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Central America 2016: Finance

Following the introduction of both the Dominican Republic-Central America FTA with the US and the region’s partnership agreement with the European Union, Central America has seen a marked influx of foreign investment. According to the World Bank, Panama received over $5 billion in investment from foreign sources in 2014, with Costa Rica gaining over $2 billion. It is therefore no surprise that these two countries are at the forefront of our research, garnering over 50 per cent of the total inclusions in the chapter between them. The financial service sector is particularly well developed in Panama, meeting international standards and employing strict banking laws. However, most countries in the region can lay claim to expanding financial markets, including the growing use of equity, loans and bonds.

The leading firms in this chapter are typically the larger full-service outfits, including several regional heavyweights and the national leading lights of the more established and distinct Panamanian legal market. Full-service regional firms largely dominate the isthmus with strong showing in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras. Meanwhile, the Dominican Republic’s leading player is the international law firm Squire Patton Boggs.

Costa Rica

BLP is one of the biggest names in the region with an impressive portfolio of major multinational banks, including Deutsche Bank and RBS. Head of the practice Andrés López is highly commended for his “outstanding knowledge of banking and finance law”, representing major lenders and borrowers in a wide range of transactions for more than 15 years. David Gutiérrez represents clients in the financing of infrastructure projects and boasts “a top-tier practice”. The “very impressive” Eduardo Calderón is recommended for his financial advisory practice. Neftalí Garro is a renowned insurance lawyer who also noted for his practice in this area.

Consortium Legal acts on some of the biggest and most noteworthy financing transactions in the country and sees three of its partners in San José recognised. Mario Quesada Bianchini is a cross-border financing transactions specialist whose “detailed advice” is noted by clients. David Arturo Campos is an expert in regulatory matters concerning the financial market and in this regard he is “a go to lawyer”. Randall Barquero León advises local and international financial institutions and entities in the structuring and documenting of commercial credit transactions and project finance deals. “He is an up-and-coming, talented finance lawyer”, claim interviewees. Past matters include advising Merrill Lynch and JP Morgan on a $1 billon offering by Banco Nacional, its first international capital markets offering.

Arias & Muñoz have an impressive portfolio of prominent domestic and international clients, including Banco de Costa Rica, Wells Fargo and Citibank. The firm is seen regularly acting on large and first-of-a-kind finance and securities transactions in the country. José Antonio Muñoz specialises in the structuring of international and domestic financial agreements and investments. Respondents see him as a “point of reference” in the market. Daniel Araya has “an excellent understanding of banking law regulations” and is noted for his “exceptionally sharp mind”. Respondents also see Vicente Lines as a “high-flyer”, acting on some of the firm’s largest mandates.

Pacheco Coto’s Costa Rica office is increasingly challenging the other top firms for the big-ticket banking and finance transactions and counts Inter-American Development bank as one of its key clients. Humberto Pacheco is seen as “an experienced and adept handler of complex finance transactions”. Hernán Pacheco also receives widespread acclaim as “a finance transactions specialist who adapts and reacts well in difficult situations”.

Facio & Cańas garners two inclusions and can lay claim to several well-known international and regional banking clients, including JP Morgan and UBS. Victor Garita is recommended as “a knowledgeable practitioner of banking and finance law”. Manuel González is a “highly esteemed” practitioner with decades of experience in the banking sector.

Roberto León Gómez is the founding partner of Vector Legal, which opened its doors in 2014. He is “well versed” in the banking and securities market with a strong reputation for “getting the deal done”. Esteban Carranza is a junior partner at the firm, with a good standing in the financial and insurance markets. He is said to give “accurate and well-balanced advice”.

At Cordero & Cordero Abogados, Ricardo Cordero Baltodano is focused on financial-insurance law and is seen as “a prominent practitioner” in this regard.

Luis Pedro Fuxet of Lexincorp in Costa Rica acts in banking and credit structuring transactions, including a secured syndicated loan for Eólico San Antonio El Sitio worth $84 million.

At Sfera Legal, Robert van der Putten is also noted for his “standout practice”, advising on loan and debt structuring, as well as credit facilities.

Dominican Republic

Squire Patton Boggs is dominant force in relation to international financing transactions in the DR with four names featuring. Awilda Alcántara-Bourdier focuses her practice on the structuring of financing transactions. She regularly represents international clients who praise her “outstanding drafting and negotiation skills”. Rhina Martinez Brea advises on the structuring on international financial transactions “with great skill”. Pedro Gamundi is also seen as a “top name” in the negotiation of international financial transactions into the DR. Alejandro Peña-Prieto is managing partner of the firm’s Santo Domingo office and is regarded as a “dean of the financial bar” in the country.

