Scott picks Bacardi attorney to fill water manager seat

Gov. Rick Scott wants to fill an opening on the South Florida Water Management District with Miami attorney Federico Fernandez.

Fernandez, 40, a Bacardi Family Foundation board member, will fill the seat of Sandy Batchelor, who was appointed to the board by former Gov. Charlie Crist in March 2010 and reappointed by Scott to a four-year term in 2012. Batchelor, a Miami philanthropist with a law degree and a master’s degree in forest conservation, was the lone board member this year to oppose tax cuts pushed by Scott. Batchelor and environmentalists fought to maintain the tax rate, fearing a rollback would leave the district too cash-strapped to deal with spiraling problems.

Fernandez lives in Coral Gables and also served on the board of the Dade Heritage Trust. A former Greenberg Traurig corporate lawyer, he founded his own practice with partner Christophe DiFalco in 2009. He graduated from the University of Miami and has a law degree from Emory University.

According to his firm’s web site, Fernandez’s cases have included a $1 billion lawsuit filed by Chase Manhattan against Enron and the selling off of assets for Daimler Chrysler’s aviation division after it declared bankruptcy. Fernandez also represented Bacardi in its trademark infringement lawsuit against French distributor Pernod Ricard over the name Havana Club. Bacardi claims it owns the name, and original recipe, which it distills in Puerto Rico. Ricard distributes the Cuban government’s version of Havana Club brewed in Cuba. In January, the U.S. patent office reinstated the Cuba’s trademark, leading Bacardi to sue.

Scott also reappointed Dan O’Keefe, 48, a Shutts & Bowen attorney, to a second-four year term. Both appointments end in March 2020 and must be confirmed by the Florida Senate.