City focus - Miami in Latin America: International firms

For many years referred to as the Gateway to Latin America, Miami’s status as a legal centre has grown considerably in recent years. Lower tax rates and lower cost of living, coupled with an appealing climate and surroundings, has attracted a considerable number of New York licensed lawyers to Miami, along with many others from around the country. For those looking to service the Latin America region, it makes logical sense with shorter and direct flight links to most major capital cities and commercial centres in these states. Although the numbers of those flying in and out of Latin America during the Covid-19 pandemic has reduced enormously, Miami remains as a melting pot of Latin American cultures. Over 70% of the population is Hispanic and although the largest grouping remains Cuban, the percentage from the rest of Latin America is growing considerably. US firms with a substantial engagement in the region, or a specific Latin America practice, have long understood the benefits of a strategic base in Miami, with disputes specialist firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP the latest to launch an office there in May 2021. Equally noteowrthy, however, is the more recent phenomena that has seen certain local firms from across the region looking to maintain a commercial presence in the city - as in the case of Chilean firm, Carey, which opened a rep office in October 2021.

Akerman LLP

Akerman LLP has maintained a consistent pipeline of Latin America inbound and outbound transactional engagements, with Brazil and Chile being particular bright spots. The firm has also landed a number of engagements from Mexican entities looking to invest in the US; it largely inhabits the mid-market deal space. It has a leading Cuba practice, thanks to the presence of Pedro Freyre, the chair of the international practice; he and the team are defending clients in a series of cases under the Helms-Burton Act. Moreover, the firm has a growing presence in litigation and arbitration matters in Dominican Republic, Peru, Panama and Chile; chair of the Latin America and Caribbean practice Luis Perez is a key name on the dispute resolution side, and Francisco Rodriguez has also played a pivotal role in boosting the firm's reputation in Latin America-related arbitration. Otavio Carneiro is a leading name in Brazil inbound and outbound transactions, including investments in green field projects.

Practice head(s):

Pedro Freyre; Luis Perez

Baker McKenzie LLP

Baker McKenzie LLP has singled out Miami as its primary US hub for Latin America matters. In combination with is extensive network of offices in Latin America itself and across the US, the Miami team has made considerable strides forward in inbound and outbound investments, energy and infrastructure finance, corporate restructuring, capital markets offerings, and financial services regulatory matters. The firm is notably active in project financings in Colombia and Chile, including ESG-driven projects. Colombia capital markets offerings is another area of growth. In financial services regulation, the Miami team is noted for both inbound and outbound investments. It is also at the forefront of restructurings, including Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings in the aviation sector; Paul Keenan is key specialist in this space. John Murphy is an experienced Latin America specialist with an extensive record in M&A, capital markets and project financings. Rebecca Leon is a leader in financial services regulation with a strong focus on Latin America. Daniela Fonseca Puggina is noted for regulatory enforcement and investigations, and counsel Federico Cuadra Del Carmen is prominent in Latin America M&A.

Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP

Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP's Miami office is best known for dispute resolution, primarily international arbitration. Pedro Martinez-Fraga is a leading name in investor-state arbitrations and has represented a range of Latin American states, including 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. He has also represented investors in a series of cases against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and against the Republic of Colombia. Miami managing partner Ryan Reetz is also significantly focused on Latin America, handling a variety of litigation and arbitration proceedings, in cases involving Latin American entities, including sovereign states.

Practice head(s):

Ryan Reetz

Carlton Fields

Carlton Fields has an established record in Brazil-related matters, notably inbound and outbound investments and M&A transactions. Much of this centres on Latin American entrepreneurs and family-owned businesses, especially those with US interests. Argentina, Chile, Ecuador and Mexico are other key markets. The wider Latin America team has extensive experience in investment structuring, private client matters, real estate transactions, sanctions, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) investigations and white-collar crime issues. Robert Macaulay is a seasoned practitioner in Latin America-related transactions, especially those originating from Brazil; this includes acquisitions of US assets, capital markets offerings, and intra-regional acquisitions and disposals. Of counsel Andrew Markus is also experienced in Latin America transactions, particularly in representing international investors in inbound transactions and general corporate matters. Michael Pasano is a key figure in white-collar crime, sanctions and FCPA investigations.