From Headrick Rizik Alvarez & Fernandez, two names are recommended including Francisco Alvarez Valdez. He is a senior partner at the firm and is recommended for his “prestigious practice” in banking and project finance matters and disputes. Founding partner Roberto Rizik focuses his practice on banking and international finance and is highlighted for his “high status”.

Pellerano & Herrera also garners two inclusions. Luís Pellerano is a “highly respected” banking and finance practitioner with “wide-reaching experience” in the market. Ricardo Pellerano has almost 40 years of experience in banking and securities law and is “revered” by peers.

Jose Maldonado Stark from Russin Vecchi & Heredia Bonetti is widely endorsed for his financial and securities law practice. Respondents find him to be “an intelligent and creative lawyer”.

Rebeca García Vilalta at OMG is highly recommended by clients for her work in the project finance and banking sectors. As one source remarks, “She’s very astute and commercial in her advice”.

El Salvador

Arias & Muñoz receives four recommendations in El Salvador, including Roberta Gallardo who is a banking and finance specialist with “invaluable sector experience”. The “first-rate” Lilian Arias regularly counsels financial institutions and multinationals on the structuring of loans and guarantees. Armando Arias is recognised as “a leading practitioner”, having represented an impressive portfolio of clients in some of the highest-profile transactions in the region. Sources highlight his “vast experience and authoritative status”. Zygmunt Brett is a leading figure on many financial transactions, where both his drafting and negotiations skills are endorsed.

Two names are highlighted for their finance practices from Guandique Segovia Quintanilla, which has a leading role in financial and securities transactions, as well as compliance matters in the country. Carlos Quintanilla Schmidt is a “famed practitioner” who is recommended for his “experience and shrewd handling of complex transactions”. Ana Patricia Portillo Reyes is “very knowledgeable” and leads on many notable mandates for financial institutions and multinational clients.

Oscar Samour leads Consortium Legal’s El Salvador offering in this area. Sources note that he is “a talented lawyer with good commercial insight and an excellent manner with clients.”

José Adolfo Torres Lemus, founding partner of LatinAlliance, stands out as someone who has “the necessary experience and knowledge to ably act on complex finance transactions”, according to one peer.

Guatemala

Carrillo y Asociados lays claim to some of the biggest clients and transactional mandates in the country, with Citibank, JP Morgan, PwC, The World Bank and Lloyds TSB among some of its most significant. Alfonso Carrillo is “one of the most intelligent and distinguished lawyers in the country”, while fellow partner Rodolfo Alegría Toruño regularly acts for the firm’s multinational clients in the securing of loans and financial instruments.

Arenales & Skinner-Klée garners two recommendations. Alfredo Skinner-Klée is a “distinguished” practitioner at the firm and “the go-to figure for financial law matters in the country”, according to market commentators. María Inés Arenales Brodtmann is noted as “up-and-coming” lawyer who has “impressed” on the firm’s mandates.

Mayora & Mayora’s senior partner Eduardo Mayora is “a star dealmaker with fantastic knowledge and experience of the banking sector”. Claudia Pereira has extensive experience on a range of financial and securities transactions, with peers recognising her as “a definite inclusion”.

Consortium Legal’s Álvaro Rodrigo Castellanos Howell is also “an accomplished figure in the market”, running the firm’s “top-tier” Guatemalan offering in this sector.

Honduras

Garcia & Bodan received two inclusions from its Tegucigalpa offices. Ricardo Alfredo Duarte Jimenez is regarded as “a go-to transactional lawyer in the country”. Jazna Vanessa Oqueli De Riera is particularly active in the structuring of finance transactions for international clients; she is endorsed by peers for her “intelligent and practical counsel”.

José Ramón Paz from Consortium Legal is regarded as “the top banking lawyer in the country” by numerous respondents, with one client noting that he is the top choice for cross-border financial transactions.

Jaime Turcios at Bufete Melara & Asociados is “a consummate handler” of complex syndicated loan and the structuring of other financial instruments. 

Juan José Alcerro-Milla from Aguilar Castillo Love is also “among the top players” in Honduras, according to respondents.

