Ferrere

2013, Latin Lawyer

Top tier full service firm with regional reach

Established: 1957

Partners: 12

Total lawyers: 110

Ferrere is a full-service heavyweight and recognized internationally as a go-to firm in Uruguay. One of the top two firms in the country, it has built up its leading name through frequent appearances on high-end multi-jurisdictional transactions and disputes. Ferrere also has impressive strength in breadth for a market of this size, with talented lawyers across the board.

Already Uruguay’s largest firm, Ferrere plans to keep on growing. This year it added 10 new lawyers to its firepower and promoted two to the partnership, having furthered its full service offer by incorporating an IP boutique and an administrative team in recent years. With high-end work its main focus, it comes as no surprise that the firm is positioning itself for the new class of sophisticated deals coming to Uruguay. After making it a goal to attract more private equity work, M&A deals with a private equity component are cropping up on the firm’s deal list. Overall, the M&A department recorded another top year, while a stalwart disputes department remains very busy and increased activity was noted in energy and project finance work.

An unusual animal in the Latin American legal market, Ferrere is present in three countries – Uruguay, Paraguay and Bolivia – and it has now set its sights on furthering the integration of these offices into one single regional outfit, changing its policies, strategies and outlook accordingly. From now on, Bolivia and Paraguay will play a larger role in determining firm policy, with a view to Ferrere improving its regional service offer. For that to happen, the firm is pushing ahead with an ambitious plan to make its Bolivia and Paraguay offices match Ferrere in Uruguay by becoming the largest firms in their respective countries.

MANAGEMENT

Managing partner Andrés Cerisola is a determined and good leader. He puts considerable time and thought into maintaining what is a well-established institution, having let go of much of his leading arbitration practice. Cerisola is an effective promoter, holding up the legacy of his predecessor who passed away three years ago. Clients praise Cerisola’s leadership skills, as well as his “unrelenting good spirits, his involvement in every case and situation, his entrepreneurial demeanour, and his habit of promptly returning all phone calls; not a small feat for an in-demand professional”.

PEOPLE & PRACTICES

Corporate and M&A

Corporate and M&A is traditionally strong suit for the firm, which is home to one of the country’s two busiest transactional teams. Ferrere’s M&A group is led by the highly rated Martín Cerruti, who is lauded for his “vast experience and professionalism” and often handles the local legs of large, multi-jurisdictional deals. A good example of his recent work is assisting Colombia’s Banco GNB Sudameris in its multi-jurisdictional acquisition of HSBC’s assets. In that deal, he worked with Andrés Cerisola, Diego Rodríguez, Verónica Raffo, and the recently promoted Geraldine Ifrán. Cerisola (“typically the first guy I call if I have a matter relating to Uruguay”, says a US peer) is known best for his arbitration work but is appearing on more and more of the firm’s deals, often working with Cerruti. As a team, they are “very focused on client service and are excellent on the technical side”. Financial services group Aiva Business Platform tuned to Cerruti and Cerisola when it received investment from a UK company. One client who has worked closely with Cerisola and Ifrán says they “are both very knowledgeable of the legal issues but also add substantial value with their business sense”, adding particular praise for Cerisola’s availability and responsiveness: “I can call Andrés at any time of the day and night, even on weekends. This is very comforting.” Cerisola has also been making a play for private equity work in the last couple of years. He recently acted for asset manager Linzor Capital Partners in its acquisition of Uruguay’s largest pharmacy chain. The team has also been called upon for work outside of the country; Cerruti and Ifrán advised an independent committee coordinating negotiations and preventing conflicts between shareholders on Companhia de Concessões Rodoviárias’ acquisition of a stake in Ecuador airport operator Quiport, due to the involvement of Uruguayan corporations. Two other names in this area, which stands out for its size and talent, are Laura Ramón and Gonzalo Secco, with the latter winning praise for his “broad experience with corporate clients [and on] large-scale deals involving the public sector”. Martín Colombo and Isabel Laventure are also noted.

Banking & finance

Diego Rodríguez is spearheading the firm’s push to boost its profile in banking deals with demonstrable success. In 2012, he helped Banco Patagonia obtain clearance from liability for a group of investors’ losses stemming from the Madoff ponzi scheme, in what was the first court decision to come out of the 2008 scandal in Uruguay. Laura Ramón is also active here.

Capital markets

Diego Rodríguez and Laura Ramón are the go-to names here, too. Rodríguez was involved in structuring the first real estate investment trust (REIT) to be offered on the Uruguayan market, for clients Independencia and EF Asset Management, while he also acted as deal counsel to state-owned electricity company UTE and Banco de la Republica Oriental del Uruguay in organising a US$100 million bond placement – the biggest ever on the local market.