Diaz Reus International Law Firm & Alliance

Diaz Reus International Law Firm & Alliance is primarily known for its work in corruption investigations and white-collar criminal proceedings, frequently representing public officials, business people, high-net-worth individuals, corporates and financial institutions in Latin America, most notably in Venezuela. More recently, the firm has gained additional traction in other Latin American jurisdictions such as Nicaragua. The firm is also active in the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctions matters and international arbitrations involving Latin American entities. Global managing partner Michael Diaz is a leading figure in corruption investigations into serving and former public officials, OFAC sanctions, and international arbitration. Robert Targ is a senior name in money laundering and other corruption cases, while Gary Davidson has a fine record in disputes involving Latin American individuals and businesses. Marta Colomar-Garcia is also a key name.

Practice head(s):

Michael Diaz; Gary Davidson; Marta Colomar-Garcia

Key clients

DRI Mortgage and DRI Capital Fund

Ruben Idler

Rosita Gomar

TCB Advisors

Amir Nassar

Hector Nuñez

Edoardo Orsoni

Rafael Cedeno

Chris Barkovic

Peter Karam

Fabio Tordin

Construcciones Monserca

Disargen

Nodus International Bank

Work highlights

  • Represented Amir Nassar, a Venezuelan attorney representing Alex Saab, a well-known strawman for President Maduro and his wife, the First Lady of Venezuela, in a billion-dollar money laundering investigation.
  • Represented defendant Ruben Idler in contract disputes involving Venezuelan entities.
  • Represented Rosita Gomar and her Guatemalan company, Shalico Financial and Commercial in a petition seeking judicial assistance from the US courts to obtain Shalico’s financial information from a US bank, Banco Santander International.

DLA Piper LLP (US)

DLA Piper LLP (US)‘s Miami office has an excellent standing in Latin America M&A, thanks to the presence of key partner Francisco Cerezo, who is co-chair of the Latin America corporate and finance practice. He and the team have an impressive international corporate and private equity client base, which has led to headline engagements such as representing Quanta Services and ATCO in their new joint venture LUMA Energy as winning bidder in the $1.6bn public-private partnership transaction to operate and maintain the transmission and distribution assets of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA). The broader Miami office is active in a range of Latin America disputes, including breach of contract cases.

Practice head(s):

Francisco Cerezo

Key clients

Luma Energy

Putney Capital Management

EGE Haina

Paulo Mendonca

Inicia Group

YPF

Osvaldo and Santiago Godfrid

Work highlights

  • Represented Quanta Services and ATCO in their new joint venture, LUMA Energy, as winning bidder in the $1.6bn public-private partnership to operate and maintain the transmission and distribution assets of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA).
  • Achieved a significant victory in the Pennsylvania Superior Court on behalf of Inicia, a Dominican asset-management company, in a case concerning allegations of harm caused to workers on sugar plantations allegedly controlled by Inicia subsidiaries.
  • Represented Putney Capital Management and the other defendants in a breach of contract dispute against Ikana Holdings currently pending in the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court in the High Court of Justice in the British Virgin Islands.

Greenberg Traurig LLP

Greenberg Traurig LLP's Miami office, the firm's headquarters, has longstanding links to Latin America. While the senior Latin America team has undergone some changes in recent years, this has not detracted from the firm's performance with a refreshed leadership group earning due recognition. This includes leveraging existing internal expertise, including a prominence in SPAC-driven transactions and private placements, and utilising financial regulatory specialism to target Latin American asset managers making investments into the US. Mexico and Central America have been key regions for the firm over the years, though it is also building a flourishing practice in South America. The Miami office also provides an almost unrivalled range of services and specialisms to the Latin America market.  Yosbel Ibarra is co-managing shareholder of the Miami office and has a tremendous reputation in Latin America M&A and corporate transactions. Antonio Peña is another key M&A specialist in Miami, with a fine record in transactions across the region. Giovanni Biscardi is a prominent name in cross-border Brazil transactions and mining deals across the region.  Benjamin Greenberg is making an impression in the white-collar crime, investigations and compliance segments and is a key member of the Latin America practice. Robert Downing is an experienced figure in power and renewables projects across Latin America. Ozzie Schindler is noted for tax planning for Latin American high net-worth clients. The Miami office also hired trial litigator Joseph Mamounas, a Latin America-focused international litigation and arbitration specialist Holland & Knight LLP in April 2021.

