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Central America 2016: Competition

With 21 lawyers recognised in the field, competition remains one of the smaller practice areas in our research, yet demand for competition legal services is increasing across Central America.

Competition has historically been difficult across Central America due to the market being small with natural monopolies and oligopolies existing in several markets. This is coupled with the deregulation of domestic and foreign capital flow and privatisation which has taken place without the appropriate institutional and legal frameworks to circumvent anti-competitive practices by national and multinational companies.

However over recent years some countries have made progress with their competition policy. Both Costa Rica and Panama have enacted competition laws and created Commissions to implement them: COPROCOM and CLICAC. Yet there are still significant limitations on the powers of these bodies as enterprises do not need the approval of these Commissions to merge, and state monopolies are exempted from such laws. Demand for competition legal services is on the rise across the region, with Costa Rica becoming a particular legal hub for competition expertise; the country is home to 10 outstanding lawyers from seven different firms identified in our research.

El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua have all faced substantial political resistance to passing such laws, although these countries are discussing competition law projects in their congresses. For example, May this year saw the Minister of Economy for Guatemala present the draft Competition Act to Congress. Indeed, demand for competition expertise is prevalent across El Salvador (which follows closely behind Costa Rica in our research), with six individuals recognised from two firms.

The regional firm Arias & Muñoz particularly stands out for the quality of its competition law services, with an impressive seven practitioners recognised, which is by far the highest number from any one firm in this chapter. With listings across multiple countries, the firm has established a formidable presence for itself in the market.

Costa Rica

BLP also enjoys two practitioners listed in our research. Uri Weinstok, who joined the firm in 2015, is known as a “truly stand-out practitioner” and was previously the chairman of the Costa Rican Competition Authority. He focuses his practice on representing local and foreign corporations in merger filings and before the competition authorities. He is recommended for his “vast experience” and “clear vision”, which makes him “highly sought after” by clients. The “talented” Pamela Sittenfeld is an “internationally recognised specialist” in competition and regulation law. She is particularly praised for her drafting of compliance programmes for national and international corporations, and recommended for a “focused approach” that “consistently achieves results”.

Arias & Muñoz garners an impressive double listing in this country. Andrey Dorado expertly advises a wide range of international companies on competition law issues. He is active appearing before the Commission in relation to market concentration issues and receives particular recognition for his “distinctly client-oriented approach”. He is joined by Rolando García, who is recommended for his “strong knowledge of competition law”. He has represented domestic and foreign companies in administrative proceedings at the Ministry of Economy, Industry and Commerce, providing assistance with compliance issues.

The “technically excellent” Claudio Donato Monge from Zurcher Odio & Raven tops our research in this area. Described as “a much sought-after practitioner” in the field, he advises clients on issues relating to market positioning abuse, monopolies and restrictions to free competition, unfair competition and misuse of privileged information.

Ignacio Gallegos is a founding partner of Zurcher Odio & Raven, and “a favourite among clients”. He is noted for his “commitment and enthusiasm” when working on complex legal matters.

From Aguilar Castillo Love, John Aguilar-Quesada is described by sources as “a gifted practitioner” who clients “cannot recommend highly enough.” He boasts a “highly sophisticated” practice advising a broad range of clients on competition matters. 

Edgar Odio Rohrmoser from Pragma Legal “impresses all he comes across with respondents with his “deep knowledge of competition and consumer protection law”. He has participated in deals for the largest retail company and the largest hospitality project in Costa Rica, with particular expertise in licensing and distributions schemes and agreements.

Adriana Ramos Chaves from Gómez y Galindo is admired for her “excellent knowledge and skills” in representing clients before the Competition Authority.

Pacheco Coto is home to Alexander Salazar who has over 15 years’ experience in competition law and consumer protection. His “standout practice” involves advising some of the largest multinational and national corporations on issues relating to cartel and anticompetitive practices, price-fixing, and predatory pricing, among others. He has a reputation among clients and peers for being “a wise and very intellectual practitioner”.

El Salvador

Arias & Muñoz is home to five individuals recognised by our research in El Salvador. Eduardo Ángel is a “greatly respected” practitioner, who leads the litigation department. He is described as “the go-to antitrust and consumer law expert” in the country. Mario Lozano’s antitrust practice focuses on the approval of economic concentrations and is described as “a prominent up-and-coming expert”. Fernando Montano is known to be “tremendously able”, advising national and international companies on a variety of matters relating to competition and consumer protection issues. Benjamín Rodríguez possesses a “sharp intellect” according to clients and peers, concentrating his practice on advising companies within regulated industries including energy, oil and sugar.

From Romero Pineda & Asociados Antonio Mendez is a “recognised name” in anti-competitive practices and consumer protection, working with a wide range of clients across the aviation, energy, telecommunications and financial industries, among others.

Honduras

Two outstanding practitioners are listed from Garcia & Bodan.  Jazna Vanessa Oqueli De Riera is the managing partner of the firm in Honduras. An experienced practitioner with a broad practice, she is considered “a key figure in the Honduran legal market”, according to clients and peers. Alongside her Ricardo Alfredo Duarte Jimenez is a “delight to deal with”, recognised for the quality of his work for which clients say he “always gives 110 per cent”.

Panama

Morgan & Morgan is home to two “fantastic” practitioners. María Eugenia Brenes impresses clients with her “sound reasoning” and “exceptional handling” of M&A approvals and defending clients before the commission. Carlos Ernesto González Ramírez is considered a “sensational” practitioner and “commands great respect” for his work across the banking, energy, telecommunications, insurance and real estate sectors.

At Alfaro Ferrer & Ramírez, Alfredo Ramírez is praised for his “insightful and erudite” advice, focusing his advice on consumer protection and anticompetitive practices.

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