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Latin Lawyer 250 2017

Marval, O'Farrell & Mairal

Argentina

Dominant full-service powerhouse

  • Established: 1923
  • Partners: 58
  • Total lawyers: 302

Marval, O’Farrell & Mairal leads the way in Argentina in terms of size, breadth of service and client satisfaction.

Clients are consistently pleased with the exceptional service they find here. Marval has the highest number of lawyers in this chapter who are recognised in LACCA Approved, in-house counsel research conducted by Latin Lawyer’s sister association, the Latin American Corporate Counsel Association.

Marval’s success is built on its talented lawyers, who ensure the firm wins the lion’s share of sophisticated legal work in Argentina. The return of foreign investor interest to Argentina means a return to the front line for Marval’s skilled transactional partners. The partnership is more than prepared for the challenge, evidenced by this firm’s impressive deal flow in 2016.

While the firm’s highly capable corporate and M&A and capital markets teams have been the most obvious recipients of the return to deal making in Argentina, many other practice areas shine at this firm. Marval has achieved remarkable strength-in-breadth by ensuring most of its practice areas include distinguished partners who are leaders in their fields. Indeed, most groups in this firm are top-tier, thanks to rigorous quality control that ensures none ride on the success of others. Transactional clout is accompanied by very strong litigation, arbitration, labour, IP, tax, trade and white-collar crime practices, further complemented by sector-focused departments in mining, energy and insurance. Very few firms in Argentina can rival such a deep bench in so many areas.

Another reason for Marval’s enduring success lies in the firm’s pioneering spirit. It can be credited with championing new areas of practice in the Argentine legal market, significantly raising the profile of areas such as IT and life sciences in recent years. Looking to the future, the country’s new public-private partnership legislation provides another opportunity for growth, which Marval looks sure to capitalise on.

Marval is an expertly run organisation. The firm maintained its large size even in the very worst years of Argentina’s economic abyss – a remarkable triumph that was down to a forward-thinking management that believes in strength in numbers. The firm pays considerable attention to fostering talent; its retirement policy ensures there is room for younger lawyers to move up and every year without fail the firm makes room for at least one new partner. In 2016, two promotions were made, in its telecoms and IP departments. Marval is also assessing flexible working policies to help motivate younger lawyers. Testament to its position in the market, Marval became the first large law firm in Argentina to occupy its own entire building, when it moved into bigger offices in 2016.

Offices

As of 2016, Marval occupies its own building on Buenos Aires’ Avenida Leandro N. Alem. Beyond its base in Argentina’s capital city, Marval has a long-established presence in New York.

Alliances & networks

Marval belongs to the Latin American network set up by Spain’s Uría Menéndez. In 2014, Uría backed a merger between its Chilean and Colombian member firms that went on to add two firms in Peru; the alliance with firms outside of those countries continues and includes Mexico’s Galicia Abogados. Marval is also linked to Demarest Advogados in São Paulo and is a member of the Lex Mundi network.

Clients

The firm’s broad practice focus has helped it compile an exhaustive client base. Some of its most important clients are Total, Credit Suisse, Barclays, Claro and Cargill.

Management 

The firm’s chairman, Alfredo O’Farrell, has done much to build the firm’s profile overseas, as well as taking effective steps to ensure the Marval institution stays strong. Javier Patrón is the managing partner, with overall responsibility for day-to-day management of the firm.

Practice Areas

Corporate and M&A

Key partners: Alfredo O'Farrell leads a formidable group of partners. Pablo Viñals Blake, Ricardo Beller and Sebastian Iribarne all come recommended in LACCA Approved, in-house counsel research conducted by Latin Lawyer’s sister association, the Latin American Corporate Counsel Association. Other partners include Santiago Carregal, Diego Chighizola, Diego Krischcautszy, Francisco Macias, Pablo Artagaveytia and Juan Diehl Moreno.

Analysis: When it comes to corporate and M&A work, Marval is at the top of the pack. The sheer volume of deals this department closes means Marval has one of the busiest corporate practices of any Argentine firm, but the group also stands out for its specialised industry focuses and the number of partners that dedicate their time here. This department’s star ranking is evident in Marval’s position at the top of Latin Lawyer’s M&A league tables for 2015, ranked by deal volume and value. The client list includes multiple, big international names which year on year remain confident in the firm’s ability to help them do their business in Argentina. A team with this level of experience is a reliable partner for foreign companies learning how to conduct their business in line with local regulations for the first time, or for more established players looking to consolidate their market share. Marval has much experience of closing deals faced with intense scrutiny from regulators, such as in the telecoms sector. As well as helping international groups ink acquisition agreements in Argentina, Marval has experience helping companies consolidate their position in the country through joint venture arrangements with local parties. There are a many sectors where this firm has gained valuable deal-making experience, but in 2016 alone the firm worked for large-scale foreign buyers from the US, Canada, Europe and – closer to home – Chile and Mexico snapping up or shedding assets in Argentina’s chemicals, food, agribusiness, power, insurance, mining and telecoms sectors. Brazilian oil and gas company Petrobras is a regular and major client of this department; its divestment programme has already been a huge source of work for Marval and looks likely to continue to be so. The M&A group also has experience in the private equity sphere, where this firm is also recommended.

