Compliance and investigations in Latin America: International firms
Debevoise & Plimpton LLP's prominence in Latin America compliance and investigations stems in large part from its roles in cases linked to Operação Lava Jato (operation car wash) in Brazil. With the scandal reverberating into other jurisdictions, the firm is now active in a broader range of geographies, notably Mexico and Argentina. Moreover, the practice now ranges across a number of segments, including anti-corruption, FCPA and white-collar crime investigations, anti-money laundering and the compliance aspects of M&A and other transactions. Much credit should go to Andrew Levine, who has committed much of his time to representing Latin American corporates and individuals. David O’Neil, a former senior figure at the US Department of Justice, and Bruce Yannett, chair of the white-collar and regulatory defence practice group are also senior names with plenty of Latin America experience. Kara Brockmeyer, is a former chief of the SEC enforcement division’s FCPA unit, and is another key player in Latin America matters.
‘Very practical, straightforward and business-oriented.‘
‘Multidisciplinary and multi-jurisdictional team of highly experienced specialists. Appropriately commercial and sensitive to deal dynamics. Client friendly analysis and deliverables. Inspires trust.‘
‘What I particularly appreciate when working with Debevoise is the incredibly good communication and good team spirit, along with the partners’ encyclopedic knowledge and massive experience.‘
‘Andrew Levine is a superstar. He has a wealth of experience and is passionate about his area of practice. He is extremely articulate and maintains a calm demeanor in trying circumstances. He has an amazing analytical ability.‘
‘Andrew Levine managed a team through a difficult due diligence process. He was able to look around corners and anticipate additional issues, and present solutions to address them.‘
- Acted for Marcelo Odebrecht and Emilio Odebrecht, owners of the Brazilian construction company, in US investigations related to the Lava Jato investigations in Brazil.
- Represented Keppel Offshore & Marine in an internal investigation and coordinated resolutions with the US, Brazilian, and Singaporean criminal authorities in relation to corrupt payments to functionaries of Petrobras and other Brazilian officials.
- Acted for Rolls-Royce in an internal investigation and coordinated resolutions with the investigative authorities of the UK, US and Brazil in relation to bribery and corruption involving intermediaries in a number of overseas markets.
Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher
Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher's global prominence in white-collar defence, compliance and investigations has given it a considerable market share of big-ticket engagements in Latin America. In this regard, it has leveraged its Sao Paulo office to great effect, where head of the office Lisa Alfaro, a corporate and M&A specialist, works alongside US colleagues on major investigations and compliance programs; this includes previously acting for Petrobras in its FCPA settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Department of Justice (DOJ) in the US back in 2018. The firm's ability in this area is enhanced by a large team of former federal prosecutors and SEC attorneys. The department is seeing additional growth in standalone engagements in FCPA and white-collar diligence for M&A transactions. Washington DC's Joseph Warin is co-chair of the firm’s global white-collar defence and investigations practice and has extensive experience in Latin America. Los Angeles partner Michael Farhang is a former federal prosecutor who has dedicated much of his practice to Latin America investigations and M&A due diligence.
Kaleil Isaza Tuzman
Petróleo Brasileiro (Petrobras)
- Acted for Crystallex International, a Canadian gold mining company that holds a $1.4bn plus interest judgment against the Republic of Venezuela related to the expropriation of its assets in the country; it successfully defended that judgment on appeal to the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit.
- Represented Kaleil Isaza Tuzman, the former CEO of a KIT Digital, in accounting fraud and market manipulation proceedings; he was arrested at the request of US authorities while on a business trip in Colombia.
Miller & Chevalier Chartered
Miller & Chevalier Chartered is noted for both compliance and investigations matters in Latin America. The Washington DC-based firm has an extensive record in representing both corporates and individuals before the DOJ, SEC and other authorities. Also noted for its expertise and experience in FCPA investigations and OFAC violations, it is particularly recognised for its work in bribery and corruption investigations, including improper payments to public officials. In a case in point, the team acted for the Audit Committee of Ecopetrol in an investigation into allegations of improper payments to government officials and corruption related to the construction of the Reficar petroleum refinery. 2019 also saw it serve as US-approved compliance monitor in two separate FCPA enforcement settlements involving the region. The firm represents both major Latin American businesses and multinationals that have operations in the region; it is particularly strong in the oil and gas, mining, and medical-device sectors. The firm has landed major roles in connection with the Lava Jato scandal, matters relating to Mexico’s energy reforms, and a series of Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA)-related investigations. Matteson Ellis is hugely prominent and leads the Latin America practice.; he is highly rated for FCPA investigations in major economies such as Brazil, Colombia and Mexico. Native Spanish-speaker Alejandra Montenegro Almonte is another key figure in Latin America matters, covering a range regulatory compliance, internal investigations, and government enforcement-action matters. Chair of the international department James Tillen is also experienced in Latin America investigations, particularly in Brazil.
