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Debevoise & Plimpton LLP

New York

Debevoise & Plimpton LLP - New York
  • 919 Third Avenue
  • New York
  • New York
  • USA
  • NY 10022
  • Managing Partner: Michael W Blair
  • Number of partners: 141
  • Number of other lawyers: 463
  • USA New York, Washington
  • INTERNATIONAL OFFICES Hong Kong, Shanghai, London, Paris, Frankfurt, Moscow
  • Website: www.debevoise.com 

THE FIRM: Debevoise has been active in Latin America for more than 50 years, and over the past decade has worked on hundreds of completed transactions, including some of the largest and most challenging projects across the region. Debevoise’s Latin American practice is based in New York and draws support from the firm’s European and Asian offices. The firm is a recognised leader among international law firms active in Latin America and has a large number of lawyers who spend a significant amount of time on Latin American matters and most of them speak Spanish and/or Portuguese. The firm invests heavily in its international intern program, employing some of the best-performing lawyers in the region. In 2013, Debevoise’s work in Latin America led it to win two first prizes in The American Lawyer’s Global Legal Awards program. The firm won for Global M&A Deal of the Year, Chile, for its representation of Mitsui & Co. Ltd. in its joint venture with Corporación Nacional del Cobre de Chile (Codelco), and for Global Dispute of the Year, Investment Arbitration, for its work in Occidental Petroleum v. Ecuador.

Mergers & Acquisitions:
■Mitsui in its agreement with GDF SUEZ Energy Latin America Participações Ltda., a subsidiary of the global energy group GDF SUEZ S.A., to participate in the Jirau run-of-the river hydropower project (a project with a value estimated at approximately BRL 16 billion, as of December 2012)
■The Principal Financial Group in its acquisition of AFP Cuprum S.A., a leading pension manager in Chile
■New York Life Insurance Company in the sale of its Mexico surety subsidiary, Fianzas Monterrey, S.A., to ACE Group, for about $285 million

Private Equity/Fund Formation:
■The firm’s private equity funds practice is one of the largest in the world and the firm has consolidated its role as the go-to-counsel to work on the highest-profile, and largest, funds raised in Brazil, and the rest of Latin America, in the recent past
■Clients include both large global firms, such as Carlyle, which most recently included raising a Peru Fund, and its parallel vehicles, extending the South America investment presence Carlyle established five years ago
■Other notable clients include The Capital Group, Tishman Speyer and Brookfield, as well as leading asset managers based in Latin America, such as Vinci Partners

Capital Markets:
■The Latin America capital markets practice at Debevoise continues to expand its presence in the region while fostering relationships with existing clients
■Globopar, Brazil’s largest media and communications conglomerate, in $500 combined offering of senior notes, senior secured exchangeable notes and step-up senior notes
■Itaú Unibanco in its international financing program, including takedowns under its MTN program and its SEC reporting and US securities law compliance matters

Project Finance:
■Debevoise’s infrastructure and project finance group has extensive experience in the infrastructure sector in Latin America, including transactions taking the form of public-private partnerships (“P3s” or “PPPs”). Sectors in which the firm has acted include transportation, energy, mining and natural resources, power generation and communication.
■Award winning non-P3 projects on which the firm acted include the Refinaria Henrique Lage (REVAP) project in Brazil which was awarded the “Latin American Deal of the Year” by Project Finance International
■The firm has also played a leading role in the development of privatisation and P3 structures in Latin America, having been involved in most of the P3 projects in Chile and many others in Mexico and elsewhere in the region. Examples include the Ruta de la Araucania and Autopista del Maipo toll roads in Chile, each of which was awarded the “Transportation Deal of the Year, Latin America” by Project Finance Magazine, and Autopista de Nuevo Leon in Mexico which was awarded the “Infrastructure Deal of the Year in the Americas” by Project Finance International.
■In 2013, the firm’s project finance practice saw the addition of preeminent Canadian practitioner Doug Buchanan QC, who has joined the firm’s New York office as Counsel and Co-Head of the Global Infrastructure and Project Finance Group

International Arbitration:
■Occidental Petroleum Company and Occidental Exploration and Production Company (“Occidental”) in an ICSID arbitration, winning what is believed to be the largest ever BIT award, US $1.8 billion (US $2.3 billion including interest). The filing of the claim was made two days after Ecuador terminated all of Occidental’s exploration and production rights and seized all of its assets in the country. Global Arbitration Review (GAR) named the Occidental award “The Most Important Published Decision of 2012.”
■Perenco Ecuador Limited in its BIT and contract claims against the Republic of Ecuador. The firm won a groundbreaking, unanimous decision on provisional measures in favor of its client, ordering that Ecuador and Petroecuador refrain from instituting or further pursuing any action, including oil seizures, to collect disputed Law 42 amounts.
■Pueblo Viejo Dominicana Corporation, a joint venture between Barrick Gold and Goldcorp Inc., in a dispute with the Government of the Dominican Republic regarding the Pueblo Viejo gold, silver and copper mine, the largest foreign investment in the Dominican Republic.negotiations regarding a potential merger.


