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Latin America Practice

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Quinn Emanuel’s Latin America practice group represents clients in disputes in around the world involving parties from, and investments in every Latin American country.  Lawyers from the group have represented individuals, companies and sovereigns in some of the most complex and important disputes in Latin America in recent times, including: 

  • In international investment treaty and commercial arbitrations in virtually every country in Central and South America under all major arbitral rules and institutions, including among others International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (“ICSID”), International Chamber of Commerce (“ICC”), United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (“UNCITRAL”), and International Centre for Dispute Resolution (“ICDR”);
  • In civil litigation in the U.S. where the Latin American individuals, companies and sovereigns were both plaintiffs and defendants, as well as in litigation where the investment or project underlying the dispute was located in Latin America;
  • In criminal and regulatory matters involving Latin America in connection with investigations, prosecutions and trials against U.S. enforcement agencies including the U.S. Justice Department, the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and their European equivalents;
  • In cross-border internal investigations involving U.S. and Latin American jurisdictions and laws; and
  • In transnational litigations and investigations where parallel proceedings are occurring simultaneously in multiple countries and other forums, including patent litigations where the same inventions are at issue. 

In recent years, we have been involved in many major criminal and civil cases involving Latin America.

Bi-Cultural Advantage

Quinn Emanuel’s Latin America Practice Group brings a unique, native Latin America perspective to matters.  The group is led by Washington, D.C.-based partners Juan P. Morillo, a native of Colombia, David M. Orta, a Cuban-American and Daniel Salinas-Serrano, a native of Puerto Rico. Juan P. Morillo has been named one of the “25 Most Influential Hispanic Lawyers in the U.S.” by Latino Leaders (2016)ranked in White Collar Crime by both Chambers USA (2014-2017) and Legal 500 USA (2014-2017)selected as one of the “Top 50 Litigators Under 45” (2007) by The American Lawyer (ALM), and named a White Collar “Trailblazer” by The National Law Journal (ALM 2015).  David Orta has been repeatedly named a leading practitioner in international arbitration by Who’s Who Legal: Arbitration (Law Business Research, 2015-2017), ranked in International Arbitration by both Legal 500 Latin America (2015-2017), Chambers Latin America (2013-2017) and Chambers Global (2013-2017), consistently named one of the World’s Leading Commercial Arbitration Practitioners by Euromoney’s Expert Guides (2016) and selected twice as one of the “Top 40 Lawyers Under 40” in Washington, D.C., by The National Law Journal (ALM, 2009) and the Washingtonian Magazine (2006).  Both Juan P. Morillo and David M. Orta have also been ranked among Latin America’s Top 100 Lawyers by Latinvex (2016-2017, 2014-2017, respectively).  The Group has been ranked by both Chambers Latin America and Legal 500 Latin America in International Arbitration (2015-2017, 2014-2016, respectively). 

William A. Burck of the firm’s Washington, D.C. office and Michael B. Carlinsky, who is based in New York, work regularly with the group and have led some of the most significant investigations into the activities of Latin American companies in history.  William A. Burck is described by leading legal periodicals as a “very charismatic trial lawyer” and a “great strategist in adversarial proceedings.”  The national press has further described his advocacy for clients as “brilliant, asymmetrical defense.”  He was named a “White Collar MVP” by Law360 (2015-2016) and has been repeatedly recognized by other top legal periodicals such as Chambers USA (2014-2017) and Chambers Latin America (2016-2017), the Legal 500 (2015-2017) and Benchmark Litigation (2010-2017) as one of the best white collar litigators in the United States.  Michael B. Carlinsky has also consistently been ranked among the top litigators by multiple leading global publications.  Chambers USA (2015) called Mr. Carlinsky “the Maserati of lawyers,” and Chambers USA (2014) described Mr. Carlinsky as “‘a master strategist’ who is praised for his ‘unique ability to see the big picture and craft and work toward results on a broad scale involving a huge constellation of matters.  His broad-based commercial litigation expertise is complemented by notable experience in insurance-related disputes.’”  Prior Chambers USA guides praise his instincts and tenacity.  Mr. Carlinsky was also named one of the “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in America” for 2015 by Benchmark Litigation.

