By Guillermo Parra-Bernal
SAO PAULO, March 12 The hiring of three top
bankers of BR Partners Banco do Investimento SA by New
York-based Moelis & Co LLC was "improper and unethical," Ricardo
Lacerda, chief executive officer of the Brazilian investment
bank, said on Wednesday, adding that BR Partners is considering
The response came a day after Moelis hired Otávio Guazzelli,
Jório Salgado-Gama and Erick Alberti from BR Partners to open
its first office in Brazil. According to Lacerda, the executives
were approached improperly, especially because the two banks had
worked together for over two years.
The relationship, developed during a series of transactions
the two banks handled together, gave Moelis access to
confidential information about BR Partners, Lacerda said. A
Moelis spokeswoman denied any wrongdoing.
"The bad faith and misconduct of Moelis is well documented
and we are evaluating which actions to take," Lacerda said in a
phone interview. He did not say what actions, legal or
otherwise, BR Partners was considering.
The feud underscores the fierce battle for top executives in
many areas of Brazil's financial markets.
Though local capital markets are facing the weakest year in
more than a decade, the demand for banking talent continues,
especially as some global banks pull back because of a sluggish
economy. Fabio Okumura, the head of Itaú Unibanco Holding SA's
proprietary trading desk, has quit and taken eight
members of his team with him, sources said on Tuesday.
Lacerda said Moelis first approached BR Partners in 2011 to
explore a potential cooperation agreement but nothing was ever
finalized. The two banks worked together on several deals, he
said, adding that Moelis has abused the relationship by luring
away the executives.
Moelis, through a spokeswoman in New York, said the
executives had already left BR Partners when they were hired.
"Moelis & Co started conversations with these bankers in January
after they had all announced their decision to leave their
previous employment," she said.
According to Moelis, Guazzelli and Salgado will co-manage
the office in Brazil, which will be based in São Paulo.
At BR Partners, which Lacerda and other bankers founded in
2009, Guazzelli led investment banking, while Salgado-Gama was
head of mergers and acquisitions.
Alberti worked as an investment banker covering the
education, as well as technology, media and telecommunications
sectors for BR Partners, Moelis said on Tuesday. None of the
three bankers could be reached for comment.
Recently, BR Partners hired bankers Diego Rauter from Credit
Suisse and Fernanda González from Goldman Sachs Group
Inc to bolster its investment banking force of 25
GAINING A FOOTHOLD
BR Partners also operates a bank and a broker-dealer in
Brazil. Lacerda himself was head of Brazilian investment-banking
for Goldman and Citigroup Inc for most of the past decade.
The announcement came about a week after Moelis filed for an
initial public offering in the United States. Merger and
acquisition activity has had its strongest start since at least
2007, and preliminary numbers are showing a jump in cross-border
transactions originated in Brazil in the first two months of the
year, Thomson Reuters data showed.
By establishing a foothold in Brazil, Moelis will try to
take advantage of global interest for cross-border deals in a
market with about 200 million consumers. The firm was founded by
former UBS AG dealmaker Ken Moelis in July
Moelis's bet on Brazil comes as independent investment banks
such as New York-based Greenhill & Co ramp up their
presence in Brazil, Latin America's largest economy, and take
advantage of a retreat by some of the world's largest investment
banks. Four years of soft economic growth has led the pace of
deals to slow.
Goldman cut its roster of investment bankers in Brazil to
about 20 from 45 a year ago, while Barclays Plc and
Deutsche Bank AG reduced their research, sales and
trading staff as competition mounted and business faltered.