Firm Profile > Martinez Vergara Gonzalez & Serrano > Manila, Philippines
Martinez Vergara Gonzalez & Serrano Offices
33RD FLOOR, THE ORIENT SQUARE
F. ORTIGAS JR. ROAD, ORTIGAS CENTER
1600 PASIG CITY, METRO MANILA
Martinez Vergara Gonzalez & Serrano > The Legal 500 Rankings
Banking and finance Tier 1
Martinez Vergara Gonzalez & Serrano's 'objective is to get the deal done, without sacrificing their clients' best interests'. Banking and finance forms a core area of practice at the full-service firm; particular areas of strength include project financing for energy and power projects, debt restructuring, regulatory compliance and credit enforcement. In a recent highlight, the team advised United Overseas Bank on its grant of banking facilities to P-H-O-E-N-I-X Petroleum Philippines (a publicly listed company in the downstream petroleum industry) and its trading subsidiary in Singapore. The department also stands out for its experience in debt capital markets transactions. The experienced team is led by Mark Vergara and Rosalia Bartolome-Alejo and includes senior partner Elmer Serrano, who draws on over 20 years of experience in the banking industry. Erika Paulino is also noted.
‘The firm is quick and proactive in providing solutions to issues or concerns that may arise‘.
‘Mark Vergara is recommended; he and his team will get things done‘.
Asia United Bank
United Overseas Bank
Capital markets Tier 1
Acting for both issuers and underwriters, Martinez Vergara Gonzalez & Serrano has substantial experience in IPOs, follow-on and rights offers, tender offers, reverse takeovers of publicly listed firms and issuances of global depositary receipts. The team has remained busy despite the recent slowdown in capital markets transactions in the Philippines, even picking up a number of new clients in the waste management, media and advertising sectors. In a recent highlight, a team led by Elmer Serrano and Mia Jazmin Ormita served as counsel to BDO Unibank in its bond issuance in February 2019; proceeds from the issuance are intended to diversify the bank's funding sources and support its business expansion. Manuel Gonzalez heads the practice and is supported by a team of lawyers with expertise in capital markets, M&A and banking.
‘MVGS, though one of the “youngest” law firms in the country, has shown maturity and experience. The lawyers have exhibited out-of-the-box thinking in providing advice to clients‘.
‘The lawyers are conscious of the deadlines of transactions and as such, are able to give timely advice‘.
‘Manuel Gonzalez is an effective communicator and negotiator‘.
‘Gwyneth Ong is valued for her sound advice and keen eye for detail‘.
‘Janice Co is excellent in interacting with the client, sourcing information and managing documentation‘.
P.A. Alvarez Properties & Development Corporation
Chelse Logistics Holdings
Sta. Lucia Land
Intellectual property Tier 1
Martinez Vergara Gonzalez & Serrano advises on IP registration processes, infringement and portfolio management, and it is particularly strong in trade marks. The IP department's clients include companies in the healthcare, financial services and real estate sectors, among others. As an example, the team assists DKT International, a major provider of family planning and reproductive health products, on the management of its trade mark portfolio. Shirley Alinea co-heads the practice and is also an accredited arbitrator of the IPOHL. Manuel Gonzalez, who co-founded the firm and leads the practice alongside Alinea, has broad expertise in IP, corporate and commercial law.
Armscor Global Defense, Inc. (formerly Arms Corporation of the Philippines)
Flexi Finance Asia
Kriska Assenmacher/ Ingrid L. Calubaquib
Michael Allen R. Cacnio
Pon Bicycle Holding B.V.
Spoiled Mummy Corporation
Torre Lorenzo Development Corporation
Torre Lorenzo Holdings Corp.
Institute For Inner Studies Publishing Foundation
Projects and energy Tier 1
Martinez Vergara Gonzalez & Serrano stands out for its 'ability to find solutions to legal issues which may otherwise cause deals to fall apart'. The projects and energy department is among the firm's strongest, and is complemented by the firm's leading banking and finance practice. Hence, it is particularly strong in project financing, though it also advises on bidding processes, project documentation and coordination with regulatory authorities. The firm is also notable for its experience in PPPs, where practice head Manuel Gonzalez is a key contact. Citicore Power is a key client; the team recently advised it on the acquisition of five renewable energy generation plants in Luzon and Mindanao with a total capacity of approximately 59.9MW, with its advice covering everything from the preparation of bid documents to the financing.
‘The team is very professional and responsive and stands out from the rest in its ability to find solutions to legal issues which may otherwise cause deals to fall apart‘.
‘The firm knows exactly what to look for and how to efficiently handle legal due diligence within the required time frame‘.
‘The team is our first choice in any transaction due to the lawyers’ exceptional ability to find solutions to key issues, which makes deal execution almost seamless‘.