- Retained by the Audit Committee of Colombia’ national oil and gas company, Ecopetrol, to conduct an internal investigation into allegations by Colombian prosecutors of approximately $4bn in cost overruns relating to the construction of a refinery by one of its subsidiaries.
Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton
Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton's market leading Latin America practice has provided an extremely solid platform for its enforcement, investigations and compliance team to make headway in the region; among the group are a number of former federal prosecutors, including two former Acting US Attorneys for the Southern District of New York and several former senior officials of the SEC. With an especially strong record in Brazil, it is increasingly active in anti-corruption investigations and compliance programmes right across Latin America. Moreover, the team frequently plays a pivotal role in due diligence processes in M&A and other transactions. Lisa Vicens, Jonathan Kolodner and Breon Peace are key partners. The department also features compliance and investigations specialists at associate level in Sao Paulo and Buenos Aires.
‘Impressive cohesion and ability of the team to capture the essence of the issues, so as to provide top notch and creative solutions. They quickly understand and speak the language of the business in a transparent and dynamic fashion.‘
‘All the individuals in the team are outstanding. The quality of the work is always exceptional.‘
‘Jonathan Kolodner delivers work that is a standard of perfection. He is highly responsive and gives technical and precise inputs, ironing out complex matters in an easy way. It is fantastic and a great pleasure to work with him.‘
‘Jonathan Kolodner has a strong skill that helps to unite the team, creating a positive environment and a sense of integrity. His work is clearly flawless and, in my view, he is a golden asset for the firm.‘
‘Jonathan Kolodner and Lisa Vicens are top-level professionals, but what is really remarkable is their capacity to keep calm without generating false expectations on the one hand, or terror on the other.‘
‘Lisa Vicens was always available and easy to reach. She was firm, but also very constructive in helping finding ways to solve the issues.’
Special Committee of Board of Directors of GOL
M Dias Branco
Petróleo Brasileiro (Petrobras)
- Represented the Special Committee of the Board of Directors of discount airline GOL Linhas Aereas Inteligentes, in connection with investigations by Brazilian and US authorities of alleged bribe payments to senior Brazilian officials arising out of Brazil’s Lava Jato anti-bribery scandal.
- Completed an internal investigation on behalf of Brazil’s national development bank, BNDES, into allegations of corruption in connection with a major Brazilian bribery investigation, Operation Bullish, concerning BNDES’s extension of financing to certain companies related to the Brazilian conglomerate J&F Investimentos.
- Counsel to HSBC in ongoing investigations concerning FX markets in Mexico, Brazil and Argentina.
- Counsel to Citigroup in investigations and regulatory matters concerning the global FX market, including in Brazil.
Covington & Burling LLP
Covington & Burling LLP's lengthy involvement in Latin America led it to create an anti-corruption, investigations and enforcement practice in the region even as it built its US capability. Today it has one of the deepest benches of recent, senior, federal criminal enforcement officials at a law firm, and has amassed experience handling corporate investigations and compliance matters in Argentina, Brazil Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico and Venezuela. The flourishing practice is particularly noted for fraud investigations and FCPA enforcement engagements. Firm vice chair and former Assistant Attorney General of the DOJ's criminal division, Lanny Breuer, advises on financial fraud, anti-corruption, money laundering and securities enforcement matters, along with other criminal and civil investigations involving regulatory, political, and public relations risks; he has advised global companies in high-profile investigations in Brazil and Colombia among other countries in the region. Experienced in white-collar criminal defence, complex litigation, and arbitration, as well as advising on anti-corruption compliance, the 2018-hire of Veronica Yepez (as of counsel), has significantly increased the practice's regional profile; in addition to FCPA matters, she also counsels on AML/CTF compliance. Head of the firm's global anti-corruption practice, Donald J Ridings Jr, has enormous experience in internal investigations, including in the Latin American region.
