of a controlling interest to Liberty Latin America; Televisora de Costa Rica has retained a 20% share in the cable operator. John Murphy is another pivotal member of the Latin America team and has a fine record in project development, project finance and M&A in the region. Of counsel Diego Figueroa-Rodriguez is noted for tax-driven financing structures, including capital markets offerings and project finance engagements. Partner Michael Silva is another tax specialist, with a fine record in US investment structures and FATCA issues for Latin American investors.
Greenberg Traurig LLP is a Miami giant with a substantial focus on Latin America. The departure of former firm vice president and Latin America leader Patricia Menéndez-Cambó (who joined Softbank as deputy general counsel in May 2019) and former Miami corporate co-chair Randy Bullard (who joined Morrison & Foerster LLP's new Miami office, along with three other partners in June 2019) has immediately resulted in a new dual-leadership of the Latin America practice; further renovation is expected. In the interim, the office nevertheless has 'a strong team that has paid attention to the Latin America region for a long time' and is frequently noted for its transactional record -particularly in Central America- where it advises a range of multilatinas and other corporate clients. The practice as a whole is gaining further market share in South America, including Argentina, Brazil and Chile. Compliance, FCPA issues and infrastructure projects also forms a major part of the Miami-based Latin America practice. It has strong connections to local law firms across Latin America and has an established office in Mexico City. A number of the Miami corporate partners are also New York licensed. Emilio Alvarez-Farré is a big name in the region, operating across the corporate and financing spheres; he recently advised Bio Pappel, the leading paper producer in Mexico on a $352m senior secured syndicated term loan facility. Robert Downing is noted for infrastructure and project development in Latin America, including matters connected to Mexico's energy reforms under the previous administration. Antonio Peña has a fine record in cross-border M&A and private equity transactions, including outbound investments from Latin America into the US.
GST LLP is a major player in international arbitration. Partners Ignacio Torterola, Diego Gosis and Quinn Smith are genuine Latin America specialists. The firm has represented Venezuela in a series of arbitrations over the years and also has a fine record acting for Venezuelan ministries and government-linked companies. The Republic of Ecuador is another client. It defended the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in a claim brought by Manuel Garcia Armas and other family members in relation to the expropriation of certain food distribution companies allegedly owned by the claimants.
Hogan Lovells US LLP has a substantial Miami operation that has a close association with Latin America. The Miami team has played an integral role in the development of the firm's standing in the region, where it has offices in Mexico and Brazil. Moreover, the Miami group has impressed in transactions in Venezuela and Ecuador, including financings involving Chinese and Asian lenders. In addition, it has a substantial team of arbitration specialists in Miami who are focused on Latin America. A Miami team advised PetroEcuador and the Ministry of Finance (Ecuador) on a $970m credit facility from a syndicate of banks including Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), The Export‐Import Bank of China and ChinaMinsheng Banking Corp; under the deal PetroEcuador has entered into a five‐year crude oil sale and purchase contract with PetroChina International to sell crude oil to PetroChina at market prices during the five‐year loan term. The Miami office also successfully acted for IBM México in an ICC arbitration connected to a multi‐billion dollar litigation pending before the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. The arbitration team also represented the Republic of Panama in three ICSID arbitrations and acted for Lidercón, the Spanish investor, in its claims against the Republic of Peru for breaches of the Spain–Peru Bilateral Investment Treaty. José Valdivia is co-chair of the Latin America practice alongside Houston-based Bruno Ciuffetelli; Valdivia has an excellent record in infrastructure and renewable energy development and finance in Latin America. Gaston Fernandez spent a number of years practising in China and now is a key figure in cross-border transactions involving Asia and Latin America, particularly financings involving Chinese banks and Asian multilateral agency lenders. Global head of international arbitration Daniel González and Miami managing-partner Richard Lorenzo are big name arbitration specialists with extensive experience in cases involving Latin America. Maria Ramirez is another rapidly emerging arbitration partner, while Juan Garcia is a key arbitration name at counsel level. Miguel Zaldivar has relocated to Hong Kong to become chief executive of the Asia Pacific Middle East region. Since publication, infrastructure, energy and projects specialist Jorge Diaz-Silveira has taken over from Lorenzo as Miami office managing partner, effective January 2020.
Holland & Knight LLP
Holland & Knight LLP's Miami headquarters is at the forefront of the firm's increasing focus on Latin America that has seen it launch offices in Mexico and Colombia in recent years. The Miami office has made significant inroads into M&A and FDI into Latin America, including a number of notable deals in the agribusiness sector; this includes a string of deals in Central and South America. Restaurant franchise work in Mexico and Central America has also been a niche specialisation of the practice. Moreover the Miami team has impressed in projects and infrastructure developments, including the 4G toll road programme in Colombia where Miami partner Norberto Quintana has made a particular impression. He led the team that advised SOTRAMAC on the financing for a public transportation project in Cartagena (Colombia), involving a bus fleet running on compressed natural gas. Former US Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Wilfredo Ferrer is chair of the global compliance and investigations team and has had a pivotal role in developing the firm's compliance and FCPA work in Latin America, alongside fellow Miami partner Emil Infante. George Mencio is another senior M&A specialist. Jose Sirven co-chairs the firm's financial services practice group and has a deep emphasis on Latin America, along with Andres Fernandez who is noted for anti-money laundering and OFAC issues, and for his leadership of the firm's Cuba action group. The prominent Roberto Pupo heads the firm's Latin America practice and has a fine record in M&A and corporate finance.
Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP is a leader in syndicated and bilateral loans, particularly to Brazilian borrowers. The Miami team is also making progress in other jurisdictions, especially Mexico where it advised Mizuho Bank and the joint lead arrangers and joint bookrunners on a $1.26bn syndicated revolving facility for Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE), Mexico's state-owned electricity utility. Clients include Banco Santander, Mizuho Bank, BNP Paribas, Citibank, Credit Agricole, JPMorgan Chase, Natixis and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation. Amy Dulin, Miami managing partner and co-head of the banking and finance practice, has an outstanding record in syndicated and bilteral lending in Brazil and is highly rated by the market. Co-chair of the Latin America practice Federico Goudie is noted for structured and trade finance, project finance, M&A and capital markets transactions. Ruben Diaz co-chairs the Latin America practice and has a fine record in corporate transactions, while Mark Denham provides further financing expertise, including aviation finance experience.
Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP runs a diversified Latin America practice from its Miami office and which is further enhanced by a wider team of regional specialists in Washington DC and Houston. Fernando Alonso, Fernando Margarit and Uriel Mendieta are almost entirely focused on Latin America, providing the firm with a healthy market share of banking and finance, corporate and M&A, and projects and energy deals. This core team is frequently recognised for its expertise in telecoms and cable systems infrastructure and financial institutions M&A. Recent mandates saw the team advise Promerica on its bid to acquire The Bank of Nova Scotia’s subsidiaries in El Salvador; and assist Mexco's Grupo Rotoplas with its joint venture and sale of affiliate Molding Acquisition Corp to Tank Holding Corp. With a healthy mix of Iberian, US and multilatina clients, its close connections to the region have brought a string of intra-regional M&A engagements. In addition to the core Latin America group, the Miami office is also active in litigation and arbitration in the region, along with a steady pipeline of real estate transactions. Additionally, having advised a number of Spanish sponsors on PPP transactions over the years, it continues to make an impression in project development and project finance in Latin America; and has also worked on a series of hotel financings and is an active counsel to Latin American developers that are targeting the Florida real estate market. Counsel Juan Azel is noted for regulatory and compliance matters, anti-money laundering and internal investigations, and OFAC issues.
Jones Day is steadily building its Miami presence with much of the practice focused on Latin America. The broadly focused Miami group has impressed in various areas, including corporate and M&A, banking and finance, litigation and investigations, international arbitration, and projects and energy. The Miami office is also growing its capabilities in capital markets, plays a key role in cross-border transactions from the US into Latin America and has seen an upsurge in private equity activity driven by Florida-based funds. It services a range of Latin American multinationals that now have their headquarters in Florida and continues to advise on intra-regional Latin American transactions that are under US or English law. Clients include international banks, multilateral agency lenders and development banks, and Spanish and Chinese developers. Through key finance partner Fradyn Suárez, the Miami office has a strong connection to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB); she recently led the team that advised Terminal Portuario Paracas, as concessionaire, and Servinoga, Pattac Empreendimentos e Participações and Tucumann Engenharia e Empreendimentos, as sponsors, on a $183m long term financing to fund the expansion of the port of Pisco in Peru. Enrique Martin is an experienced name in cross-border M&A, including transactions involving renewable energy assets, along with deals in the hotels and leisure sector and telecoms industry. Ricardo Puente is the key name on the international arbitration side, while Richard Puttré is a leader in renewable energy projects, most notably for Spanish sponsors; he led the team that advised Jinko Solar, as sponsor, and its project company, Solar Park Viborillas, on the development, construction and senior financing of Jinko’s 130MW photovoltaic solar power project to be constructed in Las Viborillas, Jalisco, Mexico.
K&L Gates' substantial Miami office that has a strong connection to Latin America. The Miami team has an imprssive track record in commercial transactions throughout th region. Fluent Spanish speaker Christopher Tillson has an established record on inbound and outbound Latin America transactions, often representing multinationals on their investments and commercial interests in Latin America, along with advising Latin American subsidiaries of global businesses in connection with their sales, distrubition and general commercial agreements. Clayton Parker provides further senior level gravitas.