‘Rosalia Bartolome-Alejo is knowledgeable, responsive and efficient‘.
‘Phil Ivan Chan works fast, reliable and resourceful‘.
Citicore Power, Inc.
Nexif Energy Pte. Ltd.
Real estate and construction Tier 1
Martinez Vergara Gonzalez & Serrano's real estate team receives plaudits for being 'accessible and creative'. It counts a number of notable real estate developers among its clients, including Property Company of Friends, which the team recently advised on commercial, retail and office leases for its industrial parks and IT park. It is adept in the capital markets space, and often acts for property companies in bond and note issuances, and project finance is another strength at the firm. Practice co-head Erika Paulino has notable experience in real estate financing and corporate transactions. Mark Vergara co-leads the group alongside Paulino and is active in project finance for construction and infrastructure developments.
‘The firm has excellent industry knowledge. It is always the first to inform us of any development which could be a threat or an opportunity‘.
‘The team is accessible and creative. The partners and associates also have in-depth knowledge of accounting for real estate, which is particularly complex‘.
SM Prime Holdings, Inc.
SM Development Corporation
Megawide Construction Corporation
Double Dragon Properties, Corp.
Sta. Lucia Land Inc.
Property Company of Friends, Inc.
Crown Equities, Inc.
P.A. Alvarez Properties & Development Corporation
Corporate and M&A Tier 2
In M&A, Martinez Vergara Gonzalez & Serrano has experience across all stages of a transaction, from initial structuring and due diligence review to regulatory approval. Foreign companies often turn to the team for assistance on direct investment in companies in the Philippines, and the firm has also established an active data privacy practice. Other notable areas include M&A in the banking and finance sector. In recent work, Elmer Serrano and Mia Jazmin Ormita acted as lead partners for BDO Unibank and its rural banking unit One Network Bank on the latter's acquisition of Rural Bank of Pandi; founded in 1967, Rural Bank of Pandi has a significant presence in the SME sector in Bulacan, where it has ten branches.
‘MVGS is one of the best law firms in the Philippines in corporate law. MVGS has been one of the reasons why our company has grown significantly over the years‘.
‘Manuel Gonzalez and Gwyneth Ong are outstanding lawyers. They are very thorough with their analysis and they work very fast‘.
Dispute resolution Tier 2
At Martinez Vergara Gonzalez & Serrano, 'the legal advice is nuanced, insightful and always given in a clear and timely manner', and one client remarks that 'the firm makes us feel assured that our legal requirements are competently addressed'. 'Clearly operating in a class of its own', the dispute resolution team balances a diverse caseload, covering everything from property litigation to data privacy disputes to rehabilitation proceedings. Commercial arbitration also features; 'excellent legal counsellor' Shirley Alinea is among the key contacts in this space. Senior partner and practice head Eduardo Martinez handles civil, criminal and commercial litigation, including at the appellate levels, and also has an active family law practice. Sports law specialist Enrico Angeles rejoined the firm in 2018 after completing a Masters in Global Sports Law.
‘The firm gives comprehensive replies to queries, as well as timely status reports of the cases. The team is likewise very accessible, with partners reachable at any time‘.
‘The team is composed of extremely talented professional lawyers and staff, who are meticulous in their research and detailed in their replies‘.
‘All the partners are great; they are all humble and intelligent‘.
‘The team is firm but accommodating in how we want our cases resolved‘.
‘Shirley Alinea gives practical advice based on extensive experience; she does not over-promise and always provides options‘.
‘Aside from his professionalism and knowledge of the law, Eduardo Martinez is warm and genuinely cares for his clients. He gives his undivided attention to the client’s problem‘.
‘Associates that also deserve mention are Kristine Bongcaron and Arleo Antonio Magtibay Jr, who have been instrumental in many successful cases‘.
Megawide Construction Corporation
Bank of Commerce
Cohaco Merchandising & Dev. Corporation
CW Home Depot
Port Users Confederation
Lucerne Group of Companies
Diversified Technology Solutions International
CF Sharp Crew Management
Immigration Tier 2
Martinez Vergara Gonzalez & Serrano's immigration practice expanded in 2018 and 2019 with the hire of new junior associate Nicole Gabrielle Kalingking and the return of associate Enrico Angeles after the completion of his masters. The team advises clients on immigration laws, policies and legal processes, with particular expertise in immigrant and non-immigrant visas and permits, citizenship recognition and reacquisition, blacklisting proceedings and deportation proceedings, among other areas. Shirley Alinea is the team head; her broad practice spans dispute resolution, IP and immigration.
