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Alejandro Pignataro

Alejandro Pignataro

Pignataro AbogadosLindora Corporate Center3rd floor Santa AnaSan JoséCosta Rica
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Thought Leader

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

Questions & Answers

Alejandro Pignataro, LLM is a partner at Pignataro Abogados (Costa Rica). His practice focuses on corporate/M&A, and asset tracing and recovery. He frequently serves as local counsel to foreign receiverships, liquidators, government agencies and private victims, in asset tracing and recovery cases across several jurisdictions. He has been appointed as the Costa Rican member of ICC FraudNet, and he has participated as a host and a panellist on international asset tracing and recovery conferences.

What attracted you to specialise in asset recovery and fraud work?

Advising US Securities and Exchange Commission-appointed receivers in a couple of matters close to 20 years ago, with a successful outcome in both matters, drew my interest towards this area of practice. Since then, I have had the opportunity to serve as local counsel to other foreign receiverships, liquidators, government agencies and private victims, in asset tracing and recovery cases in several jurisdictions. In such matters, I have directed the domestic legal proceedings, interfacing with the enforcement agencies involved. Among the most commonly executed tasks in these matters, I have led local investigative efforts, gathered and secured evidence, and located and seized assets via the local authorities, when so required.

What was the most challenging aspect of establishing your own firm?

In a world of globalisation and consolidation of professional services firms, the biggest challenge was the dilemma between going “big/full-service” and “boutique/specialised”. After thorough research and discussion with my then founding partner, we concluded that there was still a significant corporate and individual clientele that favoured a more personalised, specialised and senior level of service, and therefore we opted for the boutique/specialised business model, which has fortunately proven to have been the right decision.

As founding partner, how do you ensure your firm stands out among competition in the market?

Differentiation is the keyword. Independence (free from conflict of interest), specialisation (practising in a select number of areas critical to our clients’ day-to-day needs), and the creation of value (via a profound understanding of our clients’ goals, the industry they do business in and their strategic plans) are our three core values. Through a solid local and international network of practitioners and consultants, we help our clients get further, quicker, via pragmatic, results-driven legal advice in the different areas of practice that we offer.

What are the greatest challenges currently facing asset recovery practitioners?

The greatest challenges facing asset recovery practitioners include, but are not limited to, the definition of jurisdiction over a specific matter; public (typically regulatory agencies) versus private plaintiffs going after the same assets; the interaction between common law and civil law systems; and the differences between civil and criminal asset tracing and recovery tools.

You are a member of ICC FraudNet – how important are such networks for the tracing, freezing and recovery of assets?

Belonging to ICC FraudNet has proven to be a critical success factor in my asset-tracing and recovery practice. Just as business is more and more globalised, so are fraud, corruption and insolvency cases, all common originators of asset recovery work. Offshore structures, accounts, assets and domicile of fraudsters and victims require the ability to act quickly, often in multiple jurisdictions, via specialised counsel and consultants (private investigators, forensic accountants). Time is always of the essence in these matters, so there is no room for a learning curve.

How has the competition for asset recovery lawyers in Central America evolved since you began practising in the area?

We continue to be a select few. Some people tend to assume criminal and/or civil litigators can do asset tracing and recovery work automatically, and although such professional experience adds value to the practice, it requires further, more specialised knowledge, as well as also a solid international network, such as ICC FraudNet.

In what ways has the pace of the technological change affected the way in which you approach asset recovery work?

Technology is a great tool in asset recovery work, for example, in terms of the speed at which we may obtain and process evidence, as well as freeze funds. Through the automatic processing of data, technology is of great help in identifying communications, patterns, generating leads, verifying wire transfers of funds, all of great value for investigative and recovery work. By the same token, it also allows the fraudsters to transfer their ill-gotten gains offshore more quickly. The development and increment of blockchain technology, specifically cryptocurrencies, also poses a significant hurdle when the proceeds of a crime are funnelled via such channels. Technology also presents opportunities to increase anonymity and thus make it harder to identify the ultimate person responsible for parties leading fraudulent online platforms, ie, websites.

What advice would you give to younger practitioners looking to pursue a career in the field?

The best advice I can give to younger practitioners looking to pursue a career in the field is to work with someone already familiar with the area of practice. They should also attend asset tracing and recovery conferences and events, where they can network with leaders in the field, including experts in the areas of forensic accounting, investigative work and information technology, among others.

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

WWL says

Alejandro Pignataro “should definitely be included” according to sources who highlight his impressive work handling asset tracing matters in relation to international fraud cases.