GST LLP

GST LLP is a Miami-based firm with an intense focus on international arbitration, in particular investor-state and public international law disputes involving Latin American nations. While the firm's practice covers a range of geographies around the world, Latin America remains its true forte, and it continues to be noted for its representation of sovereign states and investors in major headline cases. This includes acting for the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and its state-owned oil and gas entity Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) in a number of disputes. Diego Gosis, Quinn Smith and Ignacio Torterola comprise a senior bench of genuine Latin America arbitration specialists.

Practice head(s):

Diego Gosis; Quinn Smith; Ignacio Torterola

Hogan Lovells US LLP

Hogan Lovells US LLP's Miami office has an outstanding reputation for energy, infrastructure and mining projects in Ecuador, Central America, Colombia and Peru. The office also houses a number of Latin America-facing international arbitration specialists. Jorge Diaz-Silveira is Americas head of infrastructure, energy, resources and projects and has an excellent record in Central America renewable energy projects, recently advising Generadora San Andrés and Generadora San Mateo on  the development, construction and financing of two hydroelectric projects in Guatemala, and representing Santos y Compañía in the development of photovoltaic solar projects in Honduras. In the infrastructure space, the office has made a further impression in metro projects. Daniel González, Maria Eugenia Ramirez and Richard Lorenzo, regional managing partner for the Americas, are leaders in international arbitration, including numerous cases involving Latin American entities; this includes investment treaty cases and energy and infrastructure-related disputes. José Valdivia is another seasoned figure in energy and infrastructure projects, along with emerging talent Gaston Fernandez, who is also noted for Latin America project financings and other transactions involving Asian entities.  Rafael Ribeiro is making a further impression in anti-corruption investigations in Latin America.

Holland & Knight LLP

Holland & Knight LLP has long history with Latin America and continues to devote much of its Miami team to matters in the region. The Miami office has an impressive record in cross-border M&A and Latin America financings. International arbitration, compliance and investigations, and financial services regulatory matters are also fortes for the Latin America group. Chair of the firm's Latin America group Roberto Pupo is based in Miami and continues to advise on numerous headline deals in the region. Alberto Hernandez and George Mencio are also recognised Latin America M&A specialists, while Danielle Price provides additional expertise in the private equity and asset management sector. In financings, Norberto Quintana splits his time between Miami and New York, and continues to be active in corporate lending, structured financings and project financings throughout Latin America; this includes project bonds and private placement transactions, along with ESG-related financings. Wilfredo Ferrer leads the global compliance and investigations team, and is experienced in Latin America matters. Andres Fernandez is key on financial services regulatory matters and leads the Cuba team. Jose Sirven is an experienced practitioner covering a range of corporate and financing transactions, while Adolfo Jiménez is the key name for international arbitration.

Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP

Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP stands out for its strength in Brazil financings, particularly in the bilateral and syndicated finance segment. The Miami office is also at the forefront of Latin America aviation finance, restructurings and structured financings. Moreover, it has a burgeoning presence M&A and corporate transactions in the region. Led by Federico Goudie, co-chair of the Latin America team, the firm has represented the Republic of Paraguay on a range of matters over the years, including infrastructure projects and sovereign bond issuances; he led the team that represented the sovereign state in its emergency bond issuance to raise funds to address the Covid crisis. Co-chair of the Latin America group, Ruben Diaz is a seasoned figure in corporate transactions and Mark Denham is a leading name in aviation finance. Amy Dulin has an outstanding reputation in bank lending, especially syndicated loans in Brazil and across Latin America. Luis O’Naghten is noted for international arbitrations involving Latin American entities.

Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP

Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP‘s Miami office has served the Latin America region for decades, notably representing a number of international and regional banks, multilateral lenders, international investors and regional multilatinas. The Miami team is recognised for its roles in major financings, financial institutions M&A, and infrastructure projects (including cable and fibre-optic lines). Fernando Alonso is chairman of the Latin America and Iberian practice group and is a versatile and senior name in a variety of transactions, including M&A, banking and finance, capital markets and projects and energy. Fernando Margarit is a market leader in subsea fibre-optic cable systems, including those involving Latin America. Gustavo Membiela is a prominent name in cross-border disputes, arbitration, investigations and US-Cuba sanctions. Uriel Mendieta is another notable figure in cross-border M&A and financings. Real estate specialist Jonathan Kurry has joined Reed Smith LLP.

Practice head(s):

Juan Enjamio

Key clients

Banco de Sabadell

Diageo

Checkers Drive-In Restaurants

HIG Capital

Banco Santander International

Banco Santander

Banco de la Producción

Corporación Interamericana para el Financimiento de Infraestructura

Inter-American Investment Corporation (IDB Invest)

Banco Promerica

Work highlights

  • Successfully represented Diageo in Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal, overturning a $4.6m  jury verdict relating to Diageo’s termination of its contract with United Brands, its former reseller in the Dominican Republic.
  • Represented Santander Consumer International Puerto Rico (SCIPR) against Antilles Insurance Company and Zurich American Insurance Company (Zurich) in Dallas state court for their failure to indemnify SCIPR for over $5m in business interruption and extra expense losses it incurred as a result of Hurricane Maria.
  • Representing the client, as borrower, in connection with multiple loans to finance Eligible SME Sub-loans to Eligible Sub-borrowers in Latin America.

Jones Day

Jones Day's Miami office has an established record in Latin America M&A and private equity, project finance, and white-collar crime and investigations. It represents a wide range of multinational corporates, lenders and investors in their Latin America interests. Renewable energy is a real forte for the Miami team, with Richard Puttré, who is global head of projects and infrastructure and head of the Latin America transactions team, notably a leading figure in solar and wind power projects, while Enrique Martin and Nicholas Rodríguez are noted for energy sector M&A (including conventional power, renewables and oil and gas) along with transactions in a variety of other sectors; Martin led the team that advised Otras Producciones de Energía Photovoltaica on the sale of 80% of its equity interests in two photovoltaic power plants, and associated electrical substations and interconnection lines, located in Aguascalientes (34.2MW) and Coahuila (82.5MW) to Riverstone Holdings. Fradyn Suárez is another key name in Latin America banking and finance, including project finance, general lending and refinancings. Cristina Pérez Soto is noted for cross-border investigations, litigation and international arbitration involving Latin America. Ricardo Puente is rated for cross-border investigations and litigations involving the Helms-Burton Act (Cuba sanctions).

Practice head(s):

Richard Puttré

K&L Gates

K&L Gates has an established Latin America practice reinforced by its Miami presence, where partner Christopher Tillson is a fluent Spanish speaker and proficient in Portuguese. Having focused his practice on Latin America for many years, he has extensive experience in cross-border transactions and investments involving the region.

Kennedys

Kennedys' fast expanding Latin America practice has its regional hub in Miami, where it is leading the insurance and reinsurance market. The Miami office has been in existence since 2010 and expanded further in 2021 with the hire of Susana Martínez from AXA XL; she has joined as head of financial lines and cyber for the Latin America and Caribbean region. This builds on the office's pre-existing expertise in these areas along with directors' and officers' (D&O) liability insurance, construction and engineering insurance, broker negligence, compliance and regulatory work. Naturally well plugged into the London market, the Miami office represents a range of international reinsurers that have a presence in the city, along with a number of syndicates. Anna Weiss is regional managing partner for Latin America and the Caribbean, and is a prominent figure in the construction and engineering segment, notably representing insurers and reinsurers on claims and coverage issues, especially CAR/EAR, hurricane damage and property losses. Alex Guillamont is head of Latin America and the Caribbean, and has a broad-based practice for insurers and reinsurers including hurricane-related losses, cyber claims and political and trade risks.