Our team includes attorneys with training and experience in both the United States and Latin America.  Fully bi-cultural and bi-lingual, our team is uniquely positioned to advise on any issues involving Latin American cases or clients.  Indeed, Morillo, Orta, and Salinas-Serrano lead a team of Latin America specialists that includes partners, associates, paralegals and secretaries all of whom are fluent in Spanish, most of whom are bi-cultural, and many of whom are trained and licensed to practice law in Latin America in addition to the U.S.  We believe that having a team comprised of bi-lingual and bi-cultural professionals provides our clients a unique advantage where understanding subtle cultural differences and nuances is often critical.   

Breadth of Practice

The Group has represented clients in Latin America-related disputes in a wide variety of areas and industries, including internal investigations, construction, infrastructure, project finance, sovereign-granted concessions, energy sector, real estate, intellectual property, antitrust and cartels, hospitality, transportation, technology, and financial and banking matters, among others.  We are one of very few top U.S. law firms who can be and has been adverse to the global finance giants like Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, UBS, Barclays, Bank of America, and Credit Suisse, among others, and who represent both international investors and sovereign governments.  We have recovered $35.5 billion for our clients from these institutions.  However, we also have represented many banks, insurance companies and other financial institutions, often from the Global giants.

While the Group has represented clients successfully in dozens of arbitrations, civil litigations and criminal matters that are not public, the Recent Representations tab displays some of our notable, public representations related to Latin America.

Recent Representations

International Arbitration Practice
Investor State Arbitration

  • We provided advice to a group of Dutch companies regarding potential BIT arbitration against the Venezuelan government for the illegal treatment of an investment in a financial services group of companies.
  • We represented a North American oil and gas company in proceedings under the Germany-Venezuela BIT and Canada-Venezuela BIT concerning interference with its interests in a field in the Orinoco.  We achieved a favorable lump-sum settlement for our client.
  • We represented Spanish investors who had invested in the food and agriculture industries in Venezuela in their analysis of a possible investment treaty arbitration against the Republic of Venezuela under the Spanish-Venezuela Bilateral Investment Treaty.
  • We represent a group of U.S. investors in an international arbitration against the United Mexican States under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). B-Mex, LLC and others v. United States of Mexico (ICSID Case No. ARB (AF)/16/).
  • We represent a South American company in an UNCITRAL arbitration against Peru regarding an agricultural infrastructure project.
  • We represent a South American group of construction companies in multiple treaty arbitrations against Peru for expropriation and other mistreatment of our client’s projects in Peru.
  • We counseled and represented a European holding company and its affiliates in the assessment of a possible international arbitration against Peru, including discussions with the State in pre-arbitral stages.
  • We represent U.S. investors in an international investment arbitration against Bolivia under the UNCITRAL rules, for the expropriation of certain mining concessions by the Bolivian government.
  • Counsel for a major U.S. electric utility company in assessment of a possible international arbitration claim against the Republic of Bolivia.
  • Counsel for an El Salvador state owned power company in an UNCITRAL ad hoc arbitration against a foreign investor.
  • Counsel to GasTransBoliviano in proceedings against the Republic of Bolivia concerning interference with the operation and taxation of a natural gas pipeline.  A favorable settlement was achieved.
  • A member of our arbitration team was counsel for France Telecom, against the Argentine Republic on the basis of the France-Argentina bilateral investment treaty in relation to its investment in the telecommunication sector in Argentina.  A favorable settlement was achieved.
  • Counsel for Parsons Corporation against the Republic of Ecuador in an UNCITRAL proceeding under the U.S.-Ecuador BIT, involving sewage facilities construction.  A favorable settlement was achieved for client.
  • We are conducting a feasibility study and providing advice to a U.S. joint venture regarding potential BIT arbitration against the Bolivian government for a failed investment in a  government sponsored waste disposal project.
  • Counsel for the Republic of El Salvador in an international ICSID arbitration filed against it by a Spanish company.  Obtained a dismissal of this case on jurisdictional grounds based on the “in accordance with law” provisions of the applicable BIT and proof that the investment at issue was not made in accordance with the laws of El Salvador since the investment had been procured through fraud.
  • We represent a U.S. investor in potential BIT arbitration against the government of Honduras for its treatment of an investment in the cement industry in that country.
  • We represent a U.S. oil and gas company in a dispute related to the sale of its investmentsin Peru.  Since the sale was completed, Peru has asserted tax claims against theinvestments, preventing our client from fully realizing the proceeds from the sale of itsinvestments.  We are counseling the company on potential claims against Peru under theU.S.-Peru Free Trade Agreement, and we are preparing to pursue them in an arbitration.
  • We represent the Republic of Panamá in the first ever international ICSID arbitration filed against IT by several U.S.-based investors under the auspices of the bilateral investment treaty between the U.S. and the Republic of Panamá involving a multi-million dollar claim arising from allegations that certain Panamanian tax credits were not honored.  We obtained a complete victory for client and a multimillion dollar award of costs and fees.  Nations Energy, Inc. y otros c. República de Panamá (ICSID Case No. ARB/06/19).
  • We represent the Republic of Guatemala in the first ever international arbitration filed under the auspices of CATA and the first ever ICSID arbitration filed against Guatemala.  The case was filed against Guatemala by U.S. railway management and development company.  Railroad Development Corporation (RDC) v. Republic of Guatemala (ICSID Case No. ARB/07/23).
  • We represent a group of 60,000 Italian bondholders who brought an ICSID claim against Argentina for losses sustained during the country’s financial collapse in 2001.
  • A member of our arbitration team represented SAUR International against the Argentine Republic.  The dispute, which is brought under the France-Argentina bilateral investment treaty, relates to a water and sewer services concession in Argentina, and a favorable decision on jurisdiction was obtained.  Afterward, the Tribunal held that Argentina had expropriated SAUR’s investment in the concession without compensation and had violated the fair and equitable treatment standard under the treaty.
  • We represented the Republic of Peru in the first ICSID case arising under a Chinese BIT.  Although client lost on liability, outcome was a substantial commercial success for the State, in that Claimant was awarded less than 1/20th of its requested damages.