Questions & Answers

Alejandro Pignataro, LLM, is a partner at Pignataro Abogados (Costa Rica). His practice focuses on corporate M&A, and asset tracing and recovery. He frequently serves as local counsel to foreign receiverships, liquidators, government agencies and private victims in asset tracing and recovery cases across several jurisdictions. He has been appointed as the Costa Rican member for ICC FraudNet, and he has participated as a host and panellist at international asset tracing and recovery conferences.

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO PURSUE A LEGAL CAREER?

The ability to interact with people; assist them with their legal needs; and bring them closer towards reaching their business goals or solving their disputes. Being an attorney allows me to collaborate with professionals from different fields (eg, investment bankers, private investigators, forensic auditors) in providing integral advice to our clients so they can make informed decisions, or helping them towards securing a positive result in litigation.

HOW HAS THE LEGAL MARKET CHANGED SINCE YOU FIRST STARTED PRACTISING?

Significant changes have occurred in the legal market over the past 20-plus years, including the consolidation of large firms, the disappearance of medium-sized ones and the increased number of boutiques; audit and accounting firms re-entering the legal arena since Sarbanes-Oxley; and technology and artificial intelligence replacing repetitive legal tasks, among other changes. Compensation structures have had to adapt to clients demanding more creative, flexible and results-oriented fee proposals. Litigation funding has also been a game changer as it relates to litigation in general, and asset recovery in particular.

WHAT DOES YOUR ROLE AS THE COSTA RICAN REPRESENTATIVE FOR ICC FRAUDNET ENTAIL, AND HOW DOES IT ENHANCE YOUR WORK IN PRIVATE PRACTICE?

Serving as ICC FraudNet’s member in my country has been of great value for both our firm’s corporate and litigation practices, as it allows us to direct our clients’ international needs to competent counsel in the different countries where they do business and where the network has a presence, and vice versa. From a business perspective, regional opportunities are shared with counsel in jurisdictions nearby. Litigation-wise, matters dealing with insolvency, fraud or corruption are sent our way if all or part of the matter has a Costa Rican component to it.

WHAT QUALITIES MAKE AN EFFECTIVE ASSET RECOVERY LAWYER?

Asset recovery work requires knowing the legally available tools to search and secure assets in a swift and discreet manner, while formal requests are processed through the appropriate channels. Local knowledge of the administrative and judicial authorities is also of value to ensure prompt attention to time-sensitive matters. Having a solid international network of specialised practitioners, such as ICC FraudNet, in a world where fraud is as global as business is also crucial, as assets are often transferred to jurisdictions other than those where the fraud was committed – as is the incorporation of the legal entities used to hide them.

YOUR PRACTICE OFTEN REQUIRES YOU TO COLLABORATE WITH DIFFERENT ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES. HOW DO YOU PREPARE FOR THIS?

There are two types of cases from this perspective, with regard to the local enforcement agencies. The first are those where a government agency from another country is involved (ie, a regulator or enforcement agency), in which cooperation is swifter as diplomatic channels work in parallel with formal legal proceedings. The second are those in which only private parties are involved, and therefore the local authorities are more hesitant to assist without the formalities required by the courts.

In the first case, the key is to be able to translate the foreign judicial requirement and understand how it applies under the local legislation, in order to obtain the end result. For the second case, one must identify quicker routes towards securing the assets, such as those provided by anti-money laundering legislation and regulations, while the appropriate legal proceedings are followed.

WHAT IS THE MOST INTERESTING CASE YOU HAVE BEEN A PART OF?

It was my very first asset recovery case, in which the fraudster who committed a Ponzi scheme invested the proceeds therefrom into another Ponzi scheme. This allowed us to recover, from the latter, 100 per cent of the amount defrauded.

WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO SET UP YOUR OWN FIRM?

Specialisation, independence and the creation of value. Having been at large and medium-sized firms in the past, I opted for a boutique concept, which has allowed me and my team to cater to a group of select and sophisticated corporate and individual clients, who favour a personalised legal service completely aligned with their interests. This allows us to become strategic counsellors for both their business and litigation needs.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE LOOKING TO START THEIR OWN FIRM?

Differentiation is crucial in a competitive environment. Surrounding yourself with highly skilled professionals, who complement your strengths and allow you to provide an integral legal service to clients, is key. There will be challenges along the way, but if you are determined and hardworking, success will come over time.

