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GAR 100 - 10th Edition

Akinci Law Office

01 March 2017

The Turkish firm’s investment treaty practice continues to grow

People in Who’s Who Legal 3
Pending cases as counsel 22
Value of pending counsel work US$2 billion
Treaty cases 6
Current arbitrator appointments 9 (of which 1 is as sole or chair)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator 1

Orhan Akinci established Akinci Law Office in Izmir in western Turkey in 1984. His son, Ziya Akinci, took over the management of the firm in the 1990s and opened its doors to international work, moving the firm to Istanbul in 2003. Ziya Akinci is now one of Turkey’s best-known arbitrators and, as of 2015, the president of the newly created Istanbul Arbitration Centre (ISTAC).

Other names to know at the firm are Cemile Gökyayla, who has published widely on private international law, and Karen Akinci, who is an accredited mediator.

Who uses it?

A number of Turkish construction companies have turned to the firm over the years for commercial work and treaty claims against Central Asian and Middle Eastern states. Other clients span the energy, telecoms, hospitality and pharmaceutical sectors.

Turkish holdings group Çukurova used it in a battle with Scandinavian phone operator TeliaSonera over control of a mobile operator, Turkcell. The firm has also advised the governments of Turkey and Romania, as well as the European Union.

Track record

In 2011, the firm helped Turkish construction group Tubin win an ICC award worth US$60 million against German behemoth Bilfinger Berger relating to a highway project in Qatar. The award was declared enforceable by the Qatari courts.

In the investment treaty arena, the firm helped another local construction client, Sistem Mühendislik, win a US$9 million ICSID award against Kyrgyzstan in 2009 that is still the subject of enforcement proceedings in Canada.

The firm secured an important jurisdictional win in another case in 2015, persuading an ICSID tribunal that the Turkey–Turkmenistan bilateral investment treaty does not require investors to pursue local litigation before turning to arbitration. The ruling departed from an earlier tribunal’s reading of the same treaty provision.

Recent events

Akinci’s investment arbitration practice continues to grow. Turkish client Attila Dogan instructed it for an ICSID claim against Oman lodged in 2016. Akinci is working in that case alongside French disputes boutique Derains & Gharavi, with which it also paired for an ICSID claim against Kazakhstan in 2015.

The same two firms have also been asked to defend Romania in a US$200 million ICSID claim brought by Nova Group, an investment vehicle linked to the recently deceased insurance and media magnate Dan Adamescu.

Another Turkish client has brought in Akinci as replacement counsel for ICSID rectification proceedings following the dismissal of the company’s US$570 million ICSID claim.

It also won a favourable jurisdictional award for a client in a US$500 million investment claim.

On the commercial side, the firm won a US$23 million award that is now at the enforcement stage. It also filed two new cases at DIAC, and a US$20 million ad hoc case relating to a hydroelectric project in Turkey. Six other cases were settled in the past year.

Client comment

Alev, a Turkish distributor of rubber products, turned to Akinci to advise on an ICC claim against a Brazilian manufacturer after becoming disillusioned with two previous law firms. Company owner Coskun Alev tells GAR he would “warmly recommend” the firm. He was particularly impressed by the dedication of Ziya Akinci and Cemile Gökyayla, who obtained a favourable award that allowed the company to revive its operations.

Member companies of Turkey’s Çukurova Group also recommend the firm. Türsen Demir, general manager of the group’s chemicals division, Çukurova Kimya, praises Akinci’s witness preparation and cross-examination skills, and says that the company got “value for money”.

Hamid Gharavi of Derains & Gharavi, who regularly works with Akinci, says the firm is “simply and by far the very best in Turkey”.