Diego Sierra is “a top-notch expert” who excels in high-stakes anti-corruption investigations at home and abroad.
Diego Sierra is a partner at Von Wobeser y Sierra, where he leads the anti-corruption and compliance, and bankruptcy and restructuring practices, in parallel with his litigation and arbitration practices. He is admitted to practise both in Mexico and in New York. He chairs the ICC Mexico anti-corruption commission. Diego Sierra serves as officer of the IBA anti-corruption committee. Diego is a board member of the Mexican Bar Association in charge of the Bar’s international affairs. He graduated with honours from the Escuela Libre de Derecho and with honours from the School of Law and the Kellogg School of Management of Northwestern University where he obtained an LLM and a certificate in business administration.
You are admitted to practise in New York and Mexico. How does this enhance your practice?
More than 85 per cent of VWyS’ss client base comes from multinational companies doing business in Mexico. Thus, most of our clients have close ties with the US. Often, they are public companies with securities listed in the US markets and their operations in Mexico are governed by extraterritorial statutes that reach beyond the US borders. Being admitted to practise in New York therefore helps me recognise concerns that my clients may have which otherwise I would have been blind to. It enables me to become a communicating bridge between legal traditions that do not always see eye to eye – common law and civil law.
How do you seek to work across different practice areas to understand the sequence of events in a dispute?
As a generalist disputes lawyer, I have been honoured by our clients’ trust to represent them on wide array of matters. For example, defending class actions, shareholder disputes, insolvency proceedings, tortious liability, breach of contract, and qui tam actions arising from facts in Mexico. On investigations, I have conducted investigations on companies involved in sectors and industries as diverse as finance, insurance, consumer products, entertainment, travel, consulting, mining, construction, automotive, and oil and gas. Investigations have also given me the opportunity to deal with Mexican authorities when self-reporting. Moreover, investigations have opened a fascinating window into the extraterritoriality of the FCPA and the frequent litigation universe that often stems from FCPA concerns. I have also acted as counsel for our clients in international arbitrations in jurisdictions such as Paris and Miami. This plurality of engagements offers me a broader toolkit to solve our clients’ most complex legal problems. It puts me in a better position to anticipate combinations and permutations on the unfolding of a dispute that other practitioners, who are focused on a specific domestic niche, sometimes might overlook.
How do you seek to gain a deep understanding of your client’s businesses and build long-term relationships?
Whenever I have some spare time, I love jumping into a WSJ or HBR article showing where the latest trends are moving towards. I am no business expert but having that interest as an intellectual sport gives me an angle in asking our clients questions that disputes lawyers sometimes do not consider relevant. I try to understand a client’s main competitive advantages, how can it continue growing and preserving its profitability, what are its margins, whether there is cyclicality in its business model, what are its EBIDTA margins, does it generate cash promptly from its clients or is its business cash flow somewhat constricted. I also try to understand a client’s operation and what obstacles it could face to preserve its business from running smoothly. Working from the business back towards the legal issues very often helps us craft legal solutions that would have not been apparent at the outset from a strictly legal point of view.
How do you seek to mentor and continue to strengthen the litigation team at the firm?
I am a firm believer that the younger generations need to reach for greater sophistication and stronger intellectual diversity. I am always pushing for their greater preparation both academically in Mexico and overseas. On wordsmanship I get close to associates in helping them structure briefs and memos. I try to guide them but let them find their own solutions. We are always in constant dialogue and pushing ourselves to be creative. As part of VWyS’s institutionalisation, we have built an associate career path. Associates set their own goals against this career path and we periodically qualify their performance. In this way, we measure their progress and aim for greater objectivity. We encourage our associates to study LLM’s abroad and seek working opportunities for them with firms we admire. We also host foreign associates every year. This affirms VWyS’s international DNA, opens our firm to the world and aligns our stars for their eventual walk into the partnership.
How does diversity form an important part of Von Wobeser y Sierra’s culture?
At VWyS, we celebrate our differences, strive for intellectual excellence and client satisfaction. Women and members of the LGBT community sit at the partner table. Their voices count and influence our culture and firm strategy. We want to be the best law firm in Mexico, with a strong commitment to diversity. We have also created an ethics committee which oversees compliance with our firm’s code of conduct and that manages a hotline operated by an independent third party to hear any complaints in the workplace.
Von Wobeser y Sierra has transactional and litigation expertise. How do these strengths complement each other and add value to the client experience?
We believe we have an optimal blend of high-stakes transactional and disputes expertise. This allows us to better serve our clients specifically while preparing and implementing strategies. We offer a mix of diverse areas of specialisation that sometimes translates but often in a subtle fashion. For example, we will generate a strategy with antitrust components mixed with administrative and civil litigation, while securing the upper hand in an M&A negotiation. Essentially, we help our clients make better business decisions by leveraging the close dialogue and constant collaboration that we foster between our transactional and litigation practices.
What are the main ways Von Wobeser y Sierra distinguishes itself from its competitors?
We operate as a unified full-service firm with a Mexican foothold, and a strong international outlook. In a profession where individualism often undermines a firm’s success, we have placed collaboration front and centre in VWyS. We act with transparency with regards to the cases that we handle, both between partners and at the associate level. Transparency also guides the way we measure ourselves. As partners, we track our performance not only by business generation but by contributions to the firm and our culture. Moreover, associates measure both partners and their peers’ contributions to our firm and its wellbeing. Finally, we continue to invest heavily in our people’s wellness by retaining psychologists to help cope with any challenges. We have also continued to invest on diversity and inclusion by offering roundtables and seminars to raise awareness of the benefits of a diverse environment.
How would you like to develop your litigation practice in the next five years?
We want to continue expanding our core areas of expertise by strengthening our commercial and administrative litigation presence in the market while expanding our arbitration reputation which is a hallmark of our firm. Moreover, our white-collar and investigations practice will continue to drive our growth in offering a distinctive area of international practice.