Kennedys Miami office operates as a hub for its Latin America operations. Having established the office in 2010, it has built a flourishing practice for insurers and reinsurers that are focused on Latin America and the Caribbean. The practice has an established record in Brazil and Mexico, along with Peru, Chile, Colombia, Argentina, Ecuador and Guatemala. It advises a range of London and US-based insurers, including a growing contingent of Miami-based clients. The insurance practice ranges from financial lines, construction and engineering, product liability to real estate and compliance matters. The Miami office is especially active in financial lines, catastrophic losses (especially related to hurricanes), surety, cyber-related claims, regulatory and real estate issues. The Miami team features a number of Latin American natives and benefits from close connections to the region through offices in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru. Deputy head of the Latin America practice Anna Weiss specialises in construction and engineering matters and heads that side of the business for Latin America and the Caribbean. Head of the Latin America and Caribbean practice Alex Guillamont is noted for marine, financial lines, real estate, catastrophic losses and general insurance issues. The team has worked on catastrophic losses connected to the IRMA and MARIA hurricanes in the Caribbean and the El Niño Costero in Peru.
Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP is noted for sponsor-side project finance, tax and private wealth matters, and white collar and FCPA issues. The firm has also made an impression in Latin America M&A and private equity investments. The Miami office has achieved particular market recognition in toll road and PPP projects, notably in Honduras and the Dominican Republic, thanks in part to the presence of New York-licensed John Haley, who joined the firm as part of its merger with Broad and Cassel in August 2018. In tax and private wealth, Mauricio Rivero has a strong practice in inbound and outbound investments from and into Latin America. Representing a range of high net-worth individuals from El Salvador, Colombia, Chile and other Latin American jurisdictions, he frequently advises on trust structures and foundations for passing wealth to US-based beneficiaries. In white-collar crime and FCPA matters, of counsel Jon Sale is an experienced practitioner in cases that are linked to Latin America. Carlos Loumiet is another experienced figure in power, transport infrastructure and telecoms projects in Latin America, particularly in Central America, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic.
Reed Smith LLP
Having launched its arbitration-centric Miami office in 2017, Reed Smith LLP is making considerable headway thanks to the presence of big name partners José Astigarraga , Edward Mullins and Cristina Cárdenas , along with Eduardo De la Peña at counsel level, who is dual-licensed in Mexico and the US. Astigarraga, in particular, has an outstanding reputation in Latin America-related international arbitration, thanks to over 30 years of practice. The team has a fine record in commercial and investor-state arbitration, and covers a range of sectors, including telecoms, construction and infrastructure, and oil and gas.
Shutts & Bowen LLP
Shutts & Bowen LLP has beefed-up its emphasis on Latin America in recent years. With eight offices in Florida, it has close connections with neighbouring countries to the south and west. Over many years, it has helped a number of Latin American financial institutions to establish a presence in the US. This has also led to a flourishing private client and wealth planning practice for Latin American clients. Moreover, the firm has leveraged its sizeable real estate team to advise Latin American entities on their investments into the US. The firm has worked on a number of cross-border transactions between the US and Latin America, including those involving Latin American banks. Real estate and wealth planning are also fortes for the Miami team that has a further presence in energy sector international arbitration. Additionally, it has established a Cuba taskforce to help clients to navigate OFAC and Cuban government issues and has a burgeoning presence in the sports sector where it represents a number of MLB baseball players from the Dominican Republic and Venezuela. Chair of the Latin America practice Peter Lagonowicz leads on tax issues - particularly for private clients and family offices. Francis Rodriguez and Ricardo Souto are also noted for tax matters linked to Latin America, while Rafael Aguilar is an experienced figure in real estate investments by Latin American entities.
Stearns Weaver Miller Weissler Alhadeff & Sitterson PA
Stearns Weaver Miller Weissler Alhadeff & Sitterson PA is a Florida giant with a significant presence in Miami. It has a long history with Latin America, including in real estate, litigation and M&A matters. The firm has acted for a range of Latin American entities in cases before the US courts and has represented US corporates in disputes involving Latin American counterparties. Carlos Canino is a prominent litigator with extensive Latin America experience.
White & Case LLP has a highly prestigious team in Miami, which forms a central component in its esteemed Latin America practice. The Miami office has an immense record in acquisition, structured and project finance, with noted projects specialist Carlos Viana leading the firm's Latin America practice group. He and Washington DC project finance partner Victor DeSantis advised the lead banks on the $640m project financing to Techgen, for a natural gas-fired combined-cycle 900MW electric power plant in the Pesquería area of the state of Nuevo León, Mexico. Viana also led the team that advised Atlas Renewable Energy, the Latin America-focused renewable energy business, on its $114m long-term financing for two solar power projects in Uruguay. Christian Hansen is noted for aviation finance, while Jeannine Acevedo and newly-minted partner Thomas Pate divide their time between New York and Miami, focusing on power and infrastructure finance throughout Latin America. Miami capital markets partner Mark Bagnall has a number of key corporate issuer relationships in Latin America, including Brazilian clients such as Oi, which he advised on its recent $20bn debt restructuring. Miami counsel Anna Andreeva is also highly rated.