Ferrere

2014, Latin Lawyer

Top tier full service firm with regional reach

Established: 1957

Partners: 12

Total lawyers: 115

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, and in 2013 the firm moved into new purpose-built offices that will allow it to do just that. With high-end work its main focus, it comes as no surprise that the firm has positioned itself for the new class of sophisticated deals coming to Uruguay. In recent years it made it a goal to attract more private equity work, and M&A deals with a private equity component have increasingly cropped up on the firm’s deal list alongside a steady stream of other corporate transactions; as expected of a firm of this stature, its lawyers are regularly seen working on M&A, financing and capital markets deals.

An unusual animal in the Latin American legal market, FERRERE is present in three countries – Uruguay, Paraguay and Bolivia – and has continued to further the integration of these offices into one single regional outfit, changing its policies, strategies and outlook accordingly. The process started by having the Bolivian and Paraguayan outposts play a larger role in determining firm policy to overall improve FERRERE’s regional service offer. The firm’s ambitious plans for the region include making 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 who puts considerable time and thought into maintaining what is a well-established institution. He’s let go of much of his leading arbitration practice, but increasingly plays a role in some of the firm’s biggest corporate transactions. He is also an effective promoter. Clients praise Cerisola’s leadership skills, as well as his “unrelenting good spirits, his involvement in every case and situation, his entrepreneurial demeanor, and his habit of promptly returning all phone calls; not a small feat for an in-demand professional.

PEOPLE & PRACTICES

Corporate and M&A

This is a traditionally strong suit for the firm, which is home to one of the country’s 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 peer praises him for his “experienced and professional management” of the team the client worked with. Andrés Cerisola (“always available and always thinking outside the box”), Diego Rodríguez, Verónica Raffo and Geraldine Ifrán are the stand-out names here. As a team, Cerruti and Ifrán are “very focused on client service and are excellent on the technical side.” Ifrán, the newer partner of the pair, had a busy 2013; she represented a Dutch leather company in its acquisition of a local leather services business and helped construction company SACEEM buy a stake in a civil works company. Cerisola, meanwhile, has been making a play for private equity work in the last couple of years; he recently acted for asset manager Linzor in its acquisition of Uruguay’s largest pharmacy chain and (alongside Ifrán) he represented Pagnifique, a frozen foods company when it was sold Linzor. 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.” 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.” In 2013, Secco represented German wind turbine manufacturer Nordex in its acquisition of a wind farm from Uruguayan state energy company UTE, and helped his client reach an agreement to add additional infrastructure to complete the project. Senior associates Martín Colombo (“extremely knowledgeable in regulatory law”) 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 2013, Rodríguez helped Swiss investment bank Union Bancaire Privée buy the Uruguayan private banking assets of British bank Lloyds TSB. Senior associates Santiago Fontana and Alejandra Garcia are singled out by a Norwegian peer for being “excellent and solution-oriented.

Capital Markets

Diego Rodríguez and Laura Ramón are the go-to names here as well. Rodríguez’s expertise in the field is such that local pension funds approached him to help draft a new piece of legislation enabling them to purchase securities by local public and private companies, financial trusts and investment funds. Rodríguez was active in several transactions in 2013; not least for state-owned electricity company UTE, helping it with a US$120 million bond placement and for the sale of retail bonds worth US$30 million. Ramón was part of the deal team helping Greek shipping Navios issue US$90 million in bonds.

Project Finance

In 2013, the firm was heavily involved in the rush of wind farm financings that took place in Uruguay in line with a government push to boost the country’s sources of renewable energy: Diego Rodríguez and Gonzalo Secco acted for the Inter-American Development Bank and the US Export-Import Bank to organize US$112 million in financing for one such project, while Laura Ramón represented German development bank DEG when it provided US$60 million equity for a wind farm alongside a US$140 million loan in what was the first project finance transaction structured under Uruguayan law.

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. Sandra González (“very talented, experienced in her field and a unique strategy-designer” according to a client) has approached her new role as head of disputes with gusto, and helped a media client in what could have been a significant international dispute. 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. Other disputes the department has handled include helping football team Club Atlético Peñarol defeat a claim, brought by one of its players against the club, regarding payments related to a transfer to a Brazilian team. 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.

