Wednesday, 14 November 2018 15:57

Gaining momentum

Diaz Reus officeAs arbitration begins to take-off in Miami, while the proliferation of white-collar crime in Latin America continues, Diaz, Reus & Targ is seeking to build on its existing strengths with new office openings

In the fiercely competitive market for legal services, Miami-headquartered Diaz, Reus & Targ looks to be a firm that has positioned itself well. With the city’s reputation as a seat for arbitration on the rise, and white-collar crime cases increasing throughout Latin America – a region where the firm boasts 11 offices – the firm looks well positioned to capitalise on those two major areas of growth.

Miami rarely used to be considered as a place to arbitrate, but clients’ perceptions are changing. “Miami has grown a lot in terms of arbitration,” says Marta Colomar García, the firm’s administrative managing partner. “It was not a location typically chosen to arbitrate, but that has changed over the years, to the point that there has been a successful initiative to create a specialised court as part of Florida’s state court system that hears issues related to international commercial arbitrations seated in Miami.”
The growth in the firm’s workload in recent years is due to the fact that, globally, “these are very complicated times,” says Colomar García. She is referring to the fact that white-collar crime cases are on the rise in Latin America. “Over the last three years, white- collar crime has been the major driver of growth for us, due to the alleged proliferation of money-laundering schemes, in countries such as Venezuela, which makes our regional presence in Latin America very important.”latamSept18 p17 photo
Colomar García says the firm has partners whose experience spans decades, adding that Diaz, Reus & Targ has acquired a reputation that has proved attractive with clients, which include companies such as Pemex, Fujitsu and Sony. For example, the firm’s global managing partner Michael Diaz has more than 30 years´experience as a litigator, while his asset-tracing expertise has resulted in millions of dollars in recoveries for US clients.

Though Diaz, Reus & Targ is relatively modest in size – with around 100 lawyers in total – Colomar García says that it frequently comes up against much larger law firms in cases. “We are not a big law firm, but we regularly litigate and compete with them for business,” she says. “We are full-service, but we started out as an arbitration and litigation boutique, and that still remains our forte – we have expertise in other areas, but our main focus is still arbitration, litigation, and white-collar crime.”
When it comes to dealing with clients, Diaz, Reus & Targ is a firm that has a strong belief in exhibiting the personal touch, according to Colomar García. “Our clients are not just clients, they become our friends,” she explains. “Clients have a personal relationship with the attorneys whereby they can pick up the phone and call a lawyer they trust at any time – we also offer global reach with an understanding and grasp of the local market, given that we have offices around the world and are located where our clients conduct their business.”
Latin America generates around 90 per cent of Diaz, Reus & Targ’s revenues, though the firm does not disclose financial information. However, the firm does confirm that it has experienced an increase in work related to arbitration, litigation, and criminal investigations as well as corruption defence work, bribery and money laundering cases. In addition, the firm also reports an increase in matters concerning the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the Bank Secrecy Act, as well as other US law violations. Particular areas of specialisation for Diaz, Reus & Targ include fraud, asset investigations, regulatory and corporate investigations, governance and compliance, blockchain and cryptocurrencies, sovereign trade, commerce, real estate, banking, financing, and capital markets.

The firm represents a wide array of clients, acting for multinational corporations, import and export companies, manufacturers, technology companies, government entities, political parties, public officials, financial institutions, entrepreneurs and family offices, as well as high net worth individuals. Among the clients that have been represented by Diaz, Reus & Targ are Nissan and Dubai Islamic Bank.
Crisis-ridden Venezuela is a key market for the firm. This is largely due to the political and economic turmoil that has engulfed the country, which has also had sanctions imposed on it by the US government. “The country is essentially financially illiquid,” Colomar García says. “The economic sanctions imposed by President Donald Trump are making life very difficult for the current government – consequently, our practice there has transitioned from litigation, arbitration and corporate advice, to white-collar issues.” The firm’s work related to white-collar crime is booming. “Our white-collar crime department has grown exponentially as we assist people who are navigating their way through economic sanctions and being put on a blacklist where nobody can do business with them,” says Colomar García.
Diaz, Reus & Targ has a well-established reputation in the Venezuelan market having worked there for decades and built up considerable experience, Colomar García says. She adds that global managing partner Diaz launched his practice in Venezuela 20 years ago after a period spent working there. “For the last thirty years he has been representing not only Venezuelan individuals with businesses and interests in the US, Europe or throughout the world, but also the government itself,” Colomar García says. “But we don’t take sides, we don’t get involved in politics, we do not represent the current President or his close allies, but institutions and government entities such as the central bank, advising on compliance with the applicable US regulations.”

‘Political enemies’
The sanctions imposed on Venezuela have been effective, according to Colomar García. “These economic sanctions work,” she says. “They are a powerful tool, and I don’t know how much more the government can take.” Colomar García adds that the US is targeting governments and “political enemies” via such measures. “It is effective intelligence gathering and economic sanctions that weakens governments, no longer military threats,” she says. Indeed, legal work related to economic sanctions is expected to be a significant growth area for the firm, particularly in Latin America, but also in other parts of the world.
In addition to Venezuela, Diaz, Reus & Targ is active in other Latin American markets, such as Honduras and Guatemala, where there is growing demand for advice related to white-collar crime. Meanwhile, the firm has also now extended its reach to the Russian Federation. “We have also just opened an office in Moscow, where we gave a presentation on ‘delisting’ in relation to sanction lists – the event was sold out and a great success,” Colomar García says. But the firm’s expansion plans do not end there – the opening of an office in Ecuador is also under consideration as it is another Latin American country where demand for lawyers specialising in white-collar crime is on the rise. latamSept18 p16 quote
The firm has also been involved in a major corruption case brought against Brazilian construction conglomerate Odebrecht in Panama. Odebrecht left a trail of corruption – which was uncovered in 2016 – when it admitted it had paid bribes to secure contracts in Argentina, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela. “The scandal was all over Latin America, and is one of the biggest I have seen,” Colomar García says. “I think there will be further consequences as what the public sees is just the tip of the iceberg – investigations are still being conducted and being reopened.” The matters being dealt with are extremely complicated and need to be handled with care given the parties involved, according to Colomar García. “These corruption and kickback schemes are very complex – our firm is in the middle of all of these government investigations and sensitive political issues.” Meanwhile, Central America is a region that is generating an increasing number of opportunities for the firm. “We are always looking to open offices in new markets where our clients might have business needs,” Colomar García says.

However, operating in many markets does bring significant challenges, Colomar García adds. “The biggest challenge has been to inform our clients in a timely fashion about the US’ rapidly increasing sanctions programmes, as there is a lot of misinformation and misperceptions out there,” she explains. “Indeed, we have spoken in several jurisdictions about the myths and truths of the sanctions programmes, including Moscow, Cambridge, and Bogotá.” Given that economic sanctions cause considerable confusion among clients, it is certain that there will be a high demand for lawyers specialising in this field for the foreseeable future.

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