Arbitration

Ferrere has a leading reputation for disputes work. Andrés Cerisola is a prominent arbitrator and although he has relinquished much of this work to concentrate on leading the firm, by no means has he wiped his hands of it entirely. The “very giftedSandra González, meanwhile, has approached her new role as head of disputes with gusto. Cerisola has done much to ensure that Ferrere is a first point of call for arbitration work and the team appears on major ICC arbitrations emanating from the country. The disputes team’s reputation is such that JPMorgan Chase, Credit Suisse and Dresdner Lateinamerika turned to them for advice in the aftermath of the 2002 collapse of Banco Comercial, once the country’s largest private bank, in which they were shareholders. The banks can thank Ferrere for two successful arbitrations against the Republic of Uruguay.

Litigation

Litigation is another area where the firm stands out, both for its strategies to prevent litigation and for the fact that its strong litigators have a high success rate, in the words of an energy client. The firm’s work for JPMorgan Chase, Credit Suisse and Dresdner Lateinamerika, the banks looking to extract themselves from the Banco Comercial bankruptcy saga, included helping them win 50-plus claims in local courts worth a total of US$ 650 billion. Again, Andrés Cerisola and Sandra González are the go-to names here. Cerisola has found time in his busy schedule to keep up his disputes work in 2012. Together with new partner Geraldine Ifrán, he helped Dutch retailer Ahold win a nine-year-long litigation case. Cerisola also acted for brokerage firm PV Capital in a case against US private equity firm Advent International. González, meanwhile, secured a final ruling from Uruguay’s Supreme Court on behalf of Portuguese commodities distributor Agrenco Madeira, recognising that an arbitration award obtained in the UK was enforceable in Uruguay. Litigator and arbitrator Alejandro Pintos comes recommended for his “great technical expertise and strong working relationship with the client”.

Tax

Perhaps unsurprising given its size and strength in breadth Ferrere Abogados has one of Uruguay’s largest tax teams, which is led by the very highly regarded Alberto Varela. The tax practice recently saw the promotion of co-head Gianni Gutiérrez, a high-end tax structuring specialist. He was part of the team helping three banks clear themselves from liability for the tax debts of the now defunct Banco Comercial.

Labour

Verónica Raffo is a leading figure in labour law, having built up a recognized name during 16 years of practice. Though she handles litigation and collective negotiations, most of her time is dedicated to consulting; she assisted the International Labour Organisation in producing a report on policies regarding strikes and collective bargaining to help improve labour regulations in the country, for example. Senior counsel Nelson Larrañaga helped the same organization in a review of retirement and pensions under way in Uruguay, and is known for being a “reference in labour and employment matters”, who “shows strong commitment, intelligence and a strategic approach”.

Intellectual property

Agustín Mayer leads a strong IP team, fortified by the recent incorporation of boutique Mónica Bacot & Asociados, adding five lawyers to boost trademark, patent and copyright registration work. Mayer is also prominent in media and pharmaceuticals; he helped local pharmaceutical company Nanokem classify its business within Uruguay’s legal framework to gain an operating license for an industry previously unknown in the country, and assisted Biogen Idec obtain the distribution rights of a multiple sclerosis drug. He was also the lawyer responsible for helping international nutrition and personal care company Herbalife set up in Uruguay.

Administrative law

Cristina Vázquez, the former head of the country’s Energy Regulatory Agency, has quickly built an active department which advises various governmental bodies with administrative or regulatory matters. She is helping the Planning and Budget Office set up a new agency to administer international cooperation funds, and assisting the energy directorate of the Uruguayan Industry Ministry in the creation of a certificates system to promote energy conservation. She has also been hired by the government to help it comply with recent data privacy and access to information regulation. Uruguay’s Water and Power Supply Regulatory Agency also asked for help in drafting laws and regulations relating to energy and water use. Associate Cristina Vignone, who also handles corporate and regulatory matters, is singled out by a client for being a “very hard worker and proactive”, with superb knowledge of the energy sector. Clients furthermore applaud her support throughout the decision-making process, praising her “quality services and great responsiveness”.

Insurance & reinsurance

Newly promoted Geraldine Ifrán leads the way in this area, and is credited with helping to develop the practice following the opening up of Uruguay’s insurance market.