Practice head(s):

Alex Guillamont

Kobre & Kim

Kobre & Kim's Miami office has a fine reputation in white-collar crime and investigations, the team there frequently working alongside colleagues in Sao Paulo and elsewhere. The group is noted for representing senior executives and public officials involved in cross-border investigations and government enforcement actions. Brazil and Venezuela are two jurisdictions of particular emphasis. Evelyn Sheehan previously served as a prosecutor at the Department of Justice as an assistant US Attorney in the Southern District of Florida; alongside fellow Miami partner Andrew Lourie, she recently defended an international consultant in the Latin American oil and gas industry in connection with an investigation by the US Department of Justice into FCPA and money laundering violations. Adriana Riviere-Badell is another senior litigator, who has extensive experience in cross-border investigations involving Latin America.

McDermott Will & Emery LLP

McDermott Will & Emery LLP 's long ties to Latin America have been significantly tightened in recent years, including with a series of important lateral hires in Miami. Private client and international tax engagements are central to the Latin America-focused group in Miami, with Michael Silva and a team joining from DLA Piper LLP (US) in 2020; Silva has a particular focus on Brazil and the wider Latin America region. The group works with a range of high-net-worth individuals and family offices in the region, particularly those that are looking to diversify their wealth by investing in the US. This often involves creating private equity and real estate funds for deploying capital in the US. Real estate investments and pre-immigration planning is a particular forte for the team. Steven Hadjilogiou is another key international tax specialist.

Practice head(s):

Michael Silva

Work highlights

  • Advised a real estate developer of waterfront condominiums in Miami, on a series of transactional matters.

Morrison & Foerster

Morrison & Foerster has made a notable impact in M&A, private equity and venture capital. The Miami team is closely connected to SoftBank Group, including its SoftBank Vision Fund II and SoftBank Latin America Fund, bringing it a series of important engagements, particularly venture capital financings to businesses around Latin America. The Miami partners are former colleagues of Patricia Menendez Cambo, the current general counsel at SoftBank Latin America Fund. Senior name Randy Bullard co-chairs the Latin America group from Miami, where Alexandra Aguirre and Juan Delgado provide further senior-level expertise. Along with a series of deals for SoftBank, the group also advised PetLove, the Brazilian pet products online retailer, on its merger with DogHero, another Brazilian pet services company.

Practice head(s):

Randy Bullard

Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP

Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP has made further progress in the growth company and venture capital segment, particularly in Brazil. Jackson Hwu co-chairs the Latin America group, and frequently advises emerging Brazilian companies on transactions ranging from series A financing rounds through to M&A deals; in this segment he is supported by partners Leandro Molina and Caio Prado. The group is also active in fund formation for Brazilian clients, including for those looking to invest in US-based assets. The wider team has also seen growth in M&A and venture financings in Argentina and Mexico. In the projects and infrastructure space, John Haley and Carlos Loumiet have extensive experience in deals across the region, including PPP projects and capital markets-driven financings.

Practice head(s):

John Haley; Jackson Hwu

Work highlights

Polsinelli PC

Polsinelli PC established a Latin America practice in 2020 with the hire of Emil Infante from Holland & Knight LLP. Infante has deep connections to family businesses right across Latin America and has a varied practice ranging from outbound investments into US-based franchises, to anti-corruption and FCPA engagements, OFAC and sanctions matters, and joint-venture disputes. The central Latin America team in Miami has leveraged expertise from offices across the US, including tax, intellectual property and healthcare specialists. Infante has worked on a series of corruption-related matters involving financial institutions in Central America.

Practice head(s):

Emil Infante

Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP

Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP launched a Miami office in 2021, establishing an especially prominent international arbitration practice there. David Orta is chair of the Latin America international arbitration practice and has transferred to Miami from Washington DC. Orta is particularly noted for representing claimants in investor-state arbitrations against Latin American nations. He also frequently advises Latin American entities in commercial arbitrations.