Capital Markets - Brazil

THE FIRM According to sources, this Brazil practice is gaining visibility in the local market and developing its base of clients for capital markets. The team was recently retained to advise Itaú Unibanco on a USD500 million debt offering and helped the bank to establish a USD10 billion MTN programme. The group is especially praised for its thoroughness and risk assessment skills.

Sources say: "The team's key qualities include its strong knowledge, commitment to deadlines and high standards of execution."

KEY INDIVIDUALS The main contacts for clients are Peter Loughran and Paul Rodel.

Capital Markets - Latin America-wide

THE FIRM This team has particular experience in advising on high-value matters on behalf of Brazilian issuers and is a regular counsel to Brazil's Itaú Unibanco. It recently guided the bank on several offerings under its USD10 billion MTN programme, and has also been active in debt matters on behalf of leading Brazilian media group Globo Comunicação e Participações (Globopar).

Sources say: "In our opinion, the lawyers work very hard to protect the client from any pitfalls. A great strength is the way they discuss all matters very carefully and thoughtfully."

KEY INDIVIDUALS Paul Rodel is the key client contact.

Corporate/M&A - Latin America-wide

THE FIRM This firm's strategy in Latin America focuses on a select number of high-value transactions, typically for institutional clients. Most recently, it acted for AmBev Brazilian affiliate Companhia de Bebidas das Americas on two high-profile acquisitions, its USD1.24 billion purchase of Cervecería Nacional Dominicana and the creation of a joint venture with Venezuela's Cervecería Regional. The firm also frequently acts as counsel to Mitsui on its Latin American investments, including its recent formation of joint ventures in Brazil and Chile.

KEY INDIVIDUALS Michael Gillespie is especially well regarded for transactions in the media sector and has expertise across several Latin American jurisdictions, including Brazil. He is a frequent outside counsel to Globo Comunicação e Participações (Globopar), recently advising on its USD600 million divestment of a stake in SKY Brasil to DIRECTV.

Gregory Gooding was co-lead partner acting for The Capital Group, PineBridge and IFC regarding the sale to UBS of a 39% share in Jumbo Retail Argentina - a transaction valued at USD442 million.

International Arbitration - Latin America-wide

THE FIRM This eminent arbitration group has an impressive track record in major Latin American cases. One long-standing client is Occidental Petroleum, for which the firm recently secured what is thought to be one of the largest ICSID awards - some USD2.3 billion including interest - as a result of a long-running case against the Republic of Ecuador. The team also acts for Latin American parties in disputes in other regions. By way of example, it represents Antofagasta Minerals and Barrick Gold joint venture Tethyan Copper in parallel ICSID and ICC proceedings against the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the regional government of the province of Balochistan, relating to the development of a gold and copper mining project. Further notable highlights include obtaining a USD650 million award for Swiss building materials company Holcim following ICSID proceedings against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

Sources say: "The team's calibre is outstanding and working with these lawyers is a real pleasure. They are ahead of the curve in terms of competence and experience."

KEY INDIVIDUALS Practice co-head Donald Donovan is held in high esteem by peers, one of whom comments: "I think the world of him." Sources add: "He is well-spoken, sensitive to his audience and very, very smart." Donovan led on some of the firm's most notable work in this area and also has a strong global reputation as an arbitrator.

Fellow co-head David Rivkin was lead partner on the high-profile Occidental highlight, demonstrating his focus on high-stakes treaty arbitration cases. Sources describe him as a "great practitioner whose advocacy skills are without parallel." Rivkin is regularly appointed as an arbitrator.

Austrian-born Dietmar Prager receives particularly warm praise from Brazilian sources and often works closely with Donovan on the firm's commercial arbitration matters. He recently acted for a well-known hedge fund in an ICC arbitration seated in São Paulo.

According to sources, Catherine Amirfar is another "terrific lawyer" on the team. Along with Donovan and Prager, she is representing Brazilian retail chain Grupo Diniz in two major ICC arbitrations against its European joint venture partner.