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Puerto Rico PPP a conflict of interest, says politician

Politician Charlie Hernandez alleged Puerto Rico is wrong for sharing law firm Mayer Brown with would-be PPP partner Macquarie. But the public-private partnerships authority is hitting back and a $1bn project intended to remake the Luis Munoz Marin International Airport is moving on.

A claim of conflict of interest has prompted the Puerto Rico Public-Private Partnerships Authority (PPPA)  to defend its oversight of a high-profile airport renovation.

The PPPA repudiated an assertion its US legal counsel, Mayer Brown, is tainted because the law firm has a preexisting relationship with Macquarie Capital.

Mayer Brown is advising the PPPA on the up-to-50-year concession to modernize and redevelop the Luis Munoz Marin International Airport. Macquarie along with the Ferrovial was part of 12 consortia that responded to a request for qualifications (RFQ) the PPPA issued for the concession.

The conflict of interest charge was leveled by Charlie Hernandez, a representative for the Popular Democratic Party of Puerto Rico, who made the charge in a press conference a week ago, according to a PPPA statement.

But the PPPA contended there is no conflict of interest because the Mayer Brown team representing the PPPA is not also advising Macquarie on the airport concession.

In addition, the PPPA stressed its commitment to competitive bidding, and claimed Mayer Brown was awarded the contract based on offering “the most experience” and “the best price”.

Meanwhile, Bob Harris, a media contact for Mayer Brown, called Hernandez “fundamentally inaccurate” in his charge. A representative from Macquarie confirmed Mayer Brown is “not representing Macquarie on the transaction”. 

The PPPA began retaining Mayer Brown in July 2010, with the advent of a far-reaching PPP campaign that, in addition to the airport, also included a toll road. The mandate to provide legal counsel on the toll road project was won by Allen & Overy.

In picking Mayer Brown, the PPPA had lauded the law firm for its strong presence in Puerto Rico.

Hernandez, a long-time member of the Popular Democratic Party, an opposition party with an anti-statehood platform, has in the past been an outspoken government critic.