Labour and employment Tier 2
Under the leadership of Reynaldo Dizon, Martinez Vergara Gonzalez & Serrano's employment team advises on labour policies, negotiating CBAs, dismissals, redundancy and company closure. Recently, it has expanded its offering to include data privacy issues, and the firm also has an active immigration practice. Its diverse client base includes companies operating in the media, tech, outsourcing and healthcare sectors. Supporting Dizon are experienced senior associates Kristine Bongcaron and Arleo Antonio Magtibay.
‘They are able to provide expert legal advice. They do extensive research and investigation of the details at hand when representing us in labour cases’.
Citigroup Business Processing Solutions, Pte. Ltd.
Ubiquity Global Services, Inc.
Intelenet Global Philippines, Inc.
ADP (Philippines), Inc.
White and Case
DKT International, Inc.
Xentrix Toons, Inc.
Visa Philippines Business Processing Center, Corp.
Licton Industrial Corporation
Martinez Vergara Gonzalez & Serrano > Firm Profile
The firm: With the combined experience of the firm’s partners, MVGS takes pride in having established itself as a leading law firm, providing excellent legal services in the areas of corporate and commercial, banking, securities, corporate finance, mergers & acquisitions, intellectual property, litigation and alternative dispute resolution, labour and employment and immigration.
Areas of practice: Banking and finance: a core practice area, the firm acts as retained counsel for many leading local and foreign banks and financial institutions in the country. Special interest areas in banking operations, particularly regulatory compliance, are the firm’s strong suit.
Corporate finance: the firm and its individual partners have participated in numerous loan syndications and project finance transactions across the spectrum of industries, acting for financial institutions, borrowers and project proponents.
Debt restructuring: the firm and its individual partners have participated in restructuring in varied industries, acting for financial institutions and borrowers. Debt restructuring projects include legal advisory on related debt relief strategies.
Capital markets (equity): its team of securities practitioners has handled a wide spectrum of securities-related issues, ranging from initial public offerings (IPOs), rights and follow on offers, top-up placements, tender offers, reverse takeovers of publicly listed firms and issuances of global depositary receipts, as well as private equity.
Capital markets (debt): the firm acts as counsel to international and local financial institutions, and issuers in connection with the issuance of notes, bonds and similar debt securities. It has also been involved in the private and public issuances of bonds and commercial papers, both long term and short term. The firm works closely with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the regulatory authority tasked with implementing the Securities Regulation Code (SRC), and the Philippine Stock Exchange, Inc (PSE), a private organisation afforded self-regulatory status.
The firm also assists clients in structuring, drafting and obtaining approval for equity based employee benefit plans, from employee stock options and stock appreciation rights, to stock purchase plans, restricted stock units and other capital accumulation programs.
Mergers and acquisitions (M&A): the firm’s partners have significant experience in the consolidation of the banking and financial sector, as well as acquisitions involving both equity purchase and asset sale. In its M&A deals, the firm is involved in all stages of the transaction, from initial structuring and due diligence review, documentation of the merger or acquisition and related agreements, securing the relevant regulatory approvals, to transition.
Litigation and alternative dispute resolution: the litigation and dispute resolution group handles the full range of dispute resolution and mediation, covering criminal, civil and administrative litigation and includes appellate practice and advocacy. The firm has a strong arbitration team, headed by a partner who is concurrently a trustee of the Philippine Dispute Resolution Center Inc.
Intellectual property (IP): the firm handles the IP requirements of its domestic and international clients, including registration of trademarks, copyrights and patents, legal advisory on contractual concerns and prosecution and defense of intellectual property infringement actions.
Labour & employment: the firm’s labour practice includes advisory services on various labour issues, authoring employment manuals and serving as counsel in negotiations for Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs). The firm also provides advice and assists in implementation of hiring programs, training, retrenchment, redundancy, closure of companies and employee movements. The firm also handles labour litigation, arbitration, conciliation and mediation.
|Corporate and commercial|
|Mergers and acquisitions|
|Litigation and alternative dispute resolution|
|Labour and employment|
Elmer B. Serrano, Managing Partner/Senior PartnerElmer B. Serrano, Managing Partner of Martinez Vergara Gonzalez and Serrano (MVGS), explains how MVGS is adapting to its clients’ changing needs brought about by globalisation and developments in technology.
What do you see as the main points that differentiate MVGS from your competitors?
With the unique background of the partners and our lawyers, MVGS shares the commercial perspective of its clients. We are able to appreciate the transactional goals and eventual business profile that our clients seek to achieve in all their dealings on which MVGS is consulted.
This commercial perceptiveness allows MVGS to tailor its solutions and to professionally empathize with the needs and goals of its clients, improving even the returns and benefits to our clients from their transactions. This partnership of effectivity between MVGS and its clients is reflected in the loyalty of clients to MVGS and the constantly repeating business referrals over the years.
Which practices do you see growing in the next 12 months? What are the drivers behind that?
