Top-tier full service firm with regional reach
Standing out because of its regional identity, geographical spread and commitment to institutionalisation, Ferrere is an unusual animal in the Uruguayan legal market, and indeed Latin America. Its impressive growth across both its home country and other small jurisdictions in Latin America has had a seismic effect on the region’s legal market.
Ferrere recognises that the size of Uruguay’s economy makes expanding the firm’s headcount at home unrealistic. To achieve growth, it has opened offices in Bolivia, Ecuador and Paraguay, which are all listed in the Latin Lawyer 250. The firm wants its operations in those countries one day to be on the same scale as the Uruguay offices. To help clients make the most of its unparalleled regional presence, deep integration between all four jurisdictions remains one of Ferrere’s highest priorities.
From July, the firm's managing partner is Agustín Mayer. Outgoing managing partner Andrés Cerisola, who won Latin Lawyer’s Law Firm Leader of the Year Award in 2016 on account of the firm’s successful regionalisation strategy, will retire from the partnership at the end of 2017.
In Uruguay, Ferrere has an international reputation for being one of the two market leaders. It has a multidisciplinary service offer, which allowed it to stay busy in 2016, when economic growth slowed in Uruguay. M&A is traditionally a core area when the conditions are right, it has an enviable market share in project financings and is a first port of call for finance work. Elsewhere, the tax department was a focus of investment in 2016 and there are busy litigation, arbitration and labour groups.
Always staying ahead of the curve, the firm invests heavily in innovation and targets clients of a similar mindset in newer sectors such as data analytics and the sharing economy. The firm helps companies like Uber and Airbnb succeed in their platform businesses, where legislation is yet to catch up.
Clients drive the firm’s strategy and, year on year, companies report how pleased they are with the level of service on offer. The firm also prioritises its staff and is committed to making its offices a good place to work. A nod to Ferrere’s success in the latter area came in 2016, when it was named the private company of choice for Uruguayan university students in a poll.
Ferrere has the largest national presence of any firm listed in this chapter. Outside Montevideo, there is a branch in Punta del Este for real estate matters and high-net-worth foreigners, and another branch in the Zonamerica free trade zone; a small presence in the city of Colonia; and a base in Tacuarembó for forestry clients. Ferrere is also notable for its regional presence, which continues to grow. It has 11 offices across Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia and – most recently – Ecuador. All Ferrere offices coordinate to align the firm’s service offer, part of Ferrere’s strategy to beat its competition.
Alliances & networks
Ferrere is a member of Lataxnet, a tax-related network of firms based in Latin America.
Ferrere has an exceptionally long, broadly sourced and loyal client base that reflects both the depth of this firm’s service offering and the talented minds within the partnership. Uber has become a major source of work in many areas for Ferrere in the last few years, while South Korean car manufacturer Hyundai is a big litigation client. Multilateral lenders like Corporación Andina de Fomento and the Inter-American Development Bank are core banking clients.
Corporate and M&A
Key partners: Highly rated Martín Cerruti is a prominent lawyer at home advising clients on sophisticated cross-border deals. He is recommended in LACCA Approved and known for his vast experience, professionalism and excellent management of his team. Geraldine Ifrán also stands out and, alongside Cerruti, is praised for her close attention to client service.
Analysis: This is a strong suit for the firm, which has one of the country’s busiest transactional teams. Economic crisis in Brazil has had a knock-on effect on the Uruguayan M&A market and the gradual decrease of plain vanilla M&A work over the last few years has meant Ferrere has reduced the number of lawyers focused on this practice area. This adjustment should be a sign that the firm wants to stay ahead and meet client demand where it exists – several lawyers who used to dedicate their time here now work on emerging industries, such as data analytics. Nevertheless, the corporate and M&A group remains a stellar team. Ferrere is often called on to provide local counsel for cross-border deals involving multinationals, a role it played for US technology and speciality materials company Celanese, US commercial insurer AIG and US real estate investor Klaff Realty during the course of 2016. The team also helps international clients expand their asset portfolios in Uruguay. The practice has done an impressive amount of work in Uruguay’s thriving renewable energy market, where it has advised international developers in the solar and wind power sectors. Ferrere’s banking and finance practice has done a lot of work in forestry fund formation, which lends the M&A group to advising on land acquisitions carried out by those funds. The group has done work with pension funds and banks, as well as advising clients from the oil, agribusiness, food and technology sectors. Unsurprisingly given the level of talent to be found here and the breadth of services on offer, customers are keen to lavish praise on the practice. One client says the team is accustomed to making its clients’ issues and problems its own, while always putting the best interests of the client first. Another client that has worked with Ferrere since it was founded is quick to label it the best firm in Uruguay.
Most recent deals
Banking & finance
Key partners: Diego Rodríguez leads the way; Santiago Fontana is also noted and brings experience from time spent abroad, having worked at Ferrere’s Bolivian office.