Top deals

Antitrust & competition

Key partners: Alfredo O’Farrell takes the lead of a practice that also features Miguel Del Pino, recommended in LACCA Approved.

Analysis: The highly regarded team advises clients in behavioural proceedings relating to cartel investigations and helps high-profile multinationals in alleged abuse of dominance cases. Merger filings before the Argentine antitrust regulator are another source of this large department’s work. Clients come from the aviation and automobile sectors, among others.

Work highlights: The firm is acting as Argentine counsel to telecoms providers Alcatel-Lucent and Nokia, advising both on the local merger control review process for their US$17 billion combination. Risk advisory companies Willis Group and Towers Watson retained Marval to notify the Argentine competition authority of their US$18 billion merger.

Private equity

Key partners: Hernan Slemenson is pro-secretary to the board of the Argentine Private Equity, Venture, and Seed Capital Association, which was established in 2016 to encourage private equity investment in Argentina. Diego Krischcautzky also contributes to this practice area.

Analysis: Marval has solid experience in this area built on its counsel to several major global private equity investors, which it has advised on investments in Argentine assets, fund formation and exit processes. The firm has also represented entities negotiating financial backing from private equity lenders. The work this firm has done in this sector is well received by clients; one private equity investor praises Marval for its ability to dispense high-quality, sound advice even in diverse and complex situations.

Top deals

Banking & finance

Key partners: Santiago Carregal and Roberto Silva Jr, both recommended in LACCA Approved, are the star dealmakers of this department and have a loyal client following.

Analysis: One of Marval’s largest practices, the banking and finance department has an excellent reputation, not least because a large number of partners dedicate their time to it, giving clients comfort that their concerns are handled by the best legal minds. Partners receive glowing praise from their clients, a testament to the committed and specialised approach they bring to their role. The team has a broad remit that includes mergers and acquisitions in the financial sector, as well as working with clients on structuring financial trusts and project finance transactions. The department also houses Marval’s equally first-rate capital markets team. As well as advising local companies taking out loans, the firm has done work for some of the leading local and international banks in Argentina, helping them draft watertight lending agreements with local borrowers. It has also helped debtors agree financing packages with multilateral lending institutions.

Top deals

Most recent deals

Capital markets

Key partners: Roberto Silva is a key name; Javier Etcheverry Boneo is recommended in LACCA Approved; and Ricardo Beller, Fernando Hernández, Pablo Viñals and Hernan Slemenson are also busy.

Analysis: Marval’s capital markets practice draws on the firm’s exceptionally strong transactional capabilities to pull in a significant volume of local and – more so since 2016 – cross-border work. The firm’s enviably long list of financial sector clients is a source of work for the capital markets team, which is often called upon by underwriters. This well-rounded group has represented debtors from various sectors utilising the capital markets to raise debt in high-value transactions. Marval partners have helped clients structure trusts through which to tap capital markets. Alongside its expertise in debt transactions, Marval’s capital markets group is an astute choice for equity offerings.

Top deals

Most recent deals

Restructuring & insolvency

Key partners: Ricardo Beller, Martín Campbell, Roberto Silva and Fernando Hernández are key contacts.

Analysis: Marval helps clients refinance their debt liabilities as well as representing creditors in court insolvency proceedings. The firm is particularly active in the energy sector.

Top deals

Administrative law

Key partners: Héctor Mairal (one of the most highly regarded lawyers of his generation) and María Lorena Schiariti are prominent administrative lawyers; both come recommended in LACCA Approved.

Analysis: The practice group has been known to work in tandem with Marval’s busy M&A group, providing the regulatory know-how that is crucial to deals’ closing. It also lends itself to litigation, helping clients challenge adverse governmental decisions. The department also assists on state contracts.

Work highlights: A major case occupying the practice is the defence of Citibank against administrative proceedings and litigation brought by the government in connection with the bank’s role in the now-settled dispute between the state and holdout creditors – which saw the former government threaten to terminate the bank’s activities in Argentina. The department was enlisted by pharmaceuticals client Novartis for its state contract to supply influenza vaccines and to build a manufacturing plant in Argentina.

