Friday, 4th May 2012

A guide to the lawyers leading the way in antitrust

Amid the global slowdown, Latin America remains a hot spot for M&A activity, and with this comes a need for antitrust lawyers. Several countries in the region have updated their competition legislation in recent years, meaning the practice area is growing in sophistication. Brazil’s long overdue antitrust law is due to come into force imminently. Meanwhile, Mexico has recently criminalised cartel behaviour and increased potential fines.Two years ago, Chile reinforced its legislation greatly, raising the game for the country’s competition lawyers. While a slower deal flow in Argentina means that demand for antitrust advice in local deals is lower, the country’s firms remain busy on the local legs of multijurisdictional deals. Meanwhile, in Colombia, firms are seeing fit to invest in the area. Here we look at the leading competition practices in those markets

Argentina

Merger work is a staple for competition practices in Argentina. Firms say the sluggish nature of the country’s competition enforcement regime means their antitrust practices have not grown as quickly as they would have hoped. A few firms thrive on carrying out the Argentine aspects of global competition matters.

Allende & Brea Abogados is recognised as one of Argentina’s leading merger practices and has advised clients in some of last year’s most significant international transactions. These include acting for Johnson & Johnson in its US$21 billion merger with Synthes and representing luxury brand LVMH in its takeover of Bulgari. Partner Julián Peña leads the six-lawyer team. As well as its plentiful merger work, the firm is also representing several clients in behavioural matters. Peña says the team is representing a company involved in one of the major cartel investigations taking place at the moment at the CNDC.

Marcelo den Toom leads the competition practice at M & M Bomchil Abogados. Javier Petrantonio took over as the firm’s managing partner and now does little competition work, but den Toom is supported by Héctor Maria Huici and telecoms specialist Francisco Martin Gutiérrez. Rivals say the firm is particularly well known for the significant volume of merger control work it handles, and 2011 was no different. The team has advised on deals such as Lanxess’s acquisition of Darmex and PepsiCo’s purchase of biscuit manufacturer Dilexis. The firm continues to advise clients on several cartel and abuse of dominance investigations.

Marval O’Farrell & Mairal boasts Argentina’s largest competition practice, led by renowned practitioner Alfredo M O’Farrell. He is supported by partners Miguel del Pino and Alberto Molinario. Fernando Aranovich is now of counsel. The firm offers a full-service practice and has been busy with some of Argentina’s most prominent merger filings, both domestic and international. Highlights include advising Petrobras in its purchase of Argentine rival Refap, and Cargill in its acquisition of AWB’s Argentine business. Marval O’Farrell is representing both Bridas and BP in the sale of BP’s stake in Pan American Energy. Marval O’Farrell also maintains a busy behavioural department, advising Shell and Philip Morris in alleged abuse of dominance cases, and acting for Loma Negra and Air Liquide in appeals against CNDC cartel fines.

Baker & McKenzie’s antitrust practice in Argentina is headed by partner Esteban Rópolo. The practice draws on its significant international client base to garner work at its Argentine practice. Gustavo Boruchowicz and Guillermo Cervio join Rópolo in the partnership. While the firm has had both transactional and behavioural matters on its books, the bulk of its recent work has been mergers. It is advising chemical company BASF on the Argentine clearance of its purchase of Cognis and Brazilian mining company Vale on its acquisition of an iron ore mine in Brazil that supplies the Argentine market. On the behavioural side, Baker & McKenzie is advising British American Tobacco subsidiary Nobleza Piccardo over abuse of dominance allegations.

Former CNDC president and founding partner Gabriel Bouzat heads the practice at Bouzat Rosenkrantz & Asociados. Bouzat is widely considered a competition heavyweight, having advised the Argentine congress on drafting the 1999 Competition Act before joining the CNDC. Partner Virginia del Águila supports him. The firm recently represented Claro in its challenge of the acquisition of Telecom Italia by its rival Telefónica de España. On the merger side, the team advised InBev in its merger with rival Anheuser-Busch and América Móvil regarding its acquisition of Carso Global Telecom.

