IWIRC announces 2019 founders award winners

Award winners: Leyza Blanco, Eloise Fardon and IWIRC’s London network co-chair Sonya Van de Graaff

The International Women’s Insolvency & Restructuring Confederation (IWIRC) has announced the recipients of its 2019 founders awards, with winners in Miami, Hong Kong and London.

Sequor Law partner Leyza Blanco and Stephenson Harwood senior associate Eloise Fardon have been recognised for their “exceptional contributions” as IWIRC members, while the new London network has won the award for outstanding IWIRC network.

“IWIRC is so impressed with the efforts and accomplishments of the 2019 award recipients,” said IWIRC chair and AlixPartners managing director Carrianne Basler. “There were many strong candidates and it was difficult to decide, but the selected honourees’ nominations and accomplishments are truly outstanding.”

The organisation’s annual awards are named after its founders Selinda Melnik, Martha Fetner and Laureen Ryan. This year’s ceremony will take place at IWIRC’s 2019 leadership summit in New Orleans on 24 to 26 July.

Miami-based Blanco will pick up the Melnik award, recognising her dedication to the organisation over the past two decades.

IWIRC vice chair Michelle Pickett said Blanco is “very deserving” of the award. “She has been a strong supporter and contributor to IWIRC for nearly 20 years and her dedication to IWIRC is global.”

“Whether it’s supporting her local Florida Network, where she has served in various board roles including chair; her five years on the IWIRC international board including her current role as secretary; attending network events in Europe; or spearheading the expansion of networks in South America – Leyza is a global ambassador for IWIRC,” Pickett said.

Blanco has been integral to IWIRC’s expansion to South America. “She single-handedly fostered the interest of these women by connecting with the leadership in the Brazilian bankruptcy bar, including judges, trustees and practitioners,” said Williams Mullen partner and past IWIRC chair Jennifer McLemore.

“Through Leyza’s efforts, judges in the US and in Brazil have been connected meaningfully,” McLemore said. “Leyza’s undertaking allowed her to be the ambassador for IWIRC in a new country, and her efforts have now sparked interest in IWIRC in Colombia. I give her a few more months to have the whole continent interested.”

Blanco, who co-authors GRR’s asset recovery column, joined Sequor Law from GrayRobinson last June.

She focuses on a wide range of litigation and insolvency matters, including debt restructuring and representation of creditors, with an emphasis on complex business bankruptcy and commercial litigation matters.

Notable recent appointments include acting for four creditors of a US affiliate of Chilean investment management firm Onix Capital. Blanco was also lead US counsel to the foreign representatives of British American Insurance Company in jurisdictions throughout the Caribbean, and managed to successfully obtain recognition in contested Chapter 15 proceedings.

Blanco tells GRR that she is humbled to receive the honour in the name of Selinda Melnik, who she “admired so much”. Melnik, who was also an active GRR editorial board member, passed away in November.

“IWIRC has been such an important organisation to my personal and professional growth,” says Blanco. “I am truly humbled to have been selected to receive this award by my IWIRC colleagues.”

Meanwhile, Hong Kong-based Fardon has been awarded the Fetner award for exceptional contributions by an international IWIRC member.

The board of IWIRC’s Hong Kong network said Fardon’s “commitment of her time and energy to the promotion and support of women in our profession in Asia and beyond is indubitable.”

Fardon has spoken on technical panels and organised regional conferences, as well as joining IWIRC spin classes and dim sum lunches. “Her approach to her involvement has been well rounded.”

“She has been extremely supportive of other board members stepping up for leadership roles in Hong Kong and internationally and is conscious of succession planning in the region,” the board said.

Fardon, who is the Asia regional director for IWIRC, has practised with Stephenson Harwood for the past six years, including a one-year secondment to the firm’s London office.

She was part of the team that advised BVI-incorporated Winsway Enterprises Holdings on its successful restructuring of its offshore bond debt, using a scheme of arrangement in Hong Kong and Chapter 15 proceedings in the US.

“I am humbled to be recognised by IWIRC for my contributions,” says Fardon. “There are so many amazing women contributing to IWIRC all over the globe.”

“Being involved with IWIRC has allowed me to develop my professional and personal network by building meaningful relationships with others in an industry where connections and referrals are so important,” she tells GRR.

“IWIRC is a truly unique platform for technical development, profile building and leadership opportunities. I continue to be involved because I wish to share the same opportunities I have had with others in Hong Kong and regionally within Asia,” Fardon says.

Finally, IWIRC’s London network has topped off the end of its impressive first year with the Ryan award for outstanding local network.

Though the network was only approved by IWIRC’s executive board last April, and officially launched in June, it has flourished to become the third largest IWIRC network globally.

“The newly formed IWIRC London Network is undoubtedly the fastest growing, dynamic and leading network in the global organisation,” its nominators said. “We believe it should be recognised for its incredible accomplishments and be highlighted to other networks and members for its innovation, drive and success story.”

Morrison & Foerster partner Sonya Van de Graaff, who is co-chair of the London network, tells GRR they are “very proud” to be honoured with the Ryan award.

The growth of the network over the last year has been thanks to an “exceptionally driven steering committee, our sponsors, superb events that we organised in this last year, and last but not least, a market that clearly saw the gap and opportunity that IWIRC can offer.”

“We fully intend to continue in this journey and take the London network to its next level in 2019 and beyond,” says Van de Graaff.

To celebrate its first-year anniversary, the London network is hosting a party at the rooftop bar in Weil Gotshal & Manges’ London office on 27 June.

Harbour Litigation Funding co-founder Susan Dunn will be delivering a keynote speech alongside other guest speakers.

Registration for the event, which is on a first-come, first-served basis, can be found here.

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