Business consulting outfit ManattJones Global Strategies split last week from West L.A. law firm Manatt Phelps & Phillips to form the standalone Monarch Global Strategies.

The newly independent group’s chief executive, Michael Camuñez, who served as an assistant commerce secretary under President Barack Obama, said the decision to move out from under the Manatt umbrella was pragmatic.

“We had an excellent relationship with Manatt and really enjoyed working with everyone there – and we’ll continue to work with the firm – but we think this move gives us more flexibility in what we can do,” Camuñez said.

Monarch, which will be headquartered downtown, acts as a sort of all-around fixer for companies looking to do cross-border business in North America, particularly in Mexico. The firm has deep government ties in both the United States and Mexico, as much of Camuñez’s role with the Obama administration was spent managing the commercial relationship between the two countries. The firm’s chairman is James Jones, who served as U.S. ambassador to Mexico under President Bill Clinton from 1993 to 1997. Jones was one of the leaders who helped craft and then implement the North American Free Trade Agreement.

This diplomatic experience is looking increasingly valuable with the United States set to hold NAFTA renegotiation talks with Canada and Mexico on Aug. 16 in Washington, D.C.

Camuñez said the firm had opened dialogue with its clients about the NAFTA talks, but hadn’t begun any sort of formal lobbying efforts.

“We’re certainly following it closely and advocating at the executive level about what we think needs to happen,” he said. “But we haven’t gotten involved at the legislative level, mostly because there’s no actual legislation yet. It is something we’re capable of doing, however.”

Some of Monarch’s biggest clients are from the L.A. area. The firm helped secure a deal for Pasadena engineering firm Parsons Corp. to manage construction of Mexico City’s new international airport, which is expected to cost some $13 billion.

Camuñez said the firm also works with private equity firms, manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies, among others, on a wide variety of issues.

Sweet Deal

Inglewood-based confectioner Sugarfina picked up its first private equity investment last week with Great Hill Partners dropping $35 million for a minority stake in the company.

Sugarfina, which makes candies in flavors such as “green juice” and “single-barrel bourbon,” has experienced rapid growth in the past several years. The company expects sales to hit $50 million this year – up from $25 million in 2016 and $7 million in 2015, according to founder Rosie O’Neill.

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