Puerto Rico oversight board taps ex-Cleary lawyer as general counsel

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By Nick Brown

<span class="articleLocation”>The federally appointed board tasked with
managing Puerto Rico’s finances hired retired attorney Jaime A.
El Koury, formerly of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, as its
general counsel, it announced on Thursday. El Koury, a graduate of Yale Law School, will lead the
board’s role in helping the U.S. territory restructure some $70
billion in debt. Cleary was counsel to the Puerto Rican government during much
of ex-Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla’s 2013-2017
administration, which ended on Jan. 2. El Koury retired from
Cleary in 2014 and it was not immediately clear whether he
worked for the administration while at the law firm.

New Governor Ricardo Rossello, who criticized Garcia
Padilla’s fiscal policies and legislative initiatives during
last year’s campaign, fired Cleary when he took office.

El Koury will advise the oversight board, which is separate
from the island’s government, though the sides will work closely
in the coming months as Puerto Rico tries to restructure debt
and stave off economic crisis characterized by a 45 percent
poverty rate and near-insolvent public health and pension
systems.

Under a 2016 federal rescue law known as PROMESA, the board
must approve Puerto Rico’s budgeting and financial turnaround
strategies, a source of some tension among locals and lawmakers
in Puerto Rico who see it as encroaching on the island’s
self-governance.

El Koury, born and raised in Puerto Rico, worked on myriad
corporate matters at Cleary, including mergers and acquisitions,
restructuring deals and other financial transactions, the
oversight board said in its statement on Thursday.

“We are very pleased to be able to count on Jaime’s legal
expertise, negotiating abilities, understanding of economics and
impeccable ethical and professional credentials,” José Carrión,
the board’s chairman, said in the statement.

El Koury said he welcomed the chance to help revitalize his
island. “PROMESA is a tool provided by Congress to help get the
island back on the path of fiscal balance,” he said in the
statement. “And I will do my very best to help the Oversight
Board achieve those goals.”



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