Analysis: Ferrere is highly capable when it comes to structuring banking and finance transactions. It works with major local and international banks – such as BTG Pactual and Lloyds TSB – as well as devising financing agreements on behalf of borrowers. Ferrere’s banking and finance team has a wealth of experience advising on fund formation in the forestry sector, where it has helped Uruguayan company Agroempresa Forestal structure no less than three timber funds. The department has experience in the realm of financial regulations, helping clients get Central Bank approval for their endeavours. It has devised trust structures for companies looking to get tax breaks in certain sectors, such as culture and sports. The fact that this department garners so much praise from clients is a testament to its capabilities. One client, who considers this one of Uruguay’s top firms, draws attention to the level of experience and service on offer here, while noting the culturally savvy, bilingual team. Another banking client says the lawyers here are very good analysts and extremely knowledgeable.
Most recent deals
Key partners: Diego Rodríguez, who has steered numerous ahead-of-the-curve transactions during his more than two decades at Ferrere. For his very successful capital markets practice, he is recommended in LACCA Approved.
Analysis: Ferrere’s capital markets department has a reputation for utilising Uruguay’s capital markets space to devise novel financing opportunities for its clients, including structures that reduce investor risk. It has been at the forefront of several cutting-edge deals over the last few years, setting new precedents for wind farm financing and deferred debt transactions. As well as its role in the energy financing area, Ferrere’s capital markets team works with construction, real estate and forestry companies.
Most recent deals
Project finance & infrastructure
Key partners: Gonzalo Secco and Diego Rodríguez lead the way in this busy department.
Analysis: This front-running project finance group advises borrowers and creditors, using novel financing structures to get major infrastructure projects off the ground. Ferrere has been prominent in its counsel to the lenders backing one of Uruguay’s fastest growing sectors, renewables. The group works on big-ticket deals, such as the project financing agreement for Uruguay’s largest wind farm. Also in this area, it has experience amending financing agreements for major energy projects when their ownership changes hands – where the department can also count on Ferrere’s excellent corporate team for support. The team steers financings for major infrastructure projects in other sectors too and has seen its role in PPP projects increase. The Development Bank of Latin America (CAF) is a client.
Most recent deals
Key partners: Sandra González stands out as one of Uruguay’s most accomplished arbitrators, leveraging her knowledge and strategic approach to great effect.
Analysis: Ferrere’s arbitration practice is market leading. It has taken on some of the biggest disputes in the country and won time and again. A large team with depth of experience and thorough technical aptitude ensures a steady stream of work from a diverse group of clients. Technology developers, television makers, private equity and mining companies have all featured recently on the firm’s books.
Work highlights: The firm is advising a major private equity group and a prominent company in a long-running ICSID arbitration with the Uruguayan government.
Key partners: Sandra González, who comes recommended in LACCA Approved, transfers her market-leading expertise in arbitration to litigation with ease.
Analysis: Ferrere’s litigation department has earned a name for itself in recent years by steering and winning several high-profile cases. This success is built upon a well-rounded and experience team of lawyers that is especially adept at insurance and banking disputes. Recent disputes have involved a contested bond call and a heated conflict arising from a major bankruptcy case.
Work highlights: The firm helped Anglo-Swiss mining company Zamin Ferrous overturn a request from environment activists for the Uruguayan government to release geological and financial data related to the controversial multibillion-dollar Aratirí iron mine project in central Uruguay.
Key partners: Gianni Gutiérrez and Alberto Varela.
Analysis: High-end tax planning is this department’s speciality. The team is adept at leveraging government tax benefit programmes to reduce clients’ liabilities and is also an experienced hand at tax litigation. Matters are steered by highly respected partners. The firm has invested in this area across all four jurisdictions.
Work highlights: The firm is helping US oil and gas company Exxon Mobil on tax structuring matters related to acquisition of an oil block off the coast of Uruguay.
Key partner: Verónica Raffo, who is recognised in LACCA Approved, and Nelson Larrañaga (senior counsel).
Analysis: Ferrere has a superb labour practice with a strong track-record in litigation and collective bargaining. The department also has a reputation for using innovative tactics, such as championing the use of arbitration clauses in labour contracts. Its novel approach means it wins some of the toughest cases. For example, the firm has experience negotiating directly with unions in disputes that involve hundreds of workers, often finding swift solutions to the most complex of problems. Besides collective bargaining and litigation, the team offers a market leading immigration practice that is partnered with recruitment processing company Pro-Link and global immigration boutique Berry, Appleman & Leiden.
Work highlights: State-owned energy company Gas Sayago hired the firm to lead negotiations with the country’s construction industry union after Ferrere’s client rescinded an agreement with its main contractor, jeopardising over 700 jobs. Ferrere hammered out a deal involving significant job cuts, which avoided Gas Sayago assuming any payments for the dismissals. In another collective bargaining action, the firm helped local meatpacker Schneck evict workers occupying a plant through swift judicial proceedings.
Key partners: Agustín Mayer, who comes recommend in LACCA Approved, and senior associate Alejandro Alterwain.
Analysis: Ferrere operates a top-notch IP practice that appears in some of the country’s biggest cases. Its lawyers are tried and tested at IP litigation, particularly cases relating to trademark infringements. Clients from the technology, retail and telecoms sectors are commonplace, underscoring this department’s steady workload and breadth of experience.
