Ricardo Muza stares out the small window with a blank expression on his face. His mind races, filled with thoughts of who he’s leaving behind and what may lie ahead. As the engines roar to life and the airplane starts to rise, he feels a mixture of many emotions, including apprehension and hope. The young Chilean is headed to Philadelphia to study at the prestigious Penn Law. He hasn’t spent more than a few weeks in the United States and knows that the years ahead will be full of challenges and rewards—but he’s determined to do whatever it takes to return to Chile with a competitive advantage in a crowded field.
Today, Muza is helping Pfizer strengthen its footprint in South America as the pharmaceutical company’s regional legal director for the Andean region. He joined the organization in 2011 after gaining valuable proficiency in antitrust and commercial law at law firms as well as a public utility.
Altogether, Muza has more than twenty years of experience, and his accomplishments have earned him spots on The Legal 500’s GC Powerlist for both Chile and Peru.
While fatherhood has served as a strong motivator, Muza credits much of his success to his willingness to take a risk at a young age. “I remember leaving Chile to study in the United States like it was yesterday,” he says. “I always expected the sacrifice and the investment would be worth it in the future. The easiest solution is not always the best.”
Muza’s bet on himself has paid dividends. Although he had already received an LLB from a top university in Chile, his time at one of the most selective Ivy League law schools helped him learn and apply legal concepts of critical importance to large international employers. He also gained a better working knowledge of the US Securities and Exchange Commission. And when he returned to Chile in 2001, an LLM from Penn Law helped Muza land a job as an associate in one of the best Chilean firms.
When Muza joined Pfizer a decade later, he joined a company that had been active in Chile for more than fifty years. As regional legal director, Muza works to provide the advice and services necessary to help the company expand its reach in Latin America. Since Muza’s arrival, his role has expanded to include Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador. Now, Muza is even supporting a business unit for the regional giant Brazil, a market whose population exceeds two hundred million.
“All legal teams should be able to withstand occasional disruptions—and Latin America is a playground of unexpected situations.”
The unique role and diverse geography under his purview require Muza to remain steady, prepared, and flexible. “All legal teams should be able to withstand occasional disruptions—and Latin America is a playground of unexpected situations,” he remarks.
To succeed as these types of events unfold, Muza must understand competing socioeconomic factors, process news headlines, interpret new laws, and maintain a constant dialogue with Pfizer’s leaders. In uncertain times, his goal is to help craft partnerships, legal strategies, and policies that together create a vision for a sustainable path forward—a path that will allow Pfizer to thrive even as governments and circumstances change.
In fact, Muza and his teams have implemented crisis committees to solve the problems that seemingly appear day after day—not to mention compliance committees designed to properly address constant questions from peers.
For all of these matters, Muza is always thinking of Pfizer’s reputation in the region, partially because the company provides medicine to the public sector. Pfizer has had a presence in the region for more than sixty years, Muza says, and aspires to continue growing throughout Latin America for many years to come.
When it comes to health issues, he explains, the transactional aspect is subject to ethical considerations that take precedent. Thus, a proper balance is not merely convenient but mandatory, because the life and well-being of patients is at stake.
“We know that all of our actions have consequences,” Muza says. “We won’t react in a technically legal but short-sighted way. We intend to be here for many years and are cultivating long-term partnerships.”
“We won’t react in a technically legal but short-sighted way. We intend to be here for many years and are cultivating long-term partnerships.”
Pfizer and Muza both strengthened their reputation in the region with an important project known as the Center of Excellence in Precision Medicine. Between 2013 and 2019, Pfizer worked with local partners to establish the center, where researchers have strived to detect cancers through blood tests.
The Center of Excellence project “laid important groundwork for Pfizer because it demonstrated our interest and ability to collaborate in the region,” Muza notes. And legal was involved in the center in many ways—Muza himself amended Pfizer’s bylaws to enable the project. He also helped prepare and submit the proposal, reviewed contracts with parties from many governments, handled negotiations, reviewed results, and submitted final reports.
But Pfizer isn’t the only one eager to grow. After more than twenty years in law, Muza says he’s still excited about the prospect of more opportunities for learning and growth. To those just starting out, his advice is simple. “Take a risk,” he says. “Make full use of all the tools you have now. Do research and look for advice . . . and then go for it.”
As it is said in Brazil, “O maior risco é não correr riscos”—the biggest risk of all is not taking one.