Thirteen lawyers make up the practice at Bruchou, Fernández Madero & Lombardi Abogados. Renowned as a corporate law firm, the competition department was formed in 1999, off the back of the firm’s mergers and acquisitions practice, and is led by partners Siro Astolfi, Javier Rodríguez Galli and Estanislao Olmos. Bruchou’s team worked with several different industries last year, particularly in the Werthein Group and Telecom Italia’s agreement to continue their partnership in Telecom Argentina. The firm’s other clients include Molinos Río de la Plata, ABN Amro, Alicorp, DP World Overseas and Thomson Reuters Americas.

It has been a merger-heavy year at Estudio Beccar Varela. Horacio Beccar Varela now leads the antitrust practice, after former head Bernardo Cassagne left to launch his own boutique with partner Maximiliano Krause. Despite this, Beccar Varela has remained busy. The firm recently represented white goods company Electrolux in its acquisition of Compañía Tecno Industrial. International mergers are also on the firm’s books, with Beccar Varela most notably advising Unilever on the Argentine aspects of its merger with Alberto Culver.

Pablo Trevisán, head of competition at family-run firm Estudio Trevisán, says the firm has seen an increase in behavioural matters this year. As well as continuing to advise companies in the oil and gas industries cartel and other conduct cases, the firm now counts Clariant, One Equity Partners and Pentagon Holdings as clients. Trevisán says the firm’s steady workload is also due to a sizeable amount of referral work from larger, international firms, primarily on mergers.

Led by partner Jorge Otamendi, G Breuer is a firm that specialises in intellectual property and its crossover with competition law. Three associates complete the team, and the firm handles both transactional and behavioural matters. The firm last year represented Cadbury in its merger process with Kraft. Among the firm’s most representative clients are Visa, Unilever, BASF, Shell and Praxair. Otamendi is academically active and has produced several of the most respected texts on competition law.

García Menéndez Abogados was set up in 2005, after founding partner Sebastián García Menéndez left Bruchou Fernández Madero & Lombardi to start his own boutique. The firm primarily represents plaintiffs in competition litigation matters and continues to intervene as counsel to an interested party in the merger between Cablevisión and Multicanal. It is also intervening in a merger in the pharmaceutical industry.

Brazil

A robust and growing economy means there is plenty of work for Brazil’s antitrust practices. Transactional work is plentiful both at home and internationally. All firms are taking on varied casework, resulting in a shrink of the gap between boutiques and full-service practices.

Advocacia José Del Chiaro is led by one of the country’s best known antitrust specialists, José Del Chiaro Ferreira da Rosa, a former head of Brazil’s Secretariat of Economic Law (SDE) and a founding member of Ibrac, Brazil’s largest competition-focused group, to which most of Brazil’s competition lawyers belong. The competition team comprises eight experienced partners leading a highly regarded antitrust group. Last year the team was exceptionally busy, handling Brazilian aspects of the acquisition of MAN by Volkswagen, and advising local consumer goods and pharmaceutical leader Hypermarcas in seven acquisitions. Advocacia Del Chiaro also has substantial expertise in behavioural cases. It is representing Heineken against Ambev in three abuse of dominance cases and acting for Philip Morris against the Brazilian arm of British American Tobacco in an exclusive dealing case. Advocacia Del Chiaro is also advising companies in many cartel investigations, handling a series of judicial reviews of cartel investigations and is heavily involved in private enforcement matters.

Described as “one of the original specialists” by his rivals, José Inácio Gonzaga Franceschini runs one of Brazil’s highest quality antitrust practices at Franceschini e Miranda Advogados. The firm has handled its fair share of international transactional matters, including pharmaceutical company Pfizer’s US$68 billion acquisition of rival Wyeth. In Brazil, the group assisted the pharmacy company Drogasil’s acquisition of Raia. The firm is more focused on behavioural cases, in which it has significant expertise. It continues to advise clients in major international matters, such as Goodyear in the marine hose cartel investigation and LG in the cathode ray tube (CRT) and thin film transistor liquid crystal display (TFT-LCD) cartel. Franceschini e Miranda is also handling a series of judicial review cases for numerous clients seeking annulments of decisions by the Brazilian antitrust authorities.

Leading the charge for competition boutiques is Magalhães, Nery e Dias Advocacia, made up of just 23 lawyers specialising in antitrust and litigation. While all the lawyers are involved in antitrust matters, the firm has 14 dedicated specialists. These include co-heads Gabriel Nogueira Dias and Carlos Francisco de Magalhães, who are both highly regarded among the Brazilian antitrust community. The firm is advising long standing client Lafarge over a purchase of assets from rival Votorantim, and also representing Vale in its acquisition of two fertiliser companies. On top of this, the firm saw a busy year in behavioural cases, most notably advising beverage company AmBev over creating alleged barriers to entry to the Brazilian beer market. Magalhães Nery is also representing Nestle in administrative proceedings over alleged exclusivity agreements with retailers.