Thought Leaders - Litigation

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

Biography

Alejandro Pignataro, LLM, is a partner at Pignataro Abogados (Costa Rica). His practice focuses on corporate/M&A, and asset tracing and recovery. He frequently serves as local counsel to foreign receiverships, liquidators, government agencies and private victims, in asset tracing and recovery cases across several jurisdictions. He has been appointed as the Costa Rican member of ICC FraudNet, and he has participated as a host and a panellist on international asset tracing and recovery conferences.

What attracted you to specialise in asset recovery and fraud work?

Advising US Securities and Exchange Commission-appointed receivers in a couple of matters close to 20 years ago, with a successful outcome in both matters, drew my interest towards this area of practice. Since then, I have had the opportunity to serve as local counsel to other foreign receiverships, liquidators, government agencies and private victims, in asset tracing and recovery cases in several jurisdictions. In such matters, I have directed the domestic legal proceedings, interfacing with the enforcement agencies involved. Among the most commonly executed tasks in these matters, I have led local investigative efforts, gathered and secured evidence, and located and seized assets via the local authorities, when so required.

What was the most challenging aspect of establishing your own firm?

In a world of globalisation and consolidation of professional services firms, the biggest challenge was the dilemma between going “big/full-service” and “boutique/specialised”. After thorough research and discussion with my then founding partner, we concluded that there was still a significant corporate and individual clientele that favoured a more personalised, specialised and senior level of service, and therefore we opted for the boutique/specialised business model, which has fortunately proven to have been the right decision.

As founding partner, how do you ensure your firm stands out among competition in the market?

Differentiation is the keyword. Independence (free from conflict of interest), specialisation (practising in a select number of areas critical to our clients’ day-to-day needs) and the creation of value (via a profound understanding of our clients’ goals, the industry they do business in and their strategic plans) are our three core values. Through a solid local and international network of practitioners and consultants, we help our clients get further, quicker, via pragmatic, results-driven legal advice in the different areas of practice that we offer.

What are the greatest challenges currently facing asset recovery practitioners?

The greatest challenges facing asset recovery practitioners include, but are not limited to, the definition of jurisdiction over a specific matter; public (typically regulatory agencies) versus private plaintiffs going after the same assets; the interaction between common law and civil law systems; and the differences between civil and criminal asset tracing and recovery tools.

You are a member of ICC FraudNet – how important are such networks for the tracing, freezing and recovery of assets?

Belonging to ICC FraudNet has proven to be a critical success factor in my asset-tracing and recovery practice. Just as business is more and more globalised, so are fraud, corruption and insolvency cases, all common originators of asset recovery work. Offshore structures, accounts, assets and domicile of fraudsters and victims require the ability to act quickly, often in multiple jurisdictions, via specialised counsel and consultants (private investigators, forensic accountants). Time is always of the essence in these matters, so there is no room for a learning curve.

How has the competition for asset recovery lawyers in Central America evolved since you began practising in the area?

We continue to be a select few. Some people tend to assume criminal and/or civil litigators can do asset tracing and recovery work automatically, and although such professional experience adds value to the practice, it requires further, more specialised knowledge, as well as a solid international network, such as ICC FraudNet.

In what ways has the pace of the technological change affected the way in which you approach asset recovery work?

Technology is a great tool in asset recovery work, for example, in terms of the speed at which we may obtain and process evidence, as well as freeze funds. Through the automatic processing of data, technology is of great help in identifying communications, patterns, generating leads, verifying wire transfers of funds, all of great value for investigative and recovery work. By the same token, it also allows the fraudsters to transfer their ill-gotten gains offshore more quickly. The development and increment of blockchain technology, specifically cryptocurrencies, also poses a significant hurdle when the proceeds of a crime are funnelled via such channels. Technology also presents opportunities to increase anonymity and thus make it harder to identify the ultimate person responsible for parties leading fraudulent online platforms, ie, websites.

What advice would you give to younger practitioners looking to pursue a career in the field?

The best advice I can give to younger practitioners looking to pursue a career in the field is to work with someone already familiar with the area of practice. They should also attend asset tracing and recovery conferences and events, where they can network with leaders in the field, including experts in the areas of forensic accounting, investigative work and information technology, among others.

Global Leader

Asset Recovery 2019

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

WWL says

Alejandro Pignataro draws widespread international praise as a top name in asset recovery practice.

Biography

Alejandro Pignataro (LLM, Boston University, 2003), partner at Pignataro Abogados, leads the asset tracing and recovery practice at the firm. He frequently serves as local counsel to receiverships and private counsel in multi-jurisdictional fraud cases. He is the local representative for ICC Fraudnet.
WWL Ranking: Recommended

National Leader

WWL Ranking: Recommended
WWL Ranking: Recommended
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