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Peru

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Editorial

Peru made international news headlines in 2017 following two public commotions – of very different kinds, but similar gravity.

The first one came as a result of Brazilian construction company Odebrecht’s admission to paying hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes and election campaigns to secure PPP contracts for the largest projects across Latin America, including Peru. In February 2017, a Peruvian court ordered the arrest of former President Alejandro Toledo, and since then an investigation into the regional corruption scandal known as “Lava Jato” has pervaded the country’s highest spheres, including top politicians and public administrators, business people, and renowned lawyers. Some of them were suspended from their firms, and the investigation that will reveal the full extent of their implications is ongoing.

Peru was hit for a second time in March, when a deadly El Niño created landslides and dramatic flooding that swept away people, houses, crops, and infrastructure – killing more than a hundred people, injuring hundreds more, and displacing over a hundred thousand individuals.

Both the corruption investigation and the environmental catastrophe have set back investors in the first months of 2017, but it is expected a $3bn governmental reconstruction fund will go some way to boost economic growth in the second half of 2017 and the coming years.

As a direct consequence of the Lava Jato scandal, many construction and infrastructure projects were frozen, suffered delays, or were cancelled altogether. A flagship $7.3bn gas pipeline project in Southern Peru was recently delayed following its inability to secure final financing. A striking $70bn worth of infrastructure projects is similary being set back.

A surge in nullity claims in relation to concession contracts and public contracts as a result of the corruption investigation has produced a rise in administrative law mandates, particularly on the contentious side.

Meanwhile, compliance and preventive advice have become a rising source of revenue for law firms, alongside more traditional transactional work. At the end of 2015, amendments in competition law strengthened the leniency squeme, and firms have seen their workload increase in the compliance space, with companies seeking to implement free competition policies.

Unsurprisingly, white-collar crime work is also on the rise, particularly on the preventive side. Full service firms are increasingly keen to offer in-house white-collar advice, which they previously devolved to specialised boutiques.

Peru maintains its attractiveness as emerging market for international investors, with a growing body of private equity sponsors and sovereign funds from the Middle East and Asia, thanks to a continued healthy return on investment. M&A work has provided strong revenues for leading firms, with an increase in the sale of assets by companies involved in the Lava Jato investigation – which are subject to stricter due diligence following Emergency Decree 003-2017.

Natural resources are a mainstay of the Peruvian economy, and activity has slowly started to pick up – particularly in the natural gas space – despite the sustained low prices of commodities. Social conflicts and community resistance continue to permeate the sector however, and investors remain cautious as a consequence.

Changes in the legal market have included a sustained movement to merge or associate with foreign firms. In the past year alone, Estudio Grau established an association with global firm CMS; Pizarro, Botto & Escobar Abogados signed a cooperation agreement with DLA Piper; DAC Beachcroft LLP formed an association with insurance specialist Torres Carpio Portocarrero & Richter Abogados; and Gallo Barrios Pickmann Abogados has announced its imminent tie-up with Dentons. Attracted by Peru’s strong economy, a slew of international firms are making a play for a share of the market, including the Spanish Garrigues, Baker & McKenzie, and most recently the regional Philippi Prietocarrizosa.

The two most established firms however are the local Miranda & Amado and Rodrigo, Elías & Medrano, Abogados, which have been able to maintain their size and market profile despite the mounting challenges. Estudio Echecopar member firm of Baker & McKenzie International, Payet, Rey, Cauvi, Pérez Abogados and Rebaza, Alcázar & De Las Casas have a particularly strong presence in the corporate and financial arenas, alongside significant contestants Garrigues and Philippi Prietocarrizosa Ferrero DU & Uria. Other key full-service players include Muñiz, Ramírez, Pérez-Taiman & Olaya Abogados and Hernández & Cía. Abogados. In the energy space, Laub & Quijandría Energy Group, Santiváñez Abogados and Barrios & Fuentes, Abogados provide high-end boutique expertise.

The In-House Lawyer

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