CLIENTS

Proof of Ferrere’s status in the Uruguayan legal market can be found in the high number of glowing testimonials we received from clients, who lined up to praise the savvy, knowledgeable, professional and dedicated teams found throughout the firm. Appreciation for the firm’s multidisciplinary offer, where it combines in-depth industry knowledge with specialist legal services, is reflected in the comments. Ferrere is a “reference when talking about quality service. They have high market credibility, reliable services and fully committed partners and staff,” says one client, adding further praise for Ferrere’s multidisciplinary teams. Another client who has worked with Ferrere since its foundation, as well as its direct competitors, considers it the best firm in Uruguay today, stressing lawyers’ professionalism, dedication and friendly demeanor. Users of the firm appreciate the lawyers’ international air: “They are a real international player, with international standards and way of doing things.” A local client adds that the “excellent” standard of knowledge means they trust the firm implicitly in all matters, saying that Ferrere’s representation in other Latin American countries is a particular draw.

Numerous practice areas are singled out. From the banking sector Ferrere receives praise for being one of the most renowned firms in Uruguay. One client especially notes the firm’s M&A and banking groups, which “are particularly strong, both in terms of experience and service”, while adding the firm’s ability to “field a bilingual team that is culturally savvy, which can be critical for certain transactions” as reasons why he “strongly recommends Ferrere as a top law firm in Uruguay”. Another banking client calls the firm’s lawyers “very good analysts, very precise, extremely knowledgeable, and with admirable strategic skills. On top of that I have the impression that they are very well connected in Uruguay and have absolute integrity.” In that sector the firm has been busy helping multilaterals like the International Finance Corporation and the Inter-American Development Bank and prominent private banks such as France’s Crédit Agricole. Investment funds like JH Partners of the US and Argentina’s Kaskira also use the firm, which initially gained visibility in this area through its work for JPMorgan, Credit Suisse and Dresdner in their lawsuits relating to the Banco Commercial bankruptcy. In the insurance sphere Ferrere has been advising Alico since it entered Uruguay in 1996, and MetLife has confirmed that it will continue to use the firm as counsel once their merger is complete. Argentine insurer San Cristóbal is another client there.

Of the leading multinational corporates choosing to hire this firm, Nike, Sanofi-aventis, Vale, Siemens and Groupon are good examples. The geographical spread in the client portfolio is notable too; from Canadian engineering company KSH Solutions to Greek shipping company Navios. The firm also attracts local business from the country’s largest private university, ORT, and Asociación Española, one of Uruguay’s largest health-care providers. Uruguayan technology company Scanntech and Uruguay’s first forestry fund, Bosques del Uruguay, have also recently turned to the firm. Ferrere Abogados has carved out a niche in the work it does for government bodies. Recent such clients include the ministries of agriculture and industry, the Central Bank, the Planning and Budget Office and the Water and Power Supply Regulatory Agency.

Ferrere’s professionalism is often at the core of client recommendations. “Their commitment with the customer, performing with great expertise and being 100 per cent available, any time,” are singled out by one client, who adds: “Above all, Ferrere’s lawyers are people to rely on, with great trust and sound knowledge, that is all what matters to us.” “They give me a sense of being in good hands,” says another.

Clients’ appreciation of Ferrere’s services is further reflected in LACCA Approved – in-house counsel research conducted by Latin Lawyer’s sister association, the Latin American Corporate Counsel Association – where six of the firm’s lawyers feature.

OFFICES

Ferrere has the greatest national presence of firms in this guide, with five offices. Outside of Montevideo, there is a branch in Punta del Este for real estate matters and to act as a point of contact for high-net-worth Brazilians and Argentineans; one in in the Zonamerica free trade zone; a small presence in Colonia and a base in Tacuarembó for forestry clients.

The firm is unique for its regional reach across Latin America’s smaller economies; it also has offices in Bolivia and Paraguay (both listed in this guide). A recent integration plan aims to align all offices in the three countries to offer a more streamlined service offer, in a bid to increase overall competitiveness and stimulate further growth. For this purpose Ferrere has been working to repatriate Bolivian and Paraguayan talent working in firms overseas, alongside attracting skilled foreign lawyers wishing to work in Latin America.

ALLIANCES & NETWORKS

Ferrere Abogados is a member of Lataxnet, a tax related network of firms based in Latin America.

PROBONO

Ferrere Abogados is recognized as a leading light in pro bono by Latin Lawyer’s most recent pro bono survey for the firm’s outstanding efforts in the area. Lawyers each contribute around 40 hours per year to pro bono projects. Clients include Fundación Gonzalo Rodríguez, which the firm advises in its campaign for traffic safety, and Ingenio, a business promotion group created as a joint venture between Laboratorio Tecnológico del Uruguay and ORT University Uruguay, which has financial support from the IADB.

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© 2017, Ferrere Attorneys