>While a number of emerging practice areas are gaining focus, some of the notable areas of growth in the near term are:
Banking and Securities, with the rising interest rates and the tightening economic condition, banks and issuers will explore alternative means of raising funds, including issuance of bonds, CDs, and quasi-capital.
In Project Development and Finance, with the Philippine government’s thrust towards rapid infrastructure development and the country’s clear requirement for such, clients will seek MVGS’ distinct advisory services and assistance in securing project development contracts and in acquiring the corresponding funding.
In M&A, I see that as the Philippine economy grows, many industries will continue to consolidate and new businesses will develop. Competition law is particularly interesting. In the last 2 years, we see more complexities in M&A execution, and as deals become more intricate, anti-trust regulations will quickly evolve. Many industries are young and need to thrive. It is my view that there must be a healthy balance between regulation and business so that growth in not stunted, or that competition regulations are not indiscriminately applied.
There are, of course, other practice areas I see emerging or growing. Stricter adherence to corporate governance standards and protection of intellectual property rights have become more relevant of late. Local clients are also warming up to local or international arbitration and to areas of alternative dispute resolution.
We have also observed that some local clients overlook the importance of their brands and other IP rights in the past. However, as they grow, and enter into more cross-border transactions, protecting their IP rights and putting value to their brands havebecome more significant.
Globalization also drives our local clients to adhere to stricter corporate governance best practices and to new regulatory requirements such as data privacy rules. The legal guidance of MVGS is being tapped in all of these areas.
What’s the main change you’ve made in the firm that will benefit clients?
MVGS is a young firm, and we continue to improve our services to meet our clients’ expectations.
We have begun to restructure our organizational set-up mainly geared to enhance institutional training of our lawyers and become more responsive to their professional requirements so they can be more effective in the delivery of legal services to our clients.
Over the years, we have improved our IT system and security protocols and we have instituted more efficient use of our resources.
We have also invested in technology that makes available to us data on the work and time use of our lawyers. This will allow us to allocate our resources, manage our lawyers’ time and to focus our attention on the more pressing requirements of our clients. As some clients say, “I want my handling lawyer to drop everything.” You can’t do that unless you can quickly re-allocate resources to suit the immediate needs of clients and projects.
Is technology changing the way you interact with your clients, and the services you can provide them?
Yes. as technology improves, MVGS has become more efficient.
In the Philippines, given the problem of traffic congestion and lack of efficient public transportation, improved technology minimizes undue waste of time and resources.
In terms of client communication, email is becoming a secondary means of communication, as mobile phone apps like Viber, WhatsApp and Messenger are preferred more and more by our clients due to the immediacy and real-time communication. Transactions are now even more borderless.
Research has likewise become more efficient and verifiable information is readily available.
Leapfrogs in technology has made practice more interesting and challenging because of the legal issues that comes with the territory. Practice has also expanded at an equivalent pace and we have to keep up.
Can you give us a practical example of how you have helped a client to add value to their business?
In a recent acquisition, we pointed out to the client how the group structure of the acquired company and its subsidiaries foster duplication. We worked with them to merge companies and streamline their overall organization and creating even more efficiencies. They have managed to substantially reduce cost and improve their bottomline. They have since involved us more in their organizational and business direction and policies.
In one litigation, instead of protracted proceedings, we advised the client to adopt a remedy and that client was able to collect almost Php2.0 Billion now rather than later, reduce its expenses and minimize the loss of opportunity. Client was able to deploy those funds immediately and earn money from it now rather than wait what reasonably could be expected to have been a minimum of 5 years.
One of our strengths is that we are not just “lawyers” but are our clients’ partners in their businesses.
Are clients looking for stability and strategic direction from their law firms – where do you see the firm in three years’ time?
Yes, more and more, our clients require organizational responsiveness and dependability from us. In fact, certain clients have established minimum standards for engaging lawyers. Clients require a level of predictability from their service providers, including lawyers, in order to project future business and assess potential transactions. Clients therefore require a higher standard of professionalism and we, at MVGS, continue to plan strategically so that our size, skills and processes will match the developing requirements of our clients. In fact, clients actually expect counselling beyond normal lawyering standards. We welcome this challenge as we believe in growing with our clients.
In three years, I see MVGS, bigger, with better foundations and more specialized skills. Our lawyers are maturing with us and as laws multiply and become more complicated, I see our lawyers more responsive. We are learning and acquiring the skills for the future legal environment and the issues we, as lawyers, will face. I see MVGS developing even more specialized departments and our lawyers focusing more on particular practices. I see our client base even more diversifying and growing. I envision the trust of our clients deepening. I see MVGS and its lawyers becoming even more conscientious of our obligations to our clients and wanting to constantly improve and become the law firm of choice – ALWAYS at the top of our clients’ mind.