Manatt offices in Washington, D.C. April 8, 2015. Photo by Diego M. Radzinschi/THE NATIONAL LAW JOURNAL.
Manatt offices in Washington, D.C. April 8, 2015. Photo by Diego M. Radzinschi/THE NATIONAL LAW JOURNAL. (Diego M. Radzinschi)

Manatt, Phelps & Phillips’ strategic consulting arm is no more.

Monarch Global Strategies LLC opened on Aug. 1 after Manatt Global Strategies closed its doors. The new independent venture is comprised of several Manatt Global executives, including the latter’s former president Michael Camuñez and ex-chairman James Jones.

Monarch Global has about a dozen employees working out of offices in Los Angeles, Mexico City and Monterrey, Mexico, and Washington, D.C. Like its predecessor within Manatt, Monarch Global will focus on advising companies that do business in Mexico and Latin America.

Before joining Manatt as a partner in late 2013, Camuñez served as an assistant secretary for market access and compliance in the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration. Jones, a retired Democratic congressman from Oklahoma, serves as U.S. ambassador to Mexico from 1993 to 1997.

“We’ve had a wonderful relationship with Manatt and really left on very positive terms,” Camuñez said. “But being on our own gives us a little more flexibility in terms of the kinds of projects we want to take on and the types of clients we want to take on … There are definitely some target companies that are doing business in Mexico that for various reasons either were competitors of companies [Manatt] might have represented or might have had conflicts.”

At Manatt, Camuñez’s group advised clients on big-picture policy and risk management matters, as well as the fundamentals of how regulators work in Mexico. Manatt Global also provided site location assistance. In addition to offering those services, Camuñez said Monarch Global hopes to advise on deals and capital formation, which would expand its client base to include private equity funds.

“When you’re associated with a law firm, you tend to get viewed in the same box as lawyers,” said Camuñez (pictured right), adding that operating independently will give his team more freedom to branch out.

Recently Camuñez has been fielding questions from clients wondering what to expect from the North American Free Trade Agreement renegotiation process, which began last week. President Donald Trump has referred to the pact as “the single worst trade deal ever approved in this country,” but he told Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in February that the U.S. planned on merely “tweaking” its trade relationship with its northern neighbor.

Camuñez said he thinks about 80 percent of Canada, Mexico and the U.S.’s trade objectives are the same. But there is enough conflicting information coming out of the process that “people just don’t know what to believe,” he said.

“I don’t think there’s a lot of disagreement that NAFTA is 23 years old, and it needs to be updated and modernized,” added Camuñez. “[But] you have what you hear about what’s going on at the negotiating table, and then you see the president of the U.S. make a statement like he made in Phoenix the other night. It’s rare that the U.S. is an outlier staking out a position that is in many ways inconsistent with the norm in international trade.”

With native Mexican consultants on the ground in Mexico, Camuñez said that Monarch is well-positioned to help companies navigate the current North American trade climate.

“One of the things I like to stress about our company is that we are very unique in the sense that we truly are a bi-national, bi-literate team,” he said.