Practice head(s):

David Orta

Reed Smith LLP

Reed Smith LLP has gradually cemented its presence in Miami, since the office's launch in 2017. Much of the office's work relates to Latin America, particularly in the litigation and arbitration fields. Having recruited Brazil licensed Felipe Berer in 2020 to deepen the firm's connection to Brazil, particularly in litigation and restructurings, the firm then hired real estate specialist Jonathan Kurry from Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP in February 2021; Kurry has an established record in representing Latin American clients in South Florida real estate developments and transactions. At the heart of the Miami office is a thriving international arbitration practice driven by senior name José Astigarraga and partner Cristina Cárdenas, along with counsel Eduardo De la Peña. The office is also working closely with London on Brazilian maritime and shipping matters.

Shutts & Bowen LLP

Florida giant Shutts & Bowen LLP saw additional growth in its Latin America practice during 2020, with further investment coming into the US, particularly from Mexico and Colombia. The Miami team represents a variety of private and institutional clients, including investment funds that target the South Florida region. Moreover, it also advises Florida-based funds that are focused on Latin America itself. Much of the practice centres around pre-immigration tax planning and real estate investments, while the firm maintains an active Cuba desk, and continues to advise Major League Baseball players from Venezuela and the Dominican Republic. Tax specialist Peter Lagonowicz leads the Latin America group, and has an extensive record in representing private clients, family offices and funds from Latin America in their US investments, including real estate transactions. Ricardo SoutoLogan Gans and Francis Rodriguez are also noted for Latin America-related tax planning, structuring and compliance matters, while Roland GallorFlorentino Gonzalez and Rafael Aguilar are recognised for real estate investments in the US by Latin American clients.

Practice head(s):

Peter Lagonowicz  

Stearns Weaver Miller Weissler Alhadeff & Sitterson PA

Stearns Weaver Miller Weissler Alhadeff & Sitterson PA has further cemented its status in Latin America-related engagements. Much of its practice centres on pre-immigration and tax issues for Latin American family businesses and corporates looking to establish bases in South Florida, or to move their wealth through investments in Florida real estate and other transactions. Bolivia, Guatemala, Mexico and Brazil are key focus jurisdictions for outbound investments into the US. Gustavo Oliveira specialises in cross-border tax and estate planning for high-net-worth families and individuals; he speaks Portuguese and Spanish, and has particularly strong connections to Brazil. Carlos Canino leads the Latin America group and has extensive experience in litigation and arbitration involving Latin American parties.

Practice head(s):

Carlos Canino

White & Case LLP

White & Case LLP is an absolute giant of the Miami market with deep and extensive connections to Latin America. Much of the Miami-based Latin America team's focus is on financings, ranging from project finance through to aviation finance. Moreover, the group has an established record in Latin America restructurings, and white-collar crime and investigations. International arbitration is another area of growth for the office with Silvia Marchili splitting her time between Houston and Miami; she frequently represents claimants in investment arbitrations against Latin American states and state entities; this includes being part of the team that represented Red Eagle Mining in an ICSID arbitration against Colombia under the Canada-Colombia bilateral investment treaty. In white-collar crime and investigations, a Miami team featuring Michael Garcia and Maria Beguiristain have an excellent standing in FCPA violations and accounting fraud, notably in Brazil, Ecuador and Central America. In the finance segment, Carlos Viana (head of the Latin America team), Sean Goldstein, Jeannine Acevedo and Anna Andreeva comprise an outstanding team, particularly in energy and infrastructure finance, while Christian Hansen is a leader in aviation finance. Richard Kebrdle is a prominent figure in Latin America restructurings, and Fernando de la Hoz covers a range of M&A, project finance and capital markets transactions, notably in the metals and mining segment. Victor Mendoza is an experienced name in capital markets and debt financings. Former capital markets partner Mark Bagnall has retired.

Practice head(s):

Carlos Viana