Practice/Industry Group Overview
For centuries, Puerto Rico has been a crossroads in the Americas for business, commerce and culture. Encouraged by duty-free access to the mainland United States, proximity to key markets and an educated labor force, U.S. and European companies have invested heavily in Puerto Rico, including in the pharmaceutical, electrical/electronics, apparel, healthcare and consumer and food products sectors. With attorneys and support staff who have many combined years working on matters in Puerto Rico, Duane Morris provides a mix of services to clients who have taken advantage of one of the most dynamic economies in the Caribbean region.
From internal corporate investigations to business transactions and federal civil RICO litigation in the U.S. District Court of Puerto Rico, members of the Business Group have played pivotal roles in advancing clients' interests in Puerto Rico. For example, when a whistleblower complained to a federal agency of alleged intentional violations of law, we helped our client convince the federal government not to empanel a grand jury, performed an internal investigation and persuaded the prosecution team not to bring criminal or civil charges.
Having bilingual attorneys and paralegals helps us to provide effective service at a reasonable cost. In addition, in conjunction with a network of attorneys in offices across the United States and internationally, we combine legal skills with a practical business orientation. Our attorneys have served in management positions at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; as assistant U.S. attorneys and district attorneys; as chair of the American Bar Association's Section on Environment, Energy and Resources; and as members of the Hispanic National Bar Association, to name a few.
One of the strengths of the Puerto Rico Business Group is the scope and depth of services we provide to our clients, from complex civil and administrative litigation to white-collar criminal defense to counseling in a host of different contexts.
Public Finance: Our attorneys have encountered and addressed major finance issues that have impacted both of the U.S. territories in the Caribbean, i.e., Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Duane Morris’ lawyers work in all aspects of municipal finance, including tax, disclosure and authorization questions. This background, together with our experience with Puerto Rican and Virgin Islands clients, allows us to smoothly assist in any public finance matter, in connection with both issuance and post issuance.
Complex Commercial/Business Litigation: Duane Morris' litigators have successfully represented clients in commercial, business, employment, products liability, unfair trade and insurance coverage matters. Our litigation attorneys are trial-proven, admitted and experienced in litigating matters in the federal district court of Puerto Rico. With this collective experience, our Group offers high-quality, cost-effective litigation services to clients with federal litigation needs in Puerto Rico.
Civil RICO and Class Action Claims: In the last decade, domestic and foreign corporations have seen the emergence and harsh consequences of civil RICO litigation. Our attorneys have the experience and knowledge to counsel clients through the often-tangled web of this litigation, and we have done so successfully in Puerto Rico. Some of our civil RICO attorneys have served on the Advisory Board of the Civil RICO Report and have successfully litigated class action RICO claims. One of our achievements is a record $329 million settlement of a class action civil RICO car dealership case in 1997, in which we represented the plaintiffs.
White-Collar Criminal Defense: After the Enron and WorldCom investigations and the passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the business community is more aware than ever of the public pressures that federal and state governments face to root out what is perceived to be extensive wrongdoing by domestic and international corporations. With a team that includes former prosecutors and attorneys with hands-on experience in performing internal investigations and defending corporate clients in both civil and criminal matters in the Puerto Rico federal courts, the Group is ready to handle the challenges brought on by allegations of wrongdoing faced by corporations in today’s climate.
Energy Transactional and Regulatory Law: Puerto Rico Business Group attorneys represent clients with major regulatory compliance needs. They also have assisted federal and state regulators and agencies in the formulation and implementation of regulations and policymaking. We have been called upon to handle multibillion-dollar energy transactions and have successfully litigated significant cases before agencies and courts on complex regulatory issues. Our attorneys are leveraging this experience and know-how and are providing effective counseling in Puerto Rico and elsewhere in the Caribbean Basin.
Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Defense: When domestic and international corporations need representation on environmental issues in Puerto Rico, Duane Morris attorneys are often called upon to assist them. We have extensive experience defending enforcement proceedings and counseling clients with respect to such environmental statutes as the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Superfund, the Toxic Substances Control Act and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act on the U.S. mainland and in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Moreover, in a survey conducted by American Lawyer magazine of 400 corporate counsel nationwide, our environmental attorneys were ranked among the best in the country for service, quality and value.
Construction and Government Contracting: When complex architectural, engineering, financing, insurance and project management issues converge, legal complications often follow. We provide a full range of legal services to clients engaged in construction and government contracting, including contracting with public and private entities, bid protests and award disputes, complex contract claims and surety litigation, claims preparation and negotiation, contract defaults and terminations, alternative dispute resolution, environmental risk management, surety bond and insurance issues, contractor licensing matters, property damage claims, labor and employment counseling and OSHA compliance. We have been engaged for construction litigation in Puerto Rico.
