Ricardo Arango joined the firm in 1987 and became a partner in 1995. He is a member of the firm’s executive committee; and head of the capital markets and banking, and M&A practice groups. Widely recognised as Panama’s leading banking expert for many years, he has participated in many of the country’s landmark capital market deals and its largest M&A transactions. Mr Arango has an LLB from the University of Panama, and LLM degrees from Harvard and Yale (Fulbright scholar). He is admitted to the Bar in Panama and New York.
Questions & Answers
Thought Leaders 2018 - Interview with Ricardo M Arango
Why did you decide to enter the legal profession?
The legal profession is one that creates a stimulating, continually expanding and evolving intellectual environment and, like many other outstanding ARIFA partners before me, I find my participation in the drafting and development of our country’s key pieces of legislation to be a unique and fulfilling work experience.
What characteristics make a good transactional lawyer in your opinion?
Transactional legal professionals must be skilled problem-solvers and innovators, with the curiosity to understand business and commerce.
The globalisation of the legal profession nowadays demands a more dynamic and technology-smart law firm that focuses on the reality of the country, with an acute world view and readiness to serve its multinational corporate clients in close collaboration with foreign counsel across the globe.
You have been involved in many landmark transactions. What is the most memorable case you have ever worked on and why?
I cannot choose one transaction, but I remember the following as being some of the most interesting: the Republic of Panama’s Brady Bonds offer; the first securitisations of credit card receivables, toll road payments, DPRs and residential mortgages in Panama; the IPOs of Bladex, COPA, Avianca and Panamerican Beverages on the NYSE; Telefónica’s acquisition of BellSouth; the public tender offer by Bancolombia of Banagrícola; and, finally, the merger between Banco General and Banco Continental, resulting in Panama’s largest bank.
What is the greatest challenge for corporate and M&A practitioners in Panama?
The globalisation of markets and free-trade alliances have resulted in a general increase in the past few years in cross-border M&A activity. In almost all of the more recent M&A transactions in Panama, local companies have been the targets of foreign and multinational corporations. Political instability in nearby Latin American countries has also been a substantial driver for inbound investments into Panama, as individuals and companies seek to diversify their country risk.
The Panama Papers undoubtedly had a major impact on the country and its perception around the world, but government regulations have gone a long way to ensure businesses are playing by the books. What more should be done to boost investor confidence in your opinion?
The Panama Papers matter has managed to advance Panama’s international agenda on transparency and information exchange over the past two or three years.
As a country, we need to be able to communicate the significant advancements that we have made in creating and enforcing strict regulations to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism, as well as promoting fiscal transparency. We do not get enough recognition for the good work done in recent years.
How do you expect this year’s elections to impact the Panama’s business for the firm?
During 2018, and so far in 2019, ARIFA has managed to close a significant number of important local and international M&A, debt and project finance transactions. In spite of the impact to be expected from any election year, ARIFA has advised local and foreign clients in the largest local and cross-border acquisitions involving, among others, sectors as diverse as finance, telecommunications, industrial services, consumer products, insurance and the automobile industry. The country’s economic and business fundamentals will not be affected by the outcome of these elections, and in line with the recent credit rating upgrades, we are very optimistic about continued growth in the country.
As head of the firms M&A and capital markets and banking practice groups, what are your main priorities for Arias, Fábrega & Fábrega’s development over the next few years?
Listening to clients; monitoring fast technological changes; and continuing to attract, develop and motivate the best available talent will be clear priorities for the firm, and in particular for our transactional practice groups.
Looking back over your career, what has been your proudest achievement?
Instilling in new generations of lawyers the firm’s motto: “Serving clients with excellence and integrity, always.”