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LACCA Approved: Roy Durling Jr

Banking & Finance Firm: Arias Fábrega & Fábrega (Panama City) Panama City, Panama

Roy Durling Jr
rdurling@arifa.com
Tel: +507 205 7041

Roy C Durling joined ARIFA in 1991 and became a partner in 2001. He is a member of the firm’s executive committee and head of the ARIFA business and corporate law group, where he brings his many years of experience in asset-based financing to advising international clients on their investments in Panama. Durling is a versatile lawyer with skills in a wide range of corporate and commercial law areas. He regularly counsels local and international clients in a variety of sectors including ship finance; mining, oil and gas; banking and finance; capital markets; international business transactions; aviation; and generally doing business in Panama.  

Thought Leaders 2018 - Interview with Roy Durling Jr

What motivated you to enter the legal profession?

My father, who passed away last year, was a great lawyer and an inspiring person, worthy of following his example. He specialised in labour and corporate law and is the main reason I decided to pursue a career in the legal profession.

Why did you decide to specialise in banking and finance?

I ended up specialising in banking and finance by chance. After law school, I applied for a job at a New York law firm and was told that they only had a spot in their corporate finance department.  So, with a little regret (at the time I wanted to be a litigator), I started my life as a lawyer doing corporate and finance work. After four years in this role, I developed a taste for negotiating and drafting complex agreements.

What characteristics make a good banking and finance lawyer?

In my opinion, a good banking and finance lawyer shares the same characteristics of any good lawyer: dedication and loyalty to clients, attention to the needs of clients, ethical values and integrity, the ability to offer quick and practical solutions to problems, as well as a constant and meticulous study of the law.

What has been the most memorable case you have worked on over the course of your career?

It is hard to choose what I would consider to be the most memorable case I have worked on. Every day I am faced with interesting challenges. Some of my most prominent cases have revolved around the financing of commercial aircraft. One of these cases was from my days as a New York lawyer and involved the sale and leaseback of a large fleet of Boeing 747s employed by a mayor US airline in its trans-Pacific routes. What is memorable about this case is the care applied by the lawyers who structured the original delivery of the aircraft, as shown in concisely drafted agreements (which I had to review as part of the due diligence for the deal), as well as the drafting of new agreements with complex cross-default and cross-collateralisation clauses. In the course of the negotiation of the sale and leaseback agreements, I learnt a lot from opposing counsel, who basically tore apart the first drafts I had prepared.

Panama’s authorities have taken major steps to address governance criticisms linked to the Panama Papers recently, including legislation on bank and corporate secrecy. How has this been impacting work for the firm?

The Panama Papers have changed the legal profession in Panama. The concepts of due diligence and know-your-client have erupted suddenly and with force into the spotlight. In the short span of a couple of months (after April 2016), we had to create and man a compliance department, which also required that we invested heavily in technology and human resources.  Even though these changes were brought upon us suddenly and sometimes painfully, compliance is now part of our everyday practice. These new developments have also created new career opportunities for young professionals in the compliance sector and a new legal practice for attorneys.

Tighter financial regulations have increased confidence and reduced risk in the country’s banking sector, but what more should be done, in your opinion?

In my opinion, some of the new regulations (particularly those related to compliance), although well intentioned and needed, have created confusion among bankers and their customers. The new regulations were introduced all of a sudden, without a period for familiarisation by bank personnel and their customers. Our authorities and bankers have to help banking clients navigate the maze of new regulations and requirements. In my view, banks will have to invest more in teaching their personnel how to remove the fear and confusion of their clients caused by the new banking rules. They should also invest in developing a clear methodology for ensuring that their clients provide the information that the new laws and regulations require.

In your opinion, what are the biggest trends on the horizon for the banking and finance sector?

We see compliance and due diligence matters continuing to be an important and significant trend for banking and finance in the near future. Other developments that will have an impact in today’s banking industry are the advent of fintech companies, blockchain technology and crypto-currencies. This new technology is driving trends that  will shake the traditional banking and finance sector and will require new regulations from local and international authorities.

How would you like to see the firm develop in the next few years?

Our firm will continue to be at the forefront of banking and finance transactions in Panama. We still see a lot of opportunities in the sector as well as in other related practice areas, such as real estate, project-finance, ports and transport. At the same time, we want our firm to be closer to our clients. Constant and close communication with our clients is critical for success. We have to provide our services to our clients in an efficient manner and learn how to address our clients’ needs quickly, comprehensively, and in a cost-conscious and practical manner.

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