International Commercial Arbitration

  • We represent 39 U.S. investors who built a very successful casino business in Mexico, operating 5 casinos, over a nine year period that they ran through U.S. holding companies and five Mexican operating companies against three RICO defendants.  We filed a RICO action against three defendants who had illegally taken board control of the Mexican operating companies and then also attempted to illegally take our clients’ shares in the operating companies.  After a year of litigation, we secured a settlement with the three RICO defendants in which the clients have regained full control of their companies, obtained admissions from the RICO defendants that our clients are and always have been the rightful owners of the shares in their Mexican companies, secured cooperation from the RICO defendants to provide helpful testimony and documents for a NAFTA arbitration against Mexico that we also are handling for the clients, and secured releases and waivers from the RICO defendants acknowledging that our clients owe them nothing. 
  • We represent a French oil and gas company in an ICC arbitration arising from disputed reserves in a gas block located in Colombia.
  • We represent a Houston-based energy company in a private international commercial arbitration and related U.S. litigation arising from the sale of a suite of companies and oil and gas assets in Latin America.
  • A member of our arbitration team represented Sonatrach in an UNCITRAL arbitration against Repsol and Gas Natural arising from the termination by Sonatrach of a contract for an integrated project including the development of existing gas fields, the construction of a liquefaction gas plant and upstream facilities, and the commercialization of the liquefied gas.  The Arbitral Tribunal held that the termination was valid, allowed Sonatrach to retain at no cost the works completed before the termination of the agreement, and dismissed the Respondents’ $3.1 billion counterclaim in its entirety.
  • We represented Parsons Corporation in first reported ICC arbitration hearing in Lima, Peru, involving dispute over design and construction of largest multi-use real estate project in Peru. We obtained final award that limited damages, per contract, to a fraction of the millions of 11 dollars sought by the claimant.
  • One of our partners represented a Korean heavy industry company and its Panamanian affiliate in an ICC arbitration governed by English law and seated in London in a dispute arising out of the construction of power and desalination plants in Panamá.
  • A member of our arbitration team represented a European oil company in an ICC arbitration in London against a Canadian oil company arising from a farm-in agreement concerning a block in Latin America.  English law applied.  A favorable settlement was reached.
  • We represent several Brazilian insurers in an ICC arbitration in Geneva regarding the alleged breach of a NDA in the context of a coverage dispute relating to the construction of a hydroelectric facility known as Jirau, located in Brazil.  French law applies.
  • Represented a Brazilian power company in a $100 million arbitration dispute against Siemens concerning defective power plant turbines, achieving a favorable settlement.
  • We represent a U.S. investor in a dispute regarding indemnification claims brought against it by state-owned oil companies who purchased our client’s Peruvian oil business for more than $1 billion.  As part of the sale, an escrow account was established to indemnify the state-owned oil companies for tax claims and other liabilities.  Following SDNY proceedings and an ICDR arbitration, for which we were hired as replacement counsel, a new dispute arose over the state-owned oil companies’ attempt to draw contested amounts from the escrow account.  This is likely to lead to an ICDR arbitration and/or an SDNY litigation regarding the release of the funds.