Pharmaceutical & Biotechnology: Our attorneys are experienced with the challenges posed by the development, manufacture, marketing and sales of medical devices, technology and drugs and work with clients to quickly and effectively clear regulatory hurdles while striving to protect intellectual and monetary assets. Working at the intersection of science and business, many Duane Morris lawyers call upon their knowledge gained through previous positions as scientists and laboratory researchers, as well as through study for their advanced degrees in biology, biochemistry and molecular and developmental genetics, when assessing clients' specialized legal needs. These capabilities have benefited our clients in Puerto Rico.
In addition, Duane Morris gives clients access to counsel experienced in other areas, including: affordable housing, business reorganization and financial restructuring, immigration, intellectual property (including copyrights, patents and trademarks) and information technology and telecommunications.
- Conducted internal investigation and criminal and civil defense of parallel federal investigations for multinational pharmaceutical company in whistleblower-initiated matters, resulting in abandonment of the both criminal and civil investigations.
- Prosecuted federal RICO claim against one of the world's largest testing laboratories, yielding a multimillion-dollar settlement of claims of data falsification.
- Counsel of record for Excelerate Energy before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, the U.S. Coast Guard and other governmental entities for Excelerate's Aguirre, Puerto Rico Liquid Natural Gas Offshore Gasport Project, which will help Puerto Rico to reduce its reliance on oil as fuel for the generation of electricity.
- Defended a utility in a suit in federal court brought by a construction company contracted to build a large fossil-fuel power generating station in Puerto Rico. The plaintiff alleged that the utility did not provide the necessary construction drawings and equipment, causing unavoidable construction delays, and then failed to provide promised time and compensation relief to the plaintiff. Shortly before trial, and after seven years of pretrial litigation, the case settled for a small fraction of the damages claimed.
- Represented U.S.-based developer in acquisition of former pharmaceutical manufacturing facility in Puerto Rico.
- Bond counsel to a Puerto Rican issuer in connection with $465 million in hotel occupancy tax revenue bonds.
- Conducted internal investigation of operations of Puerto Rican entity relating to catastrophic tank failure and pollutant releases that severely damaged a wetland. This investigation uncovered information that enabled the client to implement improvements and to avoid further prosecution by structuring a settlement in the context of ongoing federal criminal and civil investigations.
- Negotiated an agreement with U.S. EPA to substitute a different remedy in a Superfund case, reducing the remedial cost to the client by 75 percent.
- Represented European company that was sued in federal court, along with the government of the U.S. Virgin Islands, by a citizens group alleging that the discharge from a wastewater treatment plant being built by the company would damage a coral reef. Negotiated a settlement whereby the company was dismissed from the case, with the Virgin Islands government assuming sole responsibility for implementing alternatives to address the citizens' concerns.
- Successfully challenged the proposed listing of a company's property on the CERCLA (Superfund) National Priorities List.
- Counseled client regarding federal OSHA regulations in the context of an ongoing local enforcement proceeding relating to a fatal industrial accident.
- Resolved a federal probation revocation proceeding arising from alleged violations of law and designed a compliance program calculated to prevent further deviations.
- Counseled and represented U.S. pharmaceutical and OTC distributor in achieving compliance with Puerto Rico Department of Health ASSMCA certifications.
- Represented Fortune 5 company in the defense and favorable resolution of six federal Clean Water Act investigations and enforcement actions at six different facilities in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands involving allegations of hundreds of permit conditions, stormwater violations and unpermitted discharges.
- Internal investigation for Puerto Rican health insurance company arising from dispute with purveyor of defective computer software.
- Represented a major air emission source in protracted federal court litigation arising under a federal court consent decree.
- Assisted wastewater treatment company to resolve its dispute with a customer in the Virgin Islands concerning causation of permit exceedances.
- Managed local counsel on behalf of an insurer in connection with matters relating to its book of health and life insurance cases that had not made headway. All of the matters were expeditiously resolved.
- Following a bench trial in the U.S. District Court for Puerto Rico, obtained an order and judgment declaring a Marine Hull and Protection & Indemnity policy of insurance void and rescinded from inception due to insured's overvaluation of floating drydock and non-disclosure of drydock's deteriorated condition.
- Represented electronics parts manufacturer in resolving federal hazardous waste discharge issues in Puerto Rico, including on the island of Vieques.
- Settled U.S. EPA enforcement case for Puerto Rico pharmaceutical and consumer products company alleged to have discharged pesticides into a waterway.
- Represented Fortune 100 consumer products company in New Jersey and Puerto Rico, settling government enforcement actions alleging thousands of violations of the Clean Water Act. In each instance, penalty assessments were reduced from tens of millions to less than $500,000.
- Represented an electrical components/connectors manufacturer in the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico in employment litigation brought by dozens of former employees under WARN and Puerto Rico Law 100 alleging improper termination and plant closure, resulting in settlement.