José Augusto Caleiro Regazzini and Marcelo Calliari jointly lead the antitrust team at TozziniFreire Advogados. Both are renowned Brazilian antitrust practitioners, and Calliari is a former CADE commissioner and, until recently, Ibrac president. They are supported by partner Daniel Oliveira Andreoli, and in December, Joana Cianfarani became the group’s fourth partner. The 12-strong legal team has great experience. Despite being best known for its merger control capabilities (it handled more than 50 filings in 2010 and in 2011), TozziniFreire says behavioural work has increased so much that it makes up the majority of its activities. The firm represents clients in the air cargo, DRAM and liquid crystal display cartel investigations, among others. It has also negotiated over a dozen of the leniency applications that the Brazilian authorities have accepted since the programme began. Other matters include advising Casino on a dispute between Casino and Pão de Açucar on its proposed merger with Carrefour.

Former head of antitrust at the SDE, Barbara Rosenberg is a highly regarded lawyer in charge of a highly successful team at Barbosa Müssnich & Aragão. The firm continues to expand rapidly under Rosenberg’s watchful eye. A part-time partner and associate also help out on occasion from the firm’s Brasilia office. Rosenberg says the firm is advising in “virtually all international cartel investigations in Brazil”, including the negotiation of leniency agreements with the country’s antitrust authorities. But Barbosa Müssnich has also handled major transactional matters. It acted in one of Brazil’s highest profile deals of 2011 – Sadia’s merger with Perdigão – which became Brasil Foods and is also assisting airline TAM in its merger discussions with rival LAN, a deal that would create South America’s largest airline, which won conditional approval in Chile and Brazil late last year.

Grinberg Cordovil e Barros Advogados was formed in April 2010, after the antitrust team at Barcellos Tucunduva split off to become its own boutique. Practice leader Mauro Grinberg, Leonor Cordovil and Carlos Barros set up the firm, and brought an impressive reputation with them. Grinberg is particularly highly regarded as a former CADE commissioner and past president of Ibrac. He says the firm is acting in 18 cartel matters at the moment. Most recently, Grinberg acted as counsel to Melhoramentos in CADE’s 10-year toilet paper cartel case, which was closed in April.

After a tough year in 2010, Levy & Salomão Advogados has rebuilt its practice and restored its reputation as a leading antitrust firm. The firm lost three partners and four associates to rivals last year, with Alexandre Ditzel Faraco joining the firm and supporting practice leader Bolívar Moura Rocha. Since then, the firm has hired partners Ana Paula Martinez, who was formerly head of the SDE’s antitrust division, and Mariana Tavares de Araujo, who was SDE head before joining the firm. Both are heavy hitters with sterling reputations in the antitrust community. Merger filings have been plentiful, with the firm advising Polycom on its acquisition of Hewlett-Packard’s video-conferencing product line. Meanwhile, the firm is representing SHV gas in a gas cartel probe and AmBev in an abuse of dominance investigation in the beverage sector.

The antitrust practice at Machado, Meyer, Sendacz e Opice Advogados is led by Ibrac president Tito Amaral de Andrade. The team is well experienced, with former antitrust authority officials among the 10-person team. Specialists in merger control, Machado Meyer represented VeriFone in the acquisition of Hypercom, a three-to-two merger in the market for point-of-sale terminals. The deal, which was subject to thorough scrutiny in Brazil and other jurisdictions, was unconditionally cleared by CADE. The firm also has an active behavioural side, and Andrade says the firm is currently handling “a number of leniency applications”.

Meanwhile, the two-partner team at Mattos Filho, Veiga Filho, Marrey Jr e Quiroga Advogados continues to handle an impressive docket of cases before the Brazilian antitrust agencies. Led by capable partners Lauro Celidonio Gomes dos Reis Neto and Amadeu Carvalhaes Ribeiro, the Mattos Filho team has handled more than 60 merger filings over the past year, and the firm is involved in virtually all major domestic and international cartel investigations currently under investigation by the country’s antitrust authorities. The team has also spent considerable time composing and negotiating leniency applications before the SDE. Clients last year include advising Grupo Camargo Corrêa in its acquisition of a stake in Portuguese cement group CIMPOR.