White Collar Criminal Defense Practice

  • We represent the Odebrecht Group in connection with civil and criminal investigations flowing from the Lava Jato scandal, the largest corruption scandal in the history of Latin America.  We helped secure a global resolution of Odebrecht’s criminal liability in the United States, Brazil, and Switzerland which allowed the company to continue operating despite allegations which constituted an existential threat.
  • We are counsel to FIFA in connection with U.S. and Swiss criminal investigations into allegations of bribery and corruption in the international football world.  As noted in the New York Times, U.S. law enforcement authorities have described the investigation as “one of the most complicated international white-collar cases in recent memory”.
  • We represent the Confederación Sudamericana de Fútbol (“CONMEBOL”) in connection with U.S. criminal investigations and prosecutions into allegations of bribery and corruption in the international soccer world.  The criminal indictment alleges that high-level soccer officials abused their positions to solicit bribes from sports marketing companies.
  • We represented the Special Committee of Banco BTG Pactual in an internal investigation of alleged corruption involving its former CEO and other bank executives.  After a thorough investigation, we concluded and announced to the public that we had found no basis to support the allegations against the Bank and its employees.
  • We represent one of Brazil’s largest multinational banks in connection with allegations that senior executives of the bank may have made or authorized payments to government officials to obtain favorable tax legislation.
  • We represent two of the largest construction companies in Brazil in potential civil and criminal investigations and litigation involving the Petrobras bribery scandal (“Lava Jato”), the largest corruption scandal in Latin American history, involving allegations of over $2.5 billion in bribes and kickbacks.  Our clients are at the center of the controversy.
  • In June 2015, we obtained a historic result in one of the most closely-watched FCPA trials in the last several years on behalf of our client, Joseph Sigelman, the co-founder and former co-CEO of Petrotiger, a Colombian oil services firm.  Our client faced more than 20 years in jail and millions of dollars in fines, but after only six days of a trial scheduled to last six weeks, DOJ agreed to do an extremely favorable deal for our client resulting in no jail time and a small fine.  Bloomberg Business Week described the outcome as “a striking victory for the defense”.
  • One of our partners represented the Government of Brazil in a corruption matter involving former senior government officials and multiple jurisdictions.  The Legal 500 highlighted the case, and the Financial Times called it a “landmark” multi-jurisdictional representation.

Foreign Corrupt Practices Act

  • We represent the General Manager of one of the largest energy companies in Central America in connection with allegations of bribery in Guatemala, connected to the largestcorruption case in Guatemalan history.  We represent our client in extradition proceedings andpotential FCPA investigations.
  • We represent a Mexican high-ranking executive for Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. in connection with DOJ and SEC FCPA investigations against Wal-Mart.  This is one of the largest FCPA investigations in history.  Mexican executives are a key focus of the investigation.
  • We represent a large Argentinean oil company and its owner, one of Argentina’s wealthiest individuals, in connection with the high-profile DOJ and SEC investigationinvolving alleged FCPA violations to secure an extension of oil rights in an Argentinean oilfield.  This is one of the most significant current FCPA investigations involving Latin America.
  • We represent one of the United State’s largest chemical and industrial products companies in an internal investigation of alleged corruption involving its Mexican subsidiary.