Work highlights: Ferrere recently helped a major international tech company recover a domain name through a preliminary injunction without providing notice to the registrant. The firm also assisted a leading retailer that was sued by a major clothing brand, successfully protecting the company against indemnity requests.
Key partners: Senior counsel Cristina Vázquez, the former head of the country’s Energy Regulatory Agency, heads the team, with three partners contributing more than half their time to the practice: Martín Cerruti, Gonzalo Secco and Agustín Mayer.
Analysis: Ferrere has a broad administrative offering, with a team that works across a range of industries. The firm has experience drafting PPP, EPC and O&M agreements and has helped clients on various public sector projects. It also represents companies in administrative claims.
Work highlights: Vázquez advised Grinor–Saceem on the drafting and negotiation of PPP, EPC and O&M agreements for two highways, working alongside the government body responsible for highway PPPs. She also helped the construction group develop a private initiative to find solutions to Montevideo’s traffic congestion, under the framework of the financial reactivation law.
Insurance & reinsurance
Key partners: Geraldine Ifrán
Analysis: Ferrere has a market leading insurance and reinsurance practice. The department advises big industry names on day-to-day matters, and has experience steering the entry of new players, guiding them through regulatory hurdles and Central Bank regulations. Moreover, international insurance companies look to Ferrere for M&A advice.
Work highlights: Argentina’s San Cristóbal Seguros Generales is relying on Ferrere to obtain regulatory approval from the Uruguayan Central Bank so it can broaden its insurance offering locally. The work involves the creation of a business plan, the preparation of products and regulatory compliance checks.
Key partners: Gonzalo Secco
Analysis: This top-tier practice invariably lands a role on Uruguay’s biggest and most important energy deals. It has accompanied the country on its recent adoption of liquefied natural gas and participated in the recent investments in offshore drilling. The team has also been highly prominent in Uruguay’s vast renewables sector, steering numerous power purchase agreements and project financing deals. Indeed, few firms can match Ferrere’s accumulated experience in this busy practice area, which is backed by a large, highly proficient team.
Work highlights: Ferrere recently helped Japanese industrial conglomerate Mitsui sign a billion-dollar agreement to build the world’s largest floating LNG regasification facility off the coast of Montevideo. The time charter-party agreement is of strategic importance to Uruguay, which is making a major push toward greater energy independence.
Antitrust & competition
Key partners: Alejandro Alterwain, a senior associate, leads the team.
Analysis: The antitrust team have built a reputation working on market-shaping cases, often setting new precedents. The group has defended clients in collusion and cartel cases, and is known for its work advising technology platforms new to the Uruguayan market.
Work highlights: A major case in 2016 concerned one of Ferrere’s regular clients, Uber, which it successfully defended against a union claim accusing the platform of anti-competitive practices. The case led this department to help Uber lobby the Uruguayan competition watchdog to recommend the government treats the US tech company fairly, which it agreed to do, issuing a series of non-binding recommendations. The practice has also defended prepaid corporate services company Luncheon Tickets in a horizontal price fixing investigation in the meal vouchers market.
Sport & entertainment
Key partners: Agustín Mayer
Analysis: This sports law department counts a long list of recognisable clients. Its counsel covers everything from football transfer agreements and broadcasting rights to sports-related litigation.
Work highlights: The firm scores big, time and again, thanks to regular client Peñarol, which is arguably Uruguay’s most famous football club.
Telecoms & media
Key partner: Alejandro Pintos
Analysis: Ferrere is a reference for telecoms advice in Uruguay. The firm has challenged the aspects of the country’s media law and won on multiple occasions. However, the department does not only go on the offensive. Ferrere is just as comfortable defending telecoms clients in litigation.
Work highlights: Ferrere recently helped regular client DIRECTV obtain an unconstitutionality ruling from the Supreme Court on several provisions present in Uruguay’s 2014 media act. The US company also hired the firm to seek the annulment of a 2012 decree that put a cap on TV providers’ market share.
Key partners: Gianni Gutiérrez
Analysis: Ferrere’s trade practice advises international businesses on a variety of matters, including permitting and special trading regimes. The department also has experience steering clients through audits and assisting them on pricing evaluations.
Work highlights: The firm is advising a well-known pharmaceuticals company after it was audited by the customs authority. German engineering company Siemens regularly relies on the trade team for day-to-day assistance.
Key partners: Andrés Cerisola is board chairman for the local affiliate of New York-based entrepreneurship foundation Endeavor, while Veronica Raffo chairs the Organisation of Businesswomen of Uruguay. She also dedicates considerable time to initiatives and organisations that promote gender equality, such as Hillary Clinton’s Vital Voices programme.
Analysis: Ferrere is recognised as a Leading Light for its commitment to pro bono. The firm is increasing the number of pro bono cases it handles year on year. With the aim of increasing partner participation in pro bono, Ferrere tracks partners’ pro bono hours and recognises their contributions within the firm. The firm has previously provided free legal aid to companies in the start-up funding sector, as well as offering training to entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and network managers. Several members of the firm are also highly committed to entrepreneurship programmes.