Arbitration

Key partners: Alberto Molinario takes the lead, while name partner Héctor Mairal is widely held as one of Latin America’s best lawyers. Ricardo Ostrower, Santiago Soria and Francisco Macias are also busy.

Analysis: One of Argentina’s top arbitration groups, this practice propelled itself into the limelight when it facilitated the US$5 billion settlement of Repsol’s protracted dispute with Argentina over YPF’s expropriation. The group has a strong track record in energy, having advised global oil majors, and many of the disputes it is currently handling come from that sector. With nine partners and almost 50 lawyers contributing to the practice, Marval has one of Argentina’s best-equipped disputes teams.

Work highlights: BG Group turned to Marval when it sought an UNCITRAL award from the state after Argentina breached the UK-Argentina BIT’s fair and equitable treatment provision, ultimately securing a pay out in 2016. 

Litigation

Key partners: Alberto Molinario leads; Ricardo Ostrower is recommended in LACCA Approved.

Analysis: The largest litigation department in Argentina by some way, this is also one of the biggest departments within Marval. As befits such a large team, there is a wealth of experience of various industries and dispute types here. Leveraging the firm’s strength in administrative law, the practice has successfully fought litigations against the Argentine government in the past – exemplified in recent years by its high-profile counsel to Spanish energy company Repsol. The team has an excellent level of experience in banking litigation, and recently facilitated a financial services client’s settlement of a fraud claim with two individuals. Other sectors where Marval’s litigation lawyers are prominent are energy and agribusiness. Clients are quick to voice their satisfaction with this team, praising its flexible fees structure and general excellence in commercial litigation.

Work highlights: The team is counsel to oil majors Shell and ExxonMobil in their litigation against the Argentine government and state-owned YPF over the validity of a surcharge on the price of jet fuel sales for international flights two decades ago. 

Labour

Key partners: There are many prominent partners here, some of whom are at the front of the pack for Argentine labour law. Practice leader Javier Patrón is recommended in LACCA Approved. Another go-to name is Enrique Stile, praised by one client for never failing to supply practical advice at no delay and for making the thorniest of labour legal problems a pleasure to work on.

Analysis: Marval’s large, 32-strong labour team is revered by clients and international counsel for its expertise, quality of service and professionalism. The praise clients bestow upon this team speaks volumes about the kind of service companies can expect to find here. The size of the team lends itself to a broad focus. In keeping with the firm’s international outlook, this department has multinational clients, who come for help adapting global policies to local law, or for help setting up shop in – or exiting – Argentina. The group has experience handling employee dismissals. Union negotiations are one of Stile’s areas of expertise, while Patrón handles administrative labour matters.

Intellectual property

Key partners: There are several partners here who are leaders in the field of IP law. Gustavo Giay is recommended in LACCA Approved and his work in anti-counterfeiting has been labelled as outstanding; he is in charge of IP-related litigation. Martin Bensadon is also recommended in LACCA Approved and wins high praise among the legal community, particularly for his knowledge of patents law. Partner Iris Quadrio is well known for her trademarks work, while another member of the team, Iván Poli, is a highly regarded patent and trademark law specialist.

Analysis: IP is a very strong suit for Marval: the eight-partner team is the firm’s financial backbone, and Marval’s reputation as a leader in many of the fields in which it operates has also been built on its capabilities in this area. The department has the largest number of lawyers at any IP practice at a full-service firm in Argentina. Litigation is a large component of this team’s work load and in defending its clients from patent infringements and the like, Marval does exceptionally well. One in-house counsel who has worked both with and across from Marval in trademark litigation draws attention not only to these lawyers’ excellent client service, but the ethical way they approach their opponents. The practice group is continually adding to its list of senior-level talent – for the last three years in a row Marval has opted to promote an IP lawyer to partner in its annual promotion rounds.

Work highlights: A global leading technology company relied on the department in a long-running dispute over trademarks registrations, which has now finally reached a successful conclusion for Marval’s client. 

Mining & metals

Key partners: Luis Lucero and Leonardo Rodríguez.

Analysis: The department works with mining companies and their financiers; it has advised major industry clients on all matters related to running mines, as well as working with private equity backers providing project finance. It provides day-to-day counsel to local and international mining companies, and represents them in joint ventures, along with the project feasibility studies and environmental permits necessary to get projects off the ground.

Work highlights: Marval dispenses advice on government regulations, access roads and financing, among other matters, to a local subsidiary of Canadian gold miner Goldcorp, in relation to the Cerro Negro gold and silver project in Santa Cruz province. The firm is representing Glencore in its high-profile dispute with a local subsidiary of Chilean conglomerate Antofagasta over a waste dump allegedly built by the latter on real estate owned by Glencore; Marval’s client is seeking damages.