Pinheiro Neto Advogados is one of Brazil’s largest law firms, with a sizeable and active antitrust team. Partners Cristianne Saccab Zarzur and Renê Medrado are supported by four more partners. The firm has handled numerous merger control filings this year. It is representing Microsoft in its US$8.5 billion purchase of Skype; acting for LAN Airlines in its successful merger with rival TAM; and representing Caterpillar in its merger with Bucyrus. Alongside the plethora of transactional work is a busy behavioural practice. Pinheiro Neto advised Kimberly-Clark in CADE’s 10-year toilet paper cartel investigation. It also successfully defended dairy Itambé against allegations of exclusionary conduct, and advises clients in the hydrogen peroxide, graphite electrode and DRAM cartel investigations.

Trench, Rossi e Watanabe Advogados (associated with Baker & McKenzie) generates a great deal of its work within Brazil, even though it is part of the Baker & McKenzie empire with access to its vast network. The firm’s extremely well-regarded antitrust practice is led by Túlio Freitas do Egito Coelho and Francisco Ribeiro Todorov. Coelho is leader of the Brazil antitrust team and also head of Baker & McKenzie’s regional Latin American antitrust team. His work this year has focused on the defence of clients in some of the most significant international cartel investigations in Brazil and advising clients on merger control matters. In cartel work, the firm is advising Mitsubishi in the DRAM and gas insulated switchgear cartel probes and American Airlines in the air cargo cartel case, among others. The team also represents Air Liquide in an appeal against CADE fines for an alleged cartel in the industrial and medical gas market.

Mário Roberto Villanova Nogueira heads the antitrust practice at Demarest e Almeida Advogados. The firm has been busy with both transactional and behavioural work, notably advising pharmaceutical company Takeda in its acquisition of Nycomed. The deal was unconditionally approved in Brazil. On the behavioural side, Demarest is acting for companies in the graphite electrode, air cargo and underground cable cartel investigations. The firm is also representing a company over bid-rigging allegations in the dredging industry, and advising a trade association in a case regarding alleged exclusionary conduct. Nogueira is supported by partner Bruno Drago.

The antitrust practice at Mattos Muriel Kestener Advogados is led by Ubiratan Mattos, who is recognised by peers as a leading name in the field. Joining him in the partnership are Maria Cecilia Andrade in São Paulo and João Berchmans Serra in Brasília. The firm is particularly experienced in litigious matters. Among its behavioural cases, Mattos Muriel represents the Brazilian Association of Travel Agencies in an SDE investigation of alleged anti-competitive practices. Despite the litigation focus, the firm has also handled several merger filings. Notable cases include representing Braskem in its acquisition of certain Dow Chemical propylene plants.

Chile

Two years ago, Chile ushered in a new, far more aggressive antitrust law and hired a new chief economic prosecutor, Felipe Irarrázabal, charged with enforcing those laws. The top Chilean antitrust practices have been active over the past year or so, both in legacy cases and the select high-profile new matters that have appeared on the Competition Tribunal’s docket.

Claudio Lizana is one of the most respected names in Chilean antitrust. He and fellow partner Lorena Pavic translate their extensive experience into ability at the helm of Carey y Cía’s antitrust practice – one of the largest in the country. This combination of size and ability has allowed the firm to take on significant matters. While traditionally a mergers shop, the practice has shifted its focus to litigation recently. Pavic has dedicated all of her time to antitrust matters since joining the partnership two years ago, and Lizana says he now spends about three-quarters of his time on antitrust. The firm has a good mergers practice too. Lizana says the group has advised companies on potential competition issues in several matters and has appeared before the country’s competition tribunal.

Few firms in Chile have the antitrust clients and cases of the same calibre as the team at Chilean litigation powerhouse Claro y Cía. The eight-lawyer competition team, lead by Cristóbal Eyzaguirre B, has been at the forefront of competition law developments in the country over the past few years, handling several contentious cases, acting on behalf of leading companies operating in Chile. What’s more, he says many of those companies are clients of the antitrust and litigation team, not simply hand-me-downs from the corporate practice. “We have our own clients. We see ourselves as the top litigation boutique in the country,” says Eyzaguirre. Notable among the top-tier work, the firm has advised LAN Airlines in its contested tie-up with Brazil’s TAM – a deal that made its way before the country’s National Competition Tribunal after a third party complained that the merger would harm competition on flights throughout Latin America.

