Who’s Who Legal spoke to Rodrigo Pérez Elizundia, legal counsel and corporate governance director at ThyssenKrupp Uhde/Mexico, a leading engineering company in the design and construction of chemical, refining and other industrial plants. The Mexico subsidiary was founded in 1982 and has a workforce of almost 400. Mr Pérez Elizundia joined the group in 2008; previously he worked as in-house corporate lawyer at Tenaris-Tamsa, an international industrial group, supplier for the energy industry. Mr Pérez Elizundia has specialised in corporate and business law.
Name: Rodrigo Pérez Elizundia
Position: Legal counsel and corporate governance director
Company: ThyssenKrupp Uhde/México
Number of employees: 5,600 worldwide, 390 in Mexico
ThyssenKrupp is a diversified industrial group headquartered in Germany with operations in around 80 countries. The result of a merger between Thyssen and Krupp in 1999 – both of which can trace their origins back to the 1800s – the company now has 170,000 employees and generated sales of €49 billion in the 2010/2011 fiscal year.
Mexico is one of the company’s most important markets with a sales volume of €900 million for the group. The second largest economy in Latin America, Mexico’s industrial output is considerable.
The new presidential regime is expected to boost growth further.
Setting a precedent in the region, ThyssenKrupp has set out to achieve the highest level of compliance throughout the group and in all of its business activities. The company’s rigid compliance programme operates a zero-tolerance policy regarding antitrust violations and corruption. Furthermore, ensuring the company adheres to statutory provisions and internal company policies is a key management duty.
Tell us about your role.
I am in-house legal counsel and corporate governance director at Uhde Mexico and Uhde Engineering de México in Mexico City. Both companies belong to an international group of companies, of which ThyssenKrupp AG in Germany, is the parent company.
ThyssenKrupp is divided into several business areas and the ThyssenKrupp Uhde group belongs to the plant technology division. It consists of several companies around the world including the US, Brazil, India, South Africa, Japan, Thailand, Australia, Canada and of course, Mexico. It is headquartered in Dortmund, Germany.
As in-house counsel I have the opportunity to get in touch with all areas of the law which concern our companies, from corporate law to civil law and contracts, international law, labour law, tax law, energy law, etc, as well as compliance, public bidding procedures and risk management. I also have significant involvement in business and managerial topics, and I learn a lot from them. As a part of an international group, we get to work a lot with our affiliated companies – mostly in the US, Canada, and Latin America, as well as with our parent company in Germany.
As corporate governance director I try to secure fluent communication and understanding among our managers, board members and shareholders, and look for the proper internal governance of our company through the implementation of the required controlling measures in close cooperation with our CEO and parent companies. All of this makes daily work much more varied and interesting.
When do you enlist the advice of external lawyers?
For specialist areas, such as energy or tax law. We also use external counsel for litigation and when doing business in foreign jurisdictions.
Do you tend to work with the same law firms?
What skills do you look for in external counsel?
Fast feedback, accurate work, a deep knowledge of their specialised area of law and an ethical approach.
Describe the Mexican legal marketplace. Is there a lot of choice for clients? Do you prefer to work with international firms or local firms? How can firms distinguish themselves?
Yes, there is a great range of law firms for clients to choose from including both local and international firms and firms of all sizes. Our choice of law firm depends on the matter to hand and on the lawyer. I prefer to choose lawyers rather than law firms. When we do business in other countries, we prefer to use international firms or local firms that have been recommended to us by other ThyssenKrupp companies or law firms that we regularly work with in Mexico. Firms can distinguish themselves by delivering personal, efficient and accurate attention to their clients as well as preferential rates.
What impact has the global recession had upon the Mexican economy? How reliant is the economy on the US?
From our company’s perspective the Mexican financial system has remained solid. Public finances, as well as tax and monetary systems, have been handled prudently and according to the strictest international norms. Our North American regional headquarters and our company are optimistic about Mexico’s growth prospects in light of the recent increase in manufacturing mostly driven by the automotive industry, a stable currency and the significant increase in labour costs in China. These factors have combined to make Mexican exports to the US more competitive. This is particularly important as exports to the US count for more than 70 per cent of all exports and the automotive industry makes up a considerable proportion of that figure. Mexico has certainly benefited from the recovery of this industry.
Corporate social responsibility is becoming increasingly important. Can you tell us how your company is helping to build a better future?
ThyssenKrupp has around 170,000 employees in 80 countries and works to develop solutions for sustainable progress. The company believes that innovation and technical progress are key factors in managing global growth and using finite resources in a sustainable way. For 200 years, these commitments have been an inherent part of ThyssenKrupp’s corporate culture and the company is committed to meeting the global challenges of the future with innovative solutions.
What are your predictions for Mexico in the upcoming months? What impact do you expect this to have on your company?
ThyssenKrupp Uhde Mexico expects to see support for the country’s economic growth from the government and the promotion of internal and external investment. Our company also expects the passing of much needed structural reforms in the labour, tax and energy areas. From our point of view these reforms will aid Mexico’s economic growth and have a positive impact on companies doing business in Mexico. Moreover, further modernisation of Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex, the Mexican state-owned oil company), following the example of other Latin American state-owned oil companies, would have a very positive impact on ThyssenKrupp Uhde and others, creating in turn, more wealth and jobs for the country.
Which areas of the economy show room for growth?
To name but a few: energy, telecommunications, financial services, housing and the car industry.