Litigation

Litigation is another area where the firm stands out, both for its preventative strategies and for the fact that its strong litigators record high success rates, in the words of an energy client. The firm’s work for a group of 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. The pair helped meatpacker Frigorifico Carrasco win a case worth almost the company’s entire value before the Supreme Court over an alleged minority shareholder rights violation. Meanwhile, Cerisola found time in his busy schedule in 2013 to help Telefónica successfully challenge a ruling by Uruguay’s telecoms regulator that had given the green light to a transaction giving the state telecoms company ANTEL exclusive rights to provide mobile data services in national airports. IP star Agustin Mayer also won an important dismissal for market research company Nielsen over a claim filed by a soft drinks manufacturer claiming it had violated data protection laws. 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 has one of Uruguay’s largest tax teams. In 2013, the newly promoted Gianni Gutiérrez, a high-end tax structuring specialist, took over leadership of the area from the very highly regarded Alberto Varela, who remains active as a partner.

Labor

Verónica Raffo is a leading figure in labor law, having built up a recognized name during 17 years of practice. Though she handles litigation and collective negotiations, most of her time is dedicated to consulting; she assisted the International Labor Organization in producing a report on policies regarding strikes and collective bargaining to help improve labor 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 labor and employment matters,” who “shows strong commitment, intelligence and a strategic approach.” He also helped the recently bankrupted Uruguayan airline Pluna defeat a complaint filed by a number of its pilots concerning overtime benefits. The labor team also acts for a number of the firm’s banking clients. It was hired by Citibank to review the labor issues associated with the proposed sale of its Uruguayan operations, while Lloyds Bank appointed the firm to handle its local restructuring. A collective bargaining case saw the firm assist the main contractor for the Montes de Plata pulp mill, Andritz.

Intellectual Property

Agustin 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 prominent in pharmaceuticals and media. DirecTV, a regular client for over a decade, describes him as “not only an excellent lawyer but a great adviser on many strategic and global issues beyond the strictly legal matters.” Another noted name in the IP department is senior associate Alejandro Alterwain, who is described as “extremely knowledgeable.” The team recently helped Volt Directories register itself as owner of the Yellow Pages trademark in Uruguay.

Administrative Law

Cristina Vázquez, the former head of the country’s Energy Regulatory Agency, has built up an active department that advises various governmental bodies with administrative or regulatory matters. Associate Cristina Vignone 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.” The team has been busy advising a number of clients in their bids for a broad range of projects – from the country’s first prison concession to a digital services contract. They also worked alongside the disputes team in Telefónica’s challenge of the state telecoms company getting exclusive rights to provide mobile data services in national airports.

Insurance & Reinsurance

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.

Sport & Entertainment

Agustin Mayer provided counsel to Uruguayan football club Atlético Peñarol in organizing the transfer of Guillermo Varela to Premier League club Manchester United in the UK.

CLIENTS

Proof of FERRERE’s status in the Uruguayan legal market can be found in the high number of glowing testimonials we receive year on year. Clients’ line up to praise the savvy, knowledgeable, professional and dedicated teams found throughout the firm. Appreciation for the firm’s multidisciplinary offer, and flexibility of its lawyers, who combine in-depth industry knowledge with specialist legal services, is reflected in the comments. FERRERE stands out because of the lawyers’ “knowledge of the market and all the key players” says one, while another describes the firm as a “reference when talking about quality service. They have high market credibility, reliable services and fully committed partners and staff,” adding further praise for FERRERE’s multidisciplinary teams. Longstanding client DirecTV says it regards the firm “as an actual part of our team.FERRERE not only completely understands the client’s business; its lawyers “dive deep into our problems and issues, take our matters as theirs, and always have the company’s best interests as a priority.” Another client who has worked with FERRERE since its foundation, as well as its direct competitors, considers it the best firm in Uruguay, stressing lawyers’ professionalism, dedication and friendly demeanor. Users of the firm furthermore 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. In the insurance sphere FERRERE has been advising Alico since it entered Uruguay in 1996, and MetLife has continued to use the firm as counsel following the companies’ merger. Argentine insurer San Cristóbal is another client in the sector. 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 Uruguay, 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,” is 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 Uruguayan 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. A recent integration plan saw the firm align all offices in the three countries to align its 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.

PRO BONO

FERRERE’s pro bono 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 Uruguay University, which has financial support from the IADB. Other pro bono clients include Endeavor, Un Techo Para Mi País and Teletón.

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© 2017, Ferrere Attorneys