In terms of size, few Chilean firms can match the bench depth of FerradaNehme. The antitrust and litigation boutique, founded in 2000, boasts two competition partners, including founding partner Nicole Nehme. Two other partners – including the well-respected Paulo Montt – split time between antitrust cases and other litigation work. Mergers have been down considerably over the past two years, yet in 2010 the FerradaNehme team was involved in nearly a dozen deals and other transactions that required antitrust work. It has also taken advantage of the FNE’s increased focus on busting cartels, representing Walmart Chile in a predatory pricing case that saw its conclusion at the Supreme Court in June, which dismissed the claims. FerradaNehme is also defending Nestlé over allegations of abuse of dominance and exclusionary conduct.

Meanwhile, the sizeable antitrust practice at Barros Letelier & Cía has continued its recent history of handling major mergers and competition investigations. The team is led by founding partner Enrique Barros Bourie, while two other partners lend experience and bench depth few firms can match. Partner Francisco González Hoch comes highly recommended and David Nuñez, promoted to partner in November, is also well thought of. Aside from its slate of mergers and investigations for institutional clients, such as telecoms powerhouse Entel PCS, unfolding developments in Chilean antitrust enforcement have driven a solid stream of counselling and advisory work, says Nuñez.

Since the firm opened for business in 2006, Pellegrini & Urrutia has been a litigation boutique first and foremost. But head antitrust partner Julio Pellegrini says that hasn’t stopped the firm from becoming involved in competition counselling and advisory work for companies who believe they may end up before the Competition Tribunal. The firm recently hired the highly regarded José Manuel Bustamante from rival Urenda Rencoret Orrego y Dörr and helped Canada Chemicals sue Companñía Chilena de Fósforos over alleged actions the incumbent safety match manufacturer had used to shut competition out of the market.

Although established Chilean firm Philippi, Yrarrázaval, Pulido & Brunner lost head antitrust partner Felipe Irarrázabal when he left to lead the FNE last year, the firm has, by all indications, not missed a beat in his absence. Led by newly elected partner Ricardo Riesco, the five-lawyer team has retained all of the clients and cases from Irarrázabal’s time at the firm and has added considerable work in his absence. Over the past year, the firm has continued winning major cases for its clients, including Cencosud and Grupo Prisa, and the firm has taken a major role in one of the FNE’s signature cartel cases.

The team at Prieto y Cía has undergone some major changes over the last year as José Luis Prieto, partner and head of the antitrust practice, has by and large stepped away from the firm to take over a family business. The highly capable Benjamin Grebe has assumed the helm of the practice and cases continue unhampered. Grebe says the focus of the four-lawyer practice has also changed somewhat, as increased penalties for anti-competitive behaviour and fewer new cases have left the firm’s corporate client base more in need of advice and counselling than courtroom defence.

Senior counsel Antonio Ortúzar leads the Chilean arm of Baker & McKenzie’s competition team. The sizeable group is completed by partners Rodrigo Diaz de Valdés and Ignacio Garcia. The firm has had a very busy year in behavioural matters. Ortúzar and de Valdés advised travel agency Abercrombie & Kent in a complex litigation over alleged abuse of dominance and boycotting of a luxury hotel chain. De Valdés is also acting for Whirlpool, Black & Decker and Applica in a competition authority investigation of alleged collusion in the market for household appliances. Baker & McKenzie remains active on the merger front, advising Concha y Toro, Chile’s largest vineyard, in its acquisition of US-based Fetzer Vineyards.

At Lewin & Cia, partner Nicolás Lewin Muñoz was the first dedicated competition lawyer at the century-old firm when he joined in 2007 and since then, he and an associate have been almost exclusively counselling the firm’s clients through antitrust issues behind the scenes.

Several other firms boast strong competition practices. Although lawyers at Barros & Errazuriz declined to respond to requests to participate in this survey, others in the region say its competition team is active in several high-profile cases. Meanwhile, the team at Morales & Besa, led by Gonzalo Cordero, continues to appear in major antitrust matters.