The Miami-headquartered Diaz Reus International Law Firm & Alliance is highly rated for white-collar crime, financial fraud and FCPA investigations, and is particularly noted for its experience in money-laundering and OFAC violation investigations. The firm frequently acts for foreign governments, state-owned enterprises and public officials. It also routinely helps clients avoid criminal indictments and has a history of negotiating with US law enforcement agencies; this includes pre-indictment resolution strategies in criminal investigations by the US Attorney’s Office in Miami, New York and Houston, and the US Department of Justice and its law enforcement agencies. Global managing partner Michael Diaz is a prominent name in the sector, as is Robert Targ. Of counsel Juan Vargas and administrative managing partner Marta Colomar-Garcia are also notable names. All are based in Miami.
‘They are extremely professional, they have the complete understanding about the legal procedures and the best routes to be followed to achieve the appropriate solution to the demands.‘
‘Their performance is excellent. Their strength is in their attorneys’ knowledge, professionalism and the administrative staff.‘
‘Michael Diaz, Robert Targ and Juan Varga are highly trained and experienced lawyers, with an exceptional analytical ability. They go directly to the important points, have great bargaining power, and thorough knowledge of the laws and the paths to be followed to find the solution to the problem.‘
‘Michael Diaz, like the rest of his team, is extremely fair, human, identifies with the client’s situation, and works hard without limits to achieve convincing results in the cases.‘
Alvaro Saenz (Unimark)
Cerveceria Centro Americana
- Defended a client against money laundering and OFAC charges related to gold smuggling from Venezuela.
- Represented a client concerning a multi-jurisdictional money laundering investigation led by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the US Attorney’s office in New Jersey.
- Acted for Guatemala-based beverage company Cerveceria Castillo in matters related to possible violations of OFAC sanctions.
Jones Day's extensive Latin America footprint and deep Latin America-facing resources in the US, provide the basis for an outstanding investigations and white-collar defence practice. Team members include a number of native Spanish and Portuguese speakers. It has developed an impressive record in bribery and corruption investigations, including FCPA and SEC investigations, representing both corporates ad individuals; it has a particularly strong record on behalf of US and Europe-based multinationals facing investigations involving their Latin American operations. New York partner Eric Snyder is an experienced figure in FCPA investigations and previously acted for a US energy company in connection with an alleged bribery payment to a senior Petrobras official as part of the Lava Jato investigation in Brazil. San Diego's Karen Hewitt is also noted for multi-jurisdictional FCPA investigations and FCPA due diligence in relation to projects and transactions.
- Represented Mr Marcos Eduardo Elias before the SDNY Federal Court, concerning FCPA investigagtions.
Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP
Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP is highly rated for big-ticket corruption investigations, including the headline allegations of corruption against Brazilian construction giant, Odebrecht. Juan Morillo is co-chair of the white collar and corporate investigations practice in Washington DC, a fluent Spanish speaker who has represented major Latin American businesses and individuals in significant criminal investigations. William Burck is co-managing partner of the Washington DC office and co-chair of the investigations, government enforcement and white collar criminal defence practice; he previously acted for Odebrecht in its settlement with US, Brazilian and Swiss agencies.
Ropes & Gray LLP's anti-corruption and international risk team handles a steady pipeline of matters emanating from Latin America. It has worked on 460 anti-corruption matters ranging from due diligence reviews, compliance and sanctions counselling, to internal investigations and regulatory inquiries. It is active throughout Latin America, including Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Chile and Colombia. The firm is making a particular impression in compliance monitor engagements. Chicago partner Nicholas Berg specialises in anti-corruption investigations. He co-chairs the Latin America practice with María González Calvet, who has a successful record in FCPA investigations and previously served as executive counsel for global investigations at General Electric. Colleen Conry is also well regarded for Latin America investigations and enforcement actions, along with Boston partner James Dowden, Alexandre Rene and Chicago's Ryan Rohlfsen. Boston associate Daniela Manrique Escobar is also recommended by clients. Named individuals are based in Washington DC unless stated otherwise.