Money Laundering & OFAC Sanctions

  • We represent the Rosenthal family, one of the most prominent families in Central America, in a number of related matters.  Jaime Rosenthal, a former Vice President of Honduras and his son Yani, a former Congressman and Chief of Staff, are under indictment by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York for conspiracy to commit money laundering.  Additionally, the OFAC designated the family’s holding company Inversiones Continental Panama S.A., through which they controlled all their businesses, and thefamily’s bank, Banco Continental S.A. de C.V., as Specially Designated NarcoticsTraffickers.  We are counsel to Jaime, Yani and their businesses in the criminal investigation and related OFAC proceedings.  This is the largest case in the history of Honduras.
  • We are counsel to a senior executive of one of Venezuela’s largest engineering companies in DOJ investigations into corruption and money laundering involving Petróleos deVenezuela, S.A., the Venezuelan state-owned oil and natural gas company.

Cross-Border Civil Litigation

  • We obtained a temporary restraining order (“TRO”) in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of New York to prohibit the creditors of our client, Oro Negro, a Mexican oil services company, from seizing the company’s only assets:  five offshore oil drilling rigs—an attempt which, if successful, would have led to the company’s total destruction.  The creditors’ plan to seize the rigs began with the institution of baseless criminal investigations in Mexico against Oro Negro and its employees, falsely alleging that they had misappropriated funds to which the creditors were entitled.  After obtaining from a Mexican criminal court, a “restitution order”—issued ex parte and replete with procedural and substantive irregularities—purporting to allow the creditors to take possession of the rigs, the creditors rented helicopters and flew out to the rigs, located in Mexican waters, and forcibly sought to take possession of them.  We quickly moved to obtain a TRO to stop the creditors in their tracks before they could take possession of the rigs.  Following the New York court’s granting of our TRO, the creditors agreed to enter a court-ordered stipulation pursuant to which they will cease and desist from any further efforts to seize the platforms.
  • We represent a large consortium of plaintiffs, comprised of banks, investment funds, and shipping companies, including in Asia, Europe, Latin America and the U.S., in a multi-billion suit in connection with the largest financial fraud in the history of Latin America.  Specifically, in 2014, Oceanografía, the largest oil services company in Mexico, conspired with Citigroup to commit a $750 million fraud, which caused Oceanografía to collapse.  We represent Oceanografía’s creditors and investors, who lost billions with the Company’s collapse, in U.S. civil litigation against those responsible for the fraud.
  • We represented a related partyin connection with a multibillion-dollar lawsuit brought in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York by two Mexican software companies against Yahoo! Inc.  Specifically, the Mexican software companies allege that Yahoo and its lawyers bribed Mexican judges to overturn a multibillion-dollar judgment issued by a Mexican trial court against Yahoo.
  • We represent multiple plaintiffs to bring federal securities claims concerning the multi-billion dollar kickback and bribery scandal involving Petroleo Brasileiro (Petrobras) and its affiliates, alleged to have caused $30 billion in damage to Petrobras and its securities holders; we have filed one such action in the Southern District of New York and are preparing others.
  • We are advising the Colombian government in connection with U.S. criminal investigations and asset recovery efforts against the individuals responsible for the Interbolsa fraud, the largest financial fraud in Colombian history.
  • We represented Despegar.com, the largest online travel agent in Latin America, in a false advertising lawsuit brought by American Airlines.  Just before initiating suit, American withdrew its tickets from all of Despegar’s websites throughout the world.  In addition to mounting a vigorous defense against American’s claims, we brought an antitrust counterclaim on behalf of Despegar’s U.S.-based subsidiary relating to American’s anticompetitive air fare distribution scheme.
  • We represented one of Mexico’s largest private equity funds in a complex shareholder dispute involving a leading Mexican oil services company.
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