Nicaragua

Consortium Legal garners four inclusions from its Managua office. José Evenor Taboada, president of the firm, is a star name who is replete with endorsements for his “unrivalled status and experience”. Rodrigo Antonio Taboada heads the banking and finance department. He has an excellent portfolio of high profile domestic and international clients, including Banpro and Citibank, who he advising on financial and securities transactions. Olga María Barreto Gutiérrez is experienced in national and international financial and banking transactions; she is described as “a very good commercial lawyer and a team player”. Martha Lorena Icaza Ochoa is “someone you turn to for complex banking law advice”, according to an interviewee.

Arias & Muñoz has a strong share of the market with a strong finance ream. Bertha Argüello boasts a strong portfolio of foreign and local banking and financial institutions, who she advises on financial transactions and regulatory issues. Clients endorse her “fine work drafting and negotiating complex financial instruments”. Ana Teresa Rizo is “very smart and effective”, with experience of structuring complex transactions for financial institutions and multinationals.

Alvarado y Asociados also has two names highlighted. José Antonio Alvarado is “the dean of the Nicaraguan commercial bar”, with a number of commentators highlighting his extensive knowledge of banking law.

Ernesto Rizo at BLP is a “market-leading” transactional lawyer, advising both domestic and international clients in the negotiation of a broad range of securities and financial instruments. According to one commentator, “His knowledge of banking law is unsurpassed in the market.”

Panama

Icaza González-Ruiz Alemán has been a prominent figure in Panama for as long as the country’s banking sector has existed, acting for leading local banks and multinational clients on both regulatory and transactional matters. Luis Chalhoub is “certainly one of the leading players in the market”, with over 20 years advising high profile clients on banking law and the structuring of securities transactions. The “excellent” Gabriel González-Ruiz is highly involved in regulatory and licensing matters, as well as in cross-border transactions. Michelle de de la Guardia is seen as “a very strong choice” for the structuring of capital market transactions. Juan Tejada Mora is of counsel to the firm. He is “a legendary name” in the market in respect to both banking and capital markets law.

Arias Fábrega & Fábrega top ranks in our research with an extensive team of leading banking and finance lawyers, as well as an impressive portfolio of clients that includes UBS, Deutsche Bank and Bancolombia. Practice head Ricardo Arango is “the lawyer of choice” for many peers and clients. He is active on some of the most complex and big-ticket financial structures in the country. Estif Aparicio is a “gifted lawyer” and “a definite inclusion for his regulatory and his transactional know-how”. The “excellent” Cecilio Castillero Jr ranks highly for his banking law expertise. Eduardo de Alba is held in high regard for his transactional practice.

Four lawyers are highlighted from Galindo Arias & López. Diego Herrera Dutari is “a popular practitioner” among financial institutions for his “insightful advice” and “skilful handling of complex issuances”. Salomón Behar is noted for his project financing expertise; in this regard “he is hands down a leader”, say respondents. Roberto De Araujo is highlighted by peers as “a sophisticated practitioner” of banking law, project financing and capital market transactions. Head of the capital markets team, Cristina Lewis de la Guardia is “a creative and commercial deal lawyer”, leading the firm on the structuring and issuance of public offerings, as well as on regulatory matters.

Alemán Cordero Galindo & Lee is “a leading competitor in the sector”, with a strong portfolio of clients and high value cross border financial transactions. The firm recently acted as counsel to the lender BNP Paribas in a US$200 million loan credit agreement to the borrower Canacol Energy Limited. Arturo Gerbaud has focused on banking and securities law for over two decades. He enjoys “a prestigious reputation in the market” and “his presence on a transaction is vital to its success”, according to sources. Carlos Cordero is “one of the most experienced finance lawyers in the market” and enjoys has “a towering reputation” in the sector. Eloy Alfara is a younger partner at the firm who has “gained an impressive reputation for the skilful and diligent way he handles his client’s matters”.

Morgan & Morgan captures a significant share of the market, boasting several market-leading practitioners. Notable transactions include advising First Quantum Minerals in relation to the issuance of a US$850 million senior notes offering.  Francisco Arias has “a strong commitment to his clients”, as well as “a fantastic knowledge of local and international banking laws”. Inocencio Galindo is a leading player on many of the firm’s biggest mandates. As one peer states, “He is a dream to have as the local counsel on cross-border transactions.” Ramón Varela is a younger partner deemed “a rising star” by respondents, who praise both his “excellent knowledge” of banking law and his “superb drafting and negotiation skills.

At Alfaro Ferrer & Ramírez, Luis López Alfaro is well versed in negotiating a broad range of financial transactions, as well as advising on regulatory matters. According to one source, “He ensures his clients get responsive and practical advice.”

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