‘All of the lawyers at Ropes are top in their expertise. Together they are a great team, seamless and very pleasant to work with. They are always available at all times.‘
‘What makes them unique is that they have had the chance to really get to know the Brazilian anti-corruption environment. They also have Portuguese speakers and that makes a lot of difference when you are performing activities in Brazil.‘
‘They are 24/7 connected and always willing to assist with a robust and easy to digest legal position. They are really business oriented, not the sort of firm that only creates obstacles to your business.‘
‘María González Calvet brings her excellent linguistic skills and combines them with her experience in-house and at the DOJ to advise her clients expertly on anti-corruption matters in Latin America.‘
‘Daniela Manrique Escobar is extremely responsive, knowledgeable and easy to work with.‘
Vinson & Elkins LLP has gained significantly greater prominence in this segment through a series of lateral hires. Palmina Fava joined from Paul Hastings LLP in September 2019, bringing weighty experience in Latin America investigations, including FCPA, anti-corruption, anti-money laundering and anti-bribery matters, particularly in the technology sector. Washington DC-based Ephraim Wernick joined the firm in June 2019 having spent 11 years as a federal prosecutor - most recently as Assistant Chief of the DOJ’s criminal fraud section; he has notable experience in the financial services segment and is pivotal to the firm's aspirations in Latin America anti-corruption work. The firm has strong links to Mexico, although these new hires bring it much broader geographic credibility. San Francisco partner Matthew Jacobs is co-head of the firm’s government investigations and white collar criminal defence practice group and is also active in Latin America investigations.
- Represented a state-owned oil company in Latin America in an investigation into the acquisition and development of an alternative energy facility.
White & Case LLP's Miami office has a strong focus on Latin America, including conducting internal investigations and securities enforcement defence matters for businesses in the region. It is best known for representing Brazilian and Mexican businesses, in part thanks to the firm's sizeable presence in both jurisdictions. The firm's Latin America fraud and corporate investigations practice features four native Spanish speaking partners and a number of team members are proficient in Portuguese. The group advised Brazilian meat and protein giant, JBS, with the implementation of its global compliance programme; this relates to a leniency agreement executed by JBS's parent company following a corruption investigation involving the former president of Brazil. Michael Garcia has a principal focus on Latin America, notably regarding FCPA, financial reporting, accounting and disclosure matters. Maria Beguiristain is well regarded for anti-corruption compliance in Latin America; while New York's Virginia Chavez Romano is noted for fraud-related matters, in particular, government investigations and enforcement proceedings. Enrique Espejel is a key name in Mexico City. Named partners are based in Miami unless stated otherwise.
Greenberg Traurig LLP significantly enhanced its white-collar defence and special investigations practice with the hire of Daniel Pulecio-Boek, as a partner, from Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP in January 2020. He represents a range of high-net worth individuals and families, senior executives, government officials and multinationals in white-collar matters in Latin America. This includes representing Erick Archila-Dehesa, the owner of Guatemalan conglomerate Grupo A and the former Minister of Mines and Energy of Guatemala, in connection with a money laundering prosecution by the Guatemalan government.
‘The level of teamwork is exceptional, they have very good coordination between their different departments. Even senior partners handle small clients with the same dedication and care as if they were a large client.‘
‘Daniel Pulecio-Boek is an excellent lawyer with a lot of experience in Latin America.‘
Erick E Archila-Dehesa
- Represented the owner of one of Guatemala’s largest media conglomerates in connection with a money laundering prosecution by the Guatemalan government, one of largest, high-profile criminal prosecutions launched by the Guatemalan government in recent history.
- Advised Walmart in relation to FCPA and corruption-related allegations.
Hogan Lovells US LLP's deep regulatory credentials, coupled with its extensive commitment to Latin America, has seen it land a series of headline engagements in the region. The firm has been closely associated with the Lavo Jato criminal investigation, including FCPA investigations involving Centrais Electricas Brasileiras (Eletrobrás) and Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex). Rafael Ribeiro in Miami and Washington DC's Peter Spivack are experienced figures in FCPA investigations involving Latin American businesses.
Steptoe & Johnson LLP
Steptoe & Johnson LLP is widely recognised for FCPA, anti-corruption and investigations. It is particularly noted for representing individuals and government officials. In FCPA and anti-corruption matters, the immensely experienced Lucinda Low is very active in the region, including most of the major economies in Latin America; she is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese.
Winston & Strawn LLP's highly developed Latin America practice features a substantial disputes and investigations component. It represents some of the biggest corporates and public officials in the region. New York partner Julissa Reynoso leads the practice, which includes Washington DC's Abbe Lowell who has an outstanding reputation for investigations, including a number of key engagements in Latin America. San Francisco partner Pamela Davis is noted for FCPA and global investigations, including those involving Brazil.
Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex)
Rafael Ramírez, Venezuela’s Representative to the United Nations
Former Puerto Rico Senator, Hector Martínez Maldonado