Colombia

Colombia is the only jurisdiction in Latin America that demands pre-merger clearance before parties can proceed with a deal. Recent changes to the merger regime – including a fast-track procedure – have helped to make the process less burdensome, but it is still far from simple.

Corporate practices

Baker & McKenzie’s competition team is strongly tied to the M&A practice, as well as working with the firm’s wider network of offices. Partner Carolina Pardo heads the antitrust group, which includes another two partners. The firm was also part of the legal team advising British American Tobacco in its opposition to the merger of Philip Morris and local tobacco company Protabaco, which was rejected by the authorities. The team then acted as lead counsel in British American Tobacco’s successful application to acquire Protabaco. Baker & McKenzie advised Schindler Group on its joint venture agreement with leading Colombian elevator manufacturer Coservicios.

At Brigard & Urrutia Abogados, Carlos Umaña leads the competition group alongside Sergio Michelsen. The antitrust group is the largest in Colombia. The well-established practice boasts corporate and IP expertise. It specialises in merger control filings but also advises corporate clients on unfair competition and other behavioural competition matters. Brigard & Urrutia advised Iberia on Colombian aspects of its merger with British Airways – one of the largest transactions in the commercial airline sector. The firm represented Colgate-Palmolive when it sold Unilever all of its laundry detergent business. And it advised Itochu on its US$1.5 billion acquisition of a 20 per cent stake in Drummond Coal’s Colombian coal operation.

Mauricio Jaramillo leads the competition team at Gómez-Pinzón Zuleta Abogados SA. The firm represented Experian when it acquired Computec, an information services company in Latin America. DataCredito is the leading credit bureau in Colombia and has operations in Peru, Ecuador and Venezuela. Gómez-Pinzón structured and implemented the antitrust strategy for obtaining approval for the transaction. The competition group also represented pharmaceutical groups Eli Lilly and Company and Janssen Pharmaceutical in obtaining approval for the acquisition of Janssen’s Animal Health Business by Eli Lilly.

Martín Carrizosa heads the competition practice at prietocarrizosa. The group handles both behavioural and merger work, as well as working closely with the intellectual property arm of the firm. The firm won antitrust approval from the competition authority for Johnson Controls’ joint venture with MAC in the automotive batteries market. On the behavioural side, prietocarrizosa represented Centelsa, Colombia’s largest cable producer, in an investigation of alleged price fixing, which was closed with no charges against the company. The competition team is advising an energy distribution company on one of the few recent cases where the competition authority has opened an unfair competition investigation.

Boutique practices

At Esguerra Barrera Arriaga, partners Alfonso Miranda Londoño and Andrés Jaramillo Hoyos lead the antitrust team. Alfonso Miranda has litigated, advised and taught in the antitrust and M&A arena for more than 20 years. Jaramillo has been active in the field for more than 15 years, while other members of the team have spent time working at Colombia’s Competition Authority. Port logistics operator SPRB retained Esguerra Barrera when it merged with several other port operators. The deal was cleared by the authority after the companies argued that the merger would create efficiencies in the market. It was the first time the Colombian antitrust agency has accepted this rationale. On the behavioural side, the firm was successful in defending Bavaria – the Colombian subsidiary of SAB Miller – in an investigation for alleged abuse of dominance.

Mexico

In 2011, Mexico ushered in substantial reforms to its competition law, criminalising cartel behaviour and increasing potential fines considerably. Mexico’s antitrust bar has been busy adapting to the changes, but continues to carry out impressive work in the meantime.

The competition team at Barrera, Siqueiros y Torres Landa SC is unique. Although it has no proper competition department, the firm’s litigators handle a good deal of competition cases – with several competitors ranking the firm among the best in the country. While administrative litigator Bernardo Ledesma is the name that almost everyone knows at the firm, rivals say the firm’s other two partners who handle competition law, Ricardo Pons and Omar Guerrero, are the ones to watch. Over the past year, the firm has been working for client Mexichem, including a complex merger case involving its acquisition of rival Cydsa’s PVC business that was resolved last year. Cartel work continues apace for Barrera Siqueiros, as it has been defending clients involved in the poultry, cathode ray tube, liquid crystal display and travel services investigations, among others.