Energy

Key partners: Francisco Macias is recommended in LACCA Approved and is one of seven partners working in the energy sphere, including Pablo Artagaveytia. In 2016, Marval hired Arturo Pera, the former legal director of French oil and gas company Total, as of counsel, adding to its clout in the area.

Analysis: This is a sizeable department – the largest energy group at a full-service firm in Argentina – that continues to grow. Marval’s energy department works closely with other practice groups and can draw on the firm’s well-known corporate expertise, allowing it to bag a place on some of the most important mergers and acquisitions taking place in Argentina’s energy sector today. As well as transactional work, the practice lends itself to energy disputes, including arbitrations and litigations involving regulators. It also handles tenders for large public infrastructure projects. The department is particularly popular with international clients, working closely with a number of oil majors or other multinationals.

Work highlights: The firm is counsel to Brazilian oil and gas company Petrobras and has helped it sell its Argentine upstream, downstream, power generation and natural gas transport assets, part of a vast divestment strategy. Marval advised US conglomerate General Electric when it entered a joint venture with YPF to invest US$150 million in a thermoelectric power plant in the northern province of Tucumán. The firm was also counsel to a group of family led investors that bought a stake in gas carrier Transportadora de Gas del Sur from Pampa Energía.

Environment

Key partners: Francisco Macías

Analysis: The department focuses on environmental litigation, where it is busy defending clients from probes by environmental authorities, as well as class action suits seeking damages.

Work highlights: The firm is defending one of its oil and gas clients, Compañía General de Combustibles, against two class actions filed by non-profit organisation ASSUPA and 20 other oil companies. ASSUPA is seeking remediation for environmental damage caused by the oil companies in their respective concession areas.

Tax

Key partners: Gabriel Gotlib and Walter Keiniger are both recommended in LACCA Approved; Keiniger wins favour with clients for his ability to understand what clients require. Horacio García Prieto also features.

Analysis: One of the most prominent tax teams in Argentina – and easily the largest at a full-service firm – the group advises clients on administrative claims over VAT and income tax involving the authorities. It successfully builds on Marval’s expertise in other areas – such as corporate and disputes – to add significant breadth to the counsel it offers its clients. For example, it advises companies on the tax implications of corporate reorganisations, as well as devising tax-efficient settlements for hard-fought disputes. The number of senior lawyers in this team has grown in recent years – both with a lateral hire and promotion to partner – making Marval’s commitment to maintaining the strength of this group clear.

Insurance & reinsurance

Key partners: Pablo Cereijido

Analysis: The largest insurance department at a full-service firm in Argentina, Marval’s team advises multinationals on complex insurance policies for their operations and assets in Argentina, as well as joint ventures, and litigation. The group works on major insurance deals for international investors, designing hard and fast policies to protect against the risks some see as intrinsic to the Argentine economy. As well as striking deals, the department also litigates, representing clients in high-profile damages claims.

 

Telecoms & media

Key partners: Daniel Di Paola, Gustavo Giay and Javier Etcheverry Boneo.

Analysis: The previous head of this practice retired in 2016, prompting Marval to promote a younger member of the team to partner to ensure it has senior talent dedicated to this area of law. The group helps clients with M&A deals, regulatory issues, bids for public contracts and litigation.

Work highlights: The firm was counsel to Telecom Italia for the sale of its Argentine business to investment group Fintech.

Trade

Key partners: Patricia Lopez Aufranc, a highly regarded trade lawyer who is widely recommended by clients, leverages her corporate law experience to triumph in complex trade matters; Pablo Gayol also contributes here.

Analysis: The department covers international trade, antidumping investigations and World Trade Organisation dispute settlement procedures. It also helps multinational companies understand local trade regulations that apply to importing goods into Argentina.

White collar crime and compliance

Key partners: Patricia Lopez Aufranc is recommended for her white-collar crime practice in LACCA Approved.

Analysis: The practice draws on Marval’s corporate and administrative capabilities to deliver well-informed compliance counsel to local and international companies. The department provides advice to clients on both local anti-corruption regulations and international laws on the subject, including the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and Brazil’s Clean Company Law. The group has experience advising big-name companies on the legalities of their interactions with public officers as well as donations to public entities, as well as providing counsel on public procurement procedures.

Pro bono

Analysis: Marval is recognised as a Leading Light for pro bono and is strongly committed to providing free legal counsel to those who need it. The firm is participating in Justicia 2020, a programme organised by the Argentine Ministry of Justice and Human Rights which aims to bring justice to impoverished sections of society by establishing access-to-justice centres inside shantytowns. Notable previous pro bono work has seen Marval work with the International Association of Women Judges.


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