The antitrust boutique at Castañeda y Asociados offers clients both lawyers and economists specialised in Mexican and international antitrust law issues. The three-lawyer practice is led by founding partner Gabriel Castañeda – one of the stars of the Mexican antitrust bar. Its competitors say that Castañeda y Asociados is counted among the best antitrust firms in the country, particularly on behavioural cases. Last year, the firm acted on several major deals, including advising Nycomed in its transaction with Takeda and Smurfit Stone in its acquisition by Rock-Tenn. But the firm truly makes its mark in behavioural work, and last year was no exception. Among several other matters, the team advised Coca-Cola FEMSA, Panasonic and Praxair in separate CFC investigations.

Over the past three years, the team at Larena Trevilla Fernandez & De La Torre has risen to the top of the Mexican antitrust bar after hiring some of the most experienced antitrust practitioners in the country. Partner Martin Moguel Gloria joined the firm three years ago after serving at the country’s Federal Competition Commission for the previous 14 years. Two other partners practising competition law, including Miguel Angel Fabregas Rodriguez, are also former enforcers at the commission. The antitrust team at Larena Trevilla operates primarily as a boutique, handling far more behavioural investigations and litigation than merger cases. In that regard, it has built up quite a reputation among its rivals in the bar, with several lawyers saying the firm and Moguel are among the best the country has to offer.

Competition specialists in Mexico City also cite the antitrust boutique of Valdés Abascal y Brito Anderson SC as the top of the bar when it comes to monopoly investigations by the CFC. Partners Rafael Valdés-Abascal and Rafael Brito-Anderson lead the firm’s competition team. The 11-lawyer team boasts three ex-enforcers: Valdés-Abascal, former executive secretary of the commission; economics consultant Alvaro Sánchez-González, who was the commission’s director of merger control; and León Ricardo Elizondo Castro, former general counsel at the commission. Valdés Abascal has acted for Telefónica Movistar and GTM in lawsuits filed against Telmex and Telcel, challenging the companies’ alleged monopolistic practices.

Amilcar Peredo leads a capable and improving competition practice at Basham Ringe y Correa SC . While he is the only partner at the firm working on competition matters full-time, his rivals say Peredo is a true rising star on the Mexican antitrust scene. The Basham Ringe team advises a combination of merger control and litigation clients. The team helped guide Federal Express in its purchase of Multipack, and global airlines British Airways, Iberia and American Airlines in their joint venture as part of the Oneworld Alliance. On the litigation front, the team has advised The Coca-Cola Export Corporation in an investigation by the commission.

Few competition teams in Mexico have been as active over the past 12 months as the one at Creel, García-Cuéllar, Aiza y Enriquez SC. Creel partner Luis Gerardo García commands the respect of his peers. The team has again been as active as any in the country, handling multiple complex, cross-border merger cases worth billions to the firm’s clients. The team handled 18 per cent of all merger notifications filed with the Competition Commission in 2010. Monopolisation cases are also a consistent source of work. The past year’s activity includes advising Provimi in the purchase of assets of SCP Nutrición ACUPEC. The team also advised GC Consumer Finance in its acquisition by Banco Santander. On the behavioural side, the team continues to advise clients involved in the commission’s investigations of the cathode ray tube, LCD and hermetic compressors.

Since its inception, López Velarde Heftye y Soria has been organised around strong expertise in a group of highly specialised industries. This includes Mexico’s energy sector – an industry that has been a cornerstone of the firm since its beginnings – as well as impressive expertise in the telecommunications, mining, ports and automotive industries. The group’s industrial focuses have also shaped its competition and mergers practices. Recent work at López Velarde includes advising Mitsui and Tokyo Gas in the acquisition of a package of five independent power production plants and a natural gas pipeline.

Francisco Fuentes leads the two-partner competition team at Mijares, Angoitia, Cortés y Fuentes SC. Fuentes handles most work before the commission, while litigation partner Fernando De Salvidea De Miguel and three associates also work with the team. Much of the firm’s work has been fuelled by Mexican television heavyweight Grupo Televisa, which, along with telecoms company Telmex, is one of the companies targeted most frequently by supporters of a more competitive Mexican market. The team won a reduction in a fine against Grupo Televisa for allegedly abusing its position in the wholesale TV signal market, and is also acting for the company in lawsuits against other competitors for alleged monopolistic practices.

Now more than 15 years old, SAI Law & Economics continues to offer clients the services the firm was built upon, providing a one-stop shop for legal, economic and consulting services. Eight lawyers, including Luis Alberto Aziz, Enrique Espinosa Velasco, Gonzalo Robles Tapia and Lucia Ojeda Cárdenas, lead the antitrust team. Aziz is steeped in Mexican antitrust law, both through his advisory work for clients in the soft drink, beer, cement and hotel sectors, and his consultations for the government. Meanwhile, Ojeda has acted for major international clients for more than 10 years, and was a part of the group that advised the commission on its initiative to update the country’s competition law.

Santos y Ríos is another Mexican practice that has shifted its focus more towards behavioural and cartel matters in the past year or so – a move that is reflective of a more active enforcer and a downturn in the merger market. The relatively small team at the firm, led by co-founder Luis Santos, punches above its weight. Cases include advising Continental Airlines in its successful merger with rival United Air Lines and Southern Copper Corporation in a stock offer for Frontera Copper.

Competition lawyers in Mexico say that international firm White & Case has expanded its footprint in the market in recent years and has become a major player when companies look for competition counsel. The five-lawyer practice is led by partners Juan Pablo Rico and Iker Arriola, while partner Eugenio Bernal was added to the practice’s roster last year. Specialists particularly praise Arriola, with one competitor calling him “very active” and saying of his team: “It’s impossible not to include them in this list.” Over the past year, the firm has been busy advising clients in several antitrust investigations at the commission in various industries.

Other firms deserve consideration for inclusion in our Mexico listing. Mexican firm Von Wobeser & Sierra has a considerable antitrust practice that Fernando Carreño is doing a good job of building, especially in the areas of monopolistic practices and price fixing investigations. Galicia Abogados’ team is also held in high regard, led by noted practitioner Christian Lippert. Noriega y Escobedo Abogados is also active in the antitrust bar.

Peru

Peru’s competition law was introduced in 1991, and a number of the country’s prominent law firms have subsequently established competition departments. Antitrust cases are brought before the Institute for the Defence of Competition and Intellectual Property (INDECOPI).

Carlos Patrón of Payet Rey Cauvi has one of the most highly regarded competition practices in Peru and has worked in the government’s antitrust regulator, INDECOPI. He is a leading name in his field, winning work from clients across a multitude of sectors. He provides a wide range of competition-related advice and has had repeated success before INDECOPI on behalf of companies. Guillermo Puelles heads market leading Rodrigo, Elías & Medrano Abogados’ antitrust area with regulatory partner Verónica Sattler. The pair defends clients in price-fixing cases, with José Chiarella also participating in some matters. The firm recently boosted this department with the hire of regulatory specialist Eduardo Quintana.

At Estudio Echecopar, Teresa Tovar enjoys a leading reputation, having successfully cleared clients from abuse of dominance and price-fixing claims before INDECOPI. She combines her antitrust knowledge with regulatory experience. Miranda & Amado Abogados counts on the experience of Enrique Felices for matters relating to competition law. Felices has acted for clients in a variety of sectors, telecoms and electricity included. Estudio Ferrero Abogados is also a prominent firm in the antitrust sector thanks to partner Jaime Zavala, who has defended clients against price-fixing cases successfully before INDECOPI and the Supreme Court. Rebaza, Alcázar & De Las Casas Abogados Financieros has an active competition area led by Alberto Rebaza and José Francisco Zaragozá, who have seen success before the Supreme Court on behalf of Telmex in securing a record fine for Telefónica, and to stop a price-fixing case. At Muñiz Ramírez Pérez-Taiman & Olaya, the country’s largest firm, Luis Diez Canseco is the go-to name, who has raised the firm’s profile in this field since joining in 2008.

This list would not be complete without mention of leading competition and regulatory boutique Bullard Falla Ezcurra Abogados. The leading names here are Alfredo Bullard and Alejandro Falla, who advised Telmex before the Supreme Court in a case that saw a record fine upheld against Telefónica, and ensured a price-fixing claim against their clients before INDECOPI was dismissed.

Benites, Forno & Ugaz Abogados’ litigation head Mario Reggiardo has defended Peruvian rail operator Fetransa in its long running dispute over the number of rail operators on the Cusco-Machu Picchu route, while Diego Calmet leads the practice at García Sayán Abogados.

Research for this article was conducted in association with our sister publication Global Competition Review.


(Latin Lawyer 04.05